The idea of upskilling isn’t new per se. In fact, training and development have long been mainstays of HR and talent management, and a full 70 percent of all HR professionals globally either ask or require employees to upskill or reskill on an ongoing basis in order to meet changing business needs, according to a recent global survey from Randstad Risesmart.

What is “upskilling,” exactly? The definition of upskilling is fairly straightforward: It can be defined as any organizational initiative designed to help employees gain new skills, competencies or knowledge relevant to their jobs. 

What is new about upskilling today, however, is the extent to which companies are experiencing acute shortages of technical skills — and that, in turn, is increasing competition for high-value employees both inside and outside of their industries. So there’s a new urgency around upskilling and reskilling. And while Randstad can always help you recruit these high-value employees, proactively upskilling or reskilling is certainly a strategy to consider, as well. 

With that in mind, the following six elements should help you advance a culture of development — and more effectively compete for top talent in an increasingly innovation-centered economy, too. 

1. planning

Where are you striving to compete in your industry today? Understanding the key areas or business challenges is important for setting the direction of your development efforts. And yet, almost four in 10 businesses don't have a plan in place to address upskilling or reskilling, according to a McKinsey report.

2. future needs 

What are your most critical future talent, skills and hiring needs? Think about general skills and traits like comfort with technology, problem solving, critical thinking and versatility, in addition to specialized skills required for your particular business or worksite. 

Bear in mind, too, that if your organization is hiring for hard-to-find STEM skills, getting ahead on upskilling is especially key. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a train-them-or-lose-them scenario with these high-value employees. 

3. upskilling resources

How well equipped is your training program to address specific skills needs? Are there any online upskill courses you could add to the mix? If so, that might be an easy win. 

Just bear in mind that training programs all too often wind up operating passively — that is, they offer a place to learn and develop, but only for those who are self-motivated and available. Don’t make the same mistake at your organization! 

4. accessibility  

How accessible do you want your upskill courses to be? Are you making training available online? Is there flexibility to fit it into the current schedule of your workforce? 

Determine what it would take to remove the “I-have-no-time” excuse, however justified, which often stands in the way and can prevent your most valuable employees from improving their skills.

5. buy-in

Is management supportive of upskilling? Learning new skills requires an investment of time from workers — time that could otherwise be spent on current work duties. That means much of the responsibility for success is in the hands of managers and other leaders. You’ll need to secure high-level buy-in, because allowing workers to develop inevitably takes time.

6. communication 

How will you communicate information about your upskill training efforts to all members of the workforce — employees and leadership alike? Don’t let your upskilling resources fall by the wayside. You’ll need a strategy to promote these new learning and development opportunities. Otherwise, they’ll wind up just collecting dust. 

Ultimately, simply offering upskill training opportunities likely won’t be enough to help you stay ahead of the curve and meet evolving skills and technology demands. So be sure to ask the right questions (starting with those outlined above), initiate key conversations early on and treat upskilling as a strategic priority. Doing so is a proven way to help you deliver more bottom-line value — both today and in the future.