Upskilling

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is a proactive approach to professional development that involves learning new skills for current and future roles within an organization.

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The goal of upskilling is to minimize skills gaps. A skills gap is the difference between the knowledge and capabilities someone has – and what they need to perform their job efficiently and effectively.

Upskilling can be initiated by an employee or by an organization to keep pace with changing job responsibilities and technological advancements. According to a survey by the World Economic Forum, 6 out of 10 workers will require additional training to do their current jobs by 2027.

Why is Upskilling Important?

According to a Gallop poll commissioned by Amazon, upskilling is a popular employee benefit. It allows employees to keep pace with technological advancements, evolving business needs, and the competitive labor market.

Corporate upskilling initiatives can provide employees with training opportunities and staff development programs that will minimize skill gaps and prepare employees for new jobs or roles within the same organization.

Businesses hope that by investing in their employees’ skills training, they will get a return on investment (ROI) through increased productivity, better role mobility, and stronger employee retention rates.

Upskilling can also play an important role in reducing the cost of talent acquisition. When businesses face challenges in recruiting new employees with specific skills, it can set projects back. Optimizing the capabilities of current staff members to meet present and future requirements can often be more cost-effective than finding, hiring, and training new employees.

Upskilling Vs. Reskilling

The terms ‘upskilling’ and ‘reskilling’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but strictly speaking, they each have a different objective.

Upskilling is about acquiring new skills that are relevant to a present or future role in the same career path.

In contrast, reskilling is about gaining new skills for a completely different career path or a new job in a completely different field.

How To Upskill Employees

Corporate upskilling initiatives can be carried out formally on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. They can also be carried out informally on a day-to-day basis.

Essentially, the process requires identifying an employee’s skills gaps, relevant resources, and opportunities for skill acquisition, giving the employee time to learn the new skill, and gathering information about how they use the new skill in a work-related context.

In a large organization, this process often includes a formal assessment component that provides managers with data-driven insight into how often an employee takes advantage of internal learning opportunities – and whether the results meet the organization’s needs.

Examples of Corporate Upskilling Initiatives

Human resource departments in many of today’s large corporations are including upskilling as an integral part of their strategy for employee engagement, retention, and organizational success.

The Challenges of Upskilling Staff

A survey by DeVry University found that even though nearly eight in 10 employers said they offer company-paid upskilling benefits, only half of their employees used them – even though the same workers agreed that upskilling is a necessary requirement for professional success.

One issue was that only a third of the workers surveyed thought their employer was meeting their need for hard skill training, especially technical skills regarding artificial intelligence.

In addition to this disconnect, another challenge that companies are having is figuring out what learning tools to use for staff development. Traditionally, staff development initiatives have used a top-down, “sage on the stage” approach to employee learning and development. Younger employees seem to prefer a more self-directed “guide on the side” approach.

A recent survey conducted by Visier, a workforce analytics firm, found that 22% of respondents aged 18–25 use TikTok to learn new workplace skills, and 31% use YouTube. Even though this data illustrates the need for companies to make their upskilling initiatives more personalized and self-directed, many companies are finding this to be a challenge.

Practically speaking, it can be difficult (and expensive) to integrate new learning tools like microlearning modules, mobile learning applications, and interactive digital platforms into traditional corporate learning workflows.

It’s important to note, however, that despite these challenges, the long-term benefits of integrating modern learning tools can pay off. The key is to carefully plan and execute the integration of these technologies, considering both the immediate challenges and the potential future benefits.

How To Build a Successful Upskilling Program

The Future of Jobs Report 2023 from the World Economic Forum found that 85 million jobs are estimated to be displaced by automation, and 40% of an employee’s core skills will change by 2025.

There is no doubt that with the evolving nature of the workplace and rapid technological advancements, traditional learning tools for upskilling will also need to change. This will require a strategic approach, one that considers the skill gaps of the organization as a whole and its individual employees.

A successful upskilling program aligns an organization’s goals with the diverse learning styles of its workforce.

The first step is to conduct a skills gap analysis to identify the specific areas where upskilling is needed. This information can be gathered through a variety of formal and informal methods like:

  • Self-assessments that allow employees to rate their own skills;
  • Manager assessments that allow supervisors to evaluate the skills of their team members;
  • Third-party assessments conducted by external business partners.

Once the key areas for development are identified, the next step is to set clear, measurable learning objectives. The objectives should be closely tied to business goals and have clearly defined success metrics.

After that, it’s a question of determining the right learning tools for each objective to help ensure learners stay engaged. Popular upskilling tools include:

The last step is to collect feedback from the learners about the effectiveness of their training and evaluate how successfully their upskilling helped the organization achieve business goals.

Best Upskilling Courses

The best upskilling courses not only enhance skills, they also motivate and engage employees throughout the learning process.

Surveys have shown that even though more than half of today’s employees are experimenting with how to use generative AI to improve their productivity at work, most organizations haven’t addressed this concern in their training initiatives.

As a result, employees are looking for ways to self-educate themselves about this increasingly disruptive technology.

Popular free resources include:

FAQ

What is an example of upskilling?

What is the difference between upskilling and reskilling?

What is a synonym for upskill?

References

  1. The Future of Jobs Report 2023 (World Economic Forum)
  2. The American Upskilling Study: Empowering Workers for the Jobs of Tomorrow (Gallup)
  3. Our Upskilling 2025 programs (Amazon)
  4. Amazon to Retrain a Third of Its U.S. Workforce (The Wall Street Journal)
  5. Empowering our employees (Microsoft CSR)
  6. Salesforce Upskill Official Website (Salesforce Upskill)
  7. Trailblazer Community (Salesforce Trailhead)
  8. With $1.4B Investment, Deloitte Looks to Reshape the Future of Learning and Development (Pr Newswire)
  9. Introducing Project 120: Reshaping the future of learning and development (Deloitte)
  10. On-the-job generative AI training is already critical for workers. Here’s how to get started (CNBC)
  11. Barriers and Opportunities for Upskilling a Future-Ready Workforce (DeVry University)
  12. What Gen Z Workers Really Want (Visier)
  13. 4 Microlearning Examples from Fortune 500 Companies (WalkMe)
  14. What is a Skills Matrix? + Benefits and How to Create One (WalkMe)
  15. LinkedIn Learning Official Wbesite (LinkedIn Learning)
  16. Survey: Majority of US Workers Are Already Using Generative AI Tools–But Company Policies Trail Behind (PR Newswire)
  17. Deep Learning Specialization (Coursera)
  18. DeepLearningAI (YouTube)
  19. Career Essentials in Generative AI by Microsoft and LinkedIn (LinkedIn Learning)
  20. How LinkedIn’s Most Popular AI Courses Can Shape Your Organization’s Upskilling Strategy (LinkedIn)
  21. Trustworthy Generative AI (Coursera)
  22. A new study reveals 5 ways AI will transform the workplace as we know it (Amazon)
  23. Amazon aims to provide free AI skills training to 2 million people by 2025 with its new ‘AI Ready’ commitment (Amazon)
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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…