Covid-19 has devastated the workforce, with hundreds of thousands of workers laid off, transferred into unfamiliar positions or forced to take unpaid leave. 

A survey conducted on 200 businesses by Business Know-How saw that 77% indicated a decline in sales, and 29% indicated they had to permanently close. 

It's no surprise that the most impacted industries include restaurants, tourism and retail. 

While many industries struggle to hire new employees, businesses are taking this unique time as an opportunity to upskill and reskill their current workforce.

More than just a way to keep businesses running, upskilling employees allows for better employee engagement, higher employee retention, attracts new talent and transitions the business to a more agile state quicker.  

According to McKinsey & Company, “Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.”

Six steps to upskilling employees

We’re now in an era where leaders must think about how they can reskill and upskill their workforce to deliver on new business models. You can take crucial steps to start reskilling and rebuilding your workforce. 

1. Identify the skills gap 

Companies need to understand the gap between their current skill set and the skills they need to offer to see continued growth and success. 

You also want to identify value drivers for individual employee groups. By understanding each role’s exact contribution, you can understand what skill sets are necessary to meet the new demand.

2. Build critical skills

You’ve adjusted roles and your business model to meet your new demand and business values. Now you need to focus on upskilling the critical workforce that will help you to meet these goals. McKinsey & Company suggest building a no-regrets skillset. 

This is a toolkit that will be consistent for every role and employee. You should focus on four core skills: digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability/resilience. 

3. Tailor learning based on skills gaps 

After considering which activities your employee groups will undertake to help the business pivot, you must also consider the skills each of these groups will need. 

To do this, you need to focus on strategic workforce planning to help you determine the right skills to develop quickly. Each of these learning scenarios is tailored to a specific role, and to cut costs and scale effectively, you can bring training online. 

4. Implement, test, adjust, repeat 

By getting started on upskilling your employees, you will better prepare for future disruptions. It will make the business more agile, resilient and adaptable when addressing skills gaps and implementing new business models. 

When you implement, test, adjust and repeat, you give yourself and the business room to make mistakes and improve, so you’re prepared for whatever comes your way. 

5. Act small for the most significant impact

When it comes to upskilling employees, small businesses are in the perfect spot. Their size allows them to make bold moves quickly and successfully operate in an agile environment. They tend to have a clearer view of each team’s deficiencies and select the right employees to upskill. 

6. Build a learning ecosystem

Employee-training budgets can be a sore topic for businesses struggling to meet their labour budget and come out net positive. Instead of cutting costs for employee learning, you should be working to build and protect a learning ecosystem for your employees. The benefit far outweighs the negative. 

How to move forward 

As companies transition out of Covid-19, many changes are here to stay. Including the use of technology and the structure of teams across virtual offices. How businesses adapt to these changes will help them see continued success and growth within their organisation. Reskilling and upskilling your employees can help you stay agile, protect yourself against future disruptions and keep your team engaged. 

For more helpful reading, check out this blog post: The Effects of Poor Communication in the Workplace.