There is no question: Covid 19 has exposed the glaring gaps in skills businesses have ignored so far, and the immediate need for upskilling to stay relevant and competitive in a post-pandemic business world.
For businesses to maintain an efficient workforce, upskilling and reskilling of employees is going to be a key factor. This holds true for most industries in the current business climate. Businesses countrywide are experiencing changes that they neither anticipated nor prepared for. It has become critical to keep up with these changes.
The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, states that at least 50% of the global workforce will need to be either upskilled or reskilled in relevant technologies of their industry. This is owing not only to how businesses are transforming their operations but also due to the arrival of automation technologies in almost every sector.
It has become extremely clear that upskilling will define business continuity. Let’s take a look at the true benefits of upskilling, the barriers to effective employee learning programs, and how to overcome them.
The undeniable advantages of upskilling your employees
When businesses have employees whose skills are currently in the market they operate in, it gives them a strong competitive advantage, more than anything else does.
Employee retention shoots up when businesses choose to upskill
The importance of investment in employees is something no business can disagree with. Employees want to work for an organization that they feel cares about them. Providing the means to upskill is a great way to do that.
Providing resources is a clear sign that you as a business are taking interest in their futures and their careers. This is reciprocated by using their new skills to drive your business and remain loyal to it.
There is an uptick in morale and performance due to upskilling and reskilling
Businesses that provide regular learning and development opportunities have happier employees than businesses that don’t. This also gives them a chance to see what their career progression might look like and enables them to perform better.
A workforce that is pumped about having gained new skills will put that enthusiasm to good use in the form of becoming better at what they do. And that has a direct impact on the business and its revenues.
You have happier customers due to your happy employees
It is not a surprise that happy employers work harder to provide the best to your customers. When given an opportunity to learn and grow in their jobs, their belief in the work they are doing goes up. And since they are also gaining new skills that the industry demands, they are already able to provide a superior experience to your customers.
With employees who are now more knowledgeable and can help them better, your clients would think twice before going to your competition. This leads to them becoming strong brand advocates for you which helps in growing your business faster.
You will attract new talent with a strong employee upskilling program
Word spreads fast about businesses that show an inclination to their employees’ well-being. A good upskilling and reskilling program signals new talent to apply, as they can very clearly see a growth opportunity for themselves when they work for you.
This also increases the number of good potential candidate referrals from your employees themselves, as they would have no qualms about endorsing your business as a great place to work.
You now have a wider talent pool that will get you a diverse set of candidates to take your pick from.
The true barriers to upskilling your employees
Sometimes the best designed upskilling and reskilling programs do not present the desired outcomes if the underlying problems are not identified and addressed.
Spending time on upskilling is an obstacle for many employees
For an employee, time is their most valuable asset. It is one thing they cannot sacrifice, even if it is for learning new skills. This is also the reason why employers sometimes perceive as their employees not being interested in further developing their skills.
While many working professionals agree that they need to lap up on new skills, they cite time as a big constraint to be able to that.
Upskilling does not show immediate results
The benefits of upskilling employees can be seen in only the long run. But many managers and executives make the mistake of expecting results much faster. This in turn leads to the belief that the resources spent to upskill are not yielding any results.
The approach which is based on immediate outcomes can be a deterrent to effective employee upskilling programs.
The upskilling program lacks alignment with employee goals
An upskilling and reskilling program is often built from the perspective of employers. Though it is geared towards employees, their opinions are rarely asked or considered.
According to a report by Learn In, over 47% of employees surveyed stated that they do not see a suitable career path within the organization they currently work for. This means the learning programs are not aligned with almost half of the employees’ skillsets and roles.
Building an effective program to upskill your employees
Here are key things you need to consider to build an upskilling and reskilling program that will get you the best results.
Identify the skills that your employees and business need in the future
The very first step you need to take is to spot the critical skills your industry needs and that your employees need to develop in the coming years. You will have to do a thorough analysis of your business and the industry you operate in to know where you need to be and the skills that will help you get there.
Consider the top 3 skills that your entire company needs. Next list out the skills that are role and function dependent. Once you have an idea of what the key skills are, you can build your program on top of that.
It is important to establish a firm baseline
Once you know the skills you want your employees to build on, evaluate the current capabilities and skillset of your employees. Map the current skills to the future needs and identify where the gaps are. Creating a baseline helps in setting appropriate learning goals and targets.
Not having a good baseline can stall your upskilling program. You will never really be able to understand the extent of the gap and how you should be closing it. You will also lack any realistic metrics against which you can measure progress and returns.
Set clear goals for upskilling and learning outcomes
A learning plan without distinct expected outcomes will not yield the results you hope for. It is necessary to list out what the end result of learning these new skills will be – both to the employees and to the business.
Set a timeline for the learning and constantly measure the impact they are having. This is a long game and you will have to measure it as an ongoing process, not just as an immediate thing. Be sure to take into account the impact of the upskilling on the business, the teams, and the individual employee’s performance.
Make the effort to match the newly gained skills to more opportunities
Once an employee graduates from the upskilling and reskilling program, it is important to show them what they can do with their newly acquired skills. If you have them working on the same things as before, the learning will go to waste. It is critical to deploy these skills immediately so that they continue learning as they implement them on the job.
Internal mobility allows employees to take on new roles and challenges that will keep them engaged with the company. It also encourages them to stay with the company rather than look for new opportunities.
In 2020, over 47% of companies invested in internal mobility initiatives and it was noted that high-performance businesses are two times as likely to do this. These are also the same businesses that saw maximum success out of their upskilling and reskilling programs.