What is Upskilling?

What is Upskilling?

“If we embrace upskilling, if we take ownership for ourselves then we can probably write the narrative for what our future looks like.”

Upskilling is a continuous process where an individual keeps acquiring new and relevant skills & competencies that are the need of today and the near future. Some of the common examples include digital skills, analytics skills, and organizational transformation skills. People must be willing to learn and advance their skill set to thrive in the coming future.

There isn’t a doubt that advancing technology has changed the nature of many people’s jobs and it’ll continue to replace humans with more advanced technology. In such a scenario, we have no other option but to upskill and adapt to continuous changes. This need emerges from the huge skill gap that we face today. This gap is the difference between what employers want or need their employees to be able to do and what those employees can actually do.

Two major reasons for the increasing skill gap are: 

Skills gap due to an ageing workforce. The generation that has created this advanced technology that keeps on changing has been and will be retiring for a while now. This naturally creates a huge gap as there are not many eligible people to fill in those positions due to a lack of skills and knowledge. 
The second significant reason for this divide is the Skills gap due to digitalization. Currently, we’re leading in the so-called fourth industrial revolution. This implies there is huge and fast development in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technologies. This faster and faster development is changing the nature of the jobs that need to be done – and, by extension, the skills needed to do those jobs.

Why we need to upskill?

What drives this is the need of developing a growth mindset. We need this at every level of our life be it while you’re a student of working. The future of education won’t involve limited learning from schools or highly-specialized professors. Future skills will need to be learned and developed differently - one which adapts to the rate of change and combines technology and education. There is a need to constantly upgrading and updating your skill set. This is because the skills that you may have today may not be relevant tomorrow.

How can you upskill?

The ideal way for any organization to strategize upskilling for their employees by initially conducting a skill gap analysis. After having in-depth knowledge of the areas that need to be worked upon, you can adopt relevant techniques that will work best for you. Some of the common techniques are mentioned below:

1. Learning and development 

Upskilling your workforce via your learning and development (L&D) program is probably an effective way to do. The L&D program, however, is the result of a learning and development strategy. Depending on the model you use to create such a strategy, there are four phases required:

  • An analysis of training needs (for instance through a skills gap analysis)
  • Specification of learning objectives
  • Design of training content and method
  • Monitoring and evaluation 

Every organization will end up with a (slightly) different L&D strategy – and program. Naturally, this means that the learning methods a company chooses to upskill its workforce will vary as well. Some organizations will prefer online courses in combination with real-life lectures and seminars, while others will go for peer coaching and an ‘upskill track’ on their LMS (Learning Management System).   

2. Job rotation

This is the practice where employees are moved between jobs in an organization. This is a very good way to transfer a set of skills and knowledge. The rotation between jobs is usually done at the same level. These are temporary to provide the employees with familiarity with a different job and the skills required for it. They are usually done on a temporary basis so people move back to their original job after a certain period. However, they go get the knowledge of other profiles and get familiar with the skills needed for that.  
For example, managers may need to gain experience in different departments before they’re ready for a senior leadership position in which they need this experience. Similarly, HR professionals sometimes lack business skills. A good way to build these skills is by rotating them outside the HR department.

3. Job enlargement 

This involves additional activities within the same level as an existing job. Here, an employee will do more and different activities in their current job. It teaches people many skills that help them in their career growth. Additional job responsibilities require training and help in building additional experience. In other words, it can be a way to upskill your workforce.

4. Peer coaching 

Two or more colleagues work together to, among other things, expand, refine, and build new skills, teach one another, and solve problems in the workplace. What differentiates this from others is the informal side to this. Since, people have a peer they can directly talk to, ask questions when they come up with, and learn from them while watching them during their work. 
For instance, you can team up your content creator with your marketeer. This will create mutual opportunities for both the parties while they get to learn new skills and basic knowledge of each other’s respective field of work.

5. Outsourcing/ Hire experts: 

For organizations that do not have the in-house capacity to do so or perhaps because the skills you need are so new that you don’t have the knowledge and experience to start upskill people; this is the way to go. This is usually the case regarding digital skills and technical skills like web development, App programming, etc. it would be best to hire specialists. These are the people who will bring the exact skill set you need your employees to have. By teaming these external experts up with the right people from within the company, you create an upskilling opportunity.

At last, I highly recommend that you watch these videos below to get a feel of the concept of Upskilling and understand the need for it:

Learn or Die | Upskilling Is The Future of Education

Upskilling: Bridging the Digital Divide

How are you gonna start upskilling or are you ahead of the curve already? Share with us in the comment section below.


About the Author
Author: Priyanka Gupta
Priyanka is a blogger by profession and has an increasing interest to write about the edtech space. While writing she keeps in mind the educators to come up with right resources and ideas which might be relevant for them in relation to effective use of technology in their profession and institutions/classrooms.
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