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Upskilling: a complete guide for professionals 1

Upskilling: a complete guide for professionals

An interesting study by the World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of primary school students today will be working in jobs that do not exist currently. A simpler way to put it is that the skill set required for the future is evolving rapidly. 

The only way to future-proof yourself is upskilling. In this guide, we will walk you through upskilling; what it is, its importance, and how you can increase your value as an employee with upskilling.

What is upskilling? 

Upskilling is a term well known to business managers. In the micro context, it refers to the process of individuals acquiring new and relevant competencies that will make them more efficient workers in the near future. On the macro scale, upskilling is an indication of a tectonic shift in the workplace caused by technology creating the need for a modernized workforce.

Upskilling is the key to future development 

If you are wondering why upskilling is all so important suddenly, the short answer is Digital Transformation.

The digital economy is based on astonishing advances in technology that are completely transforming how jobs are done. This change is leaving employers with a workforce suffering from a skills gap. What the employers want and what their employees can do has to be bridged.

The main causes of the current skills gap are:

The aging workforce lacks the skills required for modernizing jobs. This creates a gap not only in terms of skills and knowledge but also in terms of open positions that are hard to fill. If you are not learning the tools and acquiring skills for the changing needs of the job, you cannot expect to compete with your peers successfully.

Skills gap due to digitalization. Many visionaries believe that we are already amidst the so-called fourth industrial revolution. Developments in automation fields like artificial intelligence and robotics are happening at a faster than expected pace. This is modifying the nature of the jobs that need to be done, thereby changing the skills needed to do those jobs.

How are you benefited from continuous upskilling? 

You will remain employable

Job roles are changing faster than ever and 56% of HR professionals say their organization’s skills gap is moderate to severe. This is why there is a heightened need for upskilling as it is predicted that today’s skills are most likely to go obsolete in the next 3-5 years. When you invest in upskilling you increase your professional value.

Develop a learning mindset

You put yourself on a growth curve when you develop lifelong learning behavior. In the context of upskilling lifelong learning implies an ongoing process of acquiring job-related knowledge and skills.

You become more adaptable

A promising organization is always evolving with changing strategies and business models. To be part of such organizations you will require a new set of skills. When you keep upskilling you get more mobile i.e., you can easily adjust to new workplace changes.

How can you upskill for a more promising future? 

Fortunately, upskilling is a process you can take full responsibility for. There are several ways to take your skills up a notch depending on the need of your organization. We recommend you combine the different upskilling techniques.

1. Ask for stretch opportunities at work

The most obvious way to improve or learn skills is to learn them on the job. If your organization offers learning and development programs you can join one best suited to your skillset. But we recommend you pick a project outside your usual remit to develop new competencies that will give you an edge over your peers. Most professionals find on-the-job stretch opportunities most effective for upskilling.

You can start a conversation with your manager to put your name forward for projects outside your domain. However, being proactive and identifying an area where you can contribute and benefit the company, can allow you to take up a new challenge.

2. Job rotation

Job rotation is one way to explore new skills by moving between jobs within the same organization. Many organizations use job rotation as a way to transfer specific skills and competencies among employees. Mostly these rotations take place laterally, meaning between jobs on the same level. For example, HR professionals can explore opportunities outside the HR department to gain business skills.

3. Stay plugged in

Professionals across industries agree that reading professional literature or articles is one of the best ways to keep up-to-date. According to a survey, 49% of the surveyed professionals attend seminars, webinars, or conferences to remain afloat with the changing trends in their domain while 33% listen to online content such as YouTube feeds, TED Talks, or podcasts.

LinkedIn is one networking site that can keep you updated with emerging skills so you can pick the right one to progress your career.

4. Job enlargement 

As part of the upskilling program, your organization can introduce additional activities within the same level of an existing role. This will make your current job more versatile with more different activities. These additional responsibilities will require training and help with your career growth.

5. Peer coaching 

Teaming up with your peers can be another way to upskill. Working with colleagues helps you not only expand and refine your skills but also build new ones. As this is a more informal approach, employees working together to solve problems also learn to collaborate and develop leadership skills such as effective communication, active listening, and mentoring ability.

Upskilling programs you can take inspiration from 

Companies across the globe have taken a variety of upskilling projects to train their employees, we are sharing three such case studies.

PwC has a workforce upskilling strategy that they call ‘digital fitness’ aimed at training employees for various digital domains such as data, analytics, blockchain, AI, and automation. The organization confessed that one of the most important outcomes of their upskilling program is building a growth mindset culture in employees.

Arla Foods Denmark realized the potential of upskilling for its workforce by offering Danish and maths courses to help them adopt automation in the dairy industry. Some of the officials regarded the upskilling program as ‘taking them out of the Stone Age into the modern age of communication’.

Skilled Up, a product training and skills development program company achieved an unprecedented feat of training 600 sales consultants and upskilling them within a week. The company employed a face-to-face training solution along with a series of 1-hour product training workshops and e-learning product training for this project.


Upskilling is an important strategy for you to acquire skills and competencies for the future. The path you choose to upgrade your skills depends on your specific needs, but combining one or more upskilling techniques listed above will be most effective.  

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