What is Upskilling?

The Great Resignation, an uptick in Boomer retirement, and the current labor shortage have created a skills gap. Seemingly, there are more open jobs than there are workers with the skills to do them. Combined with ever-changing technology, it’s never been more important for workers to be skilled in and knowledgeable about their profession.

Upskilling and reskilling have become important for creating growth opportunities that offer benefits for employees and managers alike. That’s probably why the World Economic Forum is working to help upskill 1 billion workers by 2030!

But before you develop your own upskilling strategy, it’s important to understand what it is and how it can help you.

That’s where I come in.


What's up(skilling)?

Upskilling is the process of learning new skills or gaining more knowledge in order to advance in your career path and make yourself more valuable to your employers—both future and current. It improves your career-long skill set, which can help you get jobs in new industries and be an expert no matter where you choose to work. It’s a good way to remain competitive in the job market, especially when working in high-demand industries.

Hard skills vs. soft skills

Upskilling can help improve both hard and soft skills, helping you become a more well-rounded worker.

Hard skills (also called “technical skills”) are usually more physically active and often involve the specific tools of your trade. These are the skills you might use to complete everyday work tasks. For example, at a tech company, you might have hard skills in computers, analysis, and marketing. At a construction company, you might be skilled at carpentry, plumbing, and masonry.

Soft skills are usually more internal. Some of these are personality traits that help guide the way (and how well) you work. For instance, strong communication, time management, and critical thinking.

Why is upskilling important?

Upskilling has become a necessity in today’s world, where the demand for skilled workers is constantly growing. In fact, a 2021 study by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that 92% of business owners had trouble filling jobs due to lack of qualified applicants! This means that if you want to find work in your field and meet your career goals, it’s critical for you to learn new skills and keep up with changing technology.

That last point is extremely important, because many industries trend toward the latest technological advancements. And, as technology evolves, so do the skills that are needed in order to work with it. You might have training on one version of a system, but if you want to stay relevant and keep working in your industry, you need to learn about the newer versions of that system or otherwise update your skill set.

In short: by upskilling, you can become more future proof and improve your chances of long-term success!

Benefits for management

Upskilling offers many benefits for those in management positions, as well. Some of these benefits include:

Stronger teams

As mentioned above, upskilling employees can help close the skills gap and help your team become more knowledgeable, experienced, and well-rounded. And, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), 93% of CEOs who use upskilling programs see increased productivity. (I should note that PwC offers upskilling services, so take their survey numbers with at least a slight grain of salt.)

Reduced cost and risk

Upskilling can also reduce costs for your business. While upskilling costs money, hiring a new employee can cost up to $5,000 per employee or more—and costs go up exponentially if using a recruited to find talent.

There’s also increased risk with hiring new employees: until they begin work, you can never be absolutely sure of their work ethic, productivity, or loyalty to the company. By upskilling your current employees, you can have more accurate expectations.

Improved leadership

This one works twofold. First, you can teach your employees leadership skills that can help them earn promotions and become strong leaders for your team. Promoting from in-house can cost less money and take less time. It can also help keep teams who already work well together remain unified.

Second, you can improve your own skills and become a more helpful and productive leader. By investing in yourself, you can lead by example. You can show your team that personal and professional growth is important. It also helps them see your dedication to being the best leader you can be.

Higher retention rates

Learning how to retain employees is a skill of its own.

One of the many lessons we learned during the Great Resignation is that modern employees look for growth opportunities and learning experiences. Because of that, upskilling has become more than a way to improve your team; it’s a unique benefit you can offer your employees.

But here’s the hard number: according to a report from LinkedIn, 94% of respondents said they’d stay with a company that invested in helping them learn new skills. So, investing in your employees can do more than improve their individual skills—it can help you keep your strongest, most loyal employees.

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