During the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and people were confined to their homes, new job roles and skills were called upon. Jobs such as delivery drivers and supermarket workers became even more important, and some workers were forced to adapt to a fully remote way of working. With in-demand job roles changing and more tasks being digitalised, it is time for employers to rethink how to invest in their workforce. Recognising the importance of upskilling is a good place to start.
So what exactly is it? Upskilling is the process of acquiring new and advanced skills relevant to the job market. It can include things such as improving an employees’ current skills, or the provision of new skills to enable a different job role. Upskilling can include both hard skills (eg computer skills, an academic qualification) and soft skills (eg communication, leadership).
For an employee, the chance to upskill can help them turn their job into a lifelong career. It enables:
- Increased confidence—Learning new skills gives staff increased confidence in their abilities and helps them feel valued.
- Enhanced skills—People often don’t know what they’re capable of until they try something new. Upskilling will help them realise their potential.
- Increased earning potential—Those with a higher skill level can achieve a higher salary.
The Benefits for an Employer
Upskilling isn’t just a perk for the employee. Effective reskilling can improve productivity and provide financial benefits to an organisation, such as:
- Ensuring good employee satisfaction—A happy workforce is a more productive one. A study by Oxford University found a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. Job satisfaction helps keep staff turnover rates low, meaning fewer recruitment costs.
- Boosting consumer offering—With business demands changing and competition high, upskilling helps an organisation stay competitive. New specialisms can be created in-house, allowing a company to increase its offering to the consumer.
- Attracting new talent—Upskilling builds loyalty. Staff—who act as brand ambassadors—will be more inclined to recommend the organisation to others.
Upskill vs. Rehire
Rather than purely hiring for new skills, upskilling—when handled correctly—makes sound financial sense. It helps:
- Avoid onboarding requirements—New recruits take time to settle in. With regularity compliance and workplace procedures to learn, new hires can take longer to get up to speed, affecting overall workplace productivity.
- Control salary costs—The recruitment competition with other companies is fierce. And as sought-after skills attract a premium, a new hire will likely cost an employer more than upskilling their existing workforce.
- Avoid high staff turnover—Staff turnover is costly. Upskilling workers within a current role or moving them to a new one can help to keep turnover rates low.
Upskilling also improves workforce diversity. Developing talent from within sets a roadmap for underrepresented groups to advance, allowing for a more diverse culture.
Top Tips to Upskill a Workforce
Following these tips will help organisations make sure upskilling is the default in their workplace.
- Identify the skills gap. It’s important to consider how the organisation is performing in relation to its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and growth goals. Once key areas have been identified for improvement, effective retraining can be arranged. It’s also vital to speak to employees firsthand in order to gauge which skills would benefit them day to day.
- Make training ongoing and available to everyone. Employers should think of ways to deliver training in an accessible way. And they must cater to different learning styles. Bite-sized training modules can often be more effective than whole training days. An online portal or learning management system (LMS) may be beneficial, allowing staff to access training remotely and at a time that suits them.
- Reward and incentivise employees. Most employees will embrace the opportunity to upskill. But if they don’t, employers should consider ways to incentivise. This can include leader boards, prizes or financial rewards.
It takes diligence to instil an ethos of personal development and upskilling in the workplace. But if UK employers meet the challenge to redeploy and reskill creatively, their organisation will be better placed to flourish post-COVID-19.