How to unlock capacity with your upskilling initiative

3 Steps you can take to turn skills into your competitive advantage

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

March 29, 2022

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Today, businesses don’t just have one high-priority item on their radar. Instead, leaders are juggling multiple tasks at the same time, and most of them are do-or-die status. From winning the war for talent to staying ahead of evolving consumer preferences, there’s no lack of tasks competing for executives’ attention. But there is a profound time shortage.

With so many crucial action points, organizations don’t have a second to waste. The only way to get ahead of the competition is by tapping into your workforce’s full potential and harnessing every skill within your arsenal. But unlocking capacity is a challenge of its own, especially since most executives don’t have full visibility into their workforce’s skills.

Fortunately, it’s not too late to turn things around. With the right mindset and tools, skill-building can become a competitive advantage that empowers employees to achieve their full potential. Ultimately, unlocking capacity with upskilling all comes down to your approach. So what does a winning strategy look like?

What is upskilling and why does it matter?

Upskilling describes any process that helps someone answer the following question: “What additional skills do I need to progress in my current career?”. It differs from other forms of skill-building, like reskilling and cross-skilling, because it’s about enabling employees to accelerate their progression up linear career paths.

All types of skill-building can be a game-changer for unlocking capacity. 93% of CEOs who introduce upskilling programs see increased productivity, an improvement in talent acquisition and retention, and a more resilient workforce as a result of these initiatives.

Part of what makes skills initiatives so powerful is that they consistently inspire employees to grow and perform. In fact, 86% of leaders report that digital training and education programs led to improvements in employee engagement. And since employee engagement is linked with better customer satisfaction ratings and higher profitability, it’s clear that it’s something no executive can afford to overlook.

How can upskilling unlock capacity?

A lack of upskilling opportunities puts a ceiling on what your workforce can achieve. In a dynamic working world where new challenges continuously arise, people must keep expanding their knowledge base to keep pace. Ongoing upskilling opportunities empower employees to develop the competencies that your organization will need to respond to disruptions in real-time.

The benefits of upskilling go beyond merely building new capabilities. When employees engage in development opportunities, they also become better at dynamically picking up new skills. In short, employees learn how to learn faster. And as knowledge gaps widen and skills half-lives continue to shrink, the ability to build new skills efficiently is going to be critical.

3 Steps to launch an upskilling initiative that unlocks capacity

When it comes to launching an upskilling initiative that unlocks capacity, not all strategies are created equal. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind if you’re looking to develop an approach that will empower your employees to achieve their full potential:

Democratize access to learning opportunities
Traditionally, upskilling has often been reserved for select groups of employees, such as senior managers or workers who are considered high-potential. Yet, limiting the reach of your strategy is also going to limit the impact it will have.

If you want to unlock your workforce’s full capacity, you need to make sure everyone gets equal access to learning and training. In the past, leveling the playing field was next to impossible, because many development opportunities hinged on word-of-mouth awareness and networking. Fortunately, the talent marketplace’s rise in popularity is putting democratized access to upskilling well within reach. By matching employees to relevant growth opportunities based solely on their skills and ambitions, the platforms take bias out of the equation.

Enable people to learn on the job
Given just how fast-paced our working world is, no one has time to waste on inefficient upskilling practices. Yet, many organizations create skill-building strategies that rely solely on content consumption.

While a compelling L&D curriculum is an important pillar of employee development, the best upskilling initiatives go one step further by integrating hands-on experiences like projects and gigs. When employees have the chance to put the lessons they’re reading about into practice, they will be able to develop expertise on accelerated timelines. And the newest talent marketplace offerings create a unified and personalized destination, so your people can access all types of development resources in one place.

Get strategic about skills
Learning for the sake of learning won’t cut it in today’s landscape. As the pace of innovation accelerates and priorities continue to evolve, leaders need to ensure that the skills their people develop actually count.

Rather than a one-size-fits-all curriculum, employee development must be personalized to achieve maximum impact. Learning and development opportunities should align with both your people’s professional ambitions and your business needs.

Instead of attempting to manually map these priorities and identify areas of overlap, why not let your talent marketplace do it for you? The best platforms include career pathing tools that outline several different directions that employees’ professional progressions can take. Workers also gain insight into the skills gaps they need to bridge to take their careers to the next level, as well as the projects, gigs, and learning opportunities that will help them get up to speed.

Since the new world of work shows no signs of slowing down, it’s up to every business to figure out how to unlock the capacity they need to move faster. To learn more about the role upskilling can play in fueling success in your next chapter, check out our ultimate guide to the skills-based organization.

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