By Bryan Kramer | Featured, Leadership

What ‘Upskilling’ Means and Where to Start?


What ‘Upskilling’ Means and Where to Start?

Upskilling yourself and your workforce is a worthy investment. Companies today are acutely aware of its importance; if they are not, they are being left behind.

But what does upskilling mean?
Why is it gaining so much traction lately?
How to develop an upskilling strategy?
Also, is there a sure way to get started?

93% of CEOs have seen a massive boost in employee productivity after implementing the necessary upskilling programs.

Explore with me how upskilling is crucial for employee retention, especially business growth.


The Basics: What Is Upskilling? 

Companies today are investing in innovative tech, but are those efforts in alignment with workforce skills? Many aspects of the business are digitizing to adapt to the fast-changing corporate landscape. But is the workforce ready to leverage those innovations in their daily work and meet future needs? This is where upskilling comes into the picture.

In the micro context, upskilling implies learning new skills. However, in the macro context, upskilling is a tectonic shift in workplaces due to technological advancements.

To fully benefit from newer possibilities, you need a modernized workforce. Upskilling is the process that helps bridge any gaps in your business by improving the workforce’s existing skills with ongoing training and mentorship.  

Treat upskilling as a long-term investment, not an expense. 

These programs help adopt in-demand, job-specific hard and soft skills, which are considerably smaller investments than hiring and training new employees. 

Why Is Upskilling Gaining So Much Traction?

The short answer to this question is digital transformation.

Today’s digital landscape is enabled by remarkable advancements, reinventing customer dynamics and transforming buying behaviors. For these processes to take place successfully, you need the following:

    • Constant improvements 
    • Unwavering customer experience
    • Efficient use of data
    • Achieving more with less
    • Cultural shift
    • Change management

This piece I found on LinkedIn suggests that more than 90% of employees would be happy to stay at an organization where leaders invest in career development.

Since employees are happy and keen to go wherever there are better offers, upskilling will only help boost employee morale and increase retention.

The Skills Gap is Widening

Now, what is this? The widening gap between new and advanced vacant positions and competent candidates is often referred to as the skills gap.

This study found that more than 60% of businesses in the US keep jobs open for about 12 weeks or longer before recruiting someone with doable, if not the exact, skills. This skills gap hinders digital transformation and leads to a missed competitive advantage.

For these reasons, leaders like you must invest heavily in upskilling. Smarter upskilling must become your corporate priority and responsibility. Upskilling not only helps retain the best employees but encourages customer satisfaction too.

Why Really Upskill Your Workforce?

New world, new skills. But what is really in it for companies as a whole? High levels of employee engagementproductivity, and agility make upskilling a necessity.

    • More than 80% of CEOs admit their employees were more committed to their jobs resulting from relevant training programs. 
    • 93% of CEOs have also seen a massive boost in employee productivity after implementing the necessary upskilling programs.

Upskilling is the future of a thriving workforce and customer relationships. 

A complete headcount is of no use if they aren’t engaged. Upskilling can help create engagement and dedicated workforces. Businesses can also drive resilience.

Last but not least, and this goes without saying, upskilling is resource-saving as it allows you to reduce costs in hiring and training new candidates every time.

Developing an Upskilling Strategy

Now that you know what upskilling is and why it is so important, here’s how you can develop a strategy to change the course of future opportunities. 

    • Audit the existing skills base to identify what you have and what you can make out of it. 
    • Identify the skill sets you need, now and in the future, and those that’ll soon phase out. 
    • Establish a plan for the company to achieve its mission with collective skills. 
    • Keep track of the strategy and how it’s progressing to pinpoint any skills gaps.

A practical plan will help you determine your direction to make learning quick, engaging, and effective. 

Ways to Upskill Your Workforce

There are numerous ways to upskill your people. However, each method depends on your business type, long-term objectives, and current resources. Some of the best practices to follow include: 

Virtual Learning

Help them utilize online certification courses from Udemy, Linkedin Learning, or Coursera to learn skills that fit their jobs. 


External upskilling workshops are also great. Leaders can enroll for management skills, and employees can gain exposure to the industry network. It’s an absolute win. 


Workplace coaching also promotes two-way communication to identify areas of improvement, reinforce the plus points, and speed up the performance graph. 

Peer-To-Peer Mentoring

Peer-led mentoring to upskill abilities bolsters team relationships and creates a positive working environment. People turn to peers, shadow a senior, and learn when and how to take charge. 

Lateral Training

Help them with lateral training because cross-skills always come in handy no matter how appealing it is to get promoted. It can help make nontraditional moves and make for an enriching career. 

Bite Size Content

Incorporate bite-sized training opportunities like a TED Talk, a podcast, or a Quizlet to fit even into busy schedules and offer quick bits of information and learning. Such content is easy to digest and retain for a long. 

Tailored Learning

Make sure, or at least try to tailor training programs depending on different styles, needs, and learning interests. It empowers people and helps them embark on a personal and professional development journey.

There’s a more extraordinary passion for doing things when so many people come together towards a mutual purpose.

It improves the overall performance and fast-tracks knowledge-sharing opportunities. As well, to prepare your company and yourself to stay competitive, there must be a:

    • Learning-for-life mindset
    • Basic tech competency
    • Cultural awareness
    • People skills 
    • Embracing the change
    • Instilling a global perspective 
    • Agile adaptation

Ultimately, ensure you provide proper support and resources to equip your people better. It can help meet competency challenges and upgrade their skillset for the future. 

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

Executives today are setting their vision on skills more than ever before. 

This McKinsey study suggests that nearly 70% of businesses focus on skills building, which wasn’t the case until before COVID. It is a much-needed step to future-fit the workforce.  

But what is this upskilling vs. reskilling battle all about?

Upskilling primarily focuses on becoming more efficient and relevant in the existing position. However, reskilling is about learning new skills to succeed in a different role. Reskilling creates a cross-trained workforce to accelerate processes and invest in the future of the business.

Besides, we are in a time when advanced tech is revolutionizing our work. So identifying and developing newer competencies cannot be an afterthought. 

Final Tips

Upskilling isn’t just another term to throw around so lightly. Nor it’s a one-size-fits-all remedy for expanding businesses.

The upskilling process is multi-dimensional and lifelong. It is best delivered via aligned and integrated approaches to facilitate continuous learning. 

The new way to work is to upskill.

So, enable your people, outfit them with the right skills, put learning in their hands, and provide personalized training – it’ll pay off with sustainable results, helping close skills gaps, increase digital capabilities, and enable the teams to thrive. 


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