Benefits of Upskilling Your Workforce

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Benefits of Upskilling Your Workforce

TAKEAWAY: Learn about the benefits of upskilling your workforce, and how to give your team all the tools they need for success.

With an ever-changing business landscape, professional development is imperative within any organization. It is crucial for many reasons, including employee growth, company culture, and workplace productivity. Professional development can be hard to prioritize amidst a busy schedule, yet it’s something that should not be overlooked if you’re trying to support your team.

Employers must understand what professional development is, why to prioritize it, and how to make opportunities for professional development available to their workforce. This article explores the benefits of upskilling your workforce and explains how to put your plan into action.

What is Professional Development?

Employers can establish a plan for professional development based on the current requirements of the organization and available resources. They might identify a need for company-wide professional development in a specific area. Or, team members can be presented with an individualized pathway that might improve job performance. Always discuss professional development with employees. That way, they are an integral part of the decision-making process and will be able to voice their own thoughts and opinions about areas in which to develop their skills.

Professional development can be either formal or informal. For example, on the formal side, it may involve obtaining or renewing professional credentials to keep an employee up-to-date with industry standards. Industry meetings and conferences can also keep your workforce informed and give them the chance to learn about new developments, industry standards, and best practices.

Less formal learning opportunities may include things like in-house workshops or coaching and mentoring programs. Job shadowing and job rotation can also allow employees to grow and view their role from a fresh perspective.

When Should Employers Prioritize Professional Development?

When the workload is high or your business is in a very busy season, it can feel overwhelming to even think about professional development. Busy periods when your employees already have a lot on their plates isn’t the best time for professional development — they likely won’t get as much benefit, as they’ll be too concerned with all the other tasks they should be completing. However, most organizations do experience slower periods at some point in the year. Be attentive to when this is for your business — or even when it may be for a particular employee, such as when a large project they’re leading has just wrapped. Then, schedule professional development during these slower periods of the year when there are fewer demands on the workforce.

Many industries experience seasonal fluctuations in workload. For example, the low season in the transportation and shipping industry is between January and March. Demands ease off after the busy holiday season before they eventually increase again in the spring. In this case, the period spanning those first three months of the year presents an excellent opportunity for professional development.

Alternatively, some organizations may identify quiet times that occur every week. Utilize these slow times by prioritizing professional development. Similarly, times of uncertainty such as natural disasters or pandemics may correspond with a reduction in work volume. Employers may decide that employee upskilling is an appropriate area to focus on in these situations. 

The Benefits of Upskilling Your Workforce

Professional development doesn’t only provide benefits for the employee. There is a positive effect at a company level as well. Employee upskilling allows companies to stay competitive within the industry. It can also improve workplace culture, increase productivity, and reduce staff turnover. 

Employees benefit from professional development in several ways. Benefits vary based on the type of professional development, and can include:

  • Improving communication and relationships within the workforce.
  • Building on existing knowledge and skills or refreshing knowledge, which in turn can result in better proficiency, accuracy, and productivity.
  • Helping employees grow in their existing roles or prepare for new responsibilities. 
  • Preparing employees for new opportunities such as promotions.
  • Encouraging new ways of thinking, which could, in turn, be a catalyst for improving company systems and processes.
  • Allowing employees to feel valued. Professional development can instill a feeling of success. Subsequently, this can provide a motivation boost and increase workplace satisfaction levels.

Types of Professional Development

There are endless options for professional development and upskilling. Some of the common areas that employers may consider exploring include the following.

Safety training

Safety and safety leadership should be at the forefront of any organization. Professional development with a safety focus can come in several forms, such as first aid courses. Or, employees can attend conferences to stay up-to-date with industry-related safety best practices. There are also a few more general safety training areas — for example, employers and employees alike may benefit from education about how to reduce the risk of fatigue-related injuries. Learn more in 4 Hidden Costs of Fatigue.

Drugs and alcohol can also have a significant impact on workplace safety. Employers may consider investing in education that focuses on this area, such as reasonable suspicion training

Sure Hire’s Reasonable Suspicion Training program has courses designed to educate both employers and employees about the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol on workplace safety. Find out more about SureHire’s Reasonable Suspicion Training courses.

Personal and Interpersonal skills

There are many options for in-person workshops as well as online courses focused on personal and interpersonal skills. Also known as soft skills, they help employees build confidence in any job role.

Soft skills such as time management and resilience are examples of personal areas that can help individual employees thrive. Learn more in 5 Ways to Build Your Team’s Resilience in the Workplace.

It is also important to develop interpersonal skills such as active listening, negotiation, communication, collaboration, and teamwork. They help to create a cohesive team unit. 

Workshops or courses targeting these areas may not initially seem as important or impactful as professional development opportunities your employees may need in areas specific to their role. However, they shouldn’t be overlooked — employees improving soft skills and interpersonal skills can have a tremendous impact on your overall workforce.

Job-specific skills

Every industry presents opportunities to develop job-specific skills. Look out for industry certifications that allow employees to upskill in an area relevant to their job duties, as doing so can help them increase their proficiency and confidence within any given job role. It can also put them in a better position for future promotions.

Job-specific skills could include: 

  • Technical training such as data analysis or training on newly-installed company software. 
  • Management and leadership training. Professional development in this area is crucial for supervisors, managers, team leaders, or employees looking to move into these roles.
  • Specialist knowledge and skill development for specific products and services. Examples include sales and marketing training and training on machinery operation.

Support your Employees and Organization Through Professional Development

Professional development provides an avenue for individuals and organizations to grow and thrive. From conferences to online workshops, there are many types of professional development. Job-specific knowledge and skills are 2 factors to consider. The current needs of the company and employees are also imperative.

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