Business Advice

How to upskill employees to spur company growth


07 Feb 2021

The pandemic has changed the way we do business and that also meant upskilling staff, keeping them up-to-date on trends and technical know-how to stay competitive and navigate in the digital world’s new normal.

So, what is upskilling? It may sound like a new buzzword but upskilling has been around for ages. It simply meant teaching employees new skills, new industry developments and smart technologies.

Majority of CEOs in the GCC region — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain — believe employees should be upskilled to spur company gth as well as empower them with new skills for their future career plans. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’s 2020 CEO Survey, 80 percent of those surveyed said a shortage of skills in the workforce was a potential threat to their organisation’s gth prospects. That figure, PwC said, was 10 percent higher from previous years and that 70 percent of CEOs increasingly recognise that they must maximise the potential of their existing staff through upskilling programs.
And employees couldn’t agree more as gleaned from a separate PwC survey of some 2,000 GCC workers where 75 percent said they believe automation will significantly change or make their job obsolete in the next 10 years; and 96 percent said they would learn new skills immediately or completely retrain to improve their future employability.
The Coronavirus pandemic hastened the need for digitalisation with contactless transactions becoming the norm to avoid contracting the virus. The era of smart technologies like the internet, artificial intelligence, software development, Internet of Things, the Blockchain, among others, have made upskilling necessary in the new economy and the new normal.
It has become imperative for human resources people, in agreement with the management, to implement skills upgrade programs because doing so works both ways – it increases employee retention rate, on the one hand, while raising the company’s marketability through corresponding increases in productivity.
The finer point of upskilling employees is that it allows them to handle bigger responsibilities, which pays off in the long run, as against hiring new associates, which for its part, entails bigger expenses and creates low morale among tenure workers.
Bear in mind that it is far costlier to let tenured employees walk out the door and replace them because the company is actually losing an investment it has made in them; more to the point, these employees take with them precious knowledge and experience that would only need a little pruning by way of self-sponsored training to get them back on track in mainstream employment.
Now what happens when you keep and upskill them instead? You get to have a much-inspired employee and a lot happier one at that too because he or she feels that the company is adding value to himself or herself which can be paid forward by spreading the happiness to clients and customers who, in turn, reciprocate by way of being loyal to the brand.
Knowledge is power
Employees catching on by way of upskilling as technology moves at a high speed become more interested, and less bored, in the conduct of their tasks because they have gained new knowledge, and new knowledge is always interesting and exciting to put hands on.
And so, as mentioned earlier, productivity is increased precisely because employee engagement is increased. As experts say, employees who learn new things become more engaged and committed.
Another positive effect of upskilling is that it does not end there. It’s a stimulus that pokes the employees’ interest to keep up and stay abreast, realising how technology affects their work. They also get a glimpse of the other things they need to learn to remain relevant to the company and the new skills they need to acquire so as not to be redundant.  
Once they get a full understanding of this, everything else falls into place as the company introduces new tools and they continuously adapt to new standards that can make them excel in the workplace.
Upskilling is an investment
A lot of HR directors also see it this way: Upskilling makes it easier to separate committed employees from the deadwoods.
They can easily tell the difference between those who are genuinely enthusiastic to learn new things and those who are reluctant to undergo training.
This way, it would be easier to identify those who go for par excellence and deserve promotion; and those who need to be under the microscope.
So yes, upskilling is an opportunity to keep the company lean.
All said, upskilling is an investment, a two-way traffic that works both ways. It uplifts the staff’s morale because it makes them feel valued by the company which reaps results by way of increased productivity and happy customers—two things that can give the edge over competitors.