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Skill up or get left behind: Why upskilling your employees is critical in 2024



In the rapidly evolving post-COVID-19 job market, an employee upskilling, reskilling and skilling strategy is a must-have for many companies.

Megan O’Connor, the vice president of strategic partnerships at Chegg Skills, broke down the differences between skilling, upskilling and reskilling in an episode of the HRMorning podcast “Voices of HR.”

“Skilling is a great benefit for somebody to enter into a job that they might not previously have any expertise in, (to) be able to learn on the job and start making money. … Reskilling is really a way to kick-start your career in a new field. So let’s say maybe you work within an organization as an hourly shift worker and they have an educational benefit program. You can … learn a new set of skills and pivot your career to something more aligned with a sector that’s taking off that has lots of opportunity for in-demand jobs,” she said.

“We think about upskilling as (when) you’re starting to emerge into the middle skill area of your career. And that’s where you’re starting to tune up … you’re learning things. … So upskilling is more of a lifelong path. You’re never going to stop upskilling if you want to continuously be relevant for the jobs that are necessary and the opportunities that are available to you today.”

According to O’Connor, 81% of workers are interested in skills training funded by employers. So upskilling – learning while working – is a key component for attracting and retaining talent right now.

For executive leaders who have concerns that investing in employee training will just lead to top talent leaving to go work somewhere else, she suggested that providing internal career pathways and room for advancement, showing employees they have a future within the company, is the answer.

“Our research shows that employees want to skill to advance the career that they’re on within the corporation that they currently work for,” O’Connor said. “They stay at their jobs if they can see themselves becoming better at it.”

Listen to the full episode here

Upskilling strategy

It’s up to HR to start developing a robust strategy that considers their organization’s immediate workforce needs, as well as the evolving job landscape.

“You’re going to be doing a lot of hiring that you haven’t done previously because of where we are in the world of AI. … The fastest way to get the talent you need into those new emerging roles is to train the talent you already have. It’s also a lot cheaper. And so thinking about what are the jobs of tomorrow that your company is going to need to succeed, work backward in terms of acquiring the … skilling programs you’re going to need to fulfill those roles and then recruit from within.”

O’Connor also recommended getting input from your managers on your skilling, reskilling and upskilling strategy. “Managers know what talent that they would continue to invest in. They know what talent is interested in raising their hand and doing more. And managers also know what they’re lacking in terms of the current knowledge of the workforce that they are overseeing,” she said.

Because one of the biggest obstacles to implementing skilling strategies is budget constraints, it’s important to align your skilling strategies with the organization’s business goals to get executive buy-in.

Watch the full episode here

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