Why you need to upgrade your upskilling strategy

5 steps to improve learning and training opportunities

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

Skills have always been the backbone of the working world. They power every email you send, every project you complete, and every presentation you give. But for a long time, they weren’t something leaders prioritized or strategically invested in. Some organizations might have tracked required and associated competencies, but skill-building didn’t usually go deeper than that.

The new world of work we’re walking into is about to change all of that. Skills are stepping into the executive strategy spotlight, with HR leaders zeroing in on building new competencies as their top priority for 2022. And since the World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of the global workforce will need to upskill or reskill by 2025, this shift in focus couldn’t come at a more important time.

But while many businesses now have their sights on upskilling, not all organizations are setting themselves up for success. In fact, only 28% of employees say their organizations are making effective decisions on how to close skills gaps. So what does it take to launch an upskilling strategy that gets results?

What is upskilling and what sets it apart?

If you think building skills, upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling roughly mean the same thing, you might find this refresher helpful:

Upskilling is one way to build competencies that focuses specifically on helping someone answer the following question: “What additional skills do I need to progress in my current career?”. It’s about helping your people develop additional expertise in the department or area that they’re currently working in.

In contrast, reskilling focuses more on helping your employees who are interested in switching lanes. It’s about empowering employees to answer, “What skills do I need to transition from one department to another?”.

Finally, cross-skilling recognizes that there are some competencies that everyone needs to know, regardless of what department or role they are in. The question that accompanies it is “What skills will serve me across various roles and industries?

5 steps you can take to improve your upskilling strategy

Understanding the nuances of skill-building is a step in the right direction, but it will take a little more to develop a strategy that gets results. When it comes to upgrading your approach to skills, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

#1. Trade one-size-fits-all for employee-led
The best upskilling programs don’t tell employees how to grow their skills; instead, they let them take the lead. Even if your people are interested in developing more expertise within their current field, there are multiple directions that their careers could take. When upskilling is rooted in an employee’s unique goals and interests they will be more inspired to build the skills they need to take their careers to the next level. Consequently, it’s best to understand where an employee’s ambitions lie before working with them to create a plan of action.

#2. Prioritize experiential learning
Upskilling strategies can’t rely on L&D content alone. While a compelling curriculum is a strong starting point, your people also need the chance to put what they’re learning into practice. Integrating related projects, gigs, and shadowing opportunities will give employees the experience they need to become experts, rather than novices, in what they’re learning about.

#3. Mentoring matters
Want to encourage your people to expand their networks, while also picking up new skills? Enter mentoring programs.

Co-learning systems are a powerful skill-building tool because they allow employees to observe how their more experienced colleagues execute tasks and ask them questions throughout the process. Simultaneously, mentors will develop the leadership skills they need to confidently lead teams, creating a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone involved.

#4. Implement employee feedback
Just like there’s always room for your people to grow, there are always things you can do to further improve your upskilling strategy. But how do the best people leaders discover what those next steps are?

The answer is surprisingly simple: they ask their employees. The people who are participating in your initiative will have insights into what’s missing from your program, what they’d like to see more of, and what stands out as a highlight. Once you get this feedback, strive to put it into action so employees feel heard and encouraged to continue sharing their thoughts.

#5. Don’t forget reskilling and cross-skilling
While there’s no doubt that upskilling is important, you can’t lose sight of other ways to build skills. Some employees may be looking to take their careers in entirely new directions, which is where reskilling will come into play. Additionally, some competencies will become needed in every employee at your organization, underscoring the need to integrate cross-skilling as part of your overarching skills strategy.

How talent marketplaces fuel upskilling strategies

For most organizations, the challenge isn’t starting an upskilling program from scratch. It’s about making the right changes so they can turn a good approach into a great one.

When it comes to enhancing skill-building initiatives of any kind, talent marketplaces have emerged as critical tools. These platforms give leaders full visibility into the skills within their workforce, while employees get unparalleled transparency into the upskilling opportunities within your organization. By matching your people to relevant projects, gigs, mentorships, and shadowing experiences, talent marketplaces empower employees to step into the driver’s seat of their growth and development. And it’s this employee-driven approach that will prove to be the ultimate upskilling upgrade.



Since the race to build skills shows no signs of slowing down, upskilling deserves a spot at the top of every leader’s agenda. To learn about what successful approaches will look like in the new world of work, check out our ebook, The ultimate guide to the skills-based organization.

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