Job roles and their requirements are changing at a rapid pace. As new opportunities are created and more roles become available, it becomes increasingly important for companies to fill these positions with people who possess the relevant skills and technical knowledge.
But it’s not always easy to find new talent to take over these roles, and companies may not necessarily want to spend extra resources hiring new people with the right talent and skill sets. The solution, then, is to upskill their current employees. By providing these workers with new training opportunities and helping them elevate their skills to the next level, these companies are able to maintain their competitive edge by closing any skill gaps. As a bonus, when employees know that their companies are invested in them and that they have scope to grow within their roles, they’re likely to feel more satisfied with their jobs. In turn, this increases employee retention and boosts employee morale and performance.
Upskilling is expected to be huge in the coming years. According to the World Economic Forum, investing in upskilling and reskilling the global workforce will increase global GDP by US$6.5 trillion by the year 2030.
Paul Heng, Founder of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia, believes that it’s never too early or too late to upskill. Here, he explains the ways these can help you in your career and benefit your company, and offers ideas for acquiring more knowledge and expanding your skill sets.
Q: How can upskilling benefit us throughout our career?
Paul: Upskilling can enrich us in many ways and help us continue to grow and do well as we progress in our career. Academic credentials are important to help us secure our first job, but they don’t affect the way we do our job and don’t determine how successful we become in our role. Once we start our career, there are four main areas we need to focus on in order to excel: knowledge and skills acquisition or enhancement, soft skills, emotional quotient and adversity quotient. These need to be continuously worked on to maintain a steadfast career.
Q: By upskilling, how do we bring value to our company?
Paul: By training and educating yourself, you build upon your current skill set as well as expand your knowledge. This allows you to continue to do a good job and stay abreast of any new technologies and other advancements in your industry. Being more effective at your job positively impacts your entire team’s contribution, and this allows your company to meet its business objectives and continue to grow, which in turn benefits all employees.
Q: With so many types of training and courses to choose from, how do we know which ones to do?
Paul: Read about the different courses and speak to people who have done them before. Obviously, the course should also be relevant to your area of business and help you to be better at what you do. To this end, you should ask yourself three important questions before signing up for a course:
First, where’s my company’s business going to be in the next year or two? What knowledge and skills do I need to continue to do an effective job? And finally, where can I go to acquire these skills?
Companies usually have a budget for employee development, however it’s not realistic for employees to expect that they will be sponsored for all the training and development they need. The solution, therefore, is to upskill yourself. But don’t see this as a waste of money; rather, view it as an investment in your long-term employability.
Q: Besides doing courses, how else can we grow our skill set?
Paul: On-the-job exposure is a great way to pick up more skills. If you want to learn new skills outside of your job, look for opportunities and do your own research. For example, if you’d like to prepare for supervisory responsibilities, you can read about leadership, talk to leaders you admire, and practise utilising leadership skills in your own role.
Even doing volunteer work can help you acquire leadership skills. I believe that as a leader in a voluntary organisation, you learn so much more than a leader in the corporate world. The latter has hierarchical power, whereas in the world of volunteerism, everyone is a volunteer and the people you work with don’t have to listen to you. If they don’t like you, they can simply choose to join another team or go somewhere else to volunteer. Being a leader in a voluntary organisation can teach you a lot about persuasive leadership.
Aside from acquiring leadership skills, learn more about how volunteering can enhance your well-being.
And finally, you should work on acquiring knowledge and skills before you need them and not when you need them. That way, you have a better chance of getting the job you want when it becomes available.
Q: Networking is considered a form of upskilling because it opens us up to opportunities and may help us advance professionally. What’s the best way to network within our industry or company?
Paul: Consider networking, not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Your goal when networking should be to get to know more people, make new connections and learn from the people you meet (which you can easily achieve by speaking and engaging with them). Taking this approach allows you to network beyond your job, company and industry. Technology can certainly help here – make use of different platforms and websites to grow your network beyond your current professional circle.
Q: How can a mentorship help us acquire more skills, and how do we find the right mentor?
Paul: Sometimes, shadowing a mentor can be an excellent way to pick up new skills and observe how these skills are performed. Some skills just can’t be acquired in school or through a course; you need that real-life experience and watching how your mentor deals with certain situations can help you with that.
Finding a good mentor is mostly a matter of luck. Try approaching potential mentors and ask them if they’re willing to mentor you. Then see how the partnership works out.
Q: Once we’ve successfully upskilled, how do we go about using this to request for a promotion or raise from our employer?
Paul: That might not be the best way to think of upskilling. We upgrade our skills to maintain our employability, do a better job, try for a different job, and so on. And if we do our job well, the money and promotion should follow naturally.
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