Last updated: 03.08.20

Upskilling your workforce post COVID-19

Upskilling your workforce post COVID-19

As the world resumes a new normal, organisations are facing the difficulty of bringing employees back into the workforce. The lasting effects of the pandemic are not yet known but many have been forced to consider job losses and continue furloughing staff. Of those who are returning to work, there is the question on whether their jobs will remain the same or will they be placed elsewhere. 

It is a tricky time to navigate and some tough decisions must be made by organisations however the answer may be simple - upskilling. 

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of teaching current employees’ new skills. Traditionally, the need for upskilling has arisen due to technological advances, which create new jobs that require specialised skill sets - as seen in the manufacturing and technology sectors.

How can upskilling work post COVID19?

Post pandemic, upskilling could be the answer to help your business thrive. Organisations can choose to train existing staff to develop new skills to fill newly created roles. Upskilling will create development opportunities for the current workforce without the need for laying-off staff. 

Five steps to upskilling your staff

Step 1: Identify where your business is headed. 

The first step is to assess your business needs and consider how your organisation will work under the new normal and beyond. 

If you only offer your services in a physical store do you now need to invest in an online offering? If you are based in a large building with hundreds of staff, will remote-working be your future? Identifying the direction your organisation is headed in is crucial as it will form the basis of your upskilling plan.

Think of this step as the new business plan - write down your business goals and objectives for the post-pandemic landscape. 

Step 2: Identify the skills your business needs post COVID-19.

The next step to your plan is to identify exactly what skills you require from your employees. 

The top skills organisations need are critical and transferable skills, such as cognitive thinking, digital, adaptability, resilience, creative thinking and social and emotional skills. These skills allow employees the adaptability to apply themselves into a multitude of roles. 

In addition to the skills mentioned above each organisation will have its own need for specific skills. As remote-working gained traction due to lockdown it became apparent for several organisations that their managers lacked the skills needed to manage distributed teams. Similarly, for retail staff working in a physical environment there was a lack of digital skills such as being able to advertise, market and sell online.

After identifying key skills such as ‘leading remote teams’ and being able to market products and services online, organisations should include these as part of their upskilling plan. Upskilling can save time and money in hiring new people, whilst also supporting the workforce to develop and grow. Work with your HR and Learning and Development teams to identify the skills your organisation needs. 

Step 3: Distinguish which employees can be upskilled.

Organisations will have to make hard decisions as to who they can upskill as it is not suitable for every role. 

Once you’ve identified the skills you need going forward, ask your team managers to put forward suggestions for who they think is a suitable candidate for upskilling. Managers should discuss this within their teams and ask employees if they have preferences, many times employees have extra skills that organisations are not necessarily aware of.

Step 4: Close the skills gap.

After identifying the key skills and the employees who are eligible the next step is to actually train them. 

Work with L&D teams to create tailored learning journeys for each employee you wish to upskill. Learning plans are a great tool as they can be tracked and monitored to help keep staff motivated to achieve their learning goals.

Online learning has been a great option during the pandemic to effectively and efficiently train staff, without the need for face-to-face interaction. If you have a budget, you can even invest in personalised learning created bespoke for your organisation. 

Work with HR and L&D teams to create a toolkit of the ‘critical’ and ‘transferable’ skills mentioned above. Implement these as part of your traditional learning and development offering to give employees the chance to learn critical skills from the offset. This will not only help develop a stronger workforce but can increase staff loyalty and reduce turnover. 

Step 5: Onboard your employees.

Once your employees have gained the new skills they need, create an onboarding plan to help them ease into their new roles. Even if they are working within the same team or have only transitioned into a slightly different role it is good practice to offer them the support they need.

The pandemic hasn't been an easy situation for anyone, so investing some time into your employees wellbeing, helping them feel settled when they return and offering support will make them happier and more motivated.

If your organisation has flexibility and you have roles which can easily be filled by giving employees the necessary training, upskilling is a great option. Ensure you work with your HR and learning and development teams to implement plans which provide the right tools and techniques your staff need to upskill into new roles.

If you would like to learn more on how you can support your employees to upskill through digital learning contact us.