How to Upskill Employees: 11 Strategies

Amber Biela-Weyenberg | Content Strategist | May 2, 2024

Having employees with the vital skills to do their jobs is crucial to the success of any business. However, as knowledgeable workers retire, rapid technological advances change the skills required for many jobs, and business priorities evolve due to shifting markets, so many organizations find it difficult to keep up. Business leaders realize that continual upskilling is the answer to addressing these challenges and achieving their business goals.

Companies can create growth opportunities and retraining plans tailored to the organization’s needs to develop existing employees as job requirements evolve. By ensuring they have an agile workforce with the skills necessary to implement the business strategy, leaders can increase the likelihood of achieving the desired growth and performance.

What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling refers to a person learning new skills to enhance performance in their current role. Examples include a factory worker adding technical skills to perform an increasingly automated job, a software developer learning a new programming language, a healthcare aid becoming a certified nursing assistant, and any employee getting training in leadership and other soft skills.

Reskilling is a related term and refers to someone gaining the skills and knowledge needed to move into a new position, such as an assembly line worker training as a welder or electrician or an administrative employee learning to be a project manager. Companies often use both upskilling and reskilling to meet their needs and help employees grow and develop.

Upskilling vs Reskilling

  • Upskilling involves employees learning new skills to enhance their current role performance, while reskilling prepares them for entirely new positions within the organization. Both are crucial for adapting to rapidly changing job requirements and technological advances.
  • Continuous skills auditing is essential, allowing organizations to identify and bridge skills gaps by comparing existing employee skills with future needs, thereby facilitating strategic workforce planning and development.
  • Creating a learning culture and encouraging employee empowerment are key strategies in upskilling, as they enable employees to align their career aspirations with the organization’s goals, thus improving retention and satisfaction.
  • Leveraging technology such as AI-enhanced Human Capital Management (HCM) systems can streamline the monitoring and updating of skills inventories, enhancing the ability to address skills gaps efficiently and tailor career development paths.
  • Establishing clear upskilling goals and personalized development plans can help organizations and employees focus on acquiring relevant skills, ultimately supporting business strategy and reducing the disruption caused by market and technological trends.

How to Upskill Employees

Companies will see the most significant gains from upskilling their workforce if they approach it purposefully and methodically.

1. Take an inventory of employee skills:

To create a companywide upskilling plan, human resources should start by taking an inventory of current employee skills using a common language to describe skills across departments to make it easier to track competencies. This information serves as a benchmark and should be continually updated and tracked in a human capital management (HCM) platform, allowing HR and business leaders to compare the skills inventory with skills requirements to help identify skills gaps at any given time.

2. Map out skills needs for now and the future:

Next, business leaders can collaborate with HR to map out what skills their departments need now and how those needs will likely shift over time as advances in technology, products, and industry practices alter role requirements. Some HCM platforms allow business leaders to define role requirements within the solution themselves. With this knowledge and visibility, HR and business leaders can spot existing and expected skills gaps.

3. Base upskilling strategies on needs gaps:

Then, they can create learning opportunities to help the workforce upskill and remain effective. This approach benefits both employees and employers by preparing them for what’s ahead and empowering them with the skills they need to achieve business goals. With an upskilling framework in place, organizations can guide workers and encourage them to take an active role in their career progression and development.

An upskilling strategy that connects all lines of the business and allows HR and business leaders to understand the skills makeup of the entire organization can improve internal mobility and thus help reduce employee turnover. Often, employees in one area of the business have transferable skills that can be transferred to another part of the business. That’s why business leaders benefit from having a view of the available skills across the organization—and a common language to describe those skills. With that view, business leaders can determine whether an employee on another team has the skills needed for a critical role. This visibility helps businesses deploy their people resources wisely and creates growth opportunities for talented people who might otherwise be tempted to look outside the company to advance.

With a skills gap growing globally, the top workforce priority for organizations is improving the employee experience and employee value proposition so they can attract and retain talent, according to Mercer’s “2024 Global Talent Trends” report, which is based on a survey of more than 12,000 C-suite executives, HR leaders, employees, and investors. And the best way to keep employees? Upskilling. Providing learning and development opportunities is the #1 employee retention strategy for organizations, according to LinkedIn’s “2024 Workplace Learning Report.” Employees want to learn to stay relevant and grow in their roles.

Key Takeaways

  • Continual upskilling and reskilling are crucial for adapting to rapidly changing job requirements and technological advancements, ensuring that organizations maintain a workforce capable of implementing their business strategy.
  • Upskilling enhances an employee's performance in their current role through new skills, while reskilling prepares them for entirely new positions within the organization.
  • Regular skills audits help identify and bridge skills gaps, integrating this data into strategic workforce planning and leveraging AI-enhanced platforms to streamline these processes.
  • Establishing a learning culture and personalized development plans aligns employee career aspirations with organizational goals, boosting retention and job satisfaction.
  • The future of upskilling will heavily involve AI, helping to more precisely identify skills gaps and offer tailored learning paths, thereby optimizing workforce development and supporting business outcomes.

11 Ways to Upskill Employees in 2024

The World Economic Forum proclaimed in 2024 that the 2020s will be the decade of upskilling because technological innovation is exacerbating the skills gaps companies already face. Many businesses have or will soon reach a point where their ability to accomplish goals and forge new paths will be hindered because they won’t have talent with the right skills. To meet business outcomes and help employees grow and perform well in their roles in the short and long term, more companies are upskilling their workforce using these 11 strategies.

1. Audit skills gaps and business needs continuously

Skills auditing is something a company needs to do continuously, not just once in a while. A skills audit or skills gap analysis is when HR identifies the available skills within the organization and compares them with what skills are needed now and in the future. Skills audits consider individual employees’ abilities as part of a whole. Typically, HR uses skills auditing to understand the health of teams, departments, and the greater organization from a skills perspective as employee skill sets evolve. Some HCM platforms let HR continuously track skills changes in real time.

The first step in conducting a skills gap analysis is inventorying what skills exist in your internal talent pool. The second step is to look at job requirements for current positions and inventory what skills you actively need. Completing both of these steps and connecting the findings is vital for accuracy. The disparity between the two inventories is how HR knows what skills gaps exist today. When creating an inventory of existing skills, remember that people often have skills irrelevant to their positions and thus don’t show up on their list of duties. Sometimes, workers don’t have 100% of the qualifications listed for their roles.

The third step is to work with department heads and other senior leaders to identify where the business is going and the skills required to get there. This phase is essential because roles change over time due to technological advances and evolving industry standards and procedures. Businesses also create new positions to meet new business needs and pursue new opportunities, such as offering new products or services. By comparing the skills forecast with the available skills, HR can see what gaps are likely to emerge and actively work to close them. Upskilling and reskilling can be a particularly appealing way to meet anticipated future needs if the company has the time to address identified gaps through a skill-building strategy.

Iteration is the vital final step. An organization’s collective skill set constantly changes as employees learn, onboard, and leave. That’s why continuous skills auditing is such a powerful strategic tool.

2. Assess and catalog employee skills

Companies can assess employees’ skills in multiple ways. For the most accurate understanding of your organization’s skills, HR should strive to continually conduct audits by using an HCM solution that connects talent profiles with the employee learning platform, lists of job qualifications, and other relevant data to capture and track an organization’s holistic skills matrix. Having a common, companywide vocabulary for how people should describe and classify their skills is a critical component of an effective skills catalog. A common vocabulary lets leaders look for talent across the company, and it also lets employees look for opportunities throughout the company that match their skills.

To have up-to-date skills profiles, the simplest approach is to regularly ask workers about their experiences and expertise and give them a way to easily update this information as things change. For example, HR can consider creating an electronic form that employees can voluntarily fill out to submit new accomplishments that human resources would otherwise be unaware of, such as earning an advanced degree or certification. HR can also send quarterly reminders to encourage individuals to share any updates.

Since getting employees to log their skills can be a challenge, a common way to make sure catalogs are accurate is checking that profiles are up to date during annual assessments. Companies may ask workers to assess their skills as part of annual performance reviews when they often also collect feedback from managers and peers. HR can use this information to update the organization’s skills matrix, as well as to support reviews for raises and promotions. Another opportunity to assess employee skills is during the candidate stage. In addition to new hires listing the skills they bring to the job, some companies require job seekers to take tests as part of the hiring process to validate they have the necessary skills for a position.

3. Empower employees

Creating a workplace environment where learning is encouraged and treated as a normal part of the employee lifecycle is essential. A company can have an excellent upskilling program, but it won’t benefit from it unless the workforce uses it. Organizations with a learning culture empower people to decide what they want their careers to look like and help them learn the skills necessary to achieve that vision—and to meet the company’s needs.

Workers may be unable to foresee how their roles will change over the next five to ten years. Business leaders, however, who are plugged into the industry and see the horizon have a much better idea. Their insights are vital to upskilling. Managers also play an important role. They understand their teams’ daily challenges and can help identify skills that would benefit individuals and the department. With these insights, organizations can suggest skills employees in specific roles will need to perform well in the future. These insights from business leaders and managers also apply to reskilling.

4. Connect skills data to career mobility opportunities

Some companies have a culture that encourages employees to move vertically and laterally within the organization, sometimes joining other departments to pursue an opportunity that requires new skills or applying existing skills in a different area. Companies can ask workers about their career goals, help them identify the skills they need to get where they want to be, and provide the necessary learning experiences to help them achieve their career aspirations. Internal mobility helps increase employee retention and keeps vital knowledge and skills within the organization.

5. Deploy technology, including AI

An organization’s skills matrix constantly shifts, making it challenging to inventory skills manually. However, the best HCM systems, powered by AI, are able to continually detect and catalog these changes because they connect numerous areas of HR, such employee skills profiles, job requirements, and learning platforms. For example, AI analysis could recognize that hiring managers are listing new skills in job requisitions more often and suggest opportunities to learn these skills to current employees who would benefit. Further, with this connectivity, these HCM solutions can suggest other relevant growth opportunities and create career paths personalized to each employee that will help them upskill and reskill based on their current role and aspirations.

Additionally, since AI can help organizations catalog and monitor their workforce’s skills in real time, it can give HR better visibility than it has traditionally had. With this reliable inventory of skills data, companies can discover valuable insights, such as skills gaps in key areas and recommendations for training, hiring, and more. Vitally, a unified HCM platform that connects your organization’s data also makes it easier to run reports, understand what skills are available, and visualize progress toward closing gaps.

6. Develop mentorship programs

Another valuable way for employees to learn new skills is through mentorship. While mentor-mentee relationships may form organically, formal programs help connect eager would-be mentors interested in helping others grow with employees seeking advice and guidance. Some HCM systems can even help mentees find ideal mentors to support their growth based on their jobs, career goals, and other contextual factors, solving a common challenge.

Mentorship programs benefit everyone. Mentees receive help navigating their career and skills development, benefitting from their mentor’s experience. Many mentors find mentoring fulfilling and often learn from their mentees too. Organizations benefit because mentorship programs tend to increase employee satisfaction and engagement, which may translate into a more productive workforce. Moreover, engaged, satisfied employees typically stay longer, reducing hiring costs. Additionally, mentoring and peer learning opportunities can help companies retain valuable institutional knowledge.

Mentorship programs could also have a positive effect on succession planning. Employees with greater institutional and industry knowledge who receive tailored guidance become higher-quality candidates to move into key positions later in their careers. Plus, mentors can identify promising candidates through the mentoring process.

7. Set upskilling goals

Research from LinkedIn’s “2024 Workplace Learning Report” found that people who set career goals use learning content four times more than those without them. Companies can help upskill the workforce using upskilling goals in these two categories.

  • Organizational: When creating upskilling goals that impact the organization, the C-suite, business leaders, and HR team come together to identify the skills necessary to fulfil the company’s strategic vision. It’s vital to have an accurate skills matrix that gives your organization a benchmark to use to compare existing skills with those needed now and in the future, allowing you to identify and close current skills gaps and those likely to develop over the coming years. The company can create policies and implement tools to establish regular manager-employee touchpoints to discuss company skill requirements and employee development avenues.
  • Personal: When setting their own personal upskilling goals, employees often consider how their job impacts their department’s annual goals and the company’s vision for the future. Then, they create realistic, impactful goals that will help them contribute to their organization’s success, and they map out the training or other development opportunities they need to reach those goals. Managers can regularly check in with employees to offer guidance and support.

8. Create personal development plans

95% of HR professionals believe that jobs “will be substantially disrupted by market and technological trends over the next two years,” according to HR.com’s Future of Upskilling and Employee Learning 2024 report. This uncertainty illustrates why it’s important for companies to offer personalized development plans for team members. AI is a key driver of this disruption and uncertainty. 2023 research by the University of Pennsylvania, OpenResearch, and OpenAI predicts that generative AI (GenAI) will affect 80% of jobs. The research estimates that nearly one-fifth of all roles will have half of their core responsibilities change, potentially requiring upskilling. However, the degree to which individual employees will be affected by these trends greatly depends on their current roles, responsibilities, and career aspirations.

For example, doctors who use GenAI to create patient notes or suggest actions, such as scheduling a follow-up appointment or sending a prescription to a pharmacy, will probably use the time they save to focus on their patients and increase care quality rather than learn a new skill. Someone in an administrative role, however, may need to upskill as repetitive tasks are automated and AI makes many aspects of their job faster and easier. And an administrative employee in marketing and one in finance will each likely need to learn different new skills, even if both positions involve many administrative tasks.

A one-size-fits-all upskilling approach doesn’t work. By using HCM platforms embedded with AI tools that consider insights from business leaders about how they expect job roles to change, an individual’s current skill set, and career goals, companies can offer employees personalized career paths. It’s in the organization’s and its employees’ best interests for the workforce to spend their learning time developing skills relevant to their specific needs.

9. Establish learning time and schedules

The primary obstacle to upskilling is often time. Employees have many competing priorities and frequently deprioritize learning. If businesses want their people to add the new skills the company needs, and want to increase employee retention rates by creating growth opportunities, companies should strongly consider designating time for workers to upskill.

Some companies set aside one day a quarter for the workforce to dedicate to learning. Others encourage employees to spend an hour or more a week focused on developing a new, valuable skill. Consider what cadence works best for your organization. Collecting employee feedback can also help you decide what will work best.

10. Create post-training plans

Once companies train employees to gain new skills, they need post-training plans to quickly put those skills to use if they’re going to realize the full benefits of upskilling and reskilling the workforce. These plans typically detail what an organization will do with upskilled workers. Companies can encourage employees to create personal plans too.

  • Organizational planning: Once HR identifies skills gaps and employees start upskilling or reskilling to close those gaps, organizations should have a plan for how to connect newly trained people with new opportunities. For example, employees with new, in-demand skills might be the right fit for an open role with a more significant impact on business outcomes. Frequent updates and real-time visibility into the organization’s skills matrix and the ability to drill down and identify talent with specific skills are very helpful in making the best use of people resources.
    Additionally, if business leaders have visibility into how employees are upskilling, they may be able to help employees retain and practice those new skills by assigning them to relevant special projects. Post-training plans should also include ongoing upskilling. Inevitably, new skills gaps emerge, and employees will want to keep learning. In addition, HR’s learning and development team will want to ensure content is updated to reflect changing needs and seek employee feedback on the upskilling program and learning formats to find areas for improvement.
  • Personal: Companies can encourage employees to plan for what they’ll do when they reach their personal learning goals. Employees’ personal plans may include applying to particular roles as they come open or helping their coworkers using the skills they’ve gained.

11. Track progress (reporting)

The most common way organizations measure progress toward upskilling goals is by tracking completion rates for training related to the specific skills or areas where they have gaps. Some HCM platforms let HR see learning and skill development progress in real time with high-level dashboards that also let them drill down into the data to see how individual employees and teams are doing. This information can be shared with the appropriate business unit leaders.

Additionally, learning and development professionals track metrics such as performance review ratings, employee productivity, employee retention, skills per learner, and business impact. Business impact metrics could include the number of deals closed or customer satisfaction scores to help measure the success of upskilling initiatives.

HR teams and business leaders should frequently revisit their upskilling plans, perhaps on a quarterly basis, and make adjustments as needed. If your organization isn't making enough progress, it's time to revisit this list and ask essential questions, such as:

  • Does the workplace environment, including leadership, promote learning?
  • Do employees have enough time to dedicate to upskilling and reskilling?
  • Do they have guidance and know what skills are valuable to develop?
  • Are they working toward a goal?
  • Are you effectively assessing employee progress?
11 Ways to Upskill Employees in 2024
Organizations can follow these steps to upskill employees: audit skills gaps and business needs, assess employee skills, empower employees, connect skills data to opportunities, deploy technology, develop mentoring programs, set upskilling goals, create personal development plans, establish learning time and schedules, create post-training plans, and track progress.

The Future of Upskilling

The idea of upskilling employees isn’t new. When computers replaced typewriters, companies had to train their people to use them to do their jobs in new ways. Employees will always need to learn new skills, and technology is a major reason why. But fortunately, technology can also help companies and individuals in their upskilling efforts.

AI looks like it will be a critical force in the future of upskilling and reskilling. AI can help HR teams uncover skills gaps faster by scanning and noting changes in their company’s job qualifications and requirements, employee talent and skills profiles, and other relevant data. AI tools can recommend personalized learning paths for each employee to help them grow within their current role and develop new skills to prepare for an internal move. Training and equipping employees with skills that directly improve their job performance is in any company's best interest to improve business outcomes.

Executives ranked redesigning work to incorporate AI and automation as one of the business strategies that will deliver the most growth, according to Mercer's “2024 Global Talent Trends” report, based on a survey of more than 12,000 executives, HR leaders, employees, and investors. Asked what could move the needle on employee productivity, 51% of respondents said employee upskilling/reskilling, and 40% said generative AI.

Continuous learning has long been crucial to business success and employee growth. Advancements in AI will only accelerate the need for upskilling, but they will also provide tools that can help HR teams more effectively track skills in their companies and deliver more targeted and personalized training opportunities. The right strategies and HCM platform can boost upskilling efforts and increase visibility into skills gaps, empowering employees, HR, and business leaders to plan for the future.

Align Upskilling with Business Outcomes with Oracle Grow

Oracle Grow, part of the Oracle ME employee experience platform, connects your organization’s talent, skills, job qualifications, and other data to create a personalized learning experience for employees that helps close organizational skills gap and increases the visibility of upskilling initiatives. HR, business leaders, and employees can all see progress toward developing new skills and aligning stakeholders behind clear, shared talent goals. Additionally, with this visibility, HR and business leaders can understand what skills are available at any time within departments and across the greater organization, which can help their company use their people more effectively.

A new feature called “role guides” lets business leaders create profiles featuring the desired skill sets for specific positions within their departments, helping employees in those roles identify vital skills to learn. It also takes the guesswork out of reskilling by helping those who want to transition into new roles understand exactly what skills are required, improving the internal pipeline of candidates. Employee growth and skills directly impact your organization's ability to achieve its strategic vision. Let Oracle Grow amplify your employees' and business's success.

Upskilling FAQs

How do I upskill my team?
Companies can upskill teams by creating a learning culture with personalized career paths that help employees learn skills relevant to their roles, enabling them to increase individual and team performance while closing organizational skills gaps.

What are four top strategies for upskilling and reskilling?
There are many strategies for upskilling and reskilling employees, but four key ones include fostering a learning culture with dedicated time for growth, creating personalized employee learning paths, encouraging mentorship and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and tracking metrics to improve your program.

What is upskilling and reskilling with examples?
Upskilling is when an employee learns a new skill to improve performance in their current role, while reskilling is when they do it to move into a new one. For example, an office worker may upskill by learning to use the latest technology to do their job better or reskill by taking leadership courses to move into a management position.

Don’t have the skills you need? Oracle Grow helps you close the skills gap by unifying business goals, learning, and career mobility.

注:为免疑义,本网页所用以下术语专指以下含义:

  1. Oracle专指Oracle境外公司而非甲骨文中国。
  2. 相关Cloud或云术语均指代Oracle境外公司提供的云技术或其解决方案。