In recent months, business models have quickly evolved creating a need for immediate employee upskilling.

In regard to the fluctuating condition of the workforce, many managers have started to review and revisit the availability of skills across their business. Partly out of urgency, many managers are now planning to upskill and share expertise within a business as both an economic and creative strategy.   

The interest in upskilling and reskilling employees has clear benefits for any organization: a greater skill availability, ultimately, can lead to enhanced motivation, morale, and productivity, as much as it can improve cost-savings.

The strategic perks of an upskilled workforce outweigh any skepticism, yet lack of confidence seems to define the moment. An astonishing 74% of CEOs are still concerned about a lack of availability of the right skills in their companies, according to PWC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey.

The goal of upskilling staff can be mobilized as either a strategy, a policy, or something more cultural. For managers keen to embed L&D into their workplace, and remain competitive, encouraging the upskilling of teams can seem essential.

So, how can leaders ensure that upskilling is strategic and motivating business goals?

1.      Manage priorities (such as learning)

Leaders should prioritize learning and development opportunities around the workplace and beyond it to visualize a successful upskilling incentive. Impressive working environments will place a premium on new skills acquisition, learning from teachable moments (such as collaboration), and a natural curiosity.

As a leader, manage expectations that continuous learning is part of your business culture and consider incentivizing, if not rewarding, those who embrace this spirit. An ‘incentive’ doesn’t have to be financial either. Project involvement, for example, is a great way for team members to flex their new skills.

This is great means of investing in your employees, especially for driving long term business growth. Building up, and fortifying, a culture of learning, means that expertise and knowledge will more naturally distribute between teams.

Sometimes the prospect of learning in business is entwined with ideas of a culture of coaching or mentoring, which should give leaders creative license to build businesses around people.

2.      Apply new skills as they’re acquired

Acquiring new skill through training is to be expected.The real challenge is ensuring that trained team members are given opportunities to apply new skills frequently.

Consider using upskilling like an investment; equip teams with training and other learning opportunities, but ask them to activate their new skills in their daily work life.

Leaders should allow team members to embrace active learning and development by getting involved rather than simply absorbing textbook knowledge. This experience is key in helping sure teams retain new skills and grow their expertise with confidence.

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3.      Include HR in your goal-setting

For leaders to secure their upskilling strategy, goal-post it, and document its effectiveness through policy. Start by identifying the kinds of expertise that will be needed to help your operation flourish. Then, after careful consideration, target skills through training and other learning opportunities, leveraging L&D policy to monitor, review and deliver its success.   

Try managing skills into goals and timelines. For example, building a company compensation and benefits scheme around upskilling can help keep it motivated.

4.      Manage Resources Carefully

Whenever delivering an upskilling plan to a workforce large or small, those team members involved in reskilling or new skills acquisition will need to be tethered to a personal development plan. This is a way to fortify learning through a structured process – consider mapping out timelines for objectives, schedules for training, any milestones, and completion dates and deadlines. A structure will take the guesswork out of upskilling, so there’s a clear and shared vision for upskilling and reskilling.

It’s useful to reference timelines because, as with most learning, it’s not often immediate. It can take time and patience to see the results of an upskilling strategy, so leaders should understand how this is a plan for the future of their business.

5.      Lean into technology (not away from it)

Virtual tools, such as videoconferencing, can be helpful, rather than the perceived hindrance, when it comes to upskilling. New technologies are becoming more tuned to the needs and desires of leaders and their teams, meaning themes of connectivity are always at the forefront.

Technology is especially great for time-poor leaders, where new resources can help manage what little time remains. As much as webinars, recording features can help teams grab at new skills on the go, especially when feels precious.

Tie back any initiatives for upskilling to company goals, such as growth plans. Give teams accountability for their time and resources, meaning they can proactively measure the influence of new skills on their own workloads and how this is helping edge the business forward more competitively.

Marketplace relevance is no easy feat, with its shifting focuses and key players. But a relished culture is more often one of the most powerful tools out there.

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Steven Cox
By Steven Cox, Chief Evangelist at IRIS HR, a leading international HR consultancy.
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