December 6, 2022

Turnover-Proof Your Organization Through Upskilling

Over the course of the pandemic, business leaders have realized that the skills their organizations will need in the future are not the same ones that were required in the past. A report from Australia projects that the jobs market in 2030 will require, among other things, more verbal communication and interpersonal skills, more critical thinking skills, less need for routine work, and fewer management skills. As the workplace shifts, we’re already seeing a need for different skills emerging across the business spectrum.

There are three key ways businesses can manage skills shortages: hire new talent, reskill current staff, or upskill employees. 

Hire, Reskill, or Upskill?

Hiring someone who already possesses the skills you need may be the most obvious way for an organization to acquire needed skills. But hiring is getting harder. Due to record unemployment and the effects of the Great Resignation, there are simply fewer people available to hire. And applicants who do apply often don’t have the ideal skill set for the job.

Reskilling is important, but it’s not the most flexible option. Training an employee to do a completely different job can be valuable, especially if the employee is invested in making a switch and the organization needs them in a completely new role. But it’s best suited for specific situations; it’s not realistic or cost-effective for large numbers of employees.

Upskilling is universally helpful — and much more flexible — than either hiring or reskilling. Upskilling, or training an employee to develop additional skills over time so they can take on new tasks or step into a more elevated role, is the most cost-effective, scalable option for growing your talent.

Upskilling is a Non-Negotiable

In today’s climate, upskilling is imperative. Salary constraints leave little choice but to invest in hiring and training employees so they can fill more skilled roles. Other key factors driving the need to upskill the workforce are the increased use of automation, a decreased availability of talent due to falling unemployment, and an aging workforce.

“To upskill or not to upskill is no longer the question,” states the 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). “CEOs who have embraced the potential of upskilling are realising the rewards, such as a stronger corporate culture, greater innovation and higher workforce productivity.”

The Upskilling Mindset

Every time you hire someone, assign an employee a new task, or consider a team member for a promotion or new position, ask whether the person has the capacity to learn the skills that will allow them to fill the role you’re envisioning for them.

This mindset — always asking what an employee can do next — serves not only the needs of the organization but the needs of the employee. Asking this question assumes your organization is willing to invest in training your employees so they can learn the necessary skills to fill important roles; it assumes you are committed to investing in upskilling.

Developing Your Upskilling Program

One of the big benefits of upskilling is that it’s not a one-and-done effort. It’s a sustained program to help workers improve their skills to make them eligible for more challenging tasks. But a sustained program requires a big effort: your organization needs to develop something that’s meaningful and that really delivers.

First, assess your organization’s needs. What skills gaps are present? What positions or tasks are empty or lacking? Focus your training on the areas that need the most attention. 

Once you identify what people need to learn, you can adopt outside training programs and  incorporate them into your employee experience. Or, if your needs are more specific, your organization can create its own program using in-house talent or the skills of a contractor.

Integrate your upskilling program into performance and advancement goals. If upskilling is part of job expectations from the start, you’ll be more likely to capture employee enthusiasm.

Assess the impact of the trainings, determining the impact of new skills acquisition through employee feedback and ROI metrics. When you know how the program is performing, you’ll be more prepared to improve it over time.

A Culture of Learning

An effective upskilling program will empower your employees by giving them autonomy over their work-related learning. Giving employees flexibility and choice and establishing individualized learning plans will help create a culture of learning. Investing in employee-centered skills development communicates that you care about a vital learning environment in the workplace.

Offering a variety of formats for ongoing learning gives employees choices and caters to a variety of learning styles. Try lunchtime learning series, seminars and workshops, conferences, virtual courses, and one-on-one mentoring. 

Finally, don’t put the onus for learning work-related skills on the employee. Offer paid, on-the-clock time for them to learn. 

A Culture of Change

Your hard-won upskilling program won’t make much of an impact if your employees can’t see how it impacts their own careers and the organization at large.

As you’re developing your program, ask employees what skills they want to learn and include them in your program. Though you need to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of employees, having an open-door approach will encourage participation. And if something is amiss, don’t wait until a mass exodus to find out what people need. Ask what skills and support people need — and then take action.

And make sure you get the word out: when upskilling positively impacts your work environment, communicate with employees so they know how it’s going and how their new skills are making things better for the whole organization.


Upskilling is a must. Hiring and reskilling are not enough when it comes to filling skills gaps in your organization. An integrated upskilling program provides your employees with ongoing skills training that allows them to take on more challenging projects and allows the organization to fill roles that require specific skills.

Let employees know that upskilling is part of the deal. If employees expect you to invest in their performance, they’re likely to display more engagement, innovation, and loyalty. Skills training will also help you attract talent.

Start now. It takes time. Establishing an upskilling program requires resources, time, and commitment. Be aware that this is a long game: you’ll need time to allocate funding, incentivize workers, and to engage an internal team or contractor. 

Hire a consultant to launch an upskilling program. If you bring in an outside contractor, you can cut back on the time your internal team will need to dedicate to the project. A consulting firm can survey employees, meet with leadership, develop and launch a training program, assess the results, and make one-time or ongoing recommendations about how to get the most from your upskilling program. 

“As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Jairus Rice

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Stacy Steck

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Joanna Briese

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Nissa Burger

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Ben Robinson

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Stephanie Telander

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Chi Underwood

Chi Underwood

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Associates of Art’s in Liberal Arts & Sciences 


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Project Management Professional certification; PMI Agile Certified Practitioner 


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Steve is a distinguished consultant with experience in human services delivery, financing, policy development, and executive leadership in the government and non-profit sectors. He specializes in “How did he do that?” problem solving outcomes. 



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Wendy LD Helling

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