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Upskilling: What It Is and Why It Matters

Upskilling: What It Is and Why It Matters

Making sure that your employees continue to acquire new skills and refine the ones they have is hardly a new idea, but as competition for qualified workers increases, it’s become an essential part of maintaining a productive workforce and gaining a lasting competitive advantage. For many contractors, that means proactively exposing their employees to concepts and technologies that will define the workplace in the future. According to experts, the digital skill gap is very real, and as industries continue to adopt automated processes and AI-enabled tools, making sure that your employees have access to digital learning opportunities is time and money well spent.

What It Is
Simply put, upskilling is an ongoing commitment to education and development that expands and enhances your employees’ professional capabilities. It can be the result of formalized live and online training programs, individual mentorship or group collaboration among workers with a diversified skill set. Regardless of format, the goal is to equip your employees with skills that support improved performance now and anticipates which skills will be necessary for success in the future. The construction industry is undeniably a dynamic one; as new tools and technologies are introduced, the evolution of traditional roles and responsibilities in the construction industry is inevitable. Upskilling is important preparation for new ways of working, helping to ensure the continued relevance and value of your employees and the viability of your business as a whole. 

By 2022, 54% of all employees will require upskilling.

World Economic Forum.

Why It Matters
Upskilling is more than a professional “perk” for your employees; it has direct benefits for your company, too, and cost reduction is at the top of the list. Prior to the pandemic, many contractors were having a hard time finding enough qualified workers to fill vital positions, and as the industry begins to recover from the impacts of Covid-19, competition for the best candidates is certain to resume. The real problem? Training new employees, assuming they are available, can be cost-prohibitive. By investing in the upskilling of existing employees, companies have the potential to acquire similar skill sets at a much lower cost. 

A recent survey conducted by SHRM found the average cost-per-hire of new employees is more than $4,000.

Important as it is, cost isn’t the only reason to upskill your employees. Upskilling has been shown to improve employee engagement, morale and retention, all of which can result in a more productive workplace, reduced turnover, and ultimately, a more profitable business.

Engagement. Broadly speaking, an engaged employee is a good employee, and upskilling has been shown to support higher levels of engagement at every level. Just as important, with an expanding skillset and knowledge bank, employees are more likely to perform better and be accountable for outcomes

Morale. Attitude, they say, is everything. Having a workable plan in place to develop professional skills in your workforce can help make your employees feel valued, which in turn improves their morale and strengthens their loyalty to your company.

Retention. According to a Gallup poll, companies that offer professional development opportunities are more attractive to desirable job candidates. By giving employees the chance to upskill, you make it clear that your company is focused on the future and are willing to make an investment in their professional success. 

How to make an upskill strategy

Treat upskilling as an investment instead of a cost

When contractors treat upskilling as an investment, it is an eagle view of the skills to be acquired as a long-term asset for the company. When your workers are upskilled well, it goes beyond efficiency for today’s profit, but profit maximization structures are being set for the rest of the year and years to come. With clearly defined goals of business for your projects and KPIs, the upskill strategy becomes easy to create and implement.

Offer relevant applicable skillsets

Instead of focussing on skills that could be more helpful and applicable to the projects you are bidding for or hope to, rethink. A successful upskilling strategy involves offering a skill set that is easy to apply within the set times to give results.

For instance, more than focusing on teaching management may be helpful. Consider upskilling your employees on various management levels within the scope of work. Time management bits, tools management, and some software use management skills offer a cocktail of relevant skills and are helpful to be applied instead of shelved as information overload.

Make learning fun and engaging

When thinking of upskilling strategies, they should be free from serious zoom sessions and loads of paperwork and assessment. That is far from it. The construction industry is broad, and you can make upskilling as engaging as possible. 

Choose to do upskilling through interactive meetings physically, visiting other workshops or sites to make the employees learn hands-on what the skillset being given is about. Provide games as tests and many engaging learning modes that go beyond the screen and lectures.

Use data to make upskilling decisions

Various AI tools today can measure your team’s skill level and how they respond to various skills. Such data gives personalized results to help you know the exact focus points the upskilling angle needs to take. An employee’s job experience and career trajectory can also be well predicted to create programs that suit them.

Rent or outsource the upskilling plan. 

Instead of starting your upskilling program, you can learn more from what others are doing. Some general upskilling content can be spread out and rented out. You can customize the content to suit your organization instead of building an upskilling program from the ground up. Most programs require a lot of resources which may be too expensive. Considering this strategy may be cost-effective and efficient.

Encourage your employees to learn

Employees are often anticipating changes in an organization. As such, they can ensure that the growth process is theirs to carry and own. As such, you can target your workforce for skills they should develop. This is rewarded through bonuses and partially or wholly sponsored. By so doing, the skilling process becomes seamless as it creates an opportunity for growth by employees in different departments. The availability of various guided options will ensure that the whole team is enrolled in an upskilling program at any time.

Pros of Upskilling 

Increasing employee retention

Employees are more likely to stay in an organization that encourages their growth and puts resources into their advancement. It shows that the company values them and intends for them to be better, as well as commit more time to them hence staying in the company for longer.

Identify the skills needed by employees and filling the gaps 

Employees may need to learn all the skills they need. By analyzing their capacity and identifying upskilling needs, you realize their gaps and plan best on how to fill them. Employees are impacted with needful skills for their work.

Increases Client satisfaction

The clients are most likely to be pleased with the better work done. Better results are from employees equipped with the necessary skills for their work.

Fosters a learning culture in the organization

Investing in human capital through upskilling gives your company an edge in the competitive industry. A learning culture means every employee is going through a growth curve which is crucial for any company that wants to remain relevant.

Saves company money

The cost of losing some bids from using unskilled workers can be too huge. Furthermore, if you have to replace employees, you incur expenses in advertisement, training, workplace integration, and benefits. Upskilling will ensure retention by a high margin. 

Prepares your company from contingencies

When you lose employees, you may be left with an empty department that is useless as no one can do what their former colleague was doing, stalling business operations. With upskilling, you can avoid this, as it is easy to assign tasks to other employees before you hire a recruit.

Cons of Upskilling 


Upskilling may be a costly investment for any company. From the resources used, and time spent to programs put in place. If the upskilling strategy is not well defined, many finances can be poured down the drain.

Resistance to change

Employees may only sometimes accept the upskilling programs you encourage them to take up. As such, it takes a lot of time to convince them and do a system overhaul which may sabotage your growth.

Staff poaching by other companies

When you upskill your employees, they stand a greater chance of being lured by other companies that may offer better perks. You, therefore, spend so much money yet get little value once you lose your best asset.

If you think that your employees could benefit from an upskilling program, it pays to take action sooner rather than later. The construction industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with new tools and technologies emerging every day. Contractors that are embracing change and adopting advanced solutions have a built-in advantage: their technology partners are an ideal choice to provide formalized employee training on the products they provide, and the knowledge that is transferred can serve as a catalyst for internal mentorship and group collaboration. By closing the digital skill gap now, your company can boost individual performance and proactively prepare for the future.