How Upskilling Can Help Combat Talent Shortages

Eric Mochnacz
June 23, 2023

When a role becomes open at your company, the first instinct is to post the job on LinkedIn or Indeed and let the resumes roll in.  But what happens if there isn’t any interest in the job?  If your company is experiencing a talent shortage, it may be time to look internally to fill the critical position.  Upskilling your current workforce is an effective way to combat the current state of the talent pool. 

The Climate of the Current Talent Pool 

Workplaces are still feeling the ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, even three years out, and with it no longer being considered a national health emergency.  The economy flatlined with shutdowns, and we saw mass layoffs.  Then, when companies pivoted and felt comfortable returning to the office, or at least operating in a new normal, they rushed to market.  Candidates were offered inflated salaries so companies could meet the demand of a newly reopened business landscape.  We endured the “Great Resignation”, as employees began to reevaluate their career aspirations and recognized there were other, greater opportunities waiting for them.  Especially better than their employer who exposed their true colors via their treatment of employees during the pandemic and were requiring five days in the office after two and a half years of remote work.  But now that the economy has retracted and some business lines have dried up, we’re encountering another wave of layoffs across all industries.  

It’s daunting for employers who want to bring new talent into the organization while also retaining their current staff.  Economic uncertainty and a job market in flux require employers to think differently about what they provide as part of a comprehensive benefits package and how they acknowledge employee contributions to the business.  In this case, upskilling is a useful tool in your talent management and retention efforts. 

What is Upskilling? 

Upskilling is the process of acquiring new or advanced skills to enhance one’s professional skills and abilities.  It involves developing expertise relevant to someone’s current career or aligned with their career ambitions.  Upskilling allows employees to remain current with trends and increase their knowledge.  In an ever-changing talent market, companies who provide upskilling opportunities directly contribute to the growth of their workforce, thus enhancing their employer brand and supporting employee retention.  

Leveraging Upskilling to Overcome Talent Shortages 

Instituting upskilling programs is an integral part of a company’s talent acquisition and retention strategy.  In a competitive job market, where companies are struggling to fill roles, by promising upskilling opportunities to candidates, you are increasing their overall benefits package.  Leveraging upskilling for your internal workforce is an effective retention tool, as you are providing direct learning opportunities that allow them to grow within the company, often at no cost to the employee.  

Learning and Development Programs

One way companies can offer general upskilling is through learning and development programs.  These may be part of your overall employee development strategy.  Topics in these programs may revolve around workplace skills that help employees at any level in the organization, in any position, increase their knowledge.  Rather than requiring employees to pay out of pocket to learn Excel, you provide these courses as part of your ongoing training and development program.  Employees take advantage of these programs during their normal workday, rather than having to use personal time.  By providing these programs as part of the standard employee experience, you demonstrate a commitment to your employees’ professional growth which is conducive to employee retention.  

Career Pathing Development Plans

Your company can offer general learning and development programs for all employees, but upskilling with a promotion path is another approach.  Rather than going to market for mid to senior-level professionals, and having to train new managers on every aspect of your business, look to your already established workforce and offer them learning opportunities aligned with a promotion.  Our approach starts with clearly defined organizational structures and clear job descriptions.  We clearly outline what skills and practical experience someone needs to have to advance in the organization.  If they want to grow in the organization and their career, we identify a learning plan for them to address any gaps in their knowledge.  If they meet the goals of the learning plan, they are eligible for a promotion.  

We’ve practically applied this same approach with our clients.  Working with a commercial roofing firm, leadership knew they needed to step away from the day-to-day operations of the business and empower their employees to take responsibility for business outcomes.  We knew their people were good technicians, but they all needed development in people management and resource allocation.  We identified their roofers with the greatest potential for growth – and ones they wanted to retain – and outlined a three-month development program for them.  If they met established development KPIs over the course of the three months, they received a promotion and a pay increase aligned with a management-level salary band.  

Cross Training and Job Shadowing 

One other way you can leverage upskilling in your business is through specific cross-training and job shadowing.  This means allowing employees to work cross-functionally with other departments or business units in your company to learn about another facet of the business.  This is a direct benefit to the business because your employees gain holistic knowledge of your day-to-day operations.  This also helps prevent a single point of failure should someone be unavailable, the cross-trained worker can step in until the permanent resource is able to address the issue. 

Employees want employers who are committed to their ongoing learning.  And although not every person wants to be promoted or be a people manager, they may want to stay with a company that invests in their career growth.  By offering cross-training and job shadowing, they may be able to advance their career and remain with your organization, without having to necessarily move up the corporate ladder.  They are given opportunities to expand their knowledge and contribute to the company through a lateral move because of cross-functional learning.  The employee remains with the company because they know they can continue their growth and learning with your company, rather than feeling the only way they can advance their career is if they seek a job elsewhere.  

Is Your Business Struggling Due to Talent Shortages? 

It is difficult for employers to navigate the current job market.  You may be trying to find a unicorn candidate, but that unicorn comes at a premium price you can’t afford.  But, the candidate of your dreams may be right in front of your face, you just need to provide them with some learning opportunities for them to fit the ideal candidate profile.  Red Clover is equipped to help your business develop upskilling programs to help address talent shortages.  Reach out to get started.

Related Articles

Above Footer Form

Fill out the form and one of our representatives will contact you within one business day.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

For News and Events

Sign Up For News and Insights on HR, Change Management and Strategies.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Skip to content