Employee upskilling can help future proof your team

The big opportunity

An economic downturn can feel frustrating. Maybe you’ve had to pause new hiring, or reduce your workforce. But even when adding new talent is harder, there’s a way you can help your current staff become even more productive. It’s called employee upskilling — giving your teams the professional development they need to adapt in a rapidly changing environment.

Why it matters

Upskilling can lead to a stronger workforce that is happier in its roles, which can boost productivity. According to a 2020 study, 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling or reskilling – learning new skills for a different job path – has boosted productivity. The more digital skills your teams can gain, the easier it will be to keep your customers at the center of everything they do.

What this looks like

Amazon pledged $1.2 billion to retrain its workforce by 2025. Verizon’s Skill Forward program will train 500,000 workers by 2030. Walmart will pay 100% of college tuition and books for associates through its Live Better U education program. And PwC is allocating $3 billion to give its entire workforce of 275,000 more skills. But you don’t need to be a big, multinational company or spend that kind of money to give your teams more skills.

There are free, online learning platforms such as Trailhead, which creates an equal and accessible pathway into the Salesforce ecosystem for anyone with an internet connection.

What experts are saying

“This whole move toward online skill development is a permanent shift,” said David Cohen, vice president of North America at LinkedIn Talent Solutions. “We’re going to see more and more people that are going to uplevel their skill set on a regular basis through online learning.”

Want to learn more? Here’s a deeper look.

It’s time to bridge the digital skills gap

There is a growing concern among workers around the world — and specifically among Gen Z — that they are not prepared for a digital-first future. In fact, according to a Salesforce survey, three out of four workers said they feel unequipped to learn the digital skills businesses require and even more said they feel unprepared for the jobs of the future, like coding, artificial intelligence, and cyber security. While 82% said they plan to learn new skills, only 28% said they’re actively involved in digital skills training.

A lack of digital skills among workers can potentially cost businesses trillions of dollars in unrealized revenue. But you can prepare your business by investing in training your current workforce for the long term. 
“There’s a war [for] talent,” said Tom Alstein, global OD leader at Deloitte, at a Salesforce panel discussion in 2022. “And if you don’t invest in learning, they will not even think about working for you.”

Learn new skills

Looking to advance your career? Upskill with free classes on the Trailhead learning platform and gain the most in-demand skills.

Make on-the-job training a top priority 

Some companies have started offering more on-the-job training, but in recent years, many employees have felt that their companies have been lagging. Sixty percent of respondents to a 2020 Salesforce survey believe companies are not making workforce training their top priority. For executives worried about the potential cost of starting a robust professional development program, another survey revealed more promising data: nearly three-quarters of respondents said an increased investment in workforce development would help them master their current job.

“What if you said, ‘So, everybody hates Tuesday mornings. What if on Tuesdays, you spent an hour developing a new skill?’” Cohen said. “‘What if our team works on this skill together and you block your calendar for a couple of hours and all learn together?’”

At a time of economic uncertainty, it’s possible for employers to retain great talent and preserve institutional knowledge by implementing on-the-job learning programs — and connecting success in those programs with opportunities for internal growth.

Offering training and development programs without real opportunities to apply those new skills can leave employees frustrated, which can lead to lower productivity. 

“People feel discouraged or disillusioned in the workplace when they have these skills and try to figure out how to transfer those in, but companies have a difficult time seeing how those skills could help someone make their mark,” said Jocelyn Orloff, a Los Angeles–based business and life coach.

Sixty percent of respondents in a recent Salesforce survey believe companies are not making workforce training their top priority.

Salesforce survey

Upskilling helps boost employee satisfaction and productivity 

Strong employee upskilling and professional development programs, coupled with tangible opportunities for internal growth, are the foundations for increased satisfaction and retention during a time of increased economic concern. Add to that a company culture that focuses on strengths —  what positive psychology defines as “a person’s innate virtues” — and you’ll be well-positioned to get more out of your teams.

Companies that emphasize internal mobility have employees that stay an average of five and a half years. Compare that with companies that rank low on internal mobility rankings — their employees stick around for fewer than three years on average, Cohen said.

It’s almost a two-fold difference in retention rate for companies that invest in and move people around and give them new opportunities to develop new skills versus those that don’t, he said.

Advance your Salesforce training

Trailhead, our online learning platform, helps you find your ideal role, learn in-demand skills, build connections, and more to grow your career.

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