How to invest in your current employees: Upskilling

With the support of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) assigned to different industries, and the funding and reports released to support workplace training, the concept of upskilling ought to be well-known to the global workforce as well as within South Africa.


By Tarryn Olivier on Thu Mar 16 2023

In the Global Workforce Hopes and Fears survey 2022 released by PwC, it was found that there was an increasing need amongst the employees surveyed to be upskilled. Bob Moritz the Global Chairman of PwC, noted that employees wanted to feel and be empowered to perform tasks and to gain meaning, enjoyment and satisfaction through the work that they do.

He also noted that Upskilling and development was the tool to assist this. It is therefore imperative for both employee and employer to understand Upskilling and the value it holds for both.

The purpose and process of Upskilling

As defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, Upskilling is the process of learning new skills. The Oxford Dictionary nicely puts it as the process where an employee acquires additional skills. There’s an acknowledgement in its definition that the employees at present, have arrived with a skillset but that there is value in building on that. As noted by the DHET in their report, this value-add contributes to the unemployed, the employed and employers.

Referring to the range of skills that could be focused on, could be Hard skills pertaining to the work task and day-to-day activities, Soft skills relating to human function and capabilities as well as, skills for future use or relating to aspirations and dreams.

The reality is that employees have many interests and often are not able to improve skills as work demands may not leave room or capacity. Whilst the survey suggested an employee-centric approach, the upskilling and development of employees are sure to produce benefits for organisations and their growth as well.

The importance of Upskilling

In an article on the PwC survey, Business Tech notes that skills relating solely to the job title and hard skills will no longer suffice, especially in a working world that has been significantly impacted by a pandemic, technological transformation and within South Africa, an economy that was already challenged. There is an increasing need for upskilling to shift to softer skills that for example, develop resilience and agility during change, emotional intelligence and a skill such as leadership need not only be developed for a future role but employees can learn to lead and motivate themselves and each other, in their current role and lives.

Notwithstanding, the importance and value of upskilling of hard skills that aid employees to function in their roles as technology advances. The survey found that employees expressed that they feel more confident and in control of their work when they have been upskilled with knowledge and training relating to their work, technology, data analysis etc.

How to invest and facilitate upskilling

As an employee

As an individual and employee, you play a role in your upskilling. You first have to choose to be upskilled. The opportunities, time and resources can be made available but you need to decide to participate and grab a hold of it. Prioritise upskilling by scheduling time for it, reading articles, do research about courses, workshops and seminars relating to your current field or the one you aspire to function within.

There are diverse ways to learn and Upskill yourself and the methods are no longer linked solely to traditional and mainstream learning.

As a company

Conduct a needs analysis within your team, department or organisation. Consider what may be lacking but also what would be beneficial for now and the future. Upskilling need not be reactional. Don’t only send the employee on training after the report had one too many zeros, but proactively invest in employees' upskilling.

Upskilling further does not need to only relate to the employee’s role. An employee may be the most skilled individual in the team and at the same time, the least cooperative. Time and resources focused on developing soft skills can improve an individual and team’s dynamic.

Upskilling at JOBJACK

At JOBJACK, Upskilling takes place on a Friday morning for an hour.

Employees are encouraged to take the set hour and do something to upskill. These sessions may include online courses, audiobooks, or a paperback book if you prefer. Colleagues working in the same team may choose to partner and do a course together. Team or company-wide upskilling, where all employees are taught or trained on a topic, also takes place. Having dedicated time for upskilling allows you to pause and prioritise learning a new skill.

Prioritising time for upskilling helps to foster a culture of learning, where the value of knowledge and idea sharing is not only encouraged but celebrated.

There’s something very valuable about an employer providing the time, resources and finances for upskilling. The gestures and provision of it communicates the interest and care towards current employees, and have the ability to contribute to trust and acknowledgement in the employment relationship. In response, you may have an employee say “I’ll use what I’ve learned and gained to assist you in growing and developing your company”.