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Upskilling as an Employee Retention Strategy

Employee retention justification

Like many other employee retention practices recently, upskilling has gone from a nice-to-have in the workplace to a need-to-have. HR professionals and managers alike are realizing that in order to stay ahead, they must turn their company into a talent magnet – one that attracts new talent and doesn’t let them go. Upskilling has become a pivotal factor in the creation of that kind of workplace.

But wait, what’s upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of continually educating team members by reinforcing learned skills and teaching new ones that either relate to their current position or a potential future one. Your dedication to helping team members learn more keeps them engaged and boosts their productivity as they improve at the tasks they do every day.

The fact is that employees are almost always looking ahead; they want to use their current position and skill set to rise to a higher position down the road. You wouldn’t attend a college that doesn’t lead to a graduation, and neither will employees take a position that doesn’t lead to a promotion or positive lateral movement. It’s great for the individual, but it will hurt an organization’s average employee retention numbers.

Your goal is to ensure that when your team members are ready to seek a new position that better reflects their experience or desired interests, they look within your organization rather than elsewhere. Creating a dedicated upskilling strategy will encourage them to stick with the company that gave them the education to move forwards and upwards in the first place. Thus, employee retention is improved as productivity increases.

Statistics reveal how important upskilling is: 94% of respondents to a LinkedIn Learning Report would stay with a company longer if they invested in staff development such as career coaching, training, and education opportunities. Similarly, 93% of millennial and Gen-Z workers expect employers to provide learning opportunities. The oldest millennials are approaching 40, which means the millennial/Gen-Z demographic may be most of your workforce. Time flies!

Fortunately, upskilling programs are proven to be as effective as they are essential. An MIT study found that a year-long workforce training program dedicated to soft skills delivered a 250% return on investment within the following eight months. That comes from both the team’s heightened productivity and increased employee retention.

How do I upskill my team?

In the world of upskilling, the Learning Management System is king. That said, not every workplace is set up for an LMS, and not every HR team is interested in taking one on. Let’s look at some alternatives before diving into Learning systems.

The classic tried-and-true method, used since man invented fire, is mentorship. Encourage the veterans of your team to guide new talent in their areas of expertise and the techniques they’ve learned to utilize over the years to get work done. Long-time workers often have shortcuts and workarounds to perform more efficiently, which are valuable to pass along. Work smarter, not harder – shortcuts are never found in official training courses!

Similarly, you can build a culture of peer-to-peer education wherein coworkers share what they’re learning with each other to fill in the gaps of each other’s talent. It boosts teamwork and camaraderie along with productivity, which is why it’s a popular strategy.

Outside of the workplace itself, try referring your team to webinars on their industry. They’re often incredibly valuable assets (and HRCI/SHRM certification grabs). You might be surprised at just how many webinars crop up that relate to your business, especially when you spread your scope to pre-recorded and on-demand ones. Take a look to see what webinars are out there that will provide your team with insights they won’t find elsewhere.

The ultimate way to upskill is the Learning Management System. You likely already know what they are: online programs that keep your team educated with up-to-date educational videos, activities and quizzes.

An LMS’ versatility is what makes it such an effective tool; not only does it keep developing talent with continued, updated learning material as they continue on in their positions, but that material is totally customizable from person to person or team to team. You could use surveys to ask individual workers about the content they’d like to learn, or you could prepare the whole staff for the next quarter’s responsibilities with a set of new videos. This makes the LMS a great driver of both employee retention and performance output. 

It also keeps all of your team members aligned in their knowledge, skill sets, and compliance training, which is a huge plus for efficiency. Misaligned skills can result in a frantic search for someone to do a given task – make sure everyone can do that task!

Upskilling, in a sense, is also a large part of a job’s onboarding process. You can catch workers up to speed with an LMS and its training material much faster than an average training procedure. Employees who had a great onboarding experience are 3.5x as likely to say they have a clear plan for their career development, which means strategic upskilling can start at the very beginning. It’s estimated that ineffective training costs businesses an average of $13.5 million annually per 1,000 employees, and over $1 million per 100. Make it effective.

The more you dedicate time to upskilling your team, the more your team will give back to you.

We have a lot more on innovative employee retention strategies, believe us. Take a look at our e-book on Mastering the Employee Experience, or our 10 HR Strategies For the Retention Crisis piece, as told by experts from all sorts of industries. All of our resources can be found in our Library – check them out here! To see HelloTeam, the employee retention platform, in action, click here — and to book a demo with us, go here!

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