Essential terms used by HR and their meanings.


Upskilling is the process of improving key skills across the workforce using a variety of approaches to learning and development. The benefits of upskilling employees include better employee productivity and retention, leading to better long term business performance.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is a continuous learning strategy that focuses on facilitating the expansion of employee abilities to minimise skills gaps now, and in the future. The goal of upskilling is to improve the skills of existing employees, often with training and educational programmes, allowing them to advance into different roles within the company.

How to upskill team members

There are several approaches to upskilling within an organisation, usually a number of different learning and training options will be made available as part of a continuous programme. Some common elements presented in these programmes include:

  • Mentoring and shadowing – Providing one-to-one opportunities for employees to observe and understand the practical applications of new skills.

  • Microlearning sessions – Using bite-sized learning content and guidance for employees to easily integrate new skill development into their daily routine.

  • Online courses – Virtual learning tools can help employees structure their time, especially online courses that can be flexibly completed at any time.

  • 'Lunch-and-learn' – Encouraging a more relaxed approach to learning with knowledge sharing taking place over a catered lunch session. Allowing colleagues to share the learning experience in an informal way.

Any upskilling programme should be supported by clearly defined personal development plans for employees and an allowance of time to devote to this during the work day.


Benefits of upskilling employees

Providing employees the chance to upskill has numerous personal and business benefits. Encouraging personal development has a positive effect on individual wellbeing, as well as building a more innovative and productive workforce. Depending on your upskilling strategy, benefits you might see when a successful upskilling programme is implemented include:

  • Productivity – Giving employees the chance to develop skills that incorporate the use of new technology and more efficient ways of working can result in increased productivity at all levels of an organisation.

  • Satisfaction & engagement – Happy and engaged employees create happy and engaged customers. Providing a clear route for individual development will naturally increase employee engagement and have a positive impact on the customer experience and level of satisfaction.

  • Retention – Providing a clear path for development means that employees will be more inclined to stay with your organisation for the long haul, lower staff turnover means lower recruitment costs, better retention of business knowledge and a stronger organisational culture.

  • Competitive Edge – Allowing exposure to new tools, ideas, and approaches, will help your employees be more innovative and better equip the whole organisation to adapt to future marketplace trends. Upskilling your employees should provide you with a more competitive outlook and more agility to implement new ideas.

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Importance of upskilling employees

Upskilling helps you develop organisational agility and resilience, especially with an increasing level of hybrid working, making quick adoption of new technology essential. Developing a successful upskilling strategy and implementing it will help deliver greater retention of key staff, more innovative solutions to challenges in the marketplace, and a greater degree of specialist knowledge to inform business critical decision making to deliver future success.