personal growth is critical to company success
Talent Development

Unlocking the Power of Upskilling: Boosting Employee Engagement and Retention

July 14, 2023
Emily Vo

Kaisa Savola

July 30, 2023
Talent Development

Unlocking the Power of Upskilling: Boosting Employee Engagement and Retention

Kaisa Savola

Upskilling refers to the process of acquiring new or additional skills and knowledge to enhance one's capabilities and job performance. It is an essential ingredient in boosting employee engagement and retention within an organization. While the concept has been around for some time, it has become more vital than ever in this era of digitalization and ever-changing environments.



How is your organization approaching upskilling? How much of your organization's resources are dedicated to it? Do you genuinely believe in the benefits of upskilling, or are you simply offering learning opportunities because it's become a trend? It may surprise you to discover how many established and successful companies have yet to fully grasp the importance of upskilling in engaging and retaining a world-class workforce.


Discover the many advantages that upskilling brings, including elevated job satisfaction, a thirst for continuous learning, improved employee retention rates, and enhanced motivation. In this post, we will delve into the positive impact of upskilling on engagement and retention.

Why is employee engagement more vital than ever before?


When it comes to the most significant HR challenges you'll face this year, improving employee engagement may be the most difficult of all, but why? What's the imperative to act as soon as possible? The answers depend on whom you ask, yet the gist boils down to a phenomenon some analysts call the Great Resignation.


No matter how you look at the data, it’s clear that workers in the U.S. were and are taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reimagine how they balance career aspirations with personal time. Even before the pandemic ground everything to a halt a few years ago, the U.S. was already flush with job openings; however, there weren’t nearly enough qualified candidates to fill all of them. In some industries like aerospace and defense, an additional headache was the fact that the most talented individuals were simply retiring, and there wasn’t enough young talent in the pipeline to replace every retiree.


And this doesn’t only apply to U.S. workers –the same theme and phenomenon is being seen all over the world.


So, how does that circle back to employee engagement? Honestly, it’s better to improve the employee-employer relationship before these workers start to test the job market. Industries that, such demand a high level of technical knowledge as engineering or the healthcare field, can’t afford to wait for younger talent to mature as more workers are retiring or resigning point-blank after decades of work in some instances.


Overall, that’s the general lay of the land. You must adjust your employee development programs to the times, and upskilling or reskilling opportunities fit perfectly as viable solutions. The challenge moving forward will be to create a holistic strategy that accounts for retention as well as engagement.


A two-pronged strategy: Employee development through upskilling and a skills-based organization


We provided vital context for what may be driving the Great Resignation until this point. But the bottom line is usually where most of us end up in the HR profession, so here it is employees will move on to a better company that supports them – and they'll do it fast. And frankly, it's not about businesses plucking the best talent from their competitors with better pay and benefits. It's more along the lines of "if my job doesn't appreciate me, I'll find someone who does", or something of the sort.

If my job doesn't appreciate me, I'll find someone who does.


Transition to a skills-based organization


While there’s no way to “future-proof” a business, transitioning to a skills-based organization is one part of the formula for success because you can start from the very first point of contact with candidates, the job description. Some companies do well by focusing job roles on the results they want to achieve instead of hiring based on past work history or a particular skill that will eventually be obsolete.


The software engineering industry is well known for this challenge as the tools they rely on constantly evolve at a remarkable speed through regular updates. These updates can sometimes completely disrupt an entire industry. Just ask any digital marketing expert about the challenges they face whenever Google introduces a major change to their search algorithm.


Upskill with a clear purpose


Nevertheless, if you adopt a skills-based perspective, your workforce will be ready and willing to update their skill set because you'll already know what areas you need to improve. One concrete way is to provide visibility into the skills you expect them to have per job profile. Offering career and growth paths will help them understand and visualize potential skills gaps, driving purpose and providing content for their upskilling. Please don't wait until the next global economic crisis to start adjusting upskilling and reskilling programs because more workers are leaving their jobs every day.

One concrete way is to provide visibility into the skills you expect them to have per job profile.


Young workers, in particular, need this kind of internal support. The idea is to show them a clear career path and help them understand why they should stay with your company over the long haul. If new employees feel as if they don’t have everything they need to succeed, they will quickly move on to an employer that does. Retention costs money – the price tag is anywhere from 6-9 months’ annual salary.  


When providing your employees with training opportunities, make sure you also link the training to a task, work assignment, or project. 70% of our talent comes from applying those skills to the work we do.


Training on remote work efficiency is an excellent example of upskilling with a clear purpose that workers can immediately apply to their job roles. With respect to tech skills, never assume that young, entry-level workers will have the same proficiency in tech as their more mature counterparts, Millennials. We're talking about an entire generation that grew up alongside the rise of the internet, so leverage that wealth of experience and add a mentorship program on top of upskilling for maximum impact.


Ultimately, upskilling isn't just a way to refine our talents as technology evolves because it's also a fantastic strategy to keep employees engaged during their career journey. Upskilling programs demonstrate the company's commitment to investing in its employees' professional development, fostering loyalty, and encouraging them to stay with the organization.


Ideally, once you create a work environment continually trying to get better, you'll have a higher chance of retaining quality talent that is motivated, productive, and will have the skills to help you succeed in your digital transformation.


By using Talbit’s ready-made job profiles and future skills feature, you can help your employees assess their current skillsets and understand, what are the needed future skills that they need to be focusing on. Their personal skill gap will drive their growth in a personalized and goal-oriented way, building needed skills in an efficient and agile way.

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