How to Build an Upskilling Program

Many employees are contemplating leaving their job because of a lack of employee training or career development. Crafting a clear career path is a sure way to boost retention of top talent and achieve business goals.

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How to Build an Upskilling Program

Here's what you need to know about how to build an upskilling program:

  • Use the Covey principle of putting first things first - define what you want to accomplish.
  • Ask employees what they want and need.
  • Design your upskilling program.
  • Measure the program's effectiveness.

Do you have an upskilling program? The workforce is changing rapidly, and your employees know it.

According to PwC, 39% of workers believe that their job will be obsolete within five years, and 60% feel that automation is putting jobs at risk. This is actually great news for employers since it highlights how aware workers are of their skills gap. And many are eager to grow.

The same study found that 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or even retrain from scratch. As a result, many employees are even contemplating leaving their job because of a lack of employee training or career development.

With the Great Resignation in full swing, more and more employers are looking for ways to retain talent. Providing continuous learning opportunities may be just the thing businesses need right now. A solid upskilling strategy can keep talent longer and ensure that your organization has the competitive advantage of skilled workers.

How to build an upskilling program

Closing the skills gap through workforce development and upskilling employees often feels overwhelming. But crafting a clear career path is a sure way to boost retention of top talent and achieve business goals. These 5 simple steps can help you lay the foundations of your upskilling effort.

Define the benchmarks for your upskilling program

First things first. Make a plan.

When you take the time to map your expectations for the upskilling program, it becomes easier for you to give it structure later. At this junction, it’s essential to understand your overall upskilling strategy. This is the time to look at what business functions and skills are required to meet company-wide objectives. Technical skills, leadership skills, and digital tools all play a part in this process.

Once you have finished developing a general roadmap, which we will edit later, it is time to place benchmarks. Examples include:

  • By how many percentage points do you want to decrease employee turnover?
  • How many existing employees do you want to promote per year?
  • What level of productivity can you reach?

Gather employee feedback

Existing employees can provide invaluable insight into how to build your upskilling programs. Since these employees work at the ground level, they better understand their current skill gap and challenges in the workplace. Simply asking existing employees to complete a brief survey can help you fill in the gaps and refine your upskilling strategy.

Some questions to ask employees include:

  • What skill or skills would make your job easier?
  • What do you envision the next step in your career path to be?
  • How much time do you currently spend on continuous learning or career development each week?
  • How much time would you like to spend on ongoing learning or career development?
  • Are there any tools or soft skills you currently use that you’d like to learn more about?
  • Do you prefer learning in a classroom setting or on your own?

Design your upskilling program

Once you have employee feedback, it’s time to begin building your upskilling strategy. For each career path you want to create an upskilling program for, you will need to figure out the:

  • Duration, how long the program will last
  • Location, in-office, remote, or in-between?
  • Instruction
  • Skill sets addressed
  • Evaluation method

It’s common for an organization to outsource the upskilling program to specific instructors or training companies. This makes it easier to schedule selected courses for current employees and ensures that an expert is providing the training. As tempting as they may find it, HR professionals don’t need to plan every aspect of every training program.

However, there are in-house options, too. Supplemental upskilling programs may take advantage of a mentorship program or online program. Some skills, such as soft skills, do not always require a long, in-depth program schedule. For example, a one-day seminar with a professional speaker could teach current employees how to effectively leverage their social media accounts.

Create a roadmap

Once you’ve decided on the roadmap for your upskilling programs, it’s time to create a defined roadmap. Current employees will appreciate a clear career path that highlights how learning a new skill will help them get to the next level.

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Reevaluate the program and implement suggestions

Finally, once the employees have gone through their skills training, it’s time to check in again. In addition to your earlier set benchmarks, this is an opportunity to see what you can do better to improve your upskilling effort.

Sample questions to ask your now skilled employees include:

  • Has training helped you in the workplace?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how useful did you find the training program?
  • What did you like most about the employee training?
  • What did you dislike most about the training?
  • Are there areas you wish training covered but it didn’t?
  • Did you feel that you had sufficient time to build new skills?
  • Did you find the training easy to follow?

The benefits of upskilling

Employee upskilling is about more than skills training. Yes, skilled workers contribute to a more productive workforce. And this is critical for growth. A study of top CEOs highlights the belief that a lack of skilled workers prevents companies from:

  • Leveraging growth opportunities
  • Maintaining quality standards
  • Achieving business objectives

To combat these issues, companies are implementing upskilling programs. As part of your continuous learning approach, upskilling also fosters a more dynamic company culture and boosts retention. 91% of tech employees confessed they want more training from employers, and 39% of general workers said the lack of skills training encouraged them to search for new jobs.

With the cost of employee turnover hitting 33% of the employee’s salary, increasing retention rates saves both money and time for businesses. By providing employee upskilling opportunities, employers can also benefit from their current employees’ knowledge.

Supporting your employees

So, why does employee upskilling work so well for retention? Because it drives engagement and shows your employees that you are supportive of them. When an employer offers skills training to existing employees, they are saying, “We’re invested in you.

Employees, just like their managers, prefer to see a clear picture of their career development. An upskilling program is a significant part of that picture.

Additional employee engagement items will continue to build your company’s growth. Learn more about how you can boost employee engagement with these 20 strategies.

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