How To Maximize Employees’ Reskilling And Upskilling Power

Investing in the growth of your team is key to meeting your goals. The first step: identify high-potential talent. Here’s how.

In today’s employment market, business leaders continue to struggle with both new and age-old challenges when it comes to retaining talented employees and building them into tomorrow’s business leaders. The reality is a business is only as strong as its people. So, when it comes time to invest in the growth of your team, it’s important to do so in a way that strategically aligns with your organization’s goals.

To effectively grow your business and set it up for future success it’s key that you can both identify high-potential individual employees and understand the different kinds of training and programs available to help them grow. 

The two main schools of thought when it comes to employee growth plans are known as upskilling and reskilling. While each accomplishes a different purpose, and is meant for different types of individuals, business and human resource leaders must understand both terms. Leaders should also know how they can best leverage them to grow employees effectively and in line with their and the business’s future goals. 

Let’s examine reskilling and upskilling programs, how to identify high-potential employees for each, and the most important soft skills employees need to know for succession planning.

Understanding Reskilling and Upskilling

Any effective strategic plan takes both the engagement and growth of employees into account when it comes to the future. Doing this effectively requires creating a culture of continuous improvement from the top down, for both the current and future needs of your business and people. By breaking down personal growth into both upskilling and reskilling, leaders can better assign personalized plans to their high-potential employees to enable them to assume new roles if needed. 

Upskilling is the process of connecting effective, engaged, high-potential employees with the proper tools to improve their business skills so they can begin moving up in the organization. This vertical growth philosophy involves going back to the basics or improving the fundamental skills required for their current role. Upskilling aims to improve both the soft skills (e.g., leadership, public speaking, people management) and technical skills (e.g., new hardware, software, processes) required to become leaders within the current department or function of the organization.

Reskilling is when an employee is moved to a different part of the business or a new role that may be better suited to their personal skills or the needs of the organization. This horizontal growth method is a great option to keep an effective employee engaged or put them in a better position to be upskilled in the future. Reskilling almost always requires learning new functions, processes or skills that are applicable to the new role.

Identifying High-Potential Employees and Implementing Programs

To see the most effective ROI for growth programs, whether it’s upskilling or reskilling, business leaders must ensure they’re identifying both engaged and high-potential employees who can participate. 

For most organizations, employee potential can often be distributed via a standard bell curve, consisting of mainly standard performers, with both smaller groups of low- and high-potential employees on either side. 

An effective way to further break down employee performance and potential is through a nine-block exercise. This ranks employee talent through a 3×3 grid based on both performance and potential. High-performance and high-potential employees will be a great fit for upskilling; while high potential, but lower performance employees may be good candidates for reskilling. 

If your business already has an enterprise HR Information System (HRIS) in place, consider implementing a talent inventory to get a gain a better understanding of the hard skills across your organization. This allows HR leaders to paint a clear image for leaders of employees who have necessary skills that can be transferred over to meet other needs of the business. 

Once employees are properly identified for upskilling or reskilling, here are a few practical training strategies and programs leaders can implement:

  • Stretch Assignments: Assign employees new projects or responsibilities outside or above their traditional scope of work.
  • Formal and Informal Mentoring Programs: Connect employees with leaders within the organization who can work with them directly to spark their growth.
  • Executive Coaching and Leadership Training: Run programs with the goal of growing employees as leaders within the organization.
  • Professionals Associations and Conferences: Send employees to conferences and events and encourage them to educate other team members on their findings. 
  • Thought Leadership: Write or teach a specific subject, which is a great way for employees to learn more about a topic and build their personal brands around it.

Understanding the Most Important Skills to Teach for Effective Succession Planning

If an organization is serious about investing in the future growth of its employees, it must be a concrete part of its strategic plan. Revisit it at least once per year so that leaders can understand the skills they are lacking or underutilizing and how they play into emerging business opportunities and needs.

When it comes to executive leadership and management, businesses should look for and develop these key skills.

  • Executing and seeing projects through. 
  • Developing and managing internal and external relationships.
  • Assessing finances and decision-making. 
  • Developing assertive leadership capabilities.  
  • Managing effective meetings. 
  • Inspiring innovation and creativity. 
  • Fostering motivation.

It can be easy for businesses to get lost in the present and not think about growing employees for the future. Effective and scalable businesses, however, have reskilling and upskilling as a part of their strategic plan—with the time, resources and leaders in place to see it through. 

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