Workpay icon
Back to Blogs
Employee Management

Upskilling Employees


Employee Management

Upskilling Employees

Upskilling or reskilling requires less investment than hiring and training a new employee. When you reskill your employees, you create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce and increase the effectiveness of your team.

December 6, 2022
min read
December 6, 2022
8 min read
In need of a
HR and Payroll Software?
Sign up for free
In need of a HR and Payroll software?

Sign up for FREE✨!!

The world is moving fast, and a lot is changing in the economic landscape. Consequently, the skills gap in various fields is an issue of concern. Research found that 58% of the workforce needs new skills. It further outlines that the total number of skills required for a single job has been increasing by 10% annually since 2017.

Most employers must pay attention to it because their employees need advanced skills to work effectively. As a result, upskilling is one effective approach businesses take to combat skill gaps while retaining the current workforce. Below are more details about upskilling employees, why it’s important, and how companies can do it effectively.

What is Upskilling?  

Upskilling employees entails teaching current employees new skills through training programs and development opportunities to their abilities and minimizing skill gaps. Generally, upskilling aims to improve current employees’ skill sets to advance in their roles and meet particular business needs. Upskilling is about improving employees with new skills in what they’re currently doing.

For example, digital skills, analytical skills, and customer service have become vital for any business in today’s business arena. Therefore, employers or organizations invest in training and other resources to help employees learn these new skills.

Reskilling, Upskilling, Cross-skilling- What is the Difference?

Upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling may sound the same, but they all mean different things and achieve different goals. Here are the differences:

1. Reskilling

Entails teaching an existing employee new skills needed to do an entirely different job/role, preferably within their current company. It often happens when an employee’s previous role becomes irrelevant.

For instance, employees who worked as secretaries and clerks in various companies a while ago had to reskill themselves with digital skill sets to fit in the administrative assistant roles.

2. Cross-skilling

Involves a company onboarding and training employees on multiple skill sets that cut across organizational job functions.

For example, a content editor may learn social media marketing skills to help tailor exceptional and engaging content for a brand.

Why Upskilling Employees Important in today’s Workforce

The world is moving pretty fast, causing changes in the job requirements to fill in the needed skills. Businesses have two options, i.e., hiring new talent with the required skill set or upskilling their current workforce. However, upskilling stands out as the ideal choice. It’s cost-friendly and helps them stay ahead of the competition. Besides, there are many other benefits of upskilling employees, as outlined below:

For Employers:

1. Increased employee retention

Inadequate growth opportunities in an organization are the reason great talents leave. Investing in upskilling programs shows employees that their employer values them and he is providing a growth path for their skills and careers. Therefore, this could significantly boost employee engagement and retention. It could also help attract great talents.

2. It helps keep a company relevant in the competitive world

One key objective of upskilling employees is to stay relevant and competitive by narrowing skill gaps. Therefore, when an employer equips their workforce with the appropriate skills, they also remain relevant. They have a workforce with what it takes to deliver efficient services and quality products.

3. Cost saving

A report shows that replacing an employee costs about a third of an employee’s annual salary. Therefore upskilling is a cost-effective solution compared to hiring new talents.

4. It enhances a supportive culture

A supportive culture in the workplace can boost your overall business from good customer service and teamwork to increased sales. Notably, a survey showed that 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain.


For Employees:

1. Improved confidence in employees’ ability

Upskilling employees boosts their confidence in their ability to execute and do better in their respective roles. In return, it increases their productivity and performance.

2. Opportunities for career advancement and adaptability

Upskilling is one way of providing employees with advancement opportunities that helps them develop professionally over time. It also increases adaptability to a changing workforce, thus allowing employees to work efficiently.

3. Boosts morale and satisfaction

When employees have opportunities for improvement, they’re motivated and feel happier while doing their work. Upskilling creates a more profound sense of purpose in employees, making them feel good.

How Do I Upskill an Employee?

Upskilling employees can be complex when you need help knowing where to start or what skill sets to invest in. However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Below is an upskilling strategy or steps an employer or HR team can follow to implement upskilling in the workplace:

1. Evaluate and figure out skills gaps or areas of priority

First, an employer needs to evaluate the skill sets they already have and identify where there are gaps. They can further identify what skills employees need to learn to be more competitive based on company goals. It’s essential to invest in skills that guarantee a return on investment.

Conducting a skill gap analysis could help give you an overall comprehensive insight into an entire workforce. Additionally, it will be essential in strategic workforce planning.

2. Research trends in the industry

For an employer to stay competitive, they must study and understand what skill sets are currently putting their competitors ahead of the game. Besides, they need to understand their industry's exact trajectory before investing in upskilling: it’s essential to know what the future of work looks like.

Understanding trends in the market enables an employer to identify marketable skills.

3. Make upskilling part of the employee performance and development program

An employer or leaders need to create awareness of the upskilling program to motivate employees to participate. It also entails communicating with employees and setting reasonable goals for upskilling.

More importantly, employers may create a reward incentive for employees who complete training and other upskilling programs, e.g. a promotion in the future. It will keep them motivated.

4. Determine the upskilling method and execute the plan

This is a critical step while implanting an upskilling strategy. You need the right tools, experts and resources to have a successful upskilling program. Depending on the skills required, you may outsource some tasks while others you can do internally.

Employers must accommodate different styles of learning to enhance effectiveness.

5. Allow employees to prove the ability of their new skills

Once employees have completed their upskilling program, employers need to provide a chance to prove what they can do with their new skills. It also entails providing them with professional support and resources.

6. Follow up and evaluate again

Finally, employers need to follow up and track progress to evaluate if the upskilling programs are effective and to what degree. Also, at this point, leaders or managers can identify skills that still need improvement.

Workpay Africa
Linkedin icon

Workpay is a HR and Payroll software company that offers time & attendance, payroll, human resource, leave, expenses and remote teams solutions to businesses across Africa.

In need of a
HR and Payroll Software?
Sign up for free
In need of a HR and Payroll software?

Sign up for FREE✨!!
In need of a HR and Payroll Software?

Request a Demo for Free

Leave a comment below

Thank you! Your comment has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Workpay Newsletter image
Great Insights, Delivered Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest articles, information, and advice to help you better run your small business. Delivered weekly, for free.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.