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Back to Basics:
Upskilling Critical to Filling Skills Gaps

A transformation in how we work is underway. Automation, remote work, and digitalization all contribute to the need for organizations to look closely at building capacity to adapt to the changes already happening and those ahead.

By 2025, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs could be displaced, while 97 million new roles may emerge due to shifts in automation and digitalization. 

These shifts will have a massive impact on companies still recovering from The Great Reshuffle, which has seen a record number of employees leave their jobs since the start of the pandemic: more than 19 million US workers since April 2021.

Many businesses are finding a significant gap between their current capabilities and the future skills that they will need. So as you create strategic goals for growth in your organization, it’s wise to assess if your employees have the skills to drive the company to long-term success. 

Preparing for the future means taking action today to fill skills gaps through strategic learning and development plans. These programs aren’t simply a perk for your employees ⁠— they’re an essential component in growing your business.


In this blog post, we’ll examine: 
  • What upskilling is and why it’s so important
  • How upskilling helps fill critical skills gaps
  • Why organizations should adopt a skills-based approach to hiring
  • How an investment into upskilling can help you retain top talent

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is the practice of providing learning opportunities for employees to build upon their existing skills. It helps develop employees to move upward within your company. As people gain new skills, they become more valuable and can help support shifts in the way your organization operates. 

The skills required for jobs have changed by approximately 25% since 2015, but by 2027, this number may double. Your organization could keep a competitive edge with a plan to address this gap.

The concept of reskilling is also crucial to building skills within your company. Opportunities may exist to help your workers gain new skills within their current roles to ensure they can evolve with the company as business priorities change.

Employees are not immune to seeing the shifts happening around them. Over half of the employees surveyed by Gartner say expectations have changed in their jobs over the past three years due to digitalization alone. 

These workers are looking for learning opportunities, with 82% believing they need to hone current skills or acquire new ones at least once a year. And, nearly 90% say they look for organizations with agile learning platforms when searching for a new position. (More on that later!)

Upskilling helps fill critical skills gaps

To identify and address skills gaps in your organization, you’ll want to assess where you stand today and how you can create solutions that align development opportunities with where you want to be.

The first step is understanding the anticipated changes in your industry or market. Next, you’ll need to make the necessary connections between the organization’s objectives and your employees’ goals. Finally, you can create plans to provide the learning experiences necessary to help drive both outcomes.

According to McKinsey & Company, 69% of organizations are doing more skill building now than before the pandemic, with 58% making it a priority to close skills gaps.

Over 90% of business leaders expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, and on average, companies estimate that 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less. The good news? The same research showed that, on average, 66% of employers expect to see a return on their investment in upskilling and reskilling within a single year. 

Consider your organizational goals for growth and evolving market demands. Can you achieve the growth you want with the skills your employees currently possess? If not, what’s missing? It’s also worthwhile to identify employees with transferable skills or the capacity to acquire new skills.

With these insights, you can create learning programs that guide your employees through development that aligns with their career objectives and the company’s need to build skills.

Addressing skills gaps can also show employees you see a future for them within your company. Over 90% of organizations are concerned about retention, and the top strategy used to improve it is providing learning opportunities for workers.

Adopt a skills-based approach when hiring

Remember that according to Gallup, the estimated cost to replace an employee could be twice their annual salary. You can reduce these losses by proactively keeping and developing the employees you already have.

Retaining and upskilling your existing staff is a smart strategy, but you may still need to hire to prepare for future growth. When hiring becomes necessary, try to shift the focus from the employment histories of job applicants to the demonstrable skills they can offer your company. 

Instead of hiring to fill vacant positions, look for where you have identified skills gaps in your organization and hire to fill them. You can take this one step further and hire for the skills your company will need in the future. 

Creating a culture of learning and upskilling can help you attract high-quality talent, as 65% of workers believe that employer-provided upskilling is very important when they evaluate a potential new role.

Investment in upskilling employees can help retain top talent

Upskilling can help you meet demands for the future of work and the expectations of individuals who work for you. People want to work for employers who care about their goals and in workplaces where they feel seen and valued. Workers are more likely to move on when these conditions don’t exist, costing you time and money. 

In contrast, employees who see a future with their company are more likely to be engaged, stay with the organization, and even recommend it to other job seekers.

With a focus on upskilling to fill skills gaps, you can invest resources into the right people and learning programs. Ready to dive deep into the “why” of upskilling? Learn how our People Operating Success System can help you achieve these upskilling goals for your business.