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How can we encourage employees to learn new skills?

Learning new skills is essential for all employees, whatever their career objectives: changing company, strengthening their expertise, moving to a managerial position, retraining...

Professions and jobs are evolving, so this means employees must continuously develop new skills and knowledge and enter uncharted territories. The digitalisation of work is a major underlying trend, with the omnipresence of digital technology and the advance of artificial intelligence.


At the same time, companies are facing increased competition, so it is important to employ professionals who are in tune with the evolution of their business sectors and professions.


There are many new skills to develop: in addition to hard skills, there are interpersonal skills and, more broadly, transferable skills. In other words, a creative, persuasive employee with strong emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills will bring great value to the company and will adapt more easily to change.

A skill becomes obsolete in around 5 years: a figure that really sums up how vital it is to develop skills. Rise Up is here to shed some light on the topic.


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Skills development or reskilling: definition


What is reskilling or skills development?


Reskilling is the rapid acquisition of new skills to maintain employability. This term is usually associated with skills development.

For the company, this means providing the employee with a training scheme that is often lengthy because the employee has no knowledge of the targeted skill.

Reskilling occurs in three distinct contexts: the creation of new jobs, professional retraining and when there is a shortage of candidates.


The creation of new jobs


Situation number 1: the employee can no longer carry out his/her tasks effectively as a major change has been made in their job (e.g., certain tasks have been automated). However, the company wants to keep him/her on the staff team. It will therefore offer him/her a training course until he/she has fully mastered the new skills.


Professional retraining


Here the individual does not have the necessary technical skills or the experience for the position. However, the employer, impressed by their soft skills, decides to hire him/her and trains him/her internally.


Shortage of candidates


In some sectors (e.g., IT and health), recruiters are struggling to find qualified candidates. They are therefore also interested in the soft skills of applicants and recruit non-specialised talent. Once in the company, these new recruits undergo training to develop their technical skills.


What are the differences between reskilling and upskilling?


Reskilling and upskilling: two concepts that must not be confused! While reskilling refers to learning new skills in order to remain in the job, upskilling has another objective: to build on skills in a particular job; the employee remains in their field of work and continues to perform the same duties.


In other words, upskilling means that the employee is trained to update their knowledge and strengthen specific skills. For example, a company offers specific training on TikTok to its community manager, as this social network did not exist when he/she took over.


When it comes to upskilling, the training courses are short, targeted and are part of an ongoing training initiative.


In other words:

  • Reskilling refers to the development of skills (particularly hard skills), with a view to changing jobs.
  • Upskilling refers to optimising skills (hard skills and soft skills), with a view to strengthening skills in one's original profession.


Upskilling is just as important as reskilling. The company has two main interests in it. Firstly, to improve individual performance. Secondly, to anticipate the obsolescence of skills, i.e., a mismatch between the skills acquired up to now and the employee's current (and future) activity.



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Why should the company set up a skills development plan?


The first value of a company is its employees. And the first value of an employee is their skills... It is therefore understandable that promoting a learning culture within the company is a central issue both for the employee and for the organisation as a whole.


Reskilling must occupy a major place in a training policy. Indeed, it is through the development of skills that the organisation will be able to continuously adapt to its environment.


In addition, training its employees to make them operational in new positions prevents the company from recruiting. Result: saved time... and money!


The positive points don't stop there. An organisation that offers its staff the opportunity to develop skills reaps many benefits. It gains competitiveness, secures its business in the long term and builds loyalty among its employees.


In addition, an effective skills development plan offers a double advantage:

  • The company becomes more efficient while optimising its budget.
  • The employee increases his or her skill set, and in turn his/her employability.


Empowering employees through skills development opportunities


Employees are aware of the issues involved in learning new skills, whether hard or soft. They are obviously primarily concerned with how the roles of a job can change over time. Moreover, they often need challenges and new perspectives to stay motivated and fully engaged in their work.


The company plays a key role in supporting employees' well-being and development. It is up to the company to give meaning to their tasks and objectives. It is also up to them to provide a learning culture, as we have said.


The training policy must therefore follow some broad guidelines:

  • To value expertise
  • To promote the transmission of knowledge, the sharing of knowledge between peers
  • To allow employees to learn how to learn
  • To give time and autonomy to employees for continuous learning
  • To offer employees engaging training methods, such as blended learning or digital learning, in addition to traditional face-to-face training
  • To make use of effective, tried and tested technological tools (LMS / LXP).


While the company's duty is to bring optimal learning conditions to the employee, the employee also has a role to play. To increase their professional value and remain effective regardless of changes in the sector of activity requires the employee to fully commit to constantly developing new skills.


In other words, employees have an obligation to be proactive, otherwise they will not be able to acquire new skills. It is up to them to find out about the opportunities offered by their company, both for training in technical skills and in transferable skills.


The latter are becoming increasingly important. Behavioural and interpersonal skills do indeed play a crucial role in the ability to adapt to changing contexts and situations. Moreover, unlike technical skills, soft skills do not become obsolete. Social intelligence, good communication and versatility are and will remain useful in many professions.



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How can we effectively support employees in acquiring new skills?


9 actions to take to encourage the development of employees' skills


Put in place appropriate training systems


As we have seen, offering training programmes (face-to-face, distance learning or a combination of the two) remains the best way to ensure the development of employees' skills. But that's not all...

Here is a series of complementary actions to be implemented.


Monitoring employees daily


As a manager, it is essential to regularly monitor the performance and development of the members of their team. Thanks to this approach, the manager is aware of their needs and expectations and can guide and support them in their progress accordingly.


Set intermediate and concrete objectives


It is aboutraising the employees’ game”, which will lead them to strengthen their skills. This can be done by setting clear and measurable short-term objectives, for example by breaking down an overall project into several segments.


Focus on strengths


An employee who feels valued will be more motivated to learn new skills. Reminding them of their strengths, of how they are performing, showing them that the company wants to capitalise on their strengths: these are all excellent ways to engage them in developing their skills.


Prepare some case studies


Offering them a model and some concrete examples is very useful. Employees can identify themselves in these cases and understand what skills they need to use to find solutions in a given situation. In this context, the case study is perfect as it concerns a real experience in the company.


Offer some coaching


Learning new skills can also involve professional coaching for employees. Such a service brings real added value since the employee benefits from personalised support at each stage of his/her learning process.


Promote group work


Working in groups: one of the most effective ways of broadening one's knowledge through exposure to different working methods and points of view.


Register employees for professional conferences and trade fairs


Attending professional events is highly advantageous for the employee. By working alongside experts in their field, they can upgrade their skills and understand the new challenges of their job.


Encourage employees to participate in training seminars and expand their network


Participating in seminars, joining discussion groups and expanding one's professional network leads both to staying in touch with the latest news in a sector and to broadening the vision of a job.


3 simple solutions to value employees' skills


Once again, the manager is in the forefront when it comes to valuing the new skills of the employees. In addition to the benefits at the individual level (increased commitment and well-being at work), the positive consequences are felt at the level of the team as a whole. The work ambiance, group cohesion and the quality of exchanges improve.


To achieve this result, it is necessary to:


  • Trust employees, i.e., allow them to take the initiative and make decisions.
  • Delegate certain tasks. An approach that goes in the same direction as the previous one and can often seem daunting. However, agreeing to delegate means showing that one recognises and makes use of the new skills of employees.
  • Communicate regularly with constructive feedback. Knowing how to congratulate employees while pointing out areas for improvement is a balance that the manager must constantly find.


So, what should we retain as a priority from this analysis? First, learning new skills is essential for the performance of both the employee and the company. In addition, the organisation has a decisive role to play in terms of supporting employees in the development of their skills.


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