Why Upskilling Employees is So Important in 2023

Back in 2020, Coronavirus forced businesses to implement drastic changes almost overnight. They had to deal with changes to the way that they worked, changes to the way their customers behaved, and changes in demand, with some even diversifying their offerings as a result. And three years on, many of these changes have become the new normal.

A person working from home, they're on the phone while sat at a laptop.

Even before the pandemic, technological advances were changing the way we did things. Digital transformation was already being implemented in many businesses. Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have been implemented by many businesses for a number of years, with some employees needing to re-skill as a result. The timeline for these types of technological innovations has, however, now been brought forward by years, if not decades in some cases. Digitisation is just one of the ways that Covid-19 changed businesses for the better.

In other departments there have been significant changes too – in marketing, digital specialist roles are becoming more specific and sought after, in Accountancy and Finance, FP&A skills that were once covered within other roles are becoming a full-time job in their own right, and the list goes on. And the speed at which these changes are coming in, even before the pandemic, is causing a big gap in skills for some businesses, and a general shortage of talent for some specialist roles across the board.

If there is one thing that Covid-19 taught businesses nationally and globally, it is that adaptability and agility are crucial to their survival. Overcoming skills gaps and dealing with a fast-changing environment in a post-pandemic era, is a big challenge, and a crucial one that needs to be considered in future talent strategies. In fact, nearly a fifth of HR leaders said this was their most prominent hiring challenge in 2022.

18.3% of HR managers said that the most prominent hiring challenge they currently face is a lack of technical skills and knowledge

A key part of building future-ready workforces will be assessing what skills are required for the future of your business, where the gaps are in your existing workforce and how you can plug these gaps with retraining and up-skilling approaches. And there are some key benefits to adopting the approach of plugging gaps internally:

  • Encouraging employee loyalty, or even building it into their contracts after you have invested in training
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Boosting morale and motivation
  • Future-proofing your teams and departments and building resilience to deal with rapidly changing climates
  • Balancing talent supply and demand from within, with employees you already know are credible and capable
  • Dealing quickly and efficiently with changes in customer behaviour, thus creating more adaptable and agile teams


How to Upskill Your Workforce

If as a business you are considering up-skilling your workforce, there are some key things to consider in order to make your approach a success.


Identify Gaps and Future Needs

As businesses continually reassess their future and look at the requirements of their departments to meet the needs of their strategies, they must take the time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their current skill sets and where additional training might add the most value in order to meet their future objectives.

Involve department heads and line managers in this process – they have the best understanding of their teams and where the opportunities might lie.

Three people wearing formal business attire in a meeting

Prioritise which skills are most important and need to be addressed first. Consider which will add the most value and where you are likely to see the best return on investment.


Tailored Training Journeys and Development Roadmaps

Identifying individuals to be trained and advanced in their roles shouldn’t just be about the needs of the businesses, it should be employee focused too. It needs to take into consideration those who have a desire to learn and the right mindset and capabilities to do so.

Work with the line managers, department heads and the employees involved to outline specific and tailored personal development roadmaps. Consider how and when the training will take place and what this means for the employee in terms of their career. Will there be future benefits to the training – additional income, promotion opportunities etc.? Consider what motivates the employee when defining this roadmap.

An office environment where someone is stood up speaking in front of a crowd.

This will not only ensure buy-in to the training plan and any additional responsibilities that might come as a consequence, but it will also help to ensure loyalty amongst these employees. Whilst you might consider an investment clause in employee contracts to cover costs of training if an employee leaves within a certain time frame, how to build genuine loyalty should be considered – their future within your company should be at the forefront of that.


Evaluate Process Regularly and Change Accordingly

Upskilling and retraining can be a costly process. And you may not always get it right the first time, especially if you are embarking on a new talent strategy. It is important to regularly evaluate the training process: Have the skills gaps been filled? How is the employee performing? What was the cost vs the benefit?

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t avoid learning from them. Some of the most successful training programmes have been developed and redefined over time. Learning from past experience is critical and there should be a proper evaluation process in place to ensure that you can continually adapt and enhance your programme. This will also help to ensure that your process is agile and adaptable and ensure that it is future-proof.


Adopt A Coaching Culture and Assign Mentors

It could wind up being counterproductive to just send an employee on a training course and then expect that they will know how to apply the principle to practicality.

Learning shouldn’t just be confined to a training room and is much more likely to be a success if employees are supported and coached in applying what they have learned to their day-to-day roles.

Managers and peers should offer employees ongoing feedback and support throughout the learning process and this can be key to ensuring that the training is a success and that they are engaged fully in their roles.

A man in a suit stood talking to a group of people sat in a semi-circle of chairs around him. The crowd are all clapping.


Budget and Stick to It – Invest Now for The Future

Reskilling and up-skilling are about future-proofing your business. Whilst in times of difficulty, cutting training and development budgets might be considered an easy thing to do, it could be detrimental.

Following any periods of uncertainty will be a need to recover, grow and seize opportunities at a rapid pace. To do this, you need to be equipped with the right skills and a resilient workforce that can cope with organisational change.

It might be that you need to reassess the priorities of which skills are more crucial for the short, medium, and long term if a crisis hits, but don’t simply cut these budgets now and pick them back up later. It could cost you the opportunity to ensure you are ahead of your competitors and may wind up costing you more in the long run.


Get In Touch

For more information on the ever-changing demands in the market or insight into specific talent requirements, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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