How Upskilling Helps with Employee Engagement and Recruiting


The winners of the Great Resignation will prove they truly care about their people, and upskilling will be one of the big demonstrations of this characteristic. Engaging employees and attracting recruits depends on an employer’s willingness to prepare people for the future of work.

WATCH: HR and Future of Work

In the latest HR Exchange Network State of HR Report, 35% of respondents said transforming training and development efforts are among top priorities to improve culture. The third most popular priority for investment among HR leaders was a learning management system. And more than 40% of respondents are keeping the online learning that was added to their organization during the pandemic.

Closing the skills gap was among the biggest problems for 5% of HR leaders who responded to the State of HR report, and 7% said employee engagement is challenged by the lack of career pathing. In addition, 9% said developing future preparedness was among their top priorities.

READ: State of HR Report

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling, which is defined by Merriam-Webster as providing someone, such as an employee, with more advanced skills through additional education and training, is the answer to many of these challenges and concerns.

“One of the best strategies for finding and retaining top talent is through increased diversity and internal career development, according to experts. That means broadening the search for people and then offering them opportunities to learn new skills throughout their time working for the organization,” according to CNBC.

In fact, the Association for Talent Development says that improving the skill sets of employees boosts productivity, lowers turnover, and improves employee satisfaction rates. Employers continue to face tremendous challenges, including the continuing pandemic and a historic labor shortage. Recognizing the value in offering upskilling opportunities can give you an edge in the war for talent.

Learning and development is also a way to have an eye on the future. More than 90% of executives think that American workers aren’t as skilled as they need to be, according to Adecco, a talent network. Nearly half feel they are missing out on growth opportunities, 34% feel product development is suffering, and 30% think company profits are being hurt.

WATCH: Recruiting and Talent Acquisition

Learning and Development as a Tool of Employee Engagement

In addition to potentially improving business outcomes, investing in learning and development of employees aids in developing a positive work culture.

“Upskilling is a longer-term investment in augmenting the knowledge, skills, and competencies that help employees advance their careers,” according to Harvard Business Review.

Some employers have been skittish about providing employees with knowledge that might take them away from their current role and the organization. But HR leaders are saying that this line of thinking is outdated, especially now that employees and recruits have all the leverage in the hiring process.

Case Studies in Upskilling

HBR points to insurance company John Hancock, which offers personal and professional development courses through its Pursuit Learning Hub. While managers might suggest courses to employees that could help them perform on relevant projects, employees are free to study any subject that interests them.

Gartner suggests employers look at closing the skills gap and providing opportunities for upskilling in tandem. In its report with TalentNeuron, Gartner suggests tapping into your own talent pool to see if anyone has skills that are adjacent to the ones you’re looking for.

READ: How to Make Lifelong Learning Part of Your Company Culture

“If organizations remove the constraints of traditional role definitions, they can look for employees with skills that don’t match the exact skills required for a particular role,” according to the research. “For example, organizations could target employees with the more common skill of Python to upskill rather than focus on acquiring the rarer, more expensive skill of natural language processing (NLP).”

Certainly, this approach means that HR leaders can look at one division of their business to fill openings in another seemingly unrelated part of the company. In addition, employees and recruits will see the company’s willingness to invest in their growth. They will see the opportunity to move up and survive the future.

Ultimately, forward-minded individuals and organizations recognize the need for new skills in a world with constantly advancing technology and a transforming work culture. Investing in upskilling is a way to address the needs of the future and improve employee engagement. It’s not a bad recruiting tool either. Clearly, learning never gets old.  

Photo by Zen Chung for Pexels

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