Managing the upskilling frenzy: 4 steps to leveling up your workforce

As the labor market remains competitive, organizations across all industries are hard-pressed to address an urgent challenge: finding efficient, viable ways to attract, retain and upskill top talent.

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Yet there’s a divide. While 48% of HR leaders are struggling to fill open jobs due to a lack of skills, only 52% of employees believe their managers provide them the opportunity to develop and nurture new skills. The critical misalignment between employees’ desire for additional upskilling opportunities and the reality of what is (or isn’t) offered is further fueling the widening skills gap and impacting companies’ bottom lines. The fact of the matter is that a whopping 1 billion workers will need to upskill by 2030, according to the World Economic Forum.

To address that dire need, HR leaders must turn to education to build and retain a future-ready, resilient workforce that meets existing and growing skills demands.

Here are four essential steps for creating a results-oriented upskilling program:

1. Align workforce education with business needs.

First up is strategy. Creating a successful workforce education program starts with understanding your company’s strategic objectives. Once established, these goals should be used to define program scope, priorities and KPIs. A focus on assessing your company’s current and future goals helps position your upskilling program as a clear business investment.

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Industry and academic expertise can provide essential support. Through analysis of industry trends and skills taxonomies, experts can enable you to successfully design customized, high-quality learning options that prepare learners for high-need roles. The end goal is to align each employee’s career growth to company growth for a win-win situation.

Expert tip: Leverage industry and academic expertise to guide you through what has the potential to be a chaotic process and effectively create upskilling programs tailored to your organization’s specific business goals.

2. Customize the right program to transform your workforce.

Once you’ve determined what skills are necessary to achieve your company’s goals, the next phase involves finding high-quality academic providers and curating a selection of relevant learning options that enable employees to gain those skills.

For example, you can create career paths that map specific courses and education programs to in-demand careers and roles. In this way, prospective learners can see a clear path to advancement and are not paralyzed by choice, as is common with education marketplaces that offer hundreds of course options without tying them to applicable skills or roles.

See also: Internal mobility, talent marketplaces are ‘life-or-death’ survival strategies

Other upskilling program elements that need to be determined include program cost, availability and whether it is targeted for certain groups.

Expert tip: Prioritize employees’ needs, ease of use and flexibility in your upskilling program design.

3. Get the word out to drive participation.

Once a workforce education plan has been developed, you must have learners for it to succeed. For this, leadership support must go beyond simple buy-in to power real change. While 96% of business leaders agree that a workforce education program fast-tracks growth and provides a competitive advantage, according to InStride, LinkedIn research found that only 27% of individuals feel their leadership team supports and encourages continual learning across the organization.

Employee engagement increases when a workforce education program has visible support, a long-term vision and participation from senior management. These leaders are the internal champions dedicated to producing results and closing the organization’s skills gap.

Support for the program must be communicated to all levels of your organization to motivate enrollment, which, in turn, fosters career advancement and business growth. Higher participation rates also result in increased employee engagement, which reduces employee turnover and the costs associated with replacing lost associates.

Expert tip: Demonstrate that there is something for everyone in your program, highlighting the skills courses that can be applied immediately and courses that can be “stacked” towards degrees.

4. Track progress and finetune to maximize ROI.

To secure program success and funding for upskilling and reskilling programs, HR must continuously monitor, measure and communicate the ongoing ROI and business impact of your company’s upskilling program. Optimizing the program based on these results is a critical step toward ensuring workforce education fulfills company needs while positively impacting a company’s revenue.

Metrics to track can include, but are not limited to:

  • Program take rate: Overall number and percentage of eligible employees participating in the program.
  • Learning type: Overall participation by program type (such as certificate, associate, bachelor’s, graduate) and subject area (including health sciences, health administration, allied health certificate).
  • Employee experience: Self-reported employee engagement with the program, program satisfaction and employee sentiment.
  • Employee retention: Retention of participating employees (to be compared against non-participating employees pending data provided by the client).
  • Spend/ROI: Review and extract spending activity to ensure program costs are on track with the budgeted spend, as well as calculate ROI metrics in connection with program outcomes.

Expert tip: Organize regularly scheduled meetings and progress reports to share and discuss program performance.

Strengthening a workforce for today, and tomorrow

While many organizations have relied upon traditional hiring over the last several years, the urgent work to close internal skills gaps is showing more promising results. In fact, LinkedIn found that 60% of CEOs believe an effective upskilling program fuels a positive company culture, while PwC reports that 81% of CEOs with advanced upskilling programs are confident about their future revenue growth.

By leveraging custom, strategic workforce education programs, organizations are equipping employees with the essential skills that can meet today’s demands while preparing for tomorrow. Quality, debt-free, career-changing education accelerates learning and offers employees the foundation and guidance to excel in their career and positively impact business outcomes.

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