5 Common Mistakes Made in Upskilling and Reskilling

upskilling and reskilling programs

While the skills gap has been underway for several years—companies need employees with a very specific skillset and are often unwilling to hire employees without them—skills are becoming redundant more quickly than ever before. 

While the pandemic fueled rapid, mass digitization of processes in companies across all industries, organizations have been struggling to keep up. As businesses continue to adapt, so will the demand for new skills.

Of course, the need for employees to acquire or improve their technical skills is nothing new. However, the pandemic saw job requirements shift, and the need to train employees accelerated dramatically.

LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report—published in February 2020 just before the pandemic set in—discovered that 51% of L&D professionals planned to launch upskilling programs in 2020 and 43% planned to launch reskilling programs. 

As the pandemic lingers, these numbers can be expected to be higher. The overnight need to digitize workplace systems and processes only served to accelerate the need for talent developers to upskill and reskill their workforces. Indeed, L&D has heeded the clarion call to help their organizations stay ahead of the curve regarding tackling the skilled labor shortage. 

However, to upskill and reskill for the sake of it—”to keep up with the Joneses”—can serve as a costly distraction for many organizations. Instead, upskilling and reskilling programs should be evaluated first before L&D teams jump in too quickly.

Let’s have a look at 7 common mistakes companies can make when upskilling and reskilling.

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To design an effective upskilling/reskilling program you need a deep understanding of the forces that are driving the need to overcome internal skills obsolescence. Download this free eBook to inform your talent development strategy.

1. Lack of personalization

A one-size-fits all approach cannot work, because every employee holds different levels of skill mastery or knowledge. Additionally, not everyone in a team or department needs to possess these same levels.

While a built course can easily be shared with as many employees as possible, simply having everyone take the same course can be a drain on resources (time). 

To address these issues, work with managers to determine exactly who in a team or department needs to undergo upskilling or reskilling. 

2. Assuming a general need for upskilling and reskilling

Further to the point of lack of personalization, upskilling and reskilling programs for skills that employees think they need outside of the organization but that aren’t really needed within the organization can also pose a problem.

While any organization certainly needs to “future-proof” its workforce, building programs to train employees for abilities that the organization doesn’t currently need—and unknown whether the organization will need it in the future—can be a waste of time. Learning experiences developed without a defined, current need will not deliver ROI.

4. Not offering “Learning in the Flow of Work”

Unfortunately, upskilling and reskilling delivered as online training isn’t a one-time event. Continual, ongoing support and knowledge reinforcement are needed to ensure that employees absorb and maintain the necessary skills. 

Here’s where on-the-job, in-the-moment, “learning in the flow of work” can come in to help. By providing short, bite-sized learning modules delivered during the workday, employees can upskill or reskill without even thinking about it, as it would naturally be blended into their daily workload. 

5. Waiting until skills decline before providing upskilling and reskilling

Waiting until skills decline—or become totally obsolete—can create a dangerous, too-little-too-late scenario. The more removed the employee is from the skills or knowledge needed to perform a task properly, the more time and effort are needed to train that employee.

To safeguard against this scenario, L&D needs to perform regular learning audits to better understand the organization’s needs and the skills and knowledge held by employees to meet those needs.

Final Thoughts

While organizations understand the need to upskill and reskill their employees, doing so haphazardly can put a strain on L&D teams and lead to uncertain results.

Keeping tabs on employees’ skill sets and knowledge, and providing consistent training in the flow of work, no matter how small, can go a long way in adjusting employees’ abilities while providing ROI.

Shifting priorities in the organization make it more challenging than ever to keep L&D aligned with business goals. If your L&D strategy is in need of an overhaul, download this L&D strategy toolkit for guidance.

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