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It’s no secret that finding skilled people in today’s job market is like searching for a four-leaf clover or a needle in a haystack. We have entered a time where there are jobs, jobs, jobs, but not enough skilled workers to fully staff our organizations. If our experiences today haven’t taught us the value of the people we have, I don’t know what other lesson will.

Organizations have quickly learned that investing in their people is one of the only ways to fill job vacancies that require a higher level of capabilities with the right people — people that already know the business, understand the culture, and in most cases want to be at work. So why not look at these workers as prime candidates for other positions within the organization? Insert upskilling here.

Upskilling is the new buzzword for teaching workers new skills to bridge skills gaps. It focuses on continuous learning by providing training programs and development opportunities to grow employees’ abilities, ultimately lessening skill gaps that slow down the achievement of organizational objectives. The great thing about upskilling is that it looks at people’s current skills and helps them improve, expand, and grow those skills. It helps people advance in their jobs and find different roles and opportunities within the company.

So how do we upskill? Great question! Here’s how to take action:

Identify Skill Gaps

The first step is to identify skill gaps that exist with workers, within job groupings, within departments, etc. This will help you ensure alignment with needs.

Explore Upskilling Resources

Once the skills that need to be developed have been identified, determine what type of resources are going to be necessary to teach those skills. This might be mentoring, job shadowing, online learning, and/or outside training resources. Many organizations find working with an outside resource helps them to best determine what resources might be the most effective.

Tailor Learning and Development Plans

Each employee will have different needs when upskilling. Therefore, it is imperative that any upskilling strategy be tailored specifically to the person, focusing on their goals, skill level, comfort with technology, ways of learning, etc. Upskilling is not a “one size fits all” tactic. It must be tailored to be effective.


Let’s not forget the importance of having discussions about a person’s progress, challenges, barriers, etc. Communication is key to ensure that upskilling is taking hold and the employee has the right resources to align with their learning needs.

Don’t worry if the upskilling idea intimidates you a bit. It does for many organizations. Thankfully there are outside resources that can assist you in assessing skills, building learning and development plans, and providing training…like us at Purple Ink. We have a variety of training and development resources in addition to our learning and development experts that are ready to help. So don’t let that intimidation stop you from implementing an upskilling strategy that can help you fill those more skilled job vacancies.

Jeremy York
Jeremy York
Jeremy is a former member of the Purple Ink team and co-author of The JoyPowered® Organization. He is passionate about people and improving the ways organizations see their importance.

1 Comment

  1. Linda J Hardin says:

    This idea, now being termed “upskilling” is something many of us in management have attempted to do as good leaders with good staff. However, it so depends on the company culture as to whether it is supported enough to take the time, sometimes money, recognize the value, and allow the leadership team to develop things and people within their area that will benefit now and also blossom in the future. Your noting of the importance of tailoring this to the individual person is so on target. That person’s style of learning and focus and implementation will either lay a foundation for success or set them up for failure, depending on if the program is looking to address each and every item that comes up along the way. Loved reading about this concept and would love for more companies to develop a culture that would embrace this type of employee development. Thanks for sharing.

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