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Upskilling Training Guide Part 1 – Laying the Groundwork

Damian Hehire-learning

Upskilling Training Guide Part 1 – Laying the Groundwork

Upskilling is an increasingly important priority in the modern workplace, particularly in industries where skills shortages threaten growth and competitiveness. By upskilling your employees, you can ensure your business has the skills it needs not just today, but also in the future. Upskilling also helps attract and retain employees, and it is generally less costly than recruitment.

In this two-part blog series, we will outline how to implement and/or improve upskilling training. In this first blog of the series, we will focus on laying the groundwork and establishing a good foundation. Part two will feature practical tips to ensure your upskilling training programme is a success.

What is Upskilling Training?

Upskilling training is training that helps learners develop new skills and strengthen existing skills directly or closely related to their current roles and responsibilities. This is different from reskilling, as reskilling involves teaching new skills so learners can take on a new role. Upskilling, the focus of this blog, is more focused on evolving the existing capabilities and knowledge of learners.

Laying the Groundwork for an Effective Upskilling Training Programme

There are several steps that should be taken in advance of and alongside the creation of upskilling training courses and content. The first is to understand the needs of the business.

Understand Business Needs

Understanding business needs is a crucial step as it ensures the upskilling training programme that you develop is targeted. A good starting point is to look at areas where the business is not achieving a sufficient level of performance. This could be anything from product quality to customer service to compliance to safety. These areas are likely to be an important focus for upskilling training.

Another key part of understanding business needs is to understand the overall business strategy. This includes what is needed today to achieve the objectives of that strategy, and what will be needed in the future.

It is also important to identify the skills that are currently difficult to recruit as well as the skills that will be needed in the future and that might also present recruitment challenges. Part of this is looking at the internal and external factors that have the potential to influence skills availability. Examples include technologies, business plans, regulatory changes, etc.

Identify Skills Gaps

The identification of skills gaps is an important part of the previous point, but there should also be a wider exercise to get a complete understanding of the skills gaps that exist in the business.

For example, what areas of the business currently function well but would be at considerable risk if one or two key employees – often subject matter experts – suddenly became unavailable?

Prioritise Skills to Focus On

It is unlikely you will be able to include all the identified skills gaps in your upskilling training programme, at least in the early stages of development. The more common approach is to prioritise the skills that should receive the most attention. This might be a mix of skills the business needs today where it is currently falling short as well as skills where there is an anticipated need in the future.

Foster a Learning Culture and Encourage Knowledge Sharing

The points in this blog so far have been practical steps that should be taken to ensure your upskilling training programme is structured to support the real-world needs of the business. This point is broader, but it is still highly relevant.

Just because you offer targeted and high-quality e-learning courses as part of your upskilling training programme doesn’t mean it will be a success. Learners might not see the benefit of the training, for example, or they might feel threatened by it in some way. In other situations, individuals and teams can be protective of knowledge silos to the detriment of the business, while some learners might feel they are simply too busy to take on an extra burden of upskilling training.

These obstacles and risks to your upskilling training programme can be overcome by:

  • Fostering a learning culture
  • Encouraging knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing involves putting in place procedures and systems to open up knowledge across the organisation. Incentives can help with knowledge sharing, as can open and honest communication from leaders on why the approach is being taken and the importance of knowledge sharing not just to the business, but to individual employees.

A learning culture involves putting training and development at the centre of what you do as a company. A key principle is having a policy where employees get as much support as possible to engage in training and professional development. An example is giving employees time away from their day-to-day duties to complete training.

Connect Upskilling with Career Development

One of the key points you should address when developing an upskilling training programme is highlighting to employees what is in it for them. What is the benefit of upskilling for the employee? One highly effective way to do this is to connect upskilling with career development opportunities. For example, an employee might become eligible for a promotion once they have completed upskilling training.

The Next Step – Creating the Training

The next step after laying the groundwork for your upskilling training programme is to create the training strategy and content, from e-learning courses to mentorship programmes and everything in between. We cover these points with tips for success in part two of this two-part blog series.