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Five Steps for Creating an Upskilling Program

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Skill-development and employee-training programs can benefit associations, if approached the right way. A look at how to build an upskilling program that aligns with an organization's goals and helps staff stay agile and innovative.

Today’s associations must be nimble and stay ahead of their competitors. As part of that, organizations must also ensure their staff are prepared for the future and have a grasp on emerging trends and technologies that affect their work.

According to LinkedIn Learning’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, skill sets for jobs have changed by about 25 percent since 2015. And it’s not over: By 2027, that number is expected to double.

That means employee upskilling—helping staff learn new skills that either allow them to grow or prepare them for a new position in an organization—is critical.

Upskilling helps fill skills gaps, prepares employees for leadership roles, and addresses other organizational needs. By investing in employee development, associations can build a highly skilled staff team and foster a culture of learning and growth. Here are some initial steps that go into building a successful employee upskilling program.

Perform a Skills Gap Analysis 

The first step is to do a skills gap analysis to understand where the most significant knowledge gaps exist.

A skills assessment should include:

Employee self-assessments and team assessments. Ask employees to evaluate their own skill set and the skill sets of the whole team. Ask them specific questions like, “What skills do you feel you or the team are missing to do your job effectively?”

Work evaluations. Evaluate past tasks and projects to assess their skill level. Managers and department heads should ask, “What qualifications would make their work stronger?”

Once you have that, work with HR leaders to understand what skills are needed in the organization and where the weaknesses are.

By investing in employee development, associations can build a highly skilled staff team and foster a culture of learning and growth.
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Develop Employee Growth Plans

The next step is to determine what goals employees have in terms of career growth. Then, you can match employees with specific skill-development plans that match the association’s needs.

Although the matching process can be challenging, it becomes more manageable if you plan to do it from the start. For example, have managers create employee career plans for each direct report and then match the skills needed on those plans with the skills needed within the organization.

Decide on Training

With skills identified and individuals matched to specific needs within the association, it’s time to look at different types of upskilling training.

Coaching and mentorship are effective ways to help employees gain additional skills. Associations may also choose to rely on a learning platform to create personalized training for employees based on the skills they need for their roles. One advantage of a learning platform is that it allows staff to work at their own pace.

However, none of this will work if an association doesn’t create a culture of learning where staff are encouraged to experiment, try new things, and learn how to rebound from failure.

Let Staff Try Out Their New Skills

When possible, allow employees to work on projects that are outside their usual comfort zone, so they can put their new skills into action.

For example, someone learning leadership skills might asked to lead a project where they need to manage other team members, or someone working on analytics might be tasked with understanding efficiencies in a particular department.

Assess Progress 

Ultimately, you want to ensure that your upskilling program positively affects employee growth and association goals, so you need to measure results.

For instance, you can track how well employees are doing with new skills using the same methods you used to assess skill gaps early on.

Associations Now Staff

The Associations Now team of editors covers all aspects of association management in print, blogs, and daily news.

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