3 Reasons to Upskill Your Workers

Upskilling, training workers so that they can fill more advanced roles in an organization, has gained traction in recent years. Employers have found that offering strategic training to their workforce — permanent and contingent — creates valuable new talent pools that deliver a healthy return on investment now and in the future.

As recession fears recede, employers are facing the reality that the tight labor market is a major obstacle to their growth. With unemployment at 3.6%, it’s no surprise that companies are implementing resourceful solutions by prioritizing the training needs of their employees.

The Business Cases for Upskilling

A 2019 Allegis Group Cultivating Skills survey of human resources decision-makers found that employers are increasingly viewing employee skills development as the employers’ responsibility:

  • 93% believe the employer is responsible for enabling their workforce to acquire new
  • skills
  • 90% are exploring new ways to develop critical skills within their workforce
  • 86% anticipate that their budget for training, learning and development will increase over the next two years

A comprehensive training strategy can help employers in three ways: By filling their current need for skilled employees, preparing workers for future demands and boosting retention by satisfying employee demand for growth opportunities:

1. Fill a current need for skilled employees. One way that companies are upskilling current employees is through what labor experts call “skill adjacencies,” essentially diagnosing a person’s present skills and identifying promising careers that offer higher wages or growth in demand while requiring minimal investments of time and money in retraining, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To do this, a 2020 Gartner white paper notes, companies identify candidates who might not have the required “role experience” but have the skills that allow them to more quickly upskill for a new role.

This shows that employers are taking a proactive approach to creating the skilled workforce they need by investing in their current employees. By doing this, they create value in several ways — they can prioritize the exact skills they need and set a quick pace for training, they demonstrate their appreciation for current employees and they help fulfill the company’s potential for growth.

2. Prepare for a future workplace. Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 investment of $700 million to retrain 100,000 employees — a third of its U.S. workforce — in new technologies is the latest reminder that the world of work will be very different just a few years from now.

Workers increasingly need skills in working with automated systems or functions. And whether it’s bots or automated billing systems, workers must be comfortable with these platforms and functions. More jobs than ever need digital skills. In order to avoid a digital skill divide, employees need to learn new skills in order to progress or even keep their jobs.

It’s a “build, not buy” strategy; the process of preparing workers for jobs that require technical skills along with creativity, interpersonal skills, adaptability and the capacity to continue learning.

PREMIUM CONTENT: North America Temporary Worker Survey 2020: Initial Findings

3. Increase retention by satisfying employee demand for growth

Career development — learning, development and advancement opportunities that are provided to employees on a systematic basis — has been found to be a significant driver of employee engagement. “Career development isn’t an occasional training class or periodical promotions but, rather, the daily journey of learning, job skills and networking that puts employees on the course they most want to travel in their career.”

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. And employers are listening: 82% of learning and development professionals say that their executives actively support employee engagement in professional learning.

How to Start

How you proceed with upskilling depends on a number of factors, including the skills needed and your training budget. There are third-party companies that specialize in providing digital skills training. If the skills needed are geared more to internal processes and knowledge transfer, consider lunch and learn opportunities, mentoring/coaching programs or job shadowing.

Don’t forget that a consideration of the costs should take into account more than just the training cost per employee; retention, engagement and attracting quality hires are all part of the ROI of training. Organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development, Gallup finds, report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees.

Conclusion

Too many employers believe they’re in a Catch-22 when it comes to upskilling employees. The cost seems prohibitive, but the price paid for untrained workers may be higher, notes HR Dive. Without training, “companies will face employee turnover, recruitment challenges, lost productivity, lost sales, loss of staff to competitors and lack of innovation.” Investing in employee training is the right thing to do, and with the current labor market, it’s the right time to do it.

 

Bill Ruff

Bill Ruff
Bill Ruff, vice president of Aerotek, has more than two decades of experience in staffing and talent management.

Bill Ruff

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