How to Upskill a Team For the Long Term

Upskilling your employees remains one of the most effective ways to future-proof your business, retain top talent, and maximise the potential of your workforce. But with hybrid and remote work now the standard, the way we train and lead teams has fundamentally changed. 

So how should managers approach upskilling for the long-term? Well, luckily for you, we’re just about to answer that very question. Read on to find out how to upskill a team and build a learning strategy that:

    • Equips your staff — and your business — with the skills they need to survive and thrive in an ever-changing world
    • Provides your business with the flexibility, adaptability, and resilience to withstand any operational or business changes that can (and probably will) come
    • Balances business goals with human goals
    • Makes the upskilling experience engaging and fun

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Know the difference between upskilling and reskilling

It should come as no surprise that upskilling and reskilling aren’t the same thing — they are two different words, after all. But given that we’re basing this entire blog on how valuable upskilling is, let’s get the definitions clear.

Upskilling is all about building on your employees’ existing skill sets, equipping them with the knowledge and know-how they need to perform better in their current position, while closing organisational skills gaps. For example, to be more effective at their work going forward, a software engineer might need to learn more about emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.

Reskilling is about training and developing employees to do an entirely new role, using an entirely new skill set. We know, it sounds counterintuitive, but stick with us here. For example, our software engineer friend might want to retrain in digital marketing or social media. Reskilling naturally represents a bigger risk and investment than upskilling — as employees are effectively taking a career u-turn — so ensuring that they have the desire and potential needed is a good place to start.

Both upskilling and reskilling are effective strategies for future-proofing your business against change while maximising the talent you have available. That being said, upskilling is particularly crucial in helping employees achieve their personal development plans. From a purely practical perspective, some amount of upskilling is also necessary to keep employees up to date with the latest industry-related trends and developments. In a rapidly changing world, those who learn nothing new will soon find that their skills become outdated.

Further reading: For a more in-depth look at upskilling, reskilling, and the differences between the two, check out this article we wrote — What is Upskilling and Reskilling? And Why Employees Should Care.


Rethink what even needs upskilling

So, we’ve established that upskilling is important. But now we have a rather important question to consider: what skills should we prioritise for upskilling? Given that we all have limited time and resources, getting this answer right is absolutely critical. 

Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast answer to that question. The answer depends on all sorts of variables to do with your company, industry, and team. We know, we know, we’re sorry! Let’s compromise: here are some general pointers to consider when deciding which skills to prioritise. 

First of all, don’t underestimate the importance and power of soft skills. While it’s always important to revisit hard skills, as technology, processes, and best practices evolve, soft skills are just as important. 

In fact, there’s a good argument to say that soft skills are more important, with research suggesting that 85% of job success is the result of well-developed soft skills, with only 15% (yes, we’re maths geniuses) coming from technical know-how. 

On top of that, soft skills are perhaps more important than ever, given that they help break down the barriers that come with the hybrid and remote workplace. Your team might be used to making a sale, collaborating on an important project or leading a team face-to-face, but transferring that to a Zoom call can be tricky without solid soft skills training.

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Put yourself in their shoes

Not literally. That would be weird. But metaphorically speaking, absolutely. As a manager, it can be tempting to see upskilling through a purely business lens, focusing on the positive impact it has on business practices and outcomes. But what about the people it affects directly? 

While business goals are obviously important, they shouldn’t be prioritised solely when deciding what needs upskilling. You should also take into account human factors, ensuring that any strategy is tailored to your team’s individual needs, skills, and goals. 

Upskilling is a powerful way to improve employee morale and foster a positive, motivational, and supportive workplace culture. This encourages employees to become better at what they do, making them feel like valued members of a team. But for this to work, you have to give your employees learning materials that are engaging, informative, fun, and — perhaps most importantly — customisable. Because, you know, everyone’s different. That’s a good one, is that Socrates?

Suggested reading: Searching for more tips on how to deliver a successful upskilling strategy? Look no further. Check out this article about The 4 Best Ways to Upskill Your Employees.

Succession planning

When a key member of your team leaves the business, how do you fill the gap left behind? While recruiting externally can work, it is notoriously expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to get right, potentially leaving you with key positions left vacant. 

For this reason, it makes sense to fill critical roles internally by helping existing employees to learn and develop new skills. But to do that seamlessly, you have to identify potential successors and ensure that they are capable of stepping up when needed. This is known as succession planning — and naturally, upskilling plays a big part in ensuring its success. 

Really, succession planning should be seen as a development process rather than a replacement process. The aim here is to develop employees’ skill sets sufficiently so that they can take on a new role with confidence. But learning is an ongoing process, not a one-off event. A one-off event was that office party where Jane spilled vodka on the barbecue. Only indoor drinks from now on.

As a manager, your role here is to identify people with a growth mindset and the motivation to step up to more senior roles, then have ongoing discussions around how best to prepare them, focusing on the soft and hard skills needed. You then have to make sure you have the right learning materials to make the process successful and enjoyable.

While this represents a significant investment on the part of the company, succession planning is an excellent way to ensure continuity and build a culture of professional development, loyalty, and mutual success.

Use a solution that’s all about long-lasting learning

Although some upskilling can happen through face-to-face learning, mentoring, or external training courses, your employees should be able to dive into their learning pathways whenever and wherever suits them — and that means providing them with learning content that is effective and flexible. 

At Video Arts, we also believe that the best learning content is infused with humour and delivered through the art of video — which is why we work with some of the most recognisable faces in British comedy to deliver learning videos that balance being laugh-out-loud funny with being highly informative and flexible.

Not only does this approach make continuous learning naturally engaging and fun, it also helps people remember what they learned, enabling upskilling for the long term. Pretty good, right? 

So, over to you. If you are planning on upskilling your team and would like to see the power of our learning content for yourself, all you have to do is get in touch.

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¹ The Soft Skills Disconnect

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