Upskilling has been one of the fastest-growing trends in the business world. Moving forward, upskilling may become an essential benefit for workers, much like 401(k)s and paid leave. Upskilling helps employees advance their careers while also closing the skills gap faced by employers. At the end of 2020, a third of employers in the United States said the skills gap had increased from the year prior. In addition, 80 percent of respondents to a 2021 Monster.com survey said they had problems filling openings because of skills gaps. This issue is only likely to worsen due to the pandemic and shifting workflows.
How the Skills Gap Created a Need for Upskilling
Many companies, whether startups or established corporations, desperately need employees with scalable digital skills. In some cases, lack of access to these skills is directly impacting the business’ growth. Because employers are realizing they will not be able to hire their way out of this problem, many are turning to the concept of upskilling. The idea behind upskilling is to train and develop existing staff so that they gain the skills the company needs to continue growing.
Through upskilling, companies can use their existing workforce and fill any sort of skills gap they may have. Doing this keeps employees engaged and opens new opportunities for both them and the organization.
The skills gap is becoming increasingly prohibitive for companies. A recent survey from Gartner found that 58 percent of the existing workforce feels they need new skills to be successful at work.
What skills do these employees need? The answer depends on the employee, the company, and the industry. To answer this question, employers need to evaluate key data about the skills relevant to key functions in their company and ask employees what skills they believe they need. With this information, it will be easier to organize the necessary skills training. For instance, companies should consider topics such as cloud software, collaboration tools, and automation—areas that could help the organization grow.
The Key Role of Upskilling in Recruiting New Talent
Upskilling also changes an organization’s approach to talent recruitment. Companies often get stuck in a rut of recruiting from the same sources, which means that they will not gain any new knowledge or perspective. Recruiting for skills is becoming increasingly difficult because of talent shifts caused by the pandemic. A different strategy is targeting new sources with people that do not necessarily have the target skills but can acquire them through upskilling. This way, companies can focus on different aspects of a candidate when they recruit, such as their diverse viewpoints and experiences.
Because of the pandemic, many companies have switched to a hybrid work style, which opens new opportunities for upskilling. A survey from March 2021 found that 25 percent of workers are planning to look for new roles. This is likely because many people who stayed on during the pandemic are now looking for something new, especially if it does not involve physical relocation. Employees in this position are eager to gain new skills that will prepare them for new roles. Some may be convinced to stay with new trainings, while others may be lured to other organizations offering upskilling. Companies need to be careful in this unique environment, as it has great potential for both gain and loss.
The Future Place of Upskilling in American Business
Moving forward, upskilling may become a key part of both recruiting and retaining key talent. For the top tier of talent, upskilling has already been a prerequisite for considering employment. Some people equate upskilling opportunities with health insurance, paid leave, and even retirement savings plans.
Upskilling also benefits employers. It allows them to invest in—and hopefully retain—that talent. In other words, upskilling leads to business growth and a workforce culture that embraces innovation and pushes the envelope instead of settling for the status quo.
However, companies need to be strategic in how they upskill their workforce. Making upskilling mandatory sends the wrong message and may lead to wasted money in terms of unwanted training. People who have an interest in it will make full use of the investment and may even inspire the individuals around them to get involved. Companies also must play a role in making upskilling part of the culture by preserving time for it. Showing employees that upskilling is an integral part of daily life will create a culture that celebrates learning. Companies that use upskilling to recruit and retain talent but then do not create the circumstances for it will lose the respect of their workforce.