June 19, 2024

Annually, diverse publications and groups – ourselves included – compile their inventory of “top tech skills” to acquire and the most coveted abilities in technology. However, enhancing employees’ skill set involves more than being aware of what they require.

We conducted a survey in our 2023 State of Upskilling report, which involved over 1,200 technologists and leaders. The objective was to reveal the primary stumbling blocks for upskilling – their significance as well as strategies to surmount these challenges.

Could you explain the meaning of upskilling?

To upskill is to offer support for employees to acquire or enhance skills necessary for their current position or future roles. Upskilling fortifies organizations against skill deficiencies, allows existing staff members to assume open positions and enables companies meet organizational goals.

What is the significance of upskilling employees?

The tech industry progresses rapidly, with IBM stating that particular technical abilities have a lifespan of just two and a half years. Ensuring staff receive training to keep up-to-date with the latest trends is essential.

The rapid growth of ChatGPT highlights the necessity for upskilling in AI/ML. Failing to do so can lead to severe implications on your company’s offerings, clientele satisfaction and services. Restricting employee knowledge will hinder innovation and productivity without proper training or development opportunities.

What advantages can be gained by enhancing the skills of your workforce?

Apart from keeping pace with technological advancements, upskilling also contributes significantly to employee contentment and retention. Studies indicate that almost half of the technology professionals contemplate leaving their present organization for better opportunities to enhance skills and assume greater responsibilities. To retain your best talent pool, it is imperative for your establishment to offer adequate upskilling programs along with other development avenues.

The capacity to: gain additional advantages from enhancing the skills of employees is amongst other benefits.

Minimize recruitment expenses.

Address skills shortages.

Attracting new employees

Enhance the process of managing changes.

Establish an environment that promotes ongoing education and growth.

Ways to conquer the main obstacles in training workers for new skills

Developing top tech skills, boosting the skill confidence of technologists, and addressing organizational skills gaps are all dependent on upskilling employees. However, obstacles may arise throughout this process for both you and your team members. It is important to remember that these challenges are common among many organizations undertaking similar efforts to improve their workforce’s skillsets.

What are the difficulties associated with developing new skills?

The process of upskilling presents hurdles for technologists as they acquire fresh skills, and also necessitates that tech managers and HR/L&D leaders develop a sound strategy to enhance technological aptitude. The initial step towards devising an efficacious employee upskilling plan is identifying the barriers within your organization.

Technologists face several barriers when it comes to upskilling.

A major hindrance for technologists looking to upskill is their busy schedules. 42% expressed a lack of time as the primary obstacle in taking steps towards building new skills.

Their direction is lacking. 30% of technologists are uncertain about where to concentrate their skill enhancement, while 25% have no idea which resources for learning they should use.

A challenging aspect of upskilling for 23% of technologists is the distracting work environment they have.

HR/L&D directors face several obstacles when it comes to upskilling.

Insufficient budget is a prevalent issue. According to 30% of HR/L&D directors, the primary hurdle faced by their organization in upskilling or reskilling their tech workforce is limited financial resources.

A key obstacle for 26% of individuals is the absence of adequate data and metrics to monitor their progress. They cannot prove the return on investment (ROI) from learning investments due to this limitation.

Their technology organization is not their partner. This presents a challenge for 17% of HR/L&D directors who struggle to upskill or reskill their tech workforce due to the lack of collaboration with tech leaders.

Tech team executives face significant barriers when it comes to upskilling.

Their ability to upskill or reskill their technology workforce is limited by financial constraints. A survey of tech team executives revealed that 15% cited budget limitations/costs as the greatest obstacle facing their organization in this area.

Only 13% of tech team executives stated that their employer prioritizes upskilling current employees, showing that it is not a high organizational priority and rather emphasizes hiring new talent.

Their organization’s upskilling efforts are hindered by their tech employees’ incapability to access essential resources. According to 12% of the respondents, this includes tools and training.

3 Tips to Boost Your Strategy for Employee Upskilling

The following suggestions aim to overcome the primary obstacles that technologists, tech team executives, and HR/L&D directors encounter in upskilling.

Align hiring with upskilling.

Their employer tends to hire externally instead of looking within for candidates to fill positions, according to nearly 50% of technologists. The constant hiring of external talent by employers may lead existing employees to wonder: “Why bother? Even if I acquire new skills, there’s no chance I’ll be hired.”

To prioritize upskilling employees throughout the organization, it’s critical to record their existing skill sets and develop clear career paths that highlight how developing new skills can assist team members in advancing their careers or transitioning into different roles. Start by identifying which abilities and qualifications are necessary for various positions, then compare them with an individual employee’s current expertise to align goals accurately.

By documenting your skills in this manner, you can create a readily available pool of potential candidates for any future job openings. This means that there may not be a need to seek out talent externally. Consequently, it reduces the amount of time spent on hiring procedures and lowers recruiting expenditures while improving employee morale.

Would you like to witness this activity? Take a look at our PS@PS case study, where we demonstrate how we created an internal talent pool for the challenging engineering positions. You can also learn about it!

Offer allocated time for learning that ensures employees utilize it.

Only a portion of technologists, less than half in fact, have the flexibility to dedicate extra time beyond their normal work schedule towards cultivating new tech abilities. Meanwhile, 21% are compelled by external forces to do so. The majority of technologists lack sufficient availability during off-hours for further learning and it is unrealistic to demand otherwise given how packed their current agendas already tend to be – including responsibilities directly tethered into improving skills on-the-job.

There are two parts to the solution. Firstly, your organization should provide paid learning time during regular working hours. This could involve dedicating a couple of hours every week on the department’s schedule for developing new skills or arranging a period of intense training in anticipation of an upcoming project with specific teams. The key is not solely offering adequate time but ensuring that employees make full use of these opportunities for learning and growth.

Although 74% of technologists claim to receive some time during work hours for acquiring new technical abilities, their major obstacle remains being excessively occupied. When urging team members to enhance their skills, it’s essential to acknowledge that this might impact their productivity levels. Consequently, tailor your expectations and deadlines appropriately so as not burden them with the added responsibility of catching up outside office hours.

Creating a culture of learning can be achieved by promoting team members to share their knowledge during meetings and acknowledging those who improve through praise or gifts. This supportive environment will encourage employees to develop both professionally and personally.

Our blog post explores how upskilling and talent mobility are closely linked, as well as ways to eliminate organizational obstacles to promote better career development.

Provide the appropriate educational materials.

Technologists and leaders have identified a dearth of requisite resources or guidance as a challenge in the process of enhancing skills. In order to surmount this hurdle, technologists ought to be aware of which competencies they should acquire and how they can best go about acquiring them.

Begin by pinpointing the technological abilities that you require your teams to enhance, which are usually linked with projects and administrative end results. As an illustration, if you have plans for undertaking a data pipeline implementation (as stated by 63% of tech team executives), it is imperative that your staff become proficient in topics such as SQL, big data, and data warehousing.

Once you have determined the key competencies that your teams require, inquire with your technologists about which tools they deem most beneficial for acquiring new proficiencies. While independent video modules are a suitable foundation in several instances, relying solely on them is insufficient. Research demonstrates that hands-on experience through sandboxes and practical applications either independently or combined with recorded tutorials is the optimal method to equip technicians for putting their education into action. The areas where individuals rely heavily upon hands-on labs and simulated environments include software development, information technology operations (IT Ops), and data science.

In addition to video content, technologists can enhance their skills through instructor-led training (ILT), whether virtual or in-person. According to a survey, 27% of technologists appreciate ILT as they have the opportunity to ask questions and receive immediate assistance. Technologists particularly find this learning approach effective for acquiring data science, network infrastructure, and cybersecurity skills.

After finalizing the resources to allocate, it is essential to craft unambiguous learning paths that guide technologists towards appropriate content. Determine which courses are mandatory, identify any relevant certifications they should obtain and consider if certain modules can be tested out of.

By matching educational materials with technological abilities, the requirements of technologists, and business objectives, you can construct a comprehensive upskilling plan for your staff.

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