With a rapidly changing technological landscape and a growing fear that artificial intelligence will be stealing every job from under our feet, companies are becoming increasingly aware of the need to develop new skills among their workforce. Upskilling is not just for those wanting to switch careers or jump to a senior position – it is also an essential aspect of maintaining confident and capable employees who are able to face new challenges with a well-developed and varied skill set. Employers must make a conscious decision to invest heavily in upskilling if they want to succeed in the future.
Why upskill instead of replace?
It could be argued that instead of upskilling, employers could simply seek to fill positions with new people who are better equipped to do the job than the last employee. However, this isn’t always possible anymore. A skills deficit is commonplace across industries, as change is happening at such a rapid pace – this means that the majority of the workforce are unable to build skills at a rate that matches change. Even graduates will only have attained skills relevant during their degree, or even before – during the curriculum planning stage – when essential skills are built into the teaching and learning programme. Change could have introduced many new skills by the time the graduate is awarded with their degree and is seeking employment. There are, effectively, no suitable people to fill positions with, so replacing is no longer a reliable option.
If employers invest in upskilling their workers, they will always have people on hand to get work done. Employees can share knowledge and train others in the new skills they have acquired. Cross-department skills building could also form a significant part of upskilling, as workers learn of the tasks of other departments and harness some of these skills to enable better company understanding as a whole and to also enable their workers to be particularly versatile in multiple areas of the business. Employees who work hard to build new skills are likely best suited to the next position on the career ladder and this allows employers to confidently promote their existing staff, knowing that they have both an in-depth knowledge of the company and are well-prepared to face the challenges of a more demanding role.
Benefits for the employee and the employer
Upskilling is not an exclusive benefit for the employee – yes, employees will gain new knowledge and skills that can be used to improve their own position. It is possible that staff will build new skills and then look for a senior position elsewhere. However, if an employee feels that a company genuinely cares about them and is eager to invest in their future, then they are much more likely to stick around than jump ship. This allows the employee to feel valued and to recognise their own growth and development within the company, and the employer will feel assured that their workforce is highly skilled and their employees feel positively towards the business.
- Feel valued by the business that invests in their future
- A wealth of skills that can be applied to many different aspects of work
- Feel prepared for the future, which in turn reduces stress and improves productivity
- Can see opportunities for progression more clearly
- May feel confident about a department or job change in the future
- More productive workforce with transferable skills
- Confident staff are well cared for in jobs and are likely to stay with the company for longer
- Potential candidates for more senior positions are readily available
- Proven to be an organisation that is forward-thinking, innovative and competitive
- Very attractive business to other candidates who are looking for jobs that provide development opportunities
Skills likely be most valuable in the near future
With all the talk of upskilling, we do have to ask ourselves which skills will be the most beneficial to build among our workforce. To say that tech skills will be important is an obvious understatement – employees will need to know how to tackle new developments in software, as well as other aspects of tech development such as using artificial intelligence and robotics or automation services.
There are many other skills that have been predicted very beneficial to have:
- Emotional intelligence – this is one that robots can’t and likely won’t ever be able to harness. This involves connecting with those around you, communicating well and supporting those who are struggling.
- Problem-solving – this has always been important, but will be even more so in a future that requires quick adaptation and a positive approach to change
- Creativity – robots can generally follow a pattern, but not come up with new and interesting ideas of real substance. A human brain will continue to lead on creativity.
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