Organizational growth comes down to more than simply selling better products and hiring more team members — it also includes upskilling employees already working within the company and how these skills can contribute to the business’s overall success.
By encouraging regular growth in both professional and personal skills, employees are not only more likely to stay with a company to continue learning, but are more likely to be collaborative and actively engaged on a team. Best of all, when it comes to determining the best way to uptrain and upskill employees, there are innumerable ways to get started.
Incentivize professional development
There are many reasons why businesses consider upskilling their employees, but those reasons may not align perfectly with their employees’ reasons for improving their skillset. While a business sees potential for increased profits and collaboration, for example, employees may be considering updating their resume, looking for new opportunities to earn a higher wage, making a name for themself in their industry or simply developing additional professional skills.
Because both the business and the employee stand to benefit from upskilling, finding a middle ground in regards to mutual benefits is important to ensure fairness on both sides. Does every party receive the benefits they want and do they feel like they are pursuing improved skills for positive reasons?
When it comes to training incentives, businesses might consider suggestions from employees, to help create a sense of fairness. Some potential incentivization includes:
- Monetary offerings, in the form of a bonus, reimbursement or a raise in salary.
- Provided opportunities for job advancement within the company.
- Involvement in new projects, or in departments where the new skills would benefit.
- Networking opportunities through attending trade shows, training seminars or other professional improvement courses.
Other long-term professional development courses, such as those offered through online universities, can also be a highly beneficial resource when considering paths for employee upskilling. Even if there isn’t a niche-specific skill desired, simply seeking out improvements in broader professional skills, such as certifications, can be a goldmine of opportunity.
Provide at-work learning opportunities
While external upskilling programs can be valuable in their own way, providing similar opportunities within the business itself allows for specialized training and potentially improved employee retention, as they are learning skills to be applied within the business itself. But hosting these upskilling programs successfully can depend on the industry, the employees involved and even the way the business is set up. As such, there are myriad formats to choose from.
An AMA, or “ask me anything” format of upskilling is a natural introduction to any skill or department within a business, as it allows for natural, organic conversation around a topic. By opening the floor to questions from employees, they can learn specific details about a topic that might align with their interests, while also determining potential gaps in already existing education and training.
Use learning technology
In addition to hands-on training sessions through formal or more casual formats like AMAs, providing valuable tools to build strong foundations for learning is also imperative. When it comes to providing the right kind of tech, surveying employees and familiarity with industry demands will provide a clear guide for what may be needed or what is already lacking across a team.
Create interdepartmental tasks
One of the best ways to incorporate new skills, as well as to provide opportunities to develop those skills, comes in the form of interdepartmental task assignments.
While these types of collaborative tasks might not include any specific training on job functions, they offer a chance for people to engage in the work being done in other parts of the company. This may lead to piqued interest and even requests for improved skills to work more with those desirable departments. Collaborative tasks can also improve overall company camaraderie, increase respect between teams and even inspire new ways of thinking by inviting outside perspectives to speak on complex issues that need to be solved.
When an employee’s interest in upskilling becomes actionable, job shadowing is a natural next step up from interdepartmental tasks. Job shadowing is when an employee accompanies a peer through their day-to-day duties to get an idea of workflow, expectations and the general needs of their job. All the while, the shadowing employee can gain more detailed insight into the things their peer is doing in their role, and why.
Job shadowing provides hands-on experience and training that may be more effective than attending a seminar, especially for employees with growing interest in different aspects of an industry. When paired with online courses that teach foundational skills needed for the position, job shadowing can be a natural way to uptrain someone while simultaneously improving camaraderie.
More in-depth than job shadowing, mentorship brings interested employees into an environment where they can actively participate in tasks and learn more about their roles while receiving regular constructive feedback from a more experienced peer.
Assigned mentors may also provide regular advice, correct mistakes and continue to provide training as experts. Like job shadowing, mentorships, combined with more formal classes, allow for hands-on experience in a new field or in developing a new skill. In the meantime, it also provides traditional instruction to build a strong foundation on which to continue growing.
While reverse mentorship has the same ultimate goal of working one-on-one with someone for upskilling, it also involves an employee with lower seniority providing support to a colleague who is either new to a specific niche or needs updated training on an outdated skill.
Reverse mentoring is particularly valuable in that it combines two of the most important aspects of learning a new skill — understanding current trends and adopting foundational traits of the skill. For example, a senior colleague in marketing may be an expert in print media advertising, whereas a younger colleague may be more familiar with digital marketing.
Because digital marketing is the current trend in the industry, the younger employee would technically “mentor” the more senior employee in that specific niche, but the senior employee would still provide an invaluable amount of experience in the industry in return, which results in building a stronger foundation together.
Revise your job postings
By being intentional about desired skills in job postings, you don’t have to use as much guesswork when evaluating an employee’s experience for upskilling. Even if you do not list specific skills in the job posting, being clear about the type of experience desired in candidates can help to inform the kind of upskilling you may anticipate in the future. Business leaders may even consider enrolling in their own online courses to best develop skills for successful recruitment and eventual upskilling, including Corporate Learning Design and other workplace learning best practices.
Further, a person’s previous work experience can potentially shine a light on the skills they may be interested in learning at the company, as well as other departments within the company they may be interested in entering later. By recognizing this upfront, recruiters can more effectively place employees where they will have the highest chance at success from the jump.