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How to build a successful upskilling program

Much has changed in the learning and development arena over the past number of years. We’ve seen incredible shifts toward remote working, a great demand from employees to receive workplace learning and of course the implementation of adjustment strategies to cope with the after-effects of the great resignation, great reshuffle or big quit of 2021. 

Following the chaos created by these events, the value of learning and development strategies as a long-term investment in company performance is increasing in popularity. Rather than constantly seeking new recruits, companies aim to retain, reposition or promote capable staff, maintaining and growing their skills pool to increase their return on investment. To accomplish this companies must cultivate a culture of learning which includes well-structured and profitable learning strategies.

One way to create a culture of learning that is beneficial to both employer and employee is through the integration of upskilling programs.

In this blog, we are going to explore:

What is an upskilling program?

Upskilling refers to the improvement of skills or the development of new skills for the same role.

Unlike reskilling, where the focus is to learn different skills for a new position, upskilling is about moving from novice to expert in a specific role. 

There is no longer doubt as to the incredible benefits of workplace learning. Focusing efforts on upskilling and reskilling staff of course provides additional benefits. Companies can expect to see:

  • Improved employee engagement
  • Optimised employee productivity 
  • Increased customer satisfaction 
  • Compatibility with industry standards and trends
  • Increased employee retention
  • Reduced costs of recruitment
  • Possibility of internal promotion

Even if there is no physical promotion within an organisation, the possibility of mastering skills, the promise of personal and professional development and the noticeable investment made by the employer, greatly add to employee satisfaction and retention thus creating a greater return on investment.

What is the best way to upskill?

There are many ways to effectively upskill your employees, including:

  • Coaching, teamwork and collaboration initiatives
  • Facilitated learning initiatives
  • Workshops
  • Online learning

Your method of choice will depend on the type of upskilling or reskilling required, the time available for training and the level of training required. 

You can read more about the pros and cons of each method in our Soft Skills Impact Report  which you can download here.

Irrespective of the method you choose there are certain elements that motivate employees and can enhance the experience. 

It is important to remember that the success of your upskilling and reskilling programs will greatly depend on the individual’s willingness and eagerness to learn, and for this reason, it’s important to optimise the entire user experience by providing a roadmap and considering employee feedback and opinions.

Provide a roadmap

A roadmap can accurately be described as a learning journey or learning path and depicts the steps an employee needs to complete to attain mastery in a specific role, or in some cases, in preparation for a promotion. It should include a clear starting block and finish line. If it’s possible to include timelines all the better. 

For example:

Millstones and performance evaluations can also be included to document expectations, measure progress and minimise learning gaps. 

Providing a clear roadmap allows the employee to focus on completing specific tasks and creates anticipation and excitement for achieving the end goal.

Act on employee recommendations and feedback

Another key factor is to consider employee opinions and feedback. Consider their topics of interest and feedback on courses. Word of mouth is the best form of marketing. Employees who are excited about what they are learning and enjoy the courses they are busy with will naturally talk about it and thereby, whether knowingly or unknowingly, motivate team members to join, creating an authentic learning culture.

Of course, the reverse of this is true as well. A poorly designed course, unengaging content or irrelevant topics will at best encourage no conversation, at worst will spark resistance to learning altogether.

Employee feedback, whether good or bad, can only bring about positive results. If the course is bad, change the course, if the topics are irrelevant improve the topics. If the employee shows a history of dissatisfaction and an unwillingness to learn, it reveals character. All of which can be beneficial and used to define future development initiatives.

Empower your employees to own their career development

One very effective way to build a successful upskilling program is to empower employees to own their career development. Simply put, this means that the employee is allowed to determine or choose a path. In this type of training program, employees no longer simply complete task after task because it is expected, they are invested and interested in completing each task to reach their desired goal. They actively pursue mastery.

There are two ways to go about empowering your employees to own their career development whilst remaining in control and ensuring all learning is beneficial to the organisation.

Firstly, a company can develop clear pathways to mastery in various organisational roles. Courses containing essential, general and transferable skills, beneficial to the entire organisation can be incorporated throughout various pathways. An employee can then choose a path to follow and a job role to master.

Here is an example of a possible learning strategy:

The second option is to create a catalogue of relevant and useful courses for employees to choose from. As and when interested employees can enrol and complete courses to develop their skills.

Of course, for best results, both strategies can be combined. Clear pathways can be developed per role, whilst simultaneously granting employee access to a catalogue of courses beneficial to organisational development. This allows employees to attain mastery in their current role as well as engage in other topics of interest for professional and personal growth which also adds value to the organisation.

Compiling a course catalogue is often the tricky part as few organisations have the time and resources to create and facilitate the various training programs 

Thankfully, nowadays, access to a variety of courses can be obtained through learning providers, allowing organisational resources to focus on creating company-specific in-house training.

To gain access to 70+ courses for the purpose of empowering your employees, contact Upskillist


What is becoming more and more apparent is that old-fashioned classroom training or offering training as a one-time event is far less effective and appealing to a modern workforce. Incorporating upskilling and reskilling programs as a learning strategy is a sure way to keep employees engaged and motivated, providing expert services, and thereby ensuring the company remains profitable and competitive. 

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