Upskilling Employees is More Important Than Ever: Here's How to Do it

22 Aug ‘23
5 min
Work performance
Editorial Board OpenUp
Reviewed by psychologist Lili Thoelen
Upskilling Employees is More Important Than Ever: Here's How to Do it

The technological landscape is changing faster than TikTok trends. As a company, keeping up with changes is essential to remain competitive. Or better yet: get ahead of it. Equally, companies need to help employees embrace changes and navigate the new landscape. 


Psychologist Liliane Thoelen shares her tips for upskilling employees in relation to mental well-being.


Resilient and prepared for the future 


Upskilling is crucial for creating a future-proof organisation. On the one hand, because technological developments are rapid and it is important to equip employees with the skills to stay relevant. For example, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that by 2025, more than half of our current work will be done by machines. On the other hand, growth is essential for our mental well-being, internal resilience, and motivation.


But don’t panic: the WEF also predicts that these changes will bring 58 million net new jobs in the next five year. 


Those who keep up with technological advances will reap the benefits in several ways. US research by Gallup and Amazon shows that more than half of employees want to improve their skills, and 48 per cent of employees would switch jobs if they had better training opportunities in a new position. 


The benefits of in-house training


In-house training gives employees the necessary tools and knowledge to face challenges, allowing them to come up with creative solutions, adapt to new circumstances, and see new opportunities for growth. 


Liliane: “Developing yourself improves the output and quality of your work, but it also boosts your productivity, efficiency, and problem-solving ability. In addition, employees who can develop themselves are more satisfied with and engaged in their work.”


Gallup’s survey underlines the above; almost three quarters of employees say that growth opportunities increase their job satisfaction. Here are the organisational benefits of in-house training at a glance:


  • More satisfied employees
  • Better quality of work
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Lower recruitment costs
  • Better prepared for the future
  • Better problem-solving ability
  • Higher morale

“The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.”


–  Peter Drucker

The great thing about upskilling is that it works both ways; employees can develop, perform better, and have more energy to tackle work. Organisations benefit from improved productivity and performance, so it’s a win win. 


Liliane: “Employees who have the opportunity to expand or improve their skills are more satisfied. And satisfied employees have more energy, motivation and focus to perform at work.”


Upskilling and mental well-being


Growth and development have a close relationship with our mental well-being, and vice versa. 


Liliane: “Gaining new knowledge and skills is good for a person. It improves your memory and brain health, it improves your self-confidence and self-esteem, and it provides meaning and satisfaction.”


In turn, mental well-being affects your work and drive to develop. “Employees who feel good about themselves have less stress and are more resilient. They are also more motivated to develop further. It’s all intertwined.”


Upskilling and company culture

“Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”


– Brian Tracy

The culture that prevails within an organisation has an impact on how much people want to develop. A positive corporate culture where people feel safe both physically and mentally, encourages growth and development. 


“It is extraordinary to see how development, mental well-being, culture and work performance are all intertwined. That can create a domino effect that benefits everyone,” Liliane said.


“Organisations that prioritise the well-being of their employees create an environment that encourages development. And that environment, in turn, is good for mental well-being.”


Upskilling is important, both for the well-being of employees and for the future health of the organisation. Apart from setting up training opportunities, how do you approach upskilling? And how do you encourage employees to develop? 


1. Create a safe culture of learning and development


Everything hinges on a culture where people feel safe, can be themselves and have the opportunity to make mistakes. Within a safe culture, people feel free to experiment. And that naturally stimulates development.


So focus on company culture, Liliane stresses. “Because organisations with an open culture that encourage  development are more resilient.” 


This does not happen overnight, it is a process. In summary, a safe culture that encourages growth and development includes: 


  • Sufficient onboarding
  • Communicate clearly and transparently
  • Be open to constructive feedback
  • Celebrate victories, successe,s and learning moments
  • Set clear expectations with each other
  • Reflect on the week as a team 
  • Show appreciation towards each other


Liliane: “An employee who feels safe and valued is more motivated to acquire new skills. For example, regularly remind employees of their strengths and achievements.”


💡 Read more about developing a safe and positive company culture here: How Work Culture and Mental Health Are Connected


2. Support managers and leaders


Just as you need to put on your own mask on the plane before helping children, it is no different when creating an open culture and encouraging growth and development. 


“You want to provide managers and leaders with the skills and support they need to do their jobs well and support their team. For example, their attitude towards making mistakes plays a big role in creating a safe environment,” Liliane says. 


Think leadership training, but also training to manage stress and communicate well. For example, create an (internal) mentoring programme and discuss career opportunities and progress with each other.


 Liliane: “Teach the leaders first, so they can lead the way,”


3. Set a good example


Setting a good example is essential. When managers and leaders talk openly about their growth and show that they are actively engaged in their development, it encourages others to do the same.

💡Read more here: How to Engage Managers in Creating an Open Corporate Culture: 7 HR Tips

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4. Create a culture of psychological safety


As an organisation, you are responsible for creating a psychologically safe workplace environment. A working environment that supports well-being and job happiness, and makes employees feel confident and safe.


That responsibility lies partly in the hands of the managers and executives within the organisation. So, supporting them in that role is essential (see point 2). For instance, the way a manager handles mistakes and successes has an effect on safety and culture at work.


Only in an environment where people feel safe do they dare to experiment, make mistakes and learn from them. And that is essential to further develop and adapt to technological changes.


💡 Read more: How to Create Psychological Safety at Work as a Manager


5. Embrace a growth mindset (and making mistakes)


Making mistakes is human; it is part of life, and work is no different. At work, you need to allow employees room to make mistakes and learn from them.


As an employer, you create that space by creating a safe environment and by talking about it. After all, mistakes are, as Forbes describes it, a catalyst for growth. Encourage this growth mindset by:


  • Discussing and celebrating mistakes and failures with each other
  • Talking openly about mistakes (again, let leaders lead by example here)
  • Focus not on the mistake, but on the lesson learned from the mistake
  • Encourage experimentation
  • Focus on the “why” of the mistake: why did we do this?

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.”


– Nikki Giovanni

OpenUp helps organisations in the field of culture and well-being. We also coach employees to become more resilient. Find out how we can support your organisation.