• Learning and Development

What is Upskilling and Cross-Skilling?

Your company is only as innovative as its people. Investing in continuous learning for current employees helps to increase productivity, retain top talent, and build the foundation for an environment where innovation is celebrated. And, in times of financial uncertainty, it’s important to focus on creative decisions to achieve results. 

So, how do you build your employees’ skills? One option is creating an upskilling and cross-skilling program. Upskilling and cross-skilling training are tools used to help employees expand their skill sets and reach individual, team, and company goals. 


What is Upskill Training?

Upskilling is the process of strengthening existing skills or learning complementary skills, often to close an organizational talent gap. Upskilling focuses on an employee’s skills and improves upon them to help advance in their job and gain higher responsibilities. For example, a corporate executive might complete an MBA to bring a more strategic outlook to their organization.


What is Cross-Skill Training?

Cross-skilling (also known as cross-training) is the process of developing new skills that apply across different functions. Cross-skilling focuses on training more than one employee in an organizational task to mitigate the risk of lapses in operation. For example, a user experience designer might learn software development fundamentals to improve cross-functional collaboration and productivity.


Why is Upskilling and Cross-Skilling Training Important?

There are many benefits to implementing an upskilling and cross-skilling training program, including: 

  • Contribute to the competitive advantage of your business by improving productivity. For organizations to remain competitive, reskilling and cross-skilling is no longer optional. Providing employees with learning opportunities can increase employee engagement, which results in better productivity and increased innovation.
  • Retain top talent in a competitive hiring landscape. In such a competitive landscape, retaining top talent is crucial to sustaining productivity and growth – and upskilling and cross-skilling talented employees helps you to retain talent by investing in their professional growth. This ensures you keep workers with the right balance of hard and soft skills in the business.
  • Support a culture of innovation and continuous learning. With industries, markets, and everyday business practices evolving, employee skills and knowledge remain the bedrock of organizational innovation. Employees seek purpose and impact, and innovation thrives when corporate goals align with employee career goals.
  • Do more with less. Did you know that 79% of learning and development professionals believe that it’s less expensive to reskill a current employee than to hire a new one? While implementing a reskilling and cross-skilling program may have some costs associated with the development, it ends up saving company resources by growing the skills of the employees already there. 


 How to Upskill/Cross-Skill Your Workforce

Upskilling and cross-skilling may not be included in your learning and development program right now, but you can implement this training using resources already available to you:

  1. Assess the skills your team possesses now and what skills you may need in the future. Turn to your team members when building your upskilling and cross-skilling training program. Since your team is familiar with their roles and the organization as a whole, begin the process by surveying and understanding employee skills and areas of opportunity for employees to grow. 
  2. Set upskilling goals. Why are you implementing upskilling and cross-skilling training? Do you wish to expand employee opportunities and responsibilities? Are leadership positions available? Will training help fill gaps between departments? Set training goals for all individual contributors along with larger teams and the organization as a whole. 
  3. Determine what learning format is most suitable for you. Do you already have some training program elements in place? For some, live or in-person training programs are used. For others, an asynchronous video-based learning offers flexibility and scalability throughout the training program. It is up to you and your team to review all options and decide the best approach. 
  4. Design the upskill/cross-skill program. Once you have an idea of how you wish to implement the upskill and cross-skill training, the next step is creating the training. Take all elements you have compiled to this point to develop a training program with your team and goals in mind. You can either create the program internally, such as creating training videos by department leaders, or depend on external resources.
  5. Monitor progress and match newly skilled employees with opportunities. Upskilling and cross-skilling training is successful when employees have the opportunity to expand on their responsibilities. Through training tools, such as a video management system, analytics will easily show progress made by each individual. Once training is complete and implemented, matching employees with positions that include these new skills show an organization’s commitment to upskilling and cross-training to offer greater opportunities to employees.


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