How to effectively upskill your employees

Posted on 4/06/2019 by Jay Banghar


The promising employee that you hired years ago is no longer delivering results for your company. Is it because of a poor work attitude and a deterioration in performance? In today’s world, it is just as likely that there is no longer a need for his or her job - due to technological advancement, market and industry changes or business transformation among other factors. To serve evolving business needs today, the role of HR must go beyond preparing employees for a single role.

One key reason why companies should invest in workers’ employability is due to the increasing importance placed on individual skills, and the long-term payoffs that building an employee’s skill set can bring. In short, finding the right hires means little if what the employee is learning becomes irrelevant within a few years.


What is the best way to go about upskilling your employees? It varies from employee to employee, but a career-focused and resourceful starting point is advisable.

Focus on the long-term career development of your employees by aligning their aspirations with suitable company training schemes. This maximises the effectiveness of such an implementation, and allows employees to take charge of their training purpose.

It is also important to be aware of the limitations in resources available for training. Arrange training schedules prudently, and utilise in-house talent where possible to save costs.  

Industry awareness

Understanding the most important skills for your employees to possess is paramount. Although it can be hard to pin down any one essential, timeless skill set, you can minimise risk by teaching transferable skills such as basic data analysis, which is increasingly made use of across many business functions.

Analysing trends in the industry and market is necessary to determine the continuous relevance of any one skill upgrade. Take HR itself as an example: is it still worth training talent acquisition specialists when artificial intelligence is taking over the initial screening process? This could depend on a number of factors such as the number of candidates to filter, the importance of assessing the candidate’s soft skills, and so on. Monetary cost, as always, would be an important consideration.

Monitor status

Set targets and assessment criteria for candidates at each stage of development. From the newest to the most experienced employee, include them all in a system to determine how far they have progressed towards the ideal stage of experience for their respective jobs. This serves as an internal method of tracking employee status, and can be classified by their need for attention, for example: ‘Needs Training’, ‘In Training’ or ‘Sufficiently Trained’. It is also advisable to benchmark the practice against industry standards to ensure relevance.   

Millennial preferences

The target audience for training now comprises millennials to a significant extent. Their preferences differ from the baby boomer generation, for example, preferring rotational and overseas assignments to being closeted in one job type, working with digitalisation, work flexibility, etc. The implications for training are that the target audience could learn better through microlearning (delivering content in short bursts where learners are in control of the learning pace), online material and off-the-job training. However, everyone has unique ways of learning and not all millennials fit perfectly into this typecast.

HR is the most directly responsible for employees’ fit in the company - and now, employees’ fit in the market. Although it can be tempting to leave employees to the natural churn of the job market, in the long term employees will remember the company where they were able to learn and grow the most as an employee and as a person, because one can never know what skills will come in handy in the complex myriad of responsibilities in 21st century jobs.