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New world, new skills: A primer on upskilling — and 5 tips to do it right

Here are five simple tips to help you upskill your workforce as effectively as possible.

Yessi Bello-Perez

Photo by Emma Dau on Unsplash

Unleash Your Curiosity The need to upskill our workforce is real.

  • A primer on upskilling: what it is and how to get it right.
  • Why upskilling is essential to ensure that individuals can participate and thrive in an increasingly digital world.
  • Practical tips to help you upskill your employees and colleagues.

To say that the world of HR is changing is an understatement. As Stephen Fry rightly pointed out in our exclusive video series, technology has fundamentally transformed how we work, where we work, and the skills required to be deemed employable.

With developments in artificial intelligence coming thick and fast, it’s not unusual for us to hear that “technology is taking our jobs.” The rise in automation will undoubtedly have a profound effect on employers and employees — and with this comes a heightened need to re-train and upskill, particularly as we ready to embrace the post-COVID world.

What upskilling means

Upskilling has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years, but what does it really mean?

By definition, upskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills that will help them with their work. Common examples of upskilling include efforts to introduce digital, analytics, or organizational transformation skills.

The premise is that every individual should be able to work, live, and participate in the digital world. It sounds simple but as technology is increasingly leveraged to maximize efficiency, many see their jobs, or tasks, become fully automated and lack the skills to adapt.

It’s important to remember, though, that technology alone won’t render anyone unemployable. Being able to pre-empt this change, adapt to the circumstances, and empower workers with the right tools is key if people are to thrive in this new, and increasingly digital, reality.

OK, but how do we upskill our workforce?

The thought of upskilling individuals, teams, or an entire workforce can seem daunting.

With this in mind, we’ve put together several practical tips and tricks to help shape and guide you through the process.

Set upskilling goals

It’s crucial that you think about upskilling as you would any other project: you need to have clear goals and objectives in mind.

You’ll need to identify what skills gaps exist in your business. Consult the C-suite about their business vision; this should give you a clear idea of where the business needs to be in the short, medium, and long-term.

Then, think about your own role and move across the organization, talking to team leads and heads of department about what skill gaps are hindering the work.

Be mindful that this will take time but it’s important that you get it right and narrow it down to specifics.

Organize training

Once you’ve gathered all the data, you’ll need to organize upskilling sessions for every team.

You’ll need to work closely with team leads to make sure that time for training is allocated during working hours.

This is crucial — don’t expect employees to do it in their own time. For upskilling to be effective, it needs to happen within business hours.

Training can take place either at a specific time during the week or you can alternatively allocate a set amount of hours a week for every individual to use at their discretion.

Customize the experience and personalize learning

You’re the leader, you should, in theory, know exactly what kind of skills your employees should learn. Having said this, it’s important to make sure that your assumptions align with the reality — other team members may have a more accurate picture of what they need in order to produce their best work.

Make sure your upskilling strategy is people-centric by putting the individual in charge of their own development. You can’t be ‘laissez-faire’ as you’ll still need to oversee their training but it’s important that each team member has a personalized development plan. This will make each employee accountable for their own development.

A dedicated space

It’s important for employees to have a dedicated training space.

Before the pandemic, most of us worked in large open offices, which made it difficult for people to learn and develop new skills.

Now, with most of us working remotely, it’s important for HR leaders to acknowledge that the situation is entirely different. Some people may have the luxury of having a spare room that doubles up as an office, others will have to make do with working from their couch, kitchen table, or bed.

Speak to your employees and get a sense of what their situation is and then work with them to figure out how you can make it work.

Create a post-training plan

Data is king and this also applies to the upskilling process.

Once the training has taken place, you’ll need to give people the chance to implement their new skills at work. This may mean that you have to invest in new tools that will allow people to do their work using their newfound skill set.

Reporting will be key. It’ll enable you to see what skills are available within the business and how they are being used. This should also give you a helicopter view of how successful the project has been.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to ask teams how they found the process, what challenges they came across, and what changes you can make going forward.

If you’d like to learn more about how technology is affecting our work, then make sure to check out this exclusive video featuring Stephen Fry, a renowned British author, actor, and comedian.

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