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Posted 21st December 2020

Building a Successful Upskilling Strategy

How can businesses better support L&D in their organisations and build effective upskilling strategies to remain competitive?

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Building a Successful Upskilling Strategy

Recent months, witnessing the unnerving theatre of the pandemic, has caused many businesses to review and revisit their skill availability across internal talent. One key insight unpacked from this has been the urgency to upskill and share existing expertise and knowledge across a business, especially disparate ones that have remote employees.

Skills, knowledge, and expertise – these aren’t static in a business setting. Rather, they need to be developed, refined, and shared. With swift and challenging economic changes afoot, the firms that seem to become more fortified, or resilient, against the disruptions are those willing to embrace upskilling as a strategy.

However, an astonishing 74% of CEOs are still concerned at a lack of availability of the right skills in their companies, according to PWC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey.

Traditionally, upskilling is achieved through training or topical and knowledgeable seminars. Upskilling a workforce can seem a tricky feat. But CEO’s and other office managers can build strategies that captures this goal. Upskilling employees is about reinforcing existing expertise, while introducing new ones.

Your skill availability isn’t fixed, but rather fluid. What shapes the successful spread of expertise and knowledge in a workplace is policy and strategy. Furthermore, embracing new technologies can help you deliver an effective approach to upskilling. A roadmap to a greater skill availability in the office is never out of reach for those with a proactive strategy.

How can businesses better support L&D in their organisations and build effective upskilling strategies to remain competitive?


1)      Design a roadmap to skill discovery

Training programmes can be delivered to mixed results. Yet, with adequate pre-planning, training can become a useful tool for new skill discovery and acquisition, while closing down the ‘gaps’.

Through a focused approach, you can prioritise an upskilling strategy around those employees with niche or specialist expertise. If technology, or other external disruptions, pose risks on the skills shared between colleagues identify not only key people, but critical skills that could boost business performance.

Training courses should, of course, have strategic goals. But, ultimately, they should be built around people. This skills development process should include your HR team, which can be foundational in outlaying the right kinds of support. For example, building key policy that facilitates upskilling can establish a firmer framework for skill sharing. A firm might manage its resources accordingly, building out a company compensation and benefits scheme that nurtures upskilling and career development.


2)      Reflect on key learnings

The hopeful goal would be to nurture skills and expertise even outside of training courses. Lifelong learning is a no easy feat; but facilitating opportunities to continually, and proactively, learn is a practical and achievable goal that many businesses should aspire to.

Often a key mistake is to assume that learning ends when a training session expires. In fact, skill retention is much for effective for businesses that aspire to design roadmaps to upskilling and cross-pollinating expertise. Ensuring that employees who absorb new skills get key opportunities to apply, in-situation, these expertise and knowledge improves chances of retention.

After a training session, give the attending employees’ a chance to reflect on the key takeaways and allow them space to feedback into the process. Building a learning culture that features on its people is the best way to ensure skills are shared and reinforced.


3)      Embrace the right tech

Whilst upskilling is universal, the kinds of available investments can be very different. Big named companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or Salesforce have committed financial resources to developing upskilling strategies through technology.

Where can I access these kinds of resources?

Start by reading new research and educational articles, found on platforms the likes of LinkedIn, GitHub, and other spaces Like Grow with Google, which unpack several digital skills amidst the growing paranoia of automation. Saleforce’s recent “Trailhead” app, for example, closes the knowledge gap of those wishing to learn about sales platforms.

The best tool for skill discovery is human interaction. Yet, technology can better facilitate this, especially where disruption from the pandemic has the potential to interrupt how we learn form one another. Communication platforms, such as Microsoft’s Teams, can not only ensure that that teams remain connected, but also that they have extra opportunities to learn from each other.

An upskilling initiative that centres on learning and development can be dynamic for an organisation. Training should be about people, and the kinds of skills a business wants shared and learned. Rather than fear automation, why not embrace technology as a means of facilitating, and distributing, skills in a workplace.


The article was written by Steve Cox, chief evangelist at IRIS HR Consulting.

Categories: Strategy

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