Design the Perfect Upskilling Strategy in 6 Steps


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Is your business looking to bridge talent gaps by upskilling its workforce? Follow these steps to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

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Design the Perfect Upskilling Strategy in 6 Steps
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For businesses and their employees to succeed in the modern world of work, it's crucial to have a strategy to overcome persistent challenges.

One of the biggest obstacles facing many companies today is a shortage of critical skills in the workforce. Nearly nine out of ten firms worldwide are already experiencing talent gaps, or expect to face this problem within a few years, according to McKinsey research.

Not being able to access the knowledge and capabilities you need can disadvantage your business in many ways, from falling short of evolving customer expectations to missing out on opportunities for growth.

It's crucial, therefore, to have a clear plan to acquire, develop and retain essential skills in your workforce. One strategy that can deliver strong results is upskilling, which can prove equally beneficial for the business and its workers by helping employees consistently strengthen and expand their skill sets.

If this is a course of action you're considering, follow these steps to increase your chances of getting the best results.

Learn more: How to Effectively Upskill Your Employees: with 8 Examples from Famous Companies

1. Understand your situation and challenges

Your upskilling initiative should be built on a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding. Make sure you have a clear picture of where you currently stand in terms of the talent already available in your workforce and where you have the most urgent skills requirements.

This will involve connecting with relevant stakeholders within the business such as executives, HR leaders and employee representatives to gain an idea of the key capabilities you need to target and develop through upskilling.

2. Set relevant goals

Once you have a strong understanding of your current situation and the biggest obstacles you need to overcome, you can focus on setting goals that make sense for the business and your employees.

These objectives could come in various forms. Some will be quantitative and measurable - the number of employees completing training courses or rates of skilled staff turnover within the next six months, for example.

You could also consider setting goals that are less quantifiable but more aspirational and inspiring to your people, such as establishing your company as a leader in digital transformation in your industry within the next five years.

3. Design a targeted upskilling plan

If you've delivered training and skills development programs in the past that haven't generated much in the way of tangible results, it may be because they were too broad and not sufficiently focused.

When you want to upskill your workforce and prepare your business for the future, it's crucial to take a targeted approach that reflects the unique needs of your organization and its people.

Consider questions such as:

  • Which roles within your company will feel the greatest impact from technological development in the coming years?
  • What new positions do you expect to emerge that will demand specialist skills?
  • Which employees are currently the least prepared for changes in their jobs and require dedicated upskilling support?

4. Engage with individuals

The targeted approach you take to your upskilling strategy as a whole should also be reflected in how you engage and communicate with the individuals taking part in the initiative.

While it provides opportunities for professional growth and development, upskilling could also cause concern in the workforce. People who are being asked to learn more about automation and digital transformation, for example, might be worrying about these concepts making their jobs obsolete.

Make sure you're talking to employees about where the upskilling program will lead and how it could help them fulfill their personal aspirations. Forming these one-to-one connections will also help you tailor your training and education programs to suit the preferences of individual participants.

5. Select training methods carefully

It's extremely unlikely you'll get the results you want from your upskilling activities if the learning and training opportunities you provide are unengaging or ill-conceived.

Talk to a wide range of stakeholders - with a focus on the employees who will actually be taking part - to collect opinions about what types of training are likely to be most effective and will contribute to engagement and motivation.

Consider how you can leverage and derive value from the skills already available in your workforce. Could mentoring programs that allow high-performing staff to pass on their skills and knowledge to co-workers prove more effective than bringing in an external training provider, for example?

Learn more: 4 Blended Learning Models All L&D Managers Need to Start Using

6. Monitor performance and results

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that once your upskilling strategy has been planned and launched your work is done.

Some of the most crucial actions are taken after the program is implemented, as you monitor how it's performing and collect as much information and feedback as possible to gauge its effectiveness.

Make sure you're taking advantage of digital HR tools and technologies to collect, manage and analyze a wide range of performance data and results.

It's also crucial to maintain your focus on direct communication and engagement with employees. The people taking part in the upskilling initiative are your most valuable source of insight into how it's performing, which elements are working well and, perhaps most importantly of all, what needs to change.

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