Upskilling in 2023: Build a Successful IT Upskilling Program

Susan Asher | Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Upskilling in 2023: Build a Successful IT Upskilling Program

As demands in business habitually change, new and improved skills are always in demand, especially in IT as new technologies are continually created to simplify and automate processes. To prepare your workforce for these constant changes, an upskilling program needs to be in place.

Why should you upskill? Because it costs way more money to hire someone new, and there’s a talent shortage. A 2021 Gartner survey found that IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies. A lack of talent availability was cited far more often than other barriers, such as implementation cost (29%) and security risk (7%).

Additionally, ExitCertified’s 2023 State of IT Training Report states that out of 420 IT leaders surveyed, 71% credited IT training for significantly increasing staff productivity. Data, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing are some the top emerging professions needed by 2025, according to The Future Of Jobs Report.

Benefits of an Upskilling Program

Employee Retention

In a January 2022 American Staffing Association article, Below Expectations: Employers Not Meeting Training Expectations of Worker, the association’s CEO, Richard Wahlquist, said, “Employees are looking to employers to provide the job training they need to elevate their careers. During the Great Resignation, if an employer is not willing to train and upskill its workforce, those employees may begin to look for an employer that will.”

Learning should never stop if you want your employees to have a successful career. One of the best ways to ensure that they grow in the company is to provide training.

Upskilling employees increases their options for better opportunities and career choices within your company. Career development could also allow career crossover, giving an employee the opportunity to move to a new or needed position.

Support Business Objectives

Learning & Development (L&D) teams can support business objectives by identifying the specific skills and knowledge employees need to do their jobs and by providing training from a reputable company.

But how do you go about developing a training strategy?

Set Goals

Any upskilling program should start with the business strategy. Take a step back to consider how business goals have changed, what new behaviors and skills are now needed, and how you can acquire these skills. Revenue, customer service, and employee retention are a few of the key business goals you’ll want to identify. The goals need to be specific and measurable to help build your business case and track the effectiveness of your training program.

Identify Gaps

Gaps could include skills in older technologies and newer ones like artificial intelligence (AI), cloud analytics, and infrastructure as code (IaC). To understand the gaps your IT team has, speak with IT managers and survey employees to discover the technologies they work with, the skills they need, and the ones they lack.  

Identifying the IT skills and the courses they need is not easy. Often, it’s more economical to work with a training partner that can handle these tasks for you. Once an IT training partner thoroughly understands your company’s needs, it should be able to help you select appropriate courses and even custom-design courses. Afterall, you don’t want to pay for employees to take a course if they only need to learn a few parts of the training material, when they could have a course tailored to their needs that could save you money and time.

Track Your Success

To know where to go, you need to know where you’re starting from to create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

KPIs could include an increase in revenue stemming from a new application, the average time it takes to resolve an IT problem, and the percentage of IT projects that are delivered on time. You or your training partner can test learners after each course and track the number of courses completed.

Encourage Employees to Take Ownership of Their Career Development

Get Employees Invested in Their Own Success

Work with your employees to choose an IT training path that will support the business goals. Giving employees some options and autonomy over their skills development will boost their engagement.

The following are two common paths to consider.

The first path is a clear roadmap to a certification or mastery of a specific topic like an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Cloud Practitioner certification.

The second is a choose-your-own-adventure path. You can offer a catalog of relevant courses for the employee to choose from. Employees can enroll and complete courses on an agreed upon timeline.

Ask employees for their feedback on what should be included in an upskilling program. Don’t assume managers understand what their teams do or can do. Either directly speak with employees or send them a survey to assess their existing skillsets to determine where their skills gaps lie.

Consider putting together a skills gap analysis so employees can rate themselves against certain competencies. For example, if they want to build competencies in cybersecurity, they can complete a questionnaire to find out which areas of cybersecurity are important to them and then identify courses that will help them achieve that goal.

Also, determine how the employee can best consume training. Some students may want to take courses in an in-person classroom, while others may prefer taking a virtual instructor-led course that still allows them to ask questions during class-time and individually meet with their instructor after class to get extra help.

E-learning is useful for introductory courses. For complex topics, Instructor-led training is usually best because employees can ask a question and get an answer immediately. When employees are watching an on-demand video and have a question, they can search  the internet for an answer, but they might not find the answer. Or, they may find an answer, but it might not be the best answer. If students don’t understand a concept, the instructor in a pre-recorded video won’t be able to explain it. Students need to be able to understand technological concepts to be able to figure out problems as they arise and to solve them in the best possible ways.

Your Training Provider Can Help

A training partner should be able to work closely with you so they can understand the IT needs based on the company goals. They can help gather requirements for specified job roles and help you build a training plan.

Factors to Consider When Building Your Upskilling Program

Build or Outsource

Will you be developing training in house or outsourcing it?

It’s common to outsource most of your upskilling program to specialized instructors or training companies. Few companies have the expertise to deliver training in house. Often, there will be a couple of people in the company who already work with technologies that IT personnel need to learn. But they usually teach their fellow employees to do things the way they know, and that’s not always the most efficient way to do something. Students who attend an official course on a technology they have been working with simply by learning skills on the job often tell us that had they taken this course long ago, they would have saved themselves hours doing things that could have been done in much simpler ways. Additionally, in-house experts don’t have access to vendor-authorized training materials, which provide instructions for doing things in the best possible way. These materials are constantly updated as the technology changes, so if an instructor is teaching from older materials, students will miss out on the latest updates.

If you train in house, consider the time it will take for one of your employees to prepare the class materials and the lab exercises as well as the time it will take to deliver the training. Holding the attention of a group of IT professionals for two hours is not hard to do, but it’s hard to do that for four or more hours a day.  

Duration

How long will the training last? This will depend on the goals of the program and the amount of course content.

To get the best results, you’ll need to pull employees out of work to train because they will need time to focus on learning. Don’t expect them to do their full-time job and train at the same time.

Location

Whether you provide in-house training or not, you need to consider where the training will be held. In-person courses should be taught at a location that allows the instructor to fully see the students’ lab exercises in progress.

Live-virtual classes with two-way cameras should also be an option so both students and instructors can pay attention to one another. The instructor still needs to see the students’ lab exercises in progress to intervene when necessary.

Skills

What skills will you be focusing on? This will be driven by the goals that were set and the gaps you identified.

During the course, based on conversations with students, the instructor should note  any specific technologies and tools where it appears additional training may be required so those needs can later be addressed.

Track and Measure Effectiveness

Larger organizations can leverage their learning management system (LMS) so employees can track their own progress while being held accountable.

Smaller organizations can assign managers or team leaders to create a dashboard to monitor each employee’s progress. Classes completed and post class assessments are two of the most common ways to track the progress of the upskilling program. 

Classes completed and post class assessments are two of the most common ways to track the progress of the upskilling program. The students should also provide feedback on the quality of the training and the instructor.

You should be able to measure your results and track them against your business goals. For example, if one of your goals was to reduce expensive employee turnover, you should be able to compare retention rates for employees who have been upskilled with those who haven’t. 

Working With ExitCertified

Partnering with an outside partner like ExitCertified ensures consistency in the learning material and saves you the trouble of creating the curriculum. Not only will we conduct your skill assessments for you, we’ll help you choose which courses are right for which roles. And we can create a customized training program tailored to your employees’ needs, deliver the training and provide you results on the students’ progress in class. Once students have completed a course, the instructor will provide relevant feedback to you on how each employee did in class. And, in turn, your students will rate our training courses as well as our instructors. Maintaining a 97% student-satisfaction rating, ExitCertified lets you learn in person or via an unparalleled virtual learning platform that simulates an in-person experience like no other. 

 Want to learn more? ExitCertified can partner with you to help you assess your upskilling needs and provide a customized IT training and delivery plan.

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