Strategies to upskill employees in your company

Upskilling improves employees' skill sets. [iStockphoto]

Upskilling is a workplace trend that facilitates continuous learning by providing training programmes and development opportunities to expand employees' abilities and minimise skill gaps.

It focuses on improving current workers' skill sets, usually through training, so they can advance in their jobs and find different roles and opportunities within the company.

Here are strategies to help with upskilling:

  1. Identify priority areas and skills

While most employees can benefit from upskilling, organisations will see the highest return on their investment when they identify priority areas and skills based on their company goals and vision.

For example, an organization may want to ensure its logistics team is updated on industry software or that its sales and marketing teams are utilizing social media to its full potential.

Company and team leaders should prioritise the skills most likely to move the needle and focus on upskilling employees whose roles will require those abilities in the future.

  1. Build upskilling into employee performance and development plans

To get their team or the wider organisation on board with the idea, company and team leaders can emphasize how upskilling will benefit employees' careers.

For example, attaining certain abilities might be worked into a worker's annual goals or tied to a future promotion.

Company leaders must also recognize and prioritize the time that upskilling takes and, if necessary, adjust employees' workloads to give them the bandwidth they need to focus on attaining new skills.

  1. Enroll employees in courses or training programs

For some skills, there's no substitute for formal training. Whether companies are looking to get their employees up to speed on machine learning or prepare them for new leadership opportunities, they can consider online courses designed for professionals.

Emeritus has dozens of offerings created in collaboration with top universities. Most of them are designed to work around a professional's busy schedule, and many provide opportunities to work on specific company projects.

  1. Utilise internal and external experts

Often, organisations have some employees with a particular skill set, just not enough. In this situation, companies can encourage skilled employees to take on the role of a mentor or even trainer.

Depending on the skills in question, companies might pair an employee who already has a particular skill with one who hopes to attain it for one-on-one coaching.

They might also encourage skilled employees to provide more extensive learning opportunities ranging from one-off talks to multi-week training sessions.

No internal experts? Many companies find success bringing in external trainers specializing in an area for group coaching sessions on specific tools or skills.

  1. Provide stretch assignments for employee upskilling

Stretch opportunities, or assignments outside an employee's existing scope of experience and job description, give employees the chance to learn on the job while proving their ability to take on new challenges.

For example, an individual contributor might be given oversight of a project team in a stretch assignment, or an employee might take on a new role in a project; such as analysing data or creating a marketing strategy.

Of course, for stretch assignments to be a success, employees must be given the support and resources they need to acquire new skills and meet the challenge.

  1. Follow up and track progress

As with any other business investment, measuring outcomes is essential to iteration and improvement.

Tracking what works and what doesn't help employees continue to improve and gain new skills, and also helps other managers wonder how to upskill employees.

While tactics may vary depending on the skill itself, options include asking the employee to complete an assessment or test project or report on what they have learned.