Upskilling 101: 5 Things HR Needs to Know About Upskilling

Tammy Cohen, PHR, SHRM-CP

January 24 2023

The Digital Revolution has made an undeniable impact on the world of work, and it will only continue to reshape our jobs and businesses by increasing the skills gap. This shows in the noticeable increase in the skills gap over the past year reported by nearly one-third of employers. Maintaining a competitive edge requires companies to adapt their approach to closing this gap. The common solution – hiring more workers – is a costly and temporary fix. Companies who want to see a long-term, effective decrease in the skills gap must prioritize upskilling. Here’s what HR needs to know about upskilling.

What is Upskilling, and Why is It Important?

Upskilling is a business strategy that aims to close the skills gap by training current employees. When implementing a successful upskilling program, a company first defines its skills gap by comparing the skills they currently have with the skills they need. Then, it builds a program based on its needs and the current status of each employee’s growth.

Techniques used in upskilling programs include online courses, lunch and learn sessions, mentorship, and microlearning. Business leaders and HR professionals should be strategic about which techniques they use to determine the most effective plan. For example, many jobs in the manufacturing industry require highly specialized skills, so a thorough and hands-on approach to training like mentorship is highly beneficial.

Implementing an upskilling program is not only a great way to close the skills gap; it also improves retention by making employees feel valued. A 2021 study of over 32,000 workers found that 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain. 

Moreover, 40% of technologists who are leaving their current jobs cite a lack of room for career growth as their reason for leaving, while 33% of them are leaving due to a lack of opportunities to learn new skills. The evidence is clear: if HR wants to retain employees, it needs to support employees by offering plenty of room for growth.

5 Things HR Needs to Know About Upskilling

It doesn’t have to be expensive

Few companies have enough wiggle room in their budgets to implement costly and elaborate upskilling strategies. Luckily, they don’t have to. Providing a list of free educational resources, utilizing the vast arsenal of videos available on YouTube, and hosting lunch and learn sessions are some of the many options companies have to keep the price of upskilling low (if not free). For businesses that have the resources to budget more towards upskilling, there are plenty of reasonably priced platforms that will curate a training program for employees.

As the world becomes more digitized, the availability of free or low-cost educational resources grows. This makes for a strong ROI because companies can build a more skilled and loyal workforce without breaking the bank. The greatest investment a company will put into implementing an upskilling plan is time, but it’s worth it. A team of dedicated employees who reduce the need to constantly rehire is one of the most valuable assets a company can have.

Make it personal

Upskilling will never be simple as calling all employees into a training meeting or sending the same videos to every employee, regardless of their department or position. Making employees feel valued and like they have a future at the company is a key part of what makes upskilling successful. Chances are, a sales employee will not feel this way if they learn that they receive the same generic training as a software engineer.

A successful upskilling program relies on every department head being informed and prompted to build a personal training plan for each unique member of their team. Department heads need to work with each employee to assess their current strengths, weaknesses, and goals. Only after this step will a company begin to build an employee training program that truly makes a difference.

The process should be ongoing

Making upskilling a one-time effort is another way to ensure that a company’s upskilling strategy will not work. Companies must think long-term if they want to receive lasting results. A good way to maintain an ongoing process is by coming up with a five-year plan, during which a business clearly defines the skills its employees should have in the ideal near-future. Then, it solidifies buy-in by communicating its intent to build a lasting, continuous learning strategy to all department heads and employees.

Communication is key

A company’s training plan is only as good as its communication. If an employee currently wishes to work for a company where they receive plenty of learning and growth opportunities, it’s likely that they will begin to look for other options if they feel like their current company does not provide this support. For upskilling initiatives to be successful, organizations must be transparent every step of the way. Employees need to know exactly why, how, and when upskilling initiatives will be implemented.

Employees are the core of every upskilling program

Perhaps the most important element of an upskilling program is the workforce itself. Employees who do not have strong power skills, such as a willingness to learn, critical thinking skills, and a knack for collaboration, are unlikely to reap the same benefits from training as those who do. It’s not easy for a business to make up for a lack of power skills within its current staff. 

However, HR professionals impact the long-term effects of their companies’ upskilling efforts by consistently improving and evolving their hiring strategies. By prioritizing power skills and using tools like background checks to verify candidates’ educational, employment, and criminal histories, HR professionals get one step closer to building and maintaining a team of dedicated employees who are eager to succeed.

Get the Best Results with Informed Hiring Decisions

Ideally, companies could implement upskilling immediately with their current workforce to completely negate the need to hire. Realistically, a lasting and effective upskilling strategy must be made in conjunction with a strong hiring strategy. This consists of not only vetting candidates during the interview process but also confirming their attributes through a trusted third party.

InfoMart, a PBSA-certified background screening company, has more than three decades of experience helping HR professionals find the right candidates. Our full suite of screening services allows companies to build customizable solutions that best fit their needs. Hiring the right candidates is the first step to building a fruitful upskilling strategy, so don’t wait.

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About Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen, an industry pioneer and expert in identity and employment screening, founded InfoMart 30 years ago. Deemed the “Queen of Screen,” she’s been a force behind industry-leading innovations. She was most recently the first-to-market with a fully compliant sanctions search, as well as a suite of identity services that modernizes talent onboarding. Tammy revolutionized the screening industry when she stepped into the field, developing the first client-facing application and a due diligence criminal search that has since become standard for all background screening companies. Cohen has received national awards and honors for her business and civic involvement, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Top 25 Women-Owned Firms in Atlanta, Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia’s Kathryn Woods Racial Justice Award, and a commendation in the 152nd Congressional Record.

About InfoMart

InfoMart has been revolutionizing the global background and identity screening industry for 30 years, providing businesses the information they need to make informed hiring decisions. They develop innovative technology that modernizes talent onboarding, including a first-to-market biometric identity authentication application and a verified sanctions search. The WBENC-certified company is a founding member of the Professional Background Screening Association, and they have achieved PBSA accreditation in recognition of their consistent business practices and commitment to compliance with the FCRA. The company is dedicated to customer service, speed, and accuracy, and it has been recognized for its success, workplace culture, and corporate citizenship with over 45 industry awards. To Get the Whole Story on InfoMart, please visit, follow @InfoMartUSA, or call (770) 984-2727.

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