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Every day is a chance to learn something new. And today’s workforce relishes the chance to learn as much as possible on the job.

According to data from people-success platform Glint, the opportunity to learn and grow was the top driver of a dynamic work culture and an exceptional work environment in 2020 — up eight spots from 2019.1 In fact, employees who strongly appreciate their work cultures are 25% more likely to be happy at work and 31% more likely to recommend their organization to other professionals. Learning and development are especially appealing to younger workers and highlight how education for employees can be a valuable retention tool.

Two such education opportunities, upskilling and reskilling, are on-the-job examples of better engaging workers while giving them the chance to broaden their professional skill sets. Both provide employers avenues to help employees grow within their organizations while maintaining a stable workforce in this ever-changing business ecosystem.

When you provide employees with education and development opportunities, it shows that you’re invested in them. They’ll feel valued, energized, and prepared to harness and apply their new skills to better your company.

Revamping Your Approach
In today’s battle to retain top talent, businesses can make a difference by closing skill gaps within their organization. Employees want training and learning opportunities that can help them prepare to grow and take on new responsibilities.

Enter upskilling and reskilling, each of which offer the chance to acquire the knowledge to take on those challenges.

Upskilling focuses on helping people become more knowledgeable and develop new skills that impact their current position. People might upskill if they want to be promoted to a new role but don’t have the necessary skills or if they need to learn something new in a pinch if downsizing occurs.

Reskilling preps employees to switch roles and move into new positions within the organization. This could be a byproduct of a role change or a role reshuffling due to streamlining operations or hierarchy changes.

It’s estimated that by 2024, 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling, while 94% of business leaders expect their workers to pick up new skills.2 Upskilling and reskilling allow employees to learn various skills in multiple learning environments, be it online, in class, or on the job. According to Ben Austin, founder and CEO of Absolute Digital Media, microlearning and soft skills development are two of the most critical and growing employee training trends.3

Soft skills development can be just as useful, increasing productivity and connections with co-workers and clients, and allowing them to become a vital part of the team. Putting them into effective practice is an important step, but not one that’s easily done.

Improving Your Employee Retention Strategy With Reskilling and Upskilling
Here are a few suggestions for building an organic and valuable array of upskilling and reskilling opportunities that engage current and future employees:

1. Prioritize the skills your employees will need.
The goal is to find the skills gap(s) in your company — the difference (or gap) between one’s current state and a desired future state4. The skills gap analysis is a method for HR to determine which skills and knowledge are lacking among the team. HR can then remedy the situation through training, retraining, L&D investment decisions, succession planning, and other means.

A manager meeting can be held by HR to explain the process of analyzing teamwide and companywide skills gaps. Hiring an external evaluator to conduct a skills gap analysis is another option, which will make the process more objective and free up staff time for other purposes.

2. Evaluate all the resources you have available.
The upheaval of the past few years has caused companies to be much more methodical with their budgets. This newfound frugality has spurred hiring managers to prioritize retraining existing employees above recruiting new workers.

And for good reason: Global industry analyst Josh Bersin says hiring externally costs up to six times more than upskilling and reskilling current employees.Several cost-effective resources are available to help upskill or reskill your team.

Our company has invested in a learning management system that empowers employees to pick up new skills on their own time. We also partner with online universities to provide people free access to online courses for those who want to sharpen an existing skill or learn a whole new one. And any company can develop a tuition-reimbursement program to encourage team members to further their education without worrying about the financial undertaking.

The money saved through additional education opportunities can be used for other retention strategies, such as increased compensation or more expansive benefits packages.

3. Carefully consider the company’s future.
Some businesses claim that they have problems filling positions due to skill gaps. Others, however, contend that skill gaps result from unreasonable expectations. Answer the following two questions:

• What abilities do we, as a firm, value?

• What skills do our employees need now and in the future to execute their jobs well?

Think about your company’s job descriptions, business objectives, and values. Look for areas to cross-train team members, not only to expand their skill sets but to continue business as usual when attrition arises. Consider what new capabilities your organization might want in the coming years. You might also poll team members to see what talents they believe are lacking and start your training there.

The more learned your employees are, the more they bring back to your company and help it reach new heights. Look at upskilling and reskilling as opportunities to take a greater interest in your teams’ growth and position your company to entice those workers to stay on. Once they’re able to apply their newfound skills to your organization, everyone will benefit.

    Susan Baxter is the senior vice president of HR at Integrity Staffing Solutions, a full-service staffing agency that ranks in the top 2% of agencies across the country for quality service based on ClearlyRated’s “Best of Staffing” client survey.

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