What is the Key to Upskilling?

Posted by Emma Rose Gallimore on August 28, 2019

You know your employees need upskilling. With unemployment at a 50-year low, and a skills gap affecting almost every industry, finding qualified new employees is difficult. Optimizing your existing workforce is the most expeditious way to meet the demands of your business.

However, like most business objectives, upskilling is easy to talk about and tricky to accomplish. It's not enough to just offer training and development opportunities. You must offer opportunities that your employees will actually use. This requires a worker-focused approach to upskilling. It's not just about what your business needs, it's about what your workers need too.

Nobody likes to be dictated to and everyone likes to see progress as they grow and develop-these are basic features of human psychology. Demanding that workers follow a rigorous, proscribed training schedule is unlikely to get good results for your business, but a flexible, tailored approach can be far more effective.

Your employees need upskilling

Continuous training of employees is becoming an economic imperative. Sixty-two percent of executives told McKinsey they will need to retrain or replace more than 25% of their workforce by 2023 to keep up with changes in technology. Even traditionally non-technical careers require more digital skills than ever before. At the same time, employers are reporting a shortage of soft skills like communication, problem solving, and critical thinking.

The solution is upskilling. You provide training programs and resources to help employees develop their abilities with the expectation that they will then work more efficiently and effectively. You're not training them for a completely new career, you're just giving them the tools to be even better at what they already do. When done right, the result is fewer skills gaps, greater productivity, and happier, more loyal employees.

The good news is, your employees already know they need upskilling. In a Gallup poll, 87% of millennials said "professional or career growth and development opportunities" were an important factor in deciding whether they would take a job. Younger workers placed even more emphasis on training. In a Robert Half survey, 91% of Gen Z employees cited professional training as an important factor in choosing to take a job.

Even though employees know they need professional development, that doesn't guarantee they'll take advantage of training programs. Often, their day-to-day work gets in the way. Yes, you could force everyone to spend a certain number of work hours in training, but that's not a very effective strategy. The stress of all the work they should be doing will distract them from learning and competing priorities will mean a loss of efficiency and effectiveness. So, how can you make sure that employees actually use the resources provided for them?

Training that works for working learners

The key is to offer training programs that fit the unique needs of your employees. A basic one-size fits all approach assumes that every employee learns the same way, at the same speed, and needs training on the same skills. That just isn't true. The reality is that every worker is different and needs to be able to learn on their schedule.

That might sound like an expensive proposition, but really all it takes is the right training program from a trusted learning partner. Look for a training program that meets these criteria:

  • Flexible - Workers choose when and where they want to learn. If workers are already overwhelmed at work, they may resent being asked to take time out of their busy schedules for training. Worse, more than 50% of employees told LinkedIn that they're not given time to attend training programs. Having a training program that no one has time for isn't much more effective than having no training program at all. Make sure the training is flexible enough to fit into their schedule.

    A flexible training program will let employees access the training online so they can pursue skills development from any device that has an internet connection. That might mean they study during work hours. Or they might study during the subway ride to work, at the coffee shop on the weekend, or at their kitchen table after their kids have gone to bed. They have the flexibility to choose.
  • Customizable - Each employee is unique, and their training should fit their unique needs. Avoid training plans that force everyone to learn the same material, instead, choose a program that can be customized to focus on the skills each employee most needs to learn.

    The program should also be tailored to individual employee needs. With technology, this isn't all that difficult to accomplish. Employees should be able to go at their own pace, faster if they pick up the material quickly, slower if it's something they need more time to absorb.
  • Fully Supported - Adequate support helps employees stick with their training even when it gets difficult or life gets in the way. Look for a program that offers wrap-around support from peers, instructors, and success coaches.

    As their employer, you can also help employees balance work, life, and learning by creating a learning positive environment. That means getting managers on board, creating time in the schedule for training, and checking in with employees to make sure they have what they need.

  • Trackable - It's easier to stay motivated when you can see the progress you're making. Look for a program that tracks employee progress and acknowledges their accomplishments to help them stay motivated. Tracking employee training also helps your business see how far employees have gone and what they still have left to learn.

Penn Foster offers training, certificate, and degree programs designed with the working learner in mind. Our programs are flexible and customizable. Every learner gets full-spectrum support from a team of learning experts and dashboards help you and your employees track their progress. In short, we have the key to upskilling that you've been looking for.