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01 Jun 2023

The Importance of Upskilling for Achieving Business Results

Peter Kokkinos, VP & Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Udemy

In today's ever-changing business landscape, upskilling is no longer a luxury but a necessity for businesses to remain competitive. The talent shortage has left many employers struggling to find the right skills to drive their business forward, with nine in ten employers from New Zealand having trouble sourcing workers. The acceleration of digital transformation is only making it more challenging to find the right talent.

It's no longer enough to simply hire new employees with the necessary skills - investing in current employees is now imperative, not just a ‘nice to have.’ While learning programs have been touted as the solution to this problem, the challenge lies in successful implementation particularly when it comes to scalability and customization. Every executive may be aware of the benefits of upskilling, but the question that remains is - how do you put into action a successful learning program that enables flexible skill development for each employee? A poorly executed program can be a waste of resources, resulting in minimal uptake and a low return on investment. On the other hand, a well-planned and well-delivered learning model can yield significant benefits, such as a more agile workforce, higher retention rates, and employees who feel valued and empowered.

It's no secret that employees are eager to learn new skills and take their careers to the next level in today’s economic climate. Yet, despite this eagerness, many companies are falling short in providing the right kind of upskilling opportunities. According to PwC, only 40% of employees agree that their companies are providing adequate upskilling opportunities. To make the most out of upskilling and reskilling opportunities, they must be accessible, personalised, and aligned with both employee career progression and positive business outcomes.

The key to unlocking the full potential of any upskilling program lies in its seamless integration into the organisation's culture and overall vision. By aligning learning and development initiatives with the company's goals and objectives, employers can be confident that their staff is receiving targeted training that will enable them to perform their duties effectively. This in turn drives the success of the company and fosters a more cohesive workforce. Research shows that almost half of employees believe that specialised training is necessary for their job, and those who receive it are more likely to recommend their employer as a great place to work. Furthermore, when learning is woven into the fabric of an organisation, it becomes an integral part of company culture, leading to a more engaged workforce that is committed to continuous improvement.

All employees want to feel that any learning plans or experiences implemented by their organisation are also tailored to their individual career advancement and professional interests. The Udemy 2023 Workplace Learning Trends Report stresses that a one-size-fits-all approach to upskilling programs will not be effective. Instead, companies should adopt a varied approach that considers the needs of every learner in the organisation, including specialised skills for specific roles. Personalisation of upskilling is crucial for success within an organisation. It helps employees feel more motivated to learn and connected to the company. By tailoring learning programs to individual employees and teams, organisations can help their workforce develop the skills necessary to advance in their careers, outlining a path forward for them at the organisation.

I firmly believe that soft or power skills are just as crucial as technical skills in today's competitive job market. Neglecting to provide employees with opportunities to develop their power skills can lead to reduced engagement levels, job dissatisfaction, and stagnant career progress despite having all the technical skills needed to move to the next stage. That's why it's essential for upskilling programs to take an integrated approach that includes the development of power skills. The Udemy Q1 Workplace Learning Skills Index highlights the top 10 global professional power skills for the first quarter of 2023, with proofreading, project management, business etiquette and business idea generation being in-demand topics among professionals worldwide. While some power skills can be learned on the job, online learning offers employees the added benefit of a structured learning program that they can refer back to whenever they need a refresher.

The workplace today looks vastly different from what it did just five years ago. The rise of hybrid work and hot desking have become trends that can be here to stay, and upskilling programs must cater to this new reality. Employees need to be equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in a hybrid working world. A recent study from UiPath revealed that 88% of respondents were willing to remain with a company that invested in their digital skills development. The 2023 Workplace Learning Trends Report by Udemy highlights the need for flexible skills development opportunities that are relevant to a hybrid working environment. Taking a multi-modal approach when building and establishing learning programs – such as group collaboration in the office, one-on-one mentoring with senior professionals, or online classes from real-world experts – can ensure every single learner is taken into account, creating numerous opportunities for employees to engage. The rise of remote work has made it essential for companies to adopt adaptable learning models that can accommodate learners' schedules and preferences.

Every business has a learning and development program these days, the ones that stand out and actually make a difference are well executed and monitored for successful outcomes. It’s time to listen to what your employees want in their careers and their roles. Think about what you want in the success of your organisation and consider how you can design upskilling programs to suit these criteria.

So let's leave the one-size-fits-all approach behind and craft a learning strategy that leverages technology and different modes of learning to drive greater business outcomes for your organization. By investing in your employees' skill development, you're not only creating a more agile and productive workforce, but also a more engaged and loyal one. That's a win-win for everyone.

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