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How Upskilling Your Employees Empowers Workers and Strengthens Your Company

By School of Motion

Upskilling is crucial for keeping employees engaged and reducing turnover. Here’s how to get started. 

Imagine a business where employees leave early and often, productivity is low, and morale is lower. Is this a management issue? A toxic work culture? There's another culprit every business needs to consider: a lack of upskilling. 
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A lack of upskilling prevents workers from being engaged and invested. This creates a cycle of high turnover, tension, and missed management opportunities. Today, we're going to look at why upskilling is important—especially with the COVID-19 pandemic—how it addresses the automation trend, and ways to refresh and re-up your team's skills. 

How Upskilling Your Employees Benefits Your Organization

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About 40 million people left their job in 2018, and this number has increased for nine consecutive years. The reasons vary, but one thing is always true—replacing them is expensive. The best defense against high turnover is keeping employees engaged through upskilling. 
Let's back it up a bit before we really dive in. 

What is Upskilling?

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Upskilling is the process of helping employees with their professional development. This form of training helps workers develop new skills or address skill gaps in their background. Upskilling presents several advantages to employers.
  • Reduce turnover by helping employees continue their professional growth.
  • Improve company reputation and bring in more candidates.
  • Increase productivity by helping employees become more versatile.
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At the same time, upskilling is beneficial for employees. 
  • Participants can stay engaged by exploring skills they’re interested in. 
  • Add skills to the resume which improves future job prospects. 
  • Collaborate with coworkers and get better stability. 

Upskilling is More Important Than Ever

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Upskilling has an increased importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees are looking to avoid unemployment and be prepared for change. In PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, 79 percent of the executives said a skilled talent shortage was a top concern. As companies face hardship, the talent problem is exacerbated. They have to make due with fewer employees. And they might not have the funds needed for retraining or re-skilling. 
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Public and private sectors are looking to help. The European Union created the European Skills Agenda to help workers prepare for a post-pandemic world. The commission is focused on improving digital skills and creating green jobs that fight climate change. In the U.S., learning and development company Guild Education has partnered with Fortune 500 companies to help furloughed and laid off workers learn new skills and earn higher wage jobs as economic recovery begins. 

Upskilling vs. Automation

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The rise of automation and AI in our jobs increases the importance of upskilling. A 2018 Future of Jobs report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that 46 percent of all jobs have at least a 50 percent chance of being lost or greatly changed due to automation. 
Those entering the workforce, and those with jobs at the risk, both benefit from learning new skills regularly. These changes are expected to create a skills gap in the global workforce. Amazon announced in July 2019 they would spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 warehouse workers for new jobs by 2025.
AT&T is also prioritizing reskilling and training. Research showed that only half of its 250,000 employees had the necessary science, technology, engineering, and math skills—and around 100,000 workers were performing work that would likely be obsolete in 10 years. They devoted $1 billion to a multifaceted career training program. 
While these large companies face a greater impact from automation, smaller companies should be thinking about how their workers will be affected in the next five to ten years. 

How to Get Started 

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Upskilling can be done many different ways. The approach depends on the industry, business size and employee expectations. Here’s how to get started. 

Buddy systems

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Setting up a system for shadowing or mentoring is a quick way to get started. Employees sit with co-workers for a “day in the life” experience or specific skills training. This works as an onboarding method as well as new team members can get comfortable while learning new skills. In remote settings, make sure you're co-workers aren't subjected to extreme "zoom fatigue." 

Lunch and learns

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Group and educational lunches have been a source of employee learning for decades. Lunch and learns provide an opportunity for someone to present on a topic with a Q and A session afterwards. Lunch and learns get mixed feedback, but free food is always a safe bet. 

Online resources

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There’s a range of online classes and programs designed for the workforce. These include Lynda from LinkedIn, and Google’s digital marketing and analytics courses. There’s also resources for non-workplace knowledge, Ivy League colleges offer free classes that require a few hours a week. These are great for small groups of coworkers to do together. 

Professional development hours

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Many companies have found success with upskilling by installing professional development hours or professional development plans (PDPs), Project management giant Atlassian made this concept part of their culture. They’ve developed multiple features by allowing their employees to work on projects that interest them at least once per year. 

Community-Driven Learning

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A less formal way to encourage upskilling is setting up a community of internal and external experts. This is done via Slack or Facebook groups, attending conferences or local networking events. 

Reskilling and the Bottom Line

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There’s a reason upskilling hasn’t become a standard in every office: the financial and time commitment involved. Many executives see these programs as time away from productivity. Beyond addressing the skills gap, there’s evidence that upskilling efforts can increase the bottom line. Here’s how. 

Reducing employee turnover

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Happy and engaged employees stay at their jobs longer. Career growth opportunities are always listed as one of the important factors for employee happiness. If employees are able to pursue and learn based on their goals, they’re more likely to stay at a company. This prevents employers from paying the high cost that it takes to find, hire and train new employees. 

Boosting company reputation

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Employees have to believe in the management and mission to accept positions. This becomes easier when employers collect positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor and through word of mouth. Allowing workers to pursue their upskilling interests results in a positive review cycle. 

Innovation and flexibility

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A learning culture increases the possibilities to innovate. Deloitte reports that high performing learning organizations are 92 percent more likely to innovate and 46 percent more likely to be first to market. 

Upskill Your Team with School of Motion

Some of the best upskilling ideas are targeted and goal-based. That’s why School of Motion has been the choice for creative marketing teams looking to boost their design skills. The range of entry-level to expert courses offers something for everyone. Work with some of the best motion design instructors in the world. 
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