Talent Development

Upskilling employees: Advantages and methods to grow strong teams

Employee Upskilling Training Program: Why and How To Build It

Corporate leaders understand that employee turnover is expensive. When organizations invest in employees, they are investing in much more than just their salaries. They also invest in hiring, onboarding, and developing them. And this is where upskilling training can actually be cost-effective.

In the 2016 Huffington Post article High Turnover Costs Way More Than You Think, the cost to an organization of losing one millennial was estimated to be up to $25,000. However, that same organization will have to spend additional money to interview, hire, and train an employee to replace the one that left.

Over time, these costs can add up and affect the corporate bottom line. Upskilling training can come in as an alternative to bringing in new staffers.

What does upskilling mean?

Smart organizations can alleviate some of these financial pains by investing in tenured employees to retain them in the organization. Stellar employees, the ones with great morale and high productivity, can be hard to come by and organizations understand the benefits of finding ways to retain these individuals.

Fortunately, companies can invest in a process known as upskilling training to help retain current employees. Upskilling is the process of teaching current employees new skills.

This will allow employees to move into bigger and better jobs in the organization. Investing in upskilling employees pays off in the long run, as the company saves money on hiring new associates and boosts the morale of tenured employees at the same time.

Why upskilling training should be your focus

It may seem like a good idea to train your people and help them move up the corporate ladder, but it’s more than a noble concept. There are specific benefits you will reap from designing and implementing an employee upskilling training program:

Employee retention

Employees who are challenged to develop are often the happiest ones at an organization. If your company works to retain employees, it will prove that you’re making a solid investment in the people, which boosts morale and productivity. When you challenge employees to grow outside of their roles, they tend to get excited about what might be around the corner for them.

Customer satisfaction

If you have happy employees, you are far more likely to have happy customers. Content employees are typically more invested in the company, they promote the corporate brand within the organization and to your customers. And, typically, happy customers tend to be loyal customers as well.

The bottom line

It’s expensive to lose and replace tenured associates. You’re losing the investment you made in the current individual, not just because of any talent development you paid for, but also because when that individual leaves, they take all their knowledge and experience with them.

Now you have to pay not only to advertise the new role, for the recruitment process, the time it takes to interview candidates, any hiring bonuses that new individual may require, and also the time it will take the new individual to ramp up into the new position. Simply losing one employee can be a hit on the bottom line.

Upskilling strategies

In order to create a robust upskilling training program in your organization, you will need to devise a strategic plan. Having a strategy will help you to get buy-in from leadership within the organization and also from the employees themselves.

Design and support personal development plans

Encourage associates to build a Personal Development Plan that includes competencies that they want to improve upon and skills they want to gain. Empowering your employees to come up with their own plan is key to the success of the upskilling training program. Employees can identify new skills and competencies that resonate with them as opposed to being told what they need to learn.

Allocate time during the workday

Once your employees create their individual development plan, allow time during the workday for employees to upskill. Perhaps you have an employee who wants to take a communications course. Allow them to leave early to attend class or provide time and a quiet space to take the class online.

Offer job-specific upskilling/credentialing programs

Offer your employees job-specific upskilling training to enhance their current skills. For example, you may have specialty software used by only a small sector of your organization. Consider offering upskilling training on the software to employees in the company who may be interested in learning more about it.

Also, consider offering credentialing programs, meaning training that results in a professional certificate. For example, you may have instructional designers on your team who would benefit by enrolling in an intensive eLearning Certificate program.

You may be looking at the expense of upskilling training and decide it isn’t worth the investment. But it doesn’t have to cause a tremendous financial setback. You can upskill employees on a shoestring budget if you get creative. There are many ways to reskill employees using a classroom setting, online learning content, or using your current staff to assist in creating upskilling training.

Employee Upskilling Program: How to Implement It

How you can implement upskilling training today

Classroom training

Trainers can conduct upskilling training in a classroom setting, allowing employees to learn new skills or enhance current ones. For example, companies may detect downward trends in production and leverage the training department to upskill employees in a group setting, thus correcting bad habits and enhancing production.

Trainers can present new ideas, allow participants to brainstorm and share ideas, use training software, and bring trainees up to speed quickly.

Virtual classroom training

Companies with a global workforce may not have the luxury of classroom training if employees are dispersed in various locations. If your company has numerous locations, consider investing in a Learning and Talent Development platform to function as a virtual classroom solution.

Investing in virtual classroom programs allows you to upskill employees regardless of their location. Employees simply log in to the platform at the designated time and the facilitator can cover an abundance of upskilling training topics.

Today’s talent development software really can provide an engaging arena where employees can work together in small breakout “rooms”, take surveys and polls, watch videos, and more. Also, when you work with a modern platform, you can track how well your upskilling training is going through the robust reporting and analytics engines.


Another effective way of upskilling employees is to create web-based microlearning units. In other words, short web-based training modules that cover a topic in 5-10 minutes. For example, an organization may notice a decrease in customer satisfaction surveys.

The training team could create a soft skills microlearning program that covers how to positively interact with customers. Employees could enhance their skills during short workday breaks by taking the microlearning units that interest them.

Lunch and learns

If time away from production is problematic for your organization you should consider hosting “lunch and learns” as a method to reskill employees. Schedule a lunchtime training session to cover a certain topic over a complimentary meal, in a convivial and more relaxed atmosphere.

If the company budget is tight, you can make it a brown bag session. Lunch and learns can even be done online via Skype. Facilitators can share an upskilling presentation with the attendees while they eat at their desk.

Mentors / Subject matter experts

Use some of your best employees in a mentorship or SME program. Offer your top producers an opportunity to develop their own leadership skills by mentoring others or acting as SMEs in training. Experts are extremely useful in all kinds of upskilling training programs, as they can answer questions and explain difficult processes from a practical perspective.

You can also use SMEs to assist with building eLearning content for full microlearning programs. Your training team will have a peace of mind, knowing that their content is up-to-date and accurate, if they collaborate with SMEs during the development process.

The road to upskilling employees is paved with success

Upskilling training has an abundance of advantages, from improving employee motivation to saving the company money. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Begin by assessing gaps in your current employees’ knowledge.

Allow them to develop their own career development path and then offer the time and resources to help them achieve their goals. You can offer upskilling training pretty much anywhere, from a brick-and-mortar classroom to a virtual classroom or even on your trainees’ smartphones.

Take the time to invest in upskilling employees so that they stay with you and help your organization to grow and thrive.

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