Developing a Successful Workforce Upskilling Program

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By Damian Scandiffio

Regional Director of Business Development

The future of work lies in skills—not jobs. The demand for labor during the pandemic recovery is fierce and it’s becoming more difficult to attract workers. There’s an ongoing shift towards a skills-based approach to talent development and retention—through which organizations identify the talent they already have in place and fill in-demand roles internally with workers that possess transferable skills. Using this approach gives organizations the ability to eliminate the time and cost of sourcing, recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new workers with the exact experience required for a position. To successfully navigate the shift towards an ever-evolving skills-centric workforce, employers must anticipate the skills and capabilities required to succeed, enhance their training and development programs for upskilling and reskilling, and foster a corporate culture of lifelong learning.

Bridging the skills gap through training and development

Successful employee training and development programs take a strategic, organized, and systematic approach and align individual employee growth to corporate business goals. But how exactly do you go about creating a program within your organization?

Identify skill gaps: A skill gap occurs when there’s a significant gap between an organization’s skill needs and the current capabilities of its workforce. 87 percent of companies say they currently have skill gaps or expect to within a few years. So how do you go about identifying them?

  1. Establish your company’s objectives
  2. Determine what skills are needed to achieve these objectives
  3. Identify what skills your employees already possess
  4. Conduct a skills gap analysis
  5. Start closing the gaps

Select and execute the most effective training methods for your organization: A Center for Creative Leadership study found that organizations should put experience-driven learning at the forefront of their talent training and development programs. According to the 70-20-10 rule, employees need three types of experience to grow as a leader.

  1. Experiential: 70% of learning should come from on-the-job experiences and challenges
  2. Social: 20% of learning should come from other people and developmental relationships
  3. Formal: 10% of learning should come from courses and formal training

Experiential learning: Experiential learning occurs when an employee gains new skills and competencies through on-the-job experiences and challenges. Job rotation—when employees are moved between jobs within an organization—and job enlargement—when an employee remains in his or her existing role but takes on additional tasks and responsibilities that require training—foster skill development. Research shows that learners retain more than 75 percent of the information they learn through on-the-job experience.

Social learning: Social learning occurs when an employee gains new skills through the example of others—co-workers, managers, subject matter experts, or mentors—in a working environment. Research shows retention rates as high as 70 percent when social learning approaches are employed.

Formal learning: Formal learning is structured and takes place in a planned setting—like a classroom or online. Research from Bersin by Deloitte found that learners retain only five percent of what they hear and ten percent of what they read through formal learning.

Monitor and evaluate: To ensure your efforts are beneficial, it’s important to measure their effectiveness using quantifiable criteria. Unboxed Training and Technology has identified five ways to evaluate training and development in your organization.

  1. Identify training KPIs
  2. Administer assessments
  3. Observe employee behavior
  4. Track employee engagement
  5. Solicit feedback

Make training part of your corporate culture: The key to fostering a learning culture is making training and development part of your organization’s mission, core values, and vision. Your leadership team must understand how a learning culture works, the importance of them championing it, and the return on investment.


An organization’s ability to upskill—or its capacity to train and develop its employees to expand their skill sets—creates a significant competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent. Effective organizational upskilling programs—that develop a mix of soft, technical, and digital skills—have been found to increase workplace satisfaction, foster higher employee retention, and solidify a company’s succession plan.

This blog was written by Acara’s Regional Director of Business Development Damian Scandiffio.