While attending a recent human resources conference, I was struck by hearing more than one speaker warn that we will not have enough skilled workers to meet our organizations’ needs— both now and in the future.

So, what should we do? One of the solutions offered is to “upskill” your existing employees. You know—those tenured, high performing employees you already have, who may jump at the chance to learn some new skill(s) and not be tempted to leave your organization.


To successfully build your case, you must ensure that your senior-most leaders see the value and benefits associated with upskilling their employees. Don’t begin unless this vital support is present.

Then, you might ask, “Why might I want to do this and how am I going to find the time to teach these employees new skills?” Good questions. What better way to retain your well performing employees than to inquire whether they might wish to learn some new skills. Research shows that when employees are challenged to learn and grow, their retention and engagement goes up—and that’s good news for both you and your organization. If your tenured employees should decide to leave, they will be taking all of the training, knowledge, and experience you’ve already invested in them, too.

And you know what they say, “If you have happy employees, you are far more likely to have happy customers.” We also know how expensive it is to lose an employee. The Center for American Progress says, “The cost of losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16 percent of their salary for hourly, unsalaried employees to 213 percent of the salary for a highly-trained position.”


As part of your performance evaluation and/or stay interview process, ask your employees to write down the competencies they would like to learn and/or develop. This way, you will know where their interests lie. In “Upskilling Employees: Advantages and Methods to Teach Staff More” by Nikos Andriotis, “empowering your employees to come up with their own plan is key to the success of the upskilling training program.” Employees will be more motivated by identifying the skills they wish to obtain versus being told which skills the organization wishes for them to obtain.

Andriotis suggests that, if, for example, you have specialty software that most others in your industry do not have, consider offering training on this software to those who have expressed interest in learning about it. Also look for credentialing programs, where learners have the opportunity to earn a professional certificate.

Training need not be expensive. If you have a shoestring budget and are creative, you can use a classroom setting, online resources, and even ask fellow employees to assist with the upskilling efforts. If you have employees in multiple locations, investing in a Learning and Talent Development platform will enable employees to “dial in” and learn remotely.

Microlearning, where “bite-sized” training is offered in 5- to 10-minute web-based training sessions, may be an option where there are time and space constraints. They can be offered during a few short breaks during the day.

Another tried and true cost-effective option is the “lunch and learn.” If you’re able, offer training with a complimentary meal, and you won’t have to fret about whether anyone will show up. Otherwise, brown bag sessions work well too.

Recruit current employees to teach and facilitate upskilling information. You may be surprised to learn that they may be flattered to do so, particularly if they’ve never been asked before. They may also surprise themselves and discover in the process that they enjoy doing this type of work, and you may also have increased the likelihood that your new “trainer” will stay with your organization too.


Upskilling your good performers is a smart, strategic, future-focused move. Since we already know there is insufficient talent available, this is a creative solution that will serve to invigorate and engage your employees. In addition, it will help curb the high cost of turnover, increase retention, promote your brand as word gets out that you re-skill your employees, and, finally, provide your organization with a leg up in helping to meet its ever-changing needs.