How to build a future-ready workforce through upskilling

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills that will help them in their work. Technology has increased the need for upskilling, as there is a sense of urgency to continually provide training and development to employees.

Taking this into consideration, it is no wonder that workforce upskilling has become a top priority for many organizations. With it being more challenging and competitive than ever to recruit top talent to fill skills gaps, companies are using more and more upskilling to improve the skills of current employees. Some reasons why upskilling is important are the following:

  • Job roles are shifting faster than ever
  • Employees expect growth opportunities
  • Upskilling boosts employee satisfaction
  • It can boost performance, morale, and motivation
  • It helps your organization stay competitive
  • Less employee turnover
  • Upskilling lessens the need to recruit outside the organization to fill a skill gap

How can employees upskill their knowledge?

As far as employees are concerned, there are two main ways that they can achieve upskilling successfully; these are continuous learning and discern factual and reliable information. Let’s take them one by one.

Continuous learning

Continuous learning, or else ‘’learning to learn’’, helps people gain skills and knowledge quickly, in order to adapt to changes and succeed. This skill is particularly important as the COVID-19 pandemic causes dramatic shifts in the work opportunities available.

To highlight the importance of learning, Ulrich Boser, writer of the book “Learn Better” says that when it comes to learning performance, 40% is due to metacognition, that is organizing and guiding one’s own learning processes, thinking and actions. This comes in contrast with what most teaching methods, which do not prioritize these skills as myths persist that learning relies on innate intelligence, rather than on developing skills and habits.

Discern factual information

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people are weighing information, including misleading information about health risks, to make decisions about their careers. Healthy information engagement skills are very important for every employee to learn effectively on their own and become resourceful, leaders and entrepreneurs.

In fact, disinformation and misinformation can negatively impact real-life decisions and actions, targetting emotional triggers and feeding confirmation bias. With healthy information engagement skills, people will learn to check sources before spreading the information or pursuing opportunities.

How can companies upskill their employees

Upskiling is a coin with two sides. Of course employees should pursue upskilling on their own, but companies too should provide upskilling opportunities to their employees.

However, Upskilling a workforce takes planning and preparation. Organizations must identify where they stand in terms of skills, what skills they will need in the future, how to train employees effectively, and how to make that learning last and become part of the “organizational DNA.”

According to Deloitte, there are three main stages that upskilling takes place in a company:

1.Identify your current and future state

The organization should first conduct a thorough assessment of the current workforce’s technical and contextual skills and capabilities. This skills inventory is critical to understanding the size of the skills gap the organization must close in order to reach its future objective.

Having identified the skills necessary and the extent of the skills gap faced, the organization should assess its current training and learning offerings. What learning methods and channels are used? Are they effective? And what are the gaps between the existing skills and capabilities required?

After that, the company should develop a learning strategy and roadmap Once the organization has a clearer sense of the skills and capabilities of the existing workforce, it should develop a learning strategy and roadmap for the journey ahead.

2. Training, training, training

The importance of training cannot be overemphasized. For most of us, learning has typically taken place in a classroom environment, with lectures and individual or group exercises. However, despite the fact that research has found that classroom learning still is the most common method organizations use to deliver formal learning and upskilling, its use appears to be declining.

Nowadays, there are many more learning delivery options available. Self-study and informal learning are increasing, as well as is e-learning, with over 75% of organizations offering some form of online study.

Non-classroom channels allow workers to access the learning they need when, where, and how they prefer;

They also offer other benefits as well, including instructor variety to the opportunity to quickly and directly apply the learnings in learners’ day-to-day work.

3. Making learning stick

Organizations should adopt a growth mindset among leaders, managers, and employees alike with regard to their goals. Namely, they need to build a sense of understanding around what the upskilling can mean to the business and to people’s careers in order to smooth the path to the new vision, and encourage employees to be more open to learning new skills.

If upskilling eventually becomes a state of mind, it will not ensure employees’ skills keep pace with continuous technological change, but it will also contribute to improve life expectancy and quality.

Encouraging lifelong learning can enable organizations to support innovation and employee wellbeing at the same time. In addition, an investment in upskilling has proven to can play a significant role in retaining talent.

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