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How to Use Upskilling to Retain Employees During the Great Resignation

Posted by Dawn White on Nov 27, 2021 8:45:00 AM
Dawn White
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If one thing is certain in the workforce today, it’s that nothing is certain in the workforce today. The Great Resignation is in full swing, Gen Z employees are building their careers around job hopping, and new priorities among workers are making it difficult to keep employees around.

Big on everyone’s mind is how to retain talent in today’s workforce. Upskilling and reskilling can be a great way to do that. Upskilling is the process of boosting your skills within a certain area, and reskilling is all about learning new skills for doing work in a different role.

Why Upskilling Is Important to Your Company

Your best employees want to continue to learn and grow, and they want to feel valued. When they’re given opportunities to upskill — to learn more about their work, and to develop themselves as professionals — that makes them feel valued and wanted.

As labor shortages and turnover continue to increase, the costs of replacing employees are climbing fast. Replacing one employee can be as much as twice that person’s annual salary.

Upskilling and reskilling can reduce job hopping and increase employee retention rates. A report from McKinsey & Company states that if organizations invest in upskilling and reskilling now, they can emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position.

Upskilling can help retain Gen Z employees because they’re finding new challenges and new opportunities at your company. In fact, your best Gen Z and Millennial workers see upskilling as a must-have employee benefit — one that’s as important as employer-subsidized health care or paid time off.

How to Start an Upskilling Program

Offering opportunities for upskilling requires thoughtful planning and an understanding of your employees’ desires. Consider these factors before you implement an upskilling or reskilling program in your organization.

The right strategy

It might be tempting to offer upskilling and reskilling opportunities in an organic way, in response to employee requests or industry trends. But taking a strategic approach will ensure that your program is effective, scalable, and robust enough to last.

Take stock of what you already have in place, where your gaps lie, and how you’ll move your employees through your upskilling program successfully.

As you develop your strategy, consider these questions:

  • What are the market trends that will affect your skills needs? Think about emerging technologies, the labor market, the direction of the industry, and more.
  • What are you currently doing to invest in workforce development, and what are your untapped opportunities?
  • What will your upskilling program look like, from start to finish? You may need to develop a curriculum, an evaluation process, and a way to measure success, among other things.
  • How do your current employees want to develop their skills? This includes the types of skills they want to develop as well as the ways they want to develop them.
  • What logistical challenges will you face? Consider any resistance, or overwhelming demand, that you might encounter. Think about how you’ll balance between employee development and daily responsibilities. Evaluate any policy changes you might need to make.
  • What tools or systems will you need to have in place?
  • How will you launch the new upskilling program?

The right skills

In 2020, 80 percent of U.S. employers had difficulty filing job openings because of lack of skills. Gartner recently found that 58% of the workforce doesn’t have the skills to do their current jobs successfully.

Conduct an assessment of the skills gap in your organization. What are the must-have skills that need to be developed right now? Also consider the skills that could take fully trained workers to the next level.

You want to develop your employees to be all they can be, but you also need to develop them so that your company can reach its fullest potential. As you plan individually with employees, keep in mind their current working skills, understand future requirements, and work to align these as training develops.

A good way to do that is to have open and honest conversations with your employees about their goals within your company. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go within the organization? What do you want to learn? How can we get you there?

At IDI, we’re very purposeful about including those conversations in our employee reviews. As we look back at past performance and develop goals for their future accomplishments, we also talk together about which upskilling opportunities can help get them there.

The right culture

Those conversations are often guided by our employees themselves. We want to understand what our workers envision for themselves — what they’re passionate about, professionally — and to help them achieve that vision whenever possible.

That kind of approach is very empowering. It communicates that the organization wants employees to be successful, whether it’s with the company or not.

Not only does it communicate that employees are valued, but it gives them agency over their career and over their time at your company. Empowered employees are more highly engaged — and more productive — and they have a lower turnover rate.

The right tools

Building a culture of upskilling is essential, but you also need the infrastructure to make it feasible. Part of that is putting tools in place that can make upskilling achievable.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to automation. At IDI, we automate manually intensive activities that claim your employees’ time. Our payroll automation software is a win-win for executives and employees alike. Not only does it eliminate wasted time and manual calculation errors, it also creates new upskilling opportunities to make payroll personnel more valuable to your business.

In today’s workforce, businesses that use automation to create upskilling opportunities are the ones that will thrive. By making the most of the people you have, you tap into the wealth of human innovation and expertise that already exists in your company, while boosting your bottom line by reducing operating costs.
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