Upskilling: Embracing Evolution for Industrial Revolution

It is not about how many skills you teach; it is about how well you can train your employees


The first time you do an internship at a company you see it as an opportunity to learn and grow in the industry. Towards the end of those long months, you might think: “Well at least I know the basics, now, onto the actual work-life!” Unfortunately, or fortunately, that is not how things work.

The reality is that every day is a learning experience in any industry, regardless of the number of years you have under your belt. There are hundreds of new concepts, work methodologies and economical changes which have to be integrated as time goes on. Take the COVID19 pandemic, we all had to learn how to adapt to the change in work style with the work-from-home approach. So, you can never really say for certain that training and upskilling will not be needed in the future. With that said let us get down to it.

Upskilling

What Is Workplace Training And Upskilling?

Training or Upskilling is the process of quite literally upgrading the employees’ skill set to suit a job. This can take various forms such as seminars, short YouTube video tutorials or workshops. The aim of it is to help the employee use these new found skills to do their jobs more efficiently. It is your responsibility as a business owner to ensure that they are well-trained to get the job done.

For new employees, it serves as an opportunity to gain some exposure to the industry and the inner workings of the business while training. Older employees would approach it from the point of view of someone trying to keep up and adapt.

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Quality work and results require a team of people who are well-versed in various aspects of the business. The type of training they receive will determine the outcome.

What Makes Upskilling So Important?

Apart from putting your company ahead of the competition in terms of efficient workflows, training also serves to improve other aspects of the business. This could include the rate of sales, the team dynamic and final output quality. Here are a few ways in which training and upskilling can be crucial:

Promotions and retention

Employees need to feel that an organisation is willing to go the extra mile and invest in their careers. There should be room and opportunity to grow within the walls of the company and self-improve. The more opportunities the company presents for them to participate in training the more lateral growth there is. New skills and added knowledge make for a higher chance of getting promoted which makes for a satisfying work experience. This satisfaction motivates employees to invest back into the company for longer amounts of time and the retention levels go up.

Saving time and money

Trying to find and hire the right candidate for the position is a time-intensive process, add to that the extra cost the company has to pay for their salaries and it becomes a capital-intensive process. On the other hand, if you were to upskill your existing employees to do the job, you save both time and money and improve the quality of your employee pool.

Help identify lagging areas

During the process of upskilling, you will easily be able to identify where all your employees are lagging. Once identified you can help widen those horizons and improve the overall performance of employees. If done regularly, it becomes a practice in periodical self-development.

Types of training

Different Types Of Training and Upskilling

On-boarding

Onboarding as a whole goes one step further and aims at training new employees in their specific roles in whatever area or department they may have been selected for. It could span over a number of days in the form of workshops or mentorships. This type of training is very narrow and targeted to a specific role so employees can get to work as soon as possible, in the most efficient way.

Orientation

Orientation actually falls under onboarding as one part of the process. Every company and even most institutions for that matter, have an orientation process. You may have heard of it on your first day at college where they told you all about the new curriculum and what classes to go to. That is quite similar to what you might expect in the industry. Usually conducted by the HR department during the intake process, the company seeks to educate employees on a wide range of topics.

The topics covered could include the organisational culture, the mission and vision of the company, the organisational structure, policies, office timings, admin detail distribution (logins and passwords), benefits and so on.

Technical skills

These are the skills employees will need for their jobs. They might already have them and find this training to be an opportunity to sharpen those skills. Think of them as the primary skills used on a day-to-day basis. For example, a coder might need to learn Python or Java computer languages in order to perform the task – that is a technical skill.

Soft skills

Remember those classes in high school and college about the importance of interpersonal communication? That is basically what soft skills boil down to. This type of training helps refine workplace-etiquette to enable employees to effectively communicate and work cohesively. The better the soft skills between employees, the better the corporate culture exists within that company.

Product/service training

Whenever you walk into a store to buy a new phone there is always someone who comes available to explain what that particular phone does. They explain the features, the price tag, the benefits of the device over others, warranty policies and so on. That person might even give you a demonstration of how certain features work.

This is what we call product and service training. It gives employees the skills to provide certain services to the customers including how to talk to them and it helps the employees gain a thorough knowledge of a product. This training is usually implemented in sales and during the launch of new campaigns.

Quality control

This training usually takes place in production-heavy businesses. It gives employees the skill to maintain a certain level of quality that is expected by the company or the industry. In some cases, employees will receive a quality control certification once they complete training.

Safety training

Similar to quality training, employees receive a certification once done, usually in hazardous work industries like construction sites, oil rigs, the foodservice industry and so on. The training aims to minimise work-related injuries and ensure a safe work environment for everyone.

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It is not just about equipping your team with the right skills, it is also about regularly updating those skills to match an ever-changing work environment.

How To Upskill Employees

Formulate the plan

As you might have noticed above, there are a multitude of training areas that a company could pursue, therefore, you need to identify which of those areas are of the highest priority based on the nature of your business. Once the key skill areas have been identified you can start planning. It also helps to keep in mind that people are still human and that they can usually internalise a handful of skills at a time. 

Quality over quantity is the way to go, so set an achievable number of goals. In small business, the type of training that is most often required is soft skills for those in leadership positions. This helps drive up employee retention.

Host regular sessions or seminars

Training and upskilling are not a once-in-a-blue-moon activity. It needs to happen on a regular basis so the skills are retained over a longer period of time. Companies that prioritise frequent upskilling activities like seminars and conferences hold the edge over the competition.

Use employees as trainers

Why struggle to find a trainer when you already have highly-skilled persons in the company? Peer-to-peer is often more effective than a top-down method like in school. You remember better when your classmate showed you because both of you are in the same position and understand each other’s point of view.

Mentoring or shadowing are some such examples of how this can be achieved. The new employees follow and observe the more experienced employees as they work and learn on the job. It is highly effective and saves a lot of time while easing the new candidates into the role.

Cross-train for different roles

Some organisations train their employees to do multiple job roles, for example, fast food restaurants need to have employees who excel in taking orders, interacting with customers, operating the cookware and maybe even managing the shift schedules. The point of this training is to ensure a diversification of skill and lateral growth.

It also comes in handy if, on any given day, you are short-handed. For example, when an employee calls in sick, there is always someone who can help cover that shift and keep the business running.

Use all the tools!

Training does not have to be restricted to long-winded speeches and endless workshops. In this day and age, you have access to so many platforms and multimedia tools. Use them all. You could make use of training videos, suggest interesting and immersive podcasts that employees could listen to or even share a step-by-step pamphlet that ensures flawless execution of the task. The options are endless.

The advantage of sharing virtual instructions or things like a training video is that employees can revisit them at any point in time to re-absorb the information.

Having said that, and despite the various forms of training and techniques, upskilling is often a much-underestimated aspect for most businesses. So, no matter what tool, technique or training you choose to implement, just remember this – training is an essential element in the development of a business.

Kiran Kennedy
Kiran Kennedy
Kiran was former staff at Dutch Uncles. He writes on entrepreneurship, business life cycle, small businesses and Indian startups.

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