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5 Ways to Upskill Your Existing Employees

5 Ways to Upskill Your Existing Employees_Yellow Spark Blog
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5 Ways to Upskill Your Existing Employees

These days, we upgrade everything. We upgrade our mobile phone software to stay updated. Upgrade our TVs, fridges etc. We upgrade our lifestyles to suit current needs and to stay with the times. So, why on earth do we take it for granted that the skills we came with after graduating from college or what we have acquired through experience in one area of work is enough?

So it is in the workplace as well. What was true about skilling, workforce, and job trajectory isn’t relevant as before. Today, people are constantly upgrading to new practices; new technologies; new discoveries. Adaptability and keeping up are no longer additional skills. They are a necessity.

Why should an organisation think about upskilling?

Industries are changing so much that sometimes, a particular job function simply doesn’t exist 10 years from now! Take the newsprint industry for instance. Fewer and fewer people are reading newspapers. If you speak to young adults, chances are they are getting all their news from digital sources. So if you were simply a good writer, but wanted to work in journalism, it may not fetch you a sustainable job. You need to be able to work on multi-media platforms. You need to be able to communicate to different audiences, you need to see where people are going to for news and become relevant to get your audience.

Or take the instance of how television programming and viewership has slowly moved from cable TV to online streaming video platforms. This has completely changed the model of advertising and film making. Unless it is a major event like the IPL or some film awards, advertising spots on TV have ceased to become the preferred or first option. Companies are now looking at advertising on online platforms – and this has led to many new cutting edge ways of measuring the impact on audiences as well.

Jobs automation and artificial intelligence are another big reality. Several companies are already considering and implementing it, which means more job skill irrelevance. When automation happens the obvious fall out is to let employees go. But the other way is to take the higher ground and equip employees to perform in a new work environment.

And sometimes, it’s not all about automation, certain teams are critical to the business over a period of time the needs of the business change and hence different teams need to be established. For example, a large company may lay off people in project management but will still be hiring aggressively in the product innovations team.

So, as the case has been laid out, if you are not already desperately thinking about upskilling, or haven’t considered it yet, don’t waste more time.

Each person should think about upskilling of course, but why should an organisation think about it? We all know employee turnover is expensive and reskilling existing employees is a more economical alternative than hiring and training new recruits. It not only boosts your bottom line but improves overall morale, improves retention, and results in better customer relationships and satisfaction. It also attracts high-quality talent.

From the employee’s perspective, upskilling will help keep up the value, keep up with industry demands and trends, increase salary bargaining power, and possibly a profitable career change even.

Here are 5 ways in which you can sharpen the skills of your existing employee or in other words upskill them and save your time, money and your high potential talent:

1. Chart out individual development plans:

Imagine you’re building a house, and the architect tells you, “Why do we need a plan? If you need four rooms, you’ll get four rooms. We’ll figure out the rest.” And you have no idea of how much it’ll cost you even! What a nightmare that sounds like. So why would you be okay to figure your manpower requirements as you go along?

A personal development plan helps your employees know where they are headed and how to get there, with specifics. It will bring clarity; give you peace of mind that you’re moving in the right direction. Efforts will feel more deliberate and decisions will be easier, as you will have a clear benchmark.

A good way to do it is to chart out your organisations’ vision with a deadline – As long as it’s in line with the employee’s vision and goals. Discuss it with your management and work on how it can be implemented and reviewed. While this is a broad outline, the specifics will have to be defined by you as the HR lead. That’s the beauty of a personal development plan! It will also give the organisation some psychological surety that your employees will stick with you for a certain number of years, though this should not be mandatory.

Quick Tip: identify your high potential employees and co-create with them their individual skill development plans. You can do the same for a group if an entire group of employees need to undergo upskilling.

2. Microlearning:

Microlearning looks to solve problems by putting effective, small, micro lessons in front of new staff when they are required to learn faster. For example, companies that have large product ranges (plus widely-distributed sales teams) can use microlearning to disseminate efficiency improvements by delivering it to smartphones. Consistent information regarding product specifications, branding messaging and sales information can be delivered in group messaging to teams who are broadly distributed geographically.

This can be further enhanced by the power of spaced repetition. This boosts knowledge retention by consistently refreshing lesson information in employees’ minds.

Some examples of this could be compliance updates for finance teams, or cybersecurity training for the management, or software upgrade training for financial analysts or information nuggets for prevention of sexual harassment at workplace etc. Anywhere a solution is required to upskill staff, microlearning can be used to reduce overheads and increase efficiency.

Quick Tip: List out the skills required in the near future for each team and develop microlearning modules in-house.

3. Create a mentor programme:

Establish a mentoring programme to help each employee in their future tasks. Learning from another employee not only makes use of the desire for social learning but also helps employees to keep developing their skills long after the initial training.

Mentors help show their team by example, offer more targeted feedback, and keep people on track with their goals. Mentors are also effective in keeping mentees up to date with coming changes in technology that might affect their jobs. You can even strengthen your mentoring programme by offering specific training to mentors.

Quick tip: To ensure the efficacy of the programme train the mentors on mentorship. Keep in mind that in today’s fast-paced work environment seniority is not the key criteria for choosing a mentor.

4. Continuous learning:

In a rapidly changing workplace, providing continual learning for each employee helps them to adapt quickly. Be it new technologies, practices, industry developments or skills your employees have the tools they need to keep up with standards. Not only is this beneficial for your employees, the idea of continuously offering learning and training also helps supports the growth of your business and creates opportunities.

On an individual level, continuous learning is defined by the practices carried out daily in order to continue increasing knowledge. This could include asking for help when something is not understood, learning from experienced employees, exploring alternative ways to do things, practising what has been learned already, finding ways to improve through online seminars outside of work, etc.

In the organisation, continuous learning has to do with shaping a team to adapt to changes in the business environment. This is very important because the ever-changing economic climate demands that any team be up to date with the latest knowledge and also be flexible and easily adaptable to any changes that may be required.

Whether you’re doing formal training with learning modules or informal, ad-hoc learning; you need to chart out what exactly the process should be for your company and what the goals are. It will help build a learning culture and peer support network.

Quick tip: Breakdown skills into components that make up the skill and design a continuous learning programme to gradually develop the skill in your employees. To draw a parallel, it is very similar to the breakdown of maths over several years of schooling.

5. Offer multiplatform learning opportunities:

Several organisations already have learning management systems (LMS) or software applications used for administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of projects, training programmes, or learning modules. This is a direct fallout of e-learning and has been a great skill development tool for organisations.

However, today there are other learning modules made available online, and we are spoilt for choice. These may also be more economical for the company that doesn’t have to maintain and run its own software application for learning. Or, they could be used as one-off programmes that need to impart specific knowledge. These could be courses offered on online learning platforms like Udemy, or even Youtube videos that sometimes come free.

Quick tip: You could integrate access to learning platforms with your reward and recognition strategy.

It’s when people feel like they’ve stopped learning or adding to their resumes, they tend to look elsewhere. Given the current market scenario, nobody really wants to look for another job. They’d rather stick to where they are. In this situation, it works to the benefit of both the employee and the employer to offer upskilling opportunities that will help focus on growth and productivity. Despite all these efforts, an employee may choose to go. However, the numbers may be restricted by offering a positive experience. Once again, don’t forget, replacements tend to come at higher costs so better to improve on what you already have.


At Yellow Spark, we design customised formats to enable our clients to drive practical application post-training. To develop an upskilling strategy and an implementation plan with a robust practical application component, write to us – contact@yellowspark.in

Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.