Focus On Upskilling Could Launch A Golden Age For eLearning

Upskilling And Reskilling Existing Employees
Summary: Organizations that upskill or reskill existing employees to fill skills gaps see multiple business-wide benefits.

Train Internal Candidates To Fill Skills Gaps

With low unemployment, it can be harder and harder to find the right people to fill open jobs, especially those that require specific skillsets. Upskilling or reskilling the workers you already have offers a solution with tremendous potential benefits.

Tight Labor Market

According to management consulting company Korn Ferry, more than 85 million jobs could go unfilled by 2030 worldwide, due to a lack of skilled people to fill them. This could cost global economies about $8.5 trillion in lost revenue opportunities, Korn Ferry estimates. Even if you could find the right worker with the right skills, recruiting and hiring new workers can cost up to a third of that person’s annual salary, according to HRDive [1]. The solution: train the employees you already have.

Upskilling And Reskilling Have Broad Appeal

According to 2019 Deloitte Human Capital Trends, reskilling an internal candidate can cost as little as the one-sixth of hiring and training an external candidate [2]. And employees thirst for new opportunities. A key complaint—and a significant driver of voluntary turnover—is the lack of opportunities to move up or laterally within an organization and take on new challenges. More than half of the respondents to Deloitte’s survey said that it would be easier to find a new job with a different employer than with their current employer.

Turning inward and enhancing the workforce you have not only saves money and fills in skills gaps, but it also improves morale and reduces turnover. The LinkedIn 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that a whopping 94% of respondents would stay longer with an employer that invested in their skills and professional development. Whether employees need new skills because of automation or new technologies are changing the nature of their jobs, whether they seek a promotion or they want a new role with new challenges, upskilling or reskilling is the way to go.

Internal Opportunities Translate To Business Benefits

In addition to the clear benefits to employees, creating internal development and movement opportunities is good for organizations. Beyond filling skills gaps, a surprising additional benefit is business growth. The Deloitte report said, "Creating better programs to facilitate internal mobility can pay off in multiple areas: growth, employee engagement, and business performance."

Offering training and mobility within the organization is also a way to highlight crucial cultural values, like collaboration and creativity—key drivers of business success. Employees who had regular access to training told LinkedIn that they were significantly more engaged with their work and found their jobs more meaningful, which are essential elements in creating a positive employee experience, according to the Deloitte report. MIT research bears this out: "Companies with the best employee experience were more innovative, had double the customer satisfaction, and enjoyed 25% higher profits."

The "DevWork" Mindset

Employees want to learn at work, and the benefits are clear. Yet many workers feel that they lack the time to train. A solution suggested in the Deloitte report, termed "DevWork," merges learning and work. It brings learning into the workflow by "building on the realization that learning and work are two constantly connected sides of every job."

The report emphasized the need for the learning content to be personalized and relevant to specific goals and skills gaps while also being flexible enough to offer learners options and control over how and when they learn. The so-called "workflow learning" answers these needs. Its appeal dovetails with the popularity of short, mobile-friendly learning formats like microlearning and chatbot apps. These digital learning tools put training opportunities within easy reach for learners and deliver on-demand, searchable content. Each short, tightly focused lesson fits seamlessly into a worker’s break or moment of downtime, enabling busy employees to add learning to their schedules without falling behind on other essential tasks.

Deloitte respondents are serious about reskilling and upskilling. The three quarters said they’d look to train existing employees before seeking to hire outside their organizations, and 84% were planning to increase training budgets, specifically with an eye toward reskilling. This mirrors a trend reported in the LinkedIn report, where 82% of Learning and Development professionals reported strong executive support for learning—and the smallest number ever reported budget constraints as a top challenge. With a renewed emphasis on upskilling, the golden age of eLearning may be here.


[1] Study: Turnover Costs Employers $15,000 Per Worker

[2] Leading The Social Enterprise: Reinvent With A Human Focus