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How Can Businesses Upskill Their Workforce?

1 May 2021|Business Growth, Latest Posts, Psychology

How Can Businesses Upskill Their Workforce?
How Can Businesses Upskill Their Workforce?

By Sarah-Jane McQueen.  For companies looking to increase productivity and get more out of their workforce, investing in upskilling can be a great way to achieve that goal. 

When searching for top talent, more and more companies are now looking inwards and are giving their current staff additional training to help them fill in skills gaps in the company. A recent survey from PwC found that 18% of global CEOs made significant progress in establishing an upskilling program within their company in 2020. 

But you might be unsure where to start when it comes to setting up an upskilling program for your business and may think that it won’t have a significant impact. However, the process can be relatively straightforward and can offer measurable benefits. Implementing smart upskilling strategies and practices can help businesses of all sizes improve productivity, employee retention and company profits in a number of ways.

When do businesses need to look into upskilling their employees?

Investing in your workforce through training programs can be beneficial at any stage of your businesses’ development, but upskilling during periods of fast growth can be particularly advantageous. This is because you can fill in any skill gaps you may find quickly by building on the expertise that your employees already have. 

For companies who want to advance quickly, choosing to hire someone new means going through interviewing and onboarding processes, which can take up a lot of time and may end up slowing you down. Instead of dedicating valuable resources towards looking for new talent, upskilling your current workforce could be a simpler and more effective option, allowing you to keep your business moving forward with significantly less disruption. 

If you know that your competitors are investing in new technology, this can also be an excellent time to find out if your employees have the skills needed to use that tech within your company. Finally, if you’re establishing long-term plans for growth and development, this can be a good time to examine whether your current employees will need any additional training to ensure that they can implement your strategic aims effectively.

Who should undertake these courses?

All staff from across your workforce could benefit from an upskilling program. Still, to get a good understanding of which employees need training more than others, you may want to create a personal development plan for each member of your team. Finding out who would benefit from extra training the most will allow you to be more targeted in your approach and ensure you can maximise your workforce’s full potential.

Meanwhile, employees with hard skills or those with specialist training may also be good to target. This is because they already have a key area of expertise that could be developed further. Focusing on how you can develop these employees’ skills to a highly advanced level could give your company the edge against your competitors.

Consider employees who have been with your company for a significant amount of time as well. They’ve shown that they are invested in your company, so why not invest back into them? As they’ve proven that they are a loyal employee, you can feel safer investing time and resources when upskilling them, as they’ve already demonstrated that they are keen to provide value to your company on a long term basis. 

What skills should they look to develop? 

For employees who use a particular piece of software, equipment or technology or use skills that require a professional certification, it’s vital to make sure that their knowledge is always up to date. Improving your employees’ hard skills can allow your workforce to keep up in a fast-paced market. This is an especially important area to think about when you consider that the World Economic Forum predicts that 54% of employees will require significant reskilling by 2022 due to changes in the job market.

Furthermore, if you find out that your competitors are using more advanced technology than you are, you can upskill your staff to give them the tools they need to bring that new technology solution to your company.

Digital skills can also be a rewarding area to focus on. A recent survey found that 70% of UK businesses say that they’re planning to offer their employees digital skills courses to give them the knowledge they need to operate effectively in an increasingly remote working environment. 

Finally, soft skills can be a great area to target as well. In a survey of over 2000 business leaders, 57% said that they thought soft skills were more important than hard skills. Courses that focus on communication, management and leadership within business can help your employees provide even greater value to your company. 

How to measure the success of this training

Linking your upskilling strategy with your broader company goals can give you a good indication of how this additional training is helping your business to grow. Furthermore, setting personal targets for employees that are tied to their upskilling courses and monitoring those targets can also be another great way to track success.

Measuring your training’s success in the same way you would with other investments, like buying new equipment, can help you understand how your upskilling strategy is helping you achieve your wider business goals.

You can also map out which areas you’d like to improve first and then measure the impact your upskilling strategy has had on those specific areas later on. In a study that looked at companies that were advanced in their upskilling programs, around half of respondents said that their upskilling strategy had been very effective in producing higher workforce productivity, greater innovation and digital transformation, and had contributed to stronger corporate culture and employee engagement. Looking at your company’s overall performance, whilst engaging with employees on a personal level like these companies will give you a good indication of how successful the additional training has been. 

About the author

Sarah-Jane McQueen is the General Manager of the team at CoursesOnline. Coursesonline.co.uk is a website by Candlefox, Australia’s largest education marketplace. It offers a wide range of courses from leading UK providers. Users can browse and compare courses from a variety of different providers in one place and can learn new skills related to their wider career goals or personal development.