From ongoing digitization to new technical tools and updated coding and development languages, change is rampant in business. The implementation of cloud technologies, which reduce reliance on single tools, aggravates these fluctuations, with organizations more likely to adopt new tooling and therefore require different skill sets with greater frequency.
This creates problems for employees, who feel less confident in their skills and face jobs with diminishing security and interval role changes. For many, an organizational shift can even result in their job losing its relevance at a time when companies are struggling with staff and labor shortages.
As a result, more organizations now offer training to existing employees so they can upskill or re-skill to continue to meet company requirements. An additional 33% provide training programs designed to educate people in the skills necessary to excel at their job.
This form of upskilling and reskilling provides significant value but should be designed around internal assessments highlighting gaps. Training should also avoid pressuring workers to take on skills they don’t want — otherwise, you waste time and resources and risk fomenting resentment in your workers. Read on to learn more about upskilling and how to incorporate it effectively into your organization.
What is upskilling?
Upskilling is the process of training existing employees to help them to adapt to new roles, meet the requirements for a different position or promotion, or move horizontally within the company. This approach is great for major changes in the company’s direction, such as introducing an ERP or new marketing tooling, where training people is the easy choice.
It’s also beneficial when switching development languages: Often, experienced developers learn new languages quickly, making it faster and cheaper (in most cases) to train for the new language rather than replace your team. That sort of hard-skill training is easy and distributable with a combination of formal learning (e.g., workshops, courses) and mentorship (e.g., hiring someone who’s experienced in the language to act as a guide and coach for the team).
The goal of upskilling is to help employees adapt to new work methods. It can look like implementing personal development to shift to an Agile model, learning time management when working remotely, or strengthening emotional intelligence to improve team collaboration.
Upskilling should incorporate broadening experiences so teams share skills and expertise and you ensure there’s no single point of failure when using technology, delivering training, taking leadership, or maintaining databases.
Assess skills gaps
To introduce upskilling, you need to understand where and how issues impact teams. Often, that’ll entail internal assessments of what you have, then mapping the results to what you should have.
Common ways to identify skills gaps include:
- Team and individual assessments – Assess teams and individuals to determine the skill sets they possess. Simple skills tests provide a good idea of everyone’s strengths. However, 360-degree feedback, where every team member rates themselves and their team members, will give you a more complete picture. This type of feedback lets managers and individuals express their skills gaps comfortably.
- Team and role assessments – Use industry or custom benchmarks to determine what skills and requirements you have for each role and team. These should include hard skills like project management, specific skills like Ruby on Rails, and soft skills like good communication.
Once you’ve mapped the results of these assessments to your desired skill sets, you can identify which ones you need or should have.
Predict future skills gaps
Skills gaps often creep up slowly, but in some cases, they’re the result of dramatic internal change. Anticipating these deficiencies necessitates knowing what causes them and how. For example:
- Changes in tooling (ERP, graphics, management, repositories/databases, servers, etc.)
- Changes in software/code language/style/etc.
- Changes in role responsibilities
- Roles merging
- Changes in management styles
- Promotions, especially when moving technical people into managerial roles
- Takeovers or mergers
- Key people leaving without passing on skills
Gaps can occur in certain rare situations, such as establishing clear duties and expectations for a previously poorly defined role; not all people in that role will have the same skills to meet that clarification. Similarly, when someone becomes a team lead or product manager, they need coaching or guidance to ensure they have the skills required to be successful in the job.
Implement training and development
Professional development is increasingly required to ensure employees have the skills and ongoing training they need to excel at their jobs. As such, training and development should take many forms, like:
- Coaching and mentoring – These allow you to disseminate internal skills in your organization, be it coding, using a specific tool, internal processes, etc. They’re commonly applied in management training but should be used in every part of your organization. That extends to having individuals collaborate with other teams to see how they work and what they do to obtain a broader understanding of the job and what goes into it.
- Training and workshops – Learning new skills such as software, application use, or the foundations of soft skills can often occur in just a few sessions. Note: Soft skills are impossible to teach, so the best you can do is introduce the concept and then work on growing those skills with coaching.
- Formal education – Online learning and courses are a powerful way to introduce new technologies, formal skills like project management, and communication. Here, learning management systems can help you deliver that education while tracking who invests in development and when.
You should maintain a means of tracking professional development on an individual level so you can measure how successful it is for employees and trace value from it. Eventually, you’ll have to connect training and development to personnel management so you can track which people take which courses, workshops, and development initiatives, and then gauge their impacts on employee skills, behavior, and productivity.
As organizations change, so do their roles, required skills, and approaches to work. Employee development and upskilling can help you close resulting gaps and retain your existing workforce, but sometimes greater initiative is required; roles must be realigned and altered to match organizational change. Additionally, if you face problems with skills gaps or role fit, it’s important to assess them at an organizational level before attempting remediation. For example, it may be a good idea to review roles to determine if they’re properly aligned with established expectations rather than introducing training to teach current role-holders the necessary skills.
In pursuing skills development for your employees, you’ll also be able to anticipate future gaps and take active measures to get ahead of them. Analytics are thus crucial for present and potential upskilling, so track your professional development investment and analyze the data for both short-term and long-term employee success.