Upskilling: Definition, Benefits, Best Practices

Upskilling is a simple, effective and fun way to learn new skills. It works by identifying your strengths and helping you build on them.

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Upskilling is acquiring new knowledge and skills to remain relevant in the workplace. There are many different ways that organizations can upskill their employees. Still, one of the most important things to remember when thinking about how to upskill your workforce is that it's much easier and cheaper for employers than hiring new employees from outside.


What is Upskilling?

Upskilling is improving your skills and knowledge to adapt to new technologies, processes, and trends in the workplace.

It's also known as reskilling, which means upgrading your skills for a new job. Upskilling differs from reskilling because it can be applied to various organizational jobs. Both processes involve learning new skills through training or coursework that requires effort and determination.

The difference between Upskilling and Reskilling

If you're thinking about reskilling, your current job is a good fit for you, but you want to become more valuable. You might also want to switch careers and start over in a different industry or role. Upskilling is an opportunity for employees who are already happy to learn something new. And also make themselves more attractive to employers. It can lead to better benefits, higher salaries, or even promotions.

People often confuse reskilling and upskilling with training programs offered by their employers (called 'in-house learning'). These courses help employees improve certain skills they need within their current job roles. For example, how to use different software programs or add value through customer service. But they don't necessarily prepare them for another role altogether.

Why Upskilling is important

Upskilling is important because it helps organizations meet the changing needs of their customers. It also helps employees to find better jobs and allows organizations to stay competitive and relevant in a fast-changing world.

Learning new skills can be an exciting opportunity for both individuals and organizations. As they can grow their careers or businesses in ways they wouldn't have otherwise.

Benefits of Upskilling

The following are some benefits of upskilling:

Improving employee engagement and retention

The benefits of upskilling employees go beyond increased productivity and efficiency. Upskilling your team can be a great way to improve employee engagement and retention. Which can help you build a better workplace culture.

In an article for HRM Magazine, Ellen Galinsky wrote that employers that provide training and development opportunities for their workers have higher levels of employee engagement than those who don't. This is because people feel valued when they're given a chance to grow professionally. Giving them a greater sense of purpose and connection with their jobs.

Additionally, upskilling your employees help keep talent from leaving overtime. Employees who feel they're being treated well are much less likely to look elsewhere for work. Or leave on their own accord because they want to stay at your company!

Increasing the productivity

You may think increasing your productivity would require much effort and hard work. However, you can increase productivity by upskilling and trying to learn new things.

To begin with, what does it mean to be productive? Productivity is how much output you get for the input (effort). For example, who would be more productive if a person had done ten tasks in one day and then another did 20 tasks in the same period? The answer is obvious – both people got their work done, but one was more efficient than the other.

So if you want to be more productive at work or home, simply learn something new daily! This could include learning new skills in a computer program like Excel or Photoshop, or reading up on an industry topic that interests you. Or even baking cookies once a week instead of buying them from stores!

Easier recruitment process

Another benefit of upskilling is the ease with which you can recruit people with the right skills for your job.

If you're hiring someone new and need to know specific software or hardware. It's easier to find them if they already have those skills.

For example, let's say you're looking for a web developer who knows JavaScript. First, of course, you could look for someone who had taken classes on JavaScript before or learned from books or online tutorials. Still, then again, those may not be enough since there might be other programming languages he doesn't know, and he might not understand how all these languages work together in one project.

You could also try and hire people just graduating from college with bachelor's degrees in computer science and ask them if they know certain programming languages like C++ or Java while they are studying at school (or during their part-time jobs). The problem is that these students aren't necessarily familiar with real-life scenarios when working as web developers out in the field and may be unable to handle complex projects like yours!

Upskilling is cheaper than external hiring.

Upskilling your current workforce will be cheaper than hiring external people. This is because of the following reasons:

  • It's less expensive to train existing employees than it is to hire new ones. A study found that upskilling was three times cheaper than hiring external people. And it also showed that companies investing in upskilling had higher productivity levels and lower employee turnover rates than those that didn't invest in upskilling.
  • Companies already employing people have a pool of talent they can draw from when they need additional people. It doesn't cost them anything extra to train an existing employee with experience with a certain skill or knowledge base.
  • Upskilling can help you retain employees who otherwise would leave because they feel undervalued or don't get enough opportunity for growth within their current role.
  • It's important for companies who want long-term success (and not just short-term gains) because, without good employees, there won't be any profits!

Filling skills gaps

To fill your skills gaps, you'll need to upskill. There are a few ways of doing this:

  • By taking a course that builds on your existing knowledge and skills (e.g., by learning how to code or write better)
  • By gaining new qualifications, like diplomas or certificates (which usually take between three months and two years) or degrees (taking anything from one year to four years). You can even continue your studies once you've graduated from uni!
  • On-the-job training through things like mentoring programs and shadowing opportunities with experts in the field where they work

Increasing agility

Agility is one of a business's most important skills in today's fast-paced world. It's about responding quickly to change and having the right people in the right roles, but it also involves having the right skills and knowledge.

For your organization to be agile, you'll need to look at each stage of your product development process and ensure everyone involved has all the information they need for their work—and they're trained in how best to do it. This means sharing information across departments (such as sales, marketing, and engineering), providing ongoing training sessions where possible, and encouraging team members from different departments to collaborate on projects outside their usual areas of expertise.


How can organizations design and plan their upskilling processes?

To fill the skills gap, organizations need to identify the skills they need and then create a plan to fill that gap. They should establish goals and timelines and determine how they will measure success.

This information can be used to design and plan an upskilling process for your organization. You will first want to identify which competencies are most important for meeting your business objectives, then develop training programs that align with those competencies. Also, consider what type of instructor you want (in-house vs. external), how long it should be (2 days or eight weeks), and whether it's best suited for online or in-person learning environments.

Once you've established these details, implement your training program! Evaluate the impact of the training by analyzing employee performance before/after completion of each course​and compare employee demographic data across different courses​to see if there are any differences between them

Identify knowledge gaps

  • Identify the knowledge gaps. This step involves understanding the business needs and identifying which skills are required to meet those needs.
  • Understand the impact of the gaps. You need to understand who is impacted by your knowledge gaps and how they will be affected if they're not addressed.
  • Identify who is impacted by these gaps in knowledge (and why). In other words: "Who are we missing out on?"

Choosing candidates for upskilling

In the first step, you need to identify the skills gap. This will help you decide whether or not your employees need upskilling and in what areas of their work they should be trained.

The second step is choosing the right candidates for upskilling. Again, you must choose people who are ready to learn and want to improve their current skill set. If an employee doesn't want to grow or isn't willing to take risks, they will not benefit from this training program and may even become frustrated with it if they don't see results quickly enough - which will lead them back into old habits (keeping them stuck in their current job role).

In the third step, train them! This can be done through online courses like Lynda or Udemy or face-to-face workshops conducted by organizations like Skillsoft and edX."

Assess your existing workforce skills

When you've completed the above steps, you'll clearly see what skills your employees need to excel at their current roles and for new ones. You should also know how to identify gaps in your workforce's skill level, which will help determine future staffing needs.

This information can be used to inform initiatives such as:

  • Reinvesting in employee training programs
  • Managing existing training programs more effectively (e.g., by identifying areas that need more attention)

Determine your upskilling goals

Once you've decided to upskill, the next step is to determine your goals and objectives. Why are you doing this? What do you want to get out of it? What's the timeline for achieving these goals?

Clear aims and objectives are important because they help keep your learning focused and on track. For example, if your goal is just "since I'm here anyway," it will be easy for distractions (or even whole new projects) to derail that goal. On the other hand, if your goal is "improve my existing skills so I can take this position at Company X," it will be much easier for that goal to inform where and how you upskill.

Rinse and repeat

As you continue your upskilling journey, remember that it's a never-ending process. Therefore, you should constantly reevaluate your skills and put in new efforts to improve them. In addition, it's important to remember that there is no final destination in the journey of upskilling—it's a continuous cycle.

If you're feeling overwhelmed with the whole process, there are ways for you to keep it simple:

  • Take small steps towards bigger goals (think "5-minute" tasks)
  • Keep track of what areas need improvement and focus on those first
  • Find resources online or in person (e.g., friends/family members) who can help guide you along the way

Tools of Upskilling Your Workforce

On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training is a type of upskilling where employees are trained on the job by their supervisors or other experienced employees. It is a cost-effective way to upskill your workforce, as it can be implemented without hiring new staff or taking people away from their roles at work.

Cross-training or Job Rotation

These are both effective ways to upskill your workforce. Cross-training involves two or more people learning the same skill set, while job rotation involves two or more people learning different skill sets. For example, if you have an employee struggling with their current role, you could assign them new work that allows them to learn a related skill while keeping their original responsibilities in place. This can be especially beneficial when you want to avoid having an employee become disengaged from their position before they are ready to move on permanently (or even temporarily).

Learning & development programs

Learning & development programs are a great way to upskill employees and help them progress in their careers. They can also be a reward for employees who have reached milestones in their employment with you.

Training programs can be done internally or externally – by engaging an outside trainer to facilitate the training sessions. These are great options for smaller businesses that don't have the time or resources to develop their internal training program.


Mentorships are a great way to upskill. You can find mentors internally or externally, from different departments or outside the organization, and at different levels within your department. Mentors can be just a few years ahead of you in their career path or totally above you on the corporate ladder—they all bring something valuable to the table that will help you develop your skills faster than trying to learn on your own.


Learning management systems (LMS) and Learning Experience Platforms (LEP) are online tools for managing training courses and providing learners with a more interactive learning experience. Learning management systems are platforms that help you create, manage and deliver training programs for your company or organization. A learning experience platform is similar to an LMS, but it also comes with additional features, such as analytics for tracking the performance of your employees after completing the course.

Both have advantages when it comes to upskilling your employees, but choosing one depends on what you want from your learning management system or experience platform. If you're looking at building a robust yet affordable solution, then an LMS should be enough. Still, suppose you want something more sophisticated with customized features that can help improve productivity among employees across all levels in the company. In that case, an LEP might be better suited for your needs.

Upskilling Areas to Focus


Leadership is a skill that can be learned. It's not just about being a manager and not just about people skills. Leadership is about getting things done, but it's also about the future—and people are the key to success in both areas.

Leadership is a choice you make every day: Do I want to become the kind of leader who sets an example for others? Or am I going to be content with my current role in life?

Are you ready to start learning how leadership skills work? Then, let's dive into some specifics!


Analytics is a crucial skill that every employee should know. Learning analytics helps you improve performance, make better decisions, and improve customer experience.

Analytics can also be used for cost-cutting measures and identifying opportunities. For example, if your sales team has been struggling to sell a new product line within your company's target market, analytics could help shed light on why they're not performing well and what steps can be taken to increase sales numbers.

Digital upskilling

Digital upskilling is learning to use new digital technologies, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. This upskilling allows organizations to take advantage of the changing technology landscape by improving their overall productivity and efficiency.

Technical product knowledge

If you're an engineer, there's a good chance you've heard of the term "upskilling." It refers to learning new skills at a higher level of complexity. For example, an entry-level software engineer may be able to learn these skills:

  • Software engineering
  • Data Science
  • Machine learning
  • User experience design
  • Security engineering


So, to know how to upskill your workforce, look at our article and see what we have to say. It's all about finding out what knowledge gaps exist in your company and then filling them with the right training programs.

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