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Employee Upskilling: The Key to Building Competitive Advantage

Employee upskilling is helping team members learn additional skills that either help them grow or prepare them for a new position in your company. Employee upskilling is more critical than ever for your teams to continue to be productive and successful

Skill sets for jobs have changed by 25 percent since 2015, and that change is expected to reach 50 percent by 2027

Upskilling helps fill skills gaps, prepare employees for leadership roles, and address other organizational needs. By investing in your employees’ development, you’re building a team of highly skilled individuals and fostering a culture of learning and growth within your organization.

Why is employee upskilling important?

In a recent LinkedIn survey, 59 percent of learning and development (L&D) managers listed upskilling as a top priority, up 15 percent from the same survey in 2020. 

Companies that prioritize upskilling employees are more competitive in a constantly-changing work environment.

As a result, they have fewer skills gaps, their employees are more agile, and they retain top talent.

Benefits of employee upskilling

The benefits of upskilling aren’t just visible in your organization’s bottom line; it’s also apparent in the career growth of your team members, improved employee retention and productivity, and more.

Increased employee engagement

Employees are on the front lines of their jobs every day, and they already know that the skills they need are changing. There are more technological tools available, more efficient processes, and more. E

Employees are already nervous about being left behind.

That’s one of the reasons an upskilling program is so important. When you invest in your team members, they’ll feel that you value their contributions and talents, which helps them be more engaged at work.

A recent Gallup survey found that engaged employees are 81 percent less likely to be absent, are 14 percent more productive, and are up to 43 percent more likely to stay with the organization. 

Read more: 9 Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement

Attract and retain talent

Your company is more attractive to a wider net of employees when you offer opportunities for them to upskill and grow professionally. In LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, 94 percent of workers said they would stay at a company longer if they invested in helping them learn.

Companies that don’t prioritize continuous learning risk losing valuable employees to other companies that offer professional advancement opportunities.

Future-proof your workforce

Skill gaps are a serious problem for today’s companies. McKinsey found that 87 percent of companies say they currently have skill gaps or expect to within a few years. 

The best way to address that gap is by offering upskilling opportunities for employees. You can target your training by identifying the skills most necessary for each department and ensuring that you train those teams accordingly. 

Read more: 6 Skill Development Tactics for Successful Teams

Another essential element of future-proofing is preparing a strong leadership bench for future promotion opportunities. Only 11 percent of HR leaders felt they have a strong bench in 2020, and many managers and executives feel they don’t have the skills they need to be effective.

When you consistently focus on upskilling efforts, you can address these needs.

Stay ahead of competitors

There’s no market where you aren’t at consistent risk due to competitors. Other companies in your industry are constantly innovating and looking for ways to capture the best talent, create the best products, and support their customers in the best way possible.

The only way to keep up is to build a robust upskilling L&D program. Understanding what skills your team members need, where they can improve, and how the L&D department can support that growth is vital.

When you create a culture of growth in your organization, not only will you innovate better and stay creative, your team will understand your investment in them and will be less likely to go to a competitor.

Build a skilled team and reach business goals

At the end of the day, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. The goal is to increase revenue and profitability year after year. 

The best way to achieve these goals is to have a skilled team and encourage employees to always grow and learn new skills to help them keep up with change and excel in today’s market.

When you offer a variety of upskilling opportuntities, you’ll create a culture of learning that will help your company reach its goals consistently over time.

How to build an employee upskilling program

Upskilling employees effectively takes a strategic approach. Fortunately, there are specific steps you can follow to create a program that benefits both your team and your organization’s long-term goals.

Perform a skills gap analysis to determine needs

The first step is to conduct an assessment or skills gap analysis to understand where the most significant knowledge gaps lie. 

A skills assessment should include:

  • Employee self-assessments and team assessments. Ask employees to evaluate their own skillset and the skillsets of the whole team. Ask them specific questions like, “What skills do you feel you or the team are missing to do your job effectively?” 
  • Evaluations of their work. Evaluate your employees’ past tasks and projects to assess their skill level. Ask yourself, “What qualifications would make their work stronger?”
  • Simulations or test scenarios to determine their competency. Practice solving problems using simulations or real-life business scenarios. Evaluate the skills team members use to work toward a resolution. If there are skills they need but aren’t equipped with, having them work through a real-life example can bring them to light.
  • A clear understanding of organizational skills gaps. Beyond determining how each employee is doing, work with HR leaders to understand what skills are needed in the organization and where the weaknesses are.

This information will be foundational to the upskilling process and the learning content you use to reach your goals. 

Create employee growth plans

The next step is to determine what employee goals are in terms of career growth. Then you can match employees with specific skill development plans that match the company’s needs.

Matching individual and organizational needs can be challenging, but it becomes much more manageable if you plan to do it from the start.

Have each manager create employee career plans for each team member and then match the skills needed on those plans with the skills needed within the organization. 

This will allow you to keep individual growth and company objectives in sync.


With skills identified and individuals matched to specific needs within the organization, it’s time to look at different types of upskilling training. 

Coaching and mentorship are effective ways to help employees gain additional skills, and you’re developing both participants at once. Both parties gain more confidence and learn how to relate better to others. Often, a mentee has a perspective that helps the mentor see things differently, so the learning isn’t one-sided either. 

Coaching and mentorship can also boost employee engagement and help team members better understand each other’s roles. 

Create a culture of learning

A culture of learning is the opposite of a rigid culture where no one feels like they can experiment, grow, or fail. Learning is about gaining new skills, practicing them, and gradually gaining mastery.

A strong employee upskilling program is a big part of creating a learning culture because you’re helping your employees gain new skills, encouraging them to experiment, try new things, and learn how to rebound from failure.

Take advantage of learning platforms

A learning platform is a tool that lets you create personalized training for your employees based on the skills they need for their roles. It enables you to develop training that focuses on precisely what your employees need to know to help them improve their performance. 

For example, presentation skills are necessary for successful sales teams. With a  platform like the Learning Cloud from WorkRamp, you can create training designed to improve presentation skills. In addition, you can use the resources and knowledge you already have and add visuals, videos, examples, and additional reading material to enhance training content. 

Plus, it’s convenient for employees because they can sign up for courses and work through them at their own pace, as it fits into their schedule. 

Encourage manager feedback

As employees grow, it’s essential for managers to offer both positive and constructive feedback on how the new skill implementation is going. This encourages employees to keep trying and helps them do better in their daily work.

Provide opportunities for employees to apply new skills

One of the best ways to cement a new skill is to use it regularly in day-to-day work. When opportunities arise, find ways to assign employees to projects that stretch from their usual comfort zone.

For example, someone learning leadership skills might be in charge of a project where they need to manage other team members, or someone working on data analytics might be tasked with understanding efficiencies in a particular department.

“Look for any ways you can to encourage learners to revisit content in an applied setting. This helps learners recall the information and also gives them that self-awareness that puts them in the application mindset of how to apply what they’ve learned in their specific role.”


Jen Scopo, Instructional Design Manager, WorkRamp

Track learning progress over time

Finally, you want to ensure that your upskilling program positively impacts employee growth and company goals, so you need to measure results.

You can track how well employees are doing with new skills using the same methods you used to assess skill gaps—you might consider the second round a “post-test” to ensure that gaps have been filled.

When you need to show the contribution of L&D to the organization, you can use these results to show the improvement that resulted from the upskilling program.

How WorkRamp can help with employee upskilling

As you look at different training options, you’ll realize that you need a learning platform to serve as the foundation for your employee upskilling and development. The best option is to choose one that allows you to create training for multiple functions, from sales enablement to employee development to customer education.

With the Learning Cloud, you can upskill employees with engaging, easy-to-use training modules and apply the same process to any other training needs in your organization, including sales and customer training.

Ready to get started? Contact us for a free, personalized demo today. 

Complete the form for a custom demo.

Anna Spooner

WorkRamp Contributor

Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action. 

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