Upskilling: How to Help your Employees to Improve

Written by Steven Marwick
Author

Upskilling needs more attention in the workplace. In a large majority of businesses, up to 74% according to the PwC CEO study, employers look at their employees and lament the fact that they don’t yet have someone on their team that has a specific skill or group of skills that could help them to reach the next level. Things don’t have to stay that way though, it is entirely possible to help your employees to upskill and improve to the level that you need. 

If you go about this correctly, your employees will see you as a caring employer who is helping them to improve their skills and get ahead, further adding to their loyalty to your organisation. It really is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Encourage Skill Sharing and Upskilling

This is a simple step that every business should implement if they can. Encourage your staff to share their skills with each other and help each other with their development. A good way to foster this type of skill-sharing is through the encouragement of collaboration on tasks between people with differing skill sets. This allows for mutual exchanging of skills and also fosters stronger teamwork within the company. 

Encouraging skill-sharing doesn’t have to be anything too formal but it can also be something that you can offer as an optional extra. A common format is one staff member leading a discussion about a particular skill or set of skills that they feel they have a good proficiency in. You should make sure they are comfortable talking about this in a small, seminar-style group. 

Do a Skills Audit of your Workforce

You may actually be in a position where you are not aware of all the skills that your team possesses and you can actually be missing out on harnessing their abilities to the full. Some have excellent writing skills but have only ever put them to use in a very narrow way at work. 

A skills audit, where you ask employees to list all of the skills they feel that they have, even if they don’t seem relevant to the job they do at the moment can be quite a good fun thing to do. It can help to identify transferable skills among others. 

Some employees may have some self-doubts but the very act of getting them to write out their skills can show them that they have abilities beyond those they may initially recognise and that this is just impostor syndrome

Getting your employees to write down their skills can open the door to asking them to take on additional responsibilities, or even a different role that is more suited to their abilities than the one they are currently assigned to. This can lead to interesting and fruitful conversations about their career progression and possibilities for upskilling.

It may be that they were feeling slightly unfulfilled in their current role and this recognition that they have talents outwith their core work competencies can make them feel “seen” and appreciated in the workplace, leading to happier staff overall. 

Upskilling, Training and Team Building Days

Identify the core skills that you need to be able to improve in your teams and look for high-quality training providers in your area who have the capacity to take this on. Be sure to read reviews from businesses that are similar in size or in industry to your own when you are making a decision. 

If you are upskilling your team at the same time, for example teaching them all to use a new piece of software that you want to incorporate into the workplace, consider turning it into a combination of classroom-based work and active team building. 

It is well understood that people learn better when they are able to take a break and take part in some physical activity for a while. Obviously, you should tailor this to your team and figure out what works best for them but mixing team-building activities and learning can bring your team closer while also allowing them to learn what you need them to. They may even come to look forward to the training days if you can ensure they also enjoy the time with their colleagues. 

Ensure the New Skills are Practised

It is all very well upskilling your employees but if they are unable to have an opportunity to practise their new skills they will get rusty quickly. Look at how the new skills can be incorporated into the workplace routine in order that your team gets used to using them regularly. 

This effectively comes under skill retention as once your team have the necessary skills, they have to practise them in order to keep them at the kind of level of sharpness that is needed.

Build a Learning Culture

Encourage your employees to reflect on the training sessions that they had and to talk about what they learned, as this helps those who understood it better to pull those who didn’t understand it as well along with them. 

Enabling and empowering your team to answer each other’s questions on things they have learned together can help to foster a real learning culture within your company. Encourage people with particular skills to share them with other team members and to value the improvements that they witness in the workplace every day. 

Set Targets for Upskilling

If you are able to set targets for learning in the company and link this into the remuneration structure, this can encourage people to take the next steps on the lifelong learning ladder. One way of keeping employees motivated to learn may be to have a leaderboard for who has undertaken the most training courses. This can lead to healthy competition and vying for the top spot, though depending on the workplace some people may not want to take part. 

Offer an Apprenticeship

If you require a particular role that you don’t have someone with suitable skills for yet, think about offering an existing employee an apprenticeship that will equip them with the skills that they need for this career advancement step. 

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