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Is upskilling the answer to plummeting employee retention?

Posted by Celene Robert

April 4, 2023

If the Great Resignation has you worried about the future of employees, you can rest easy. Professionals aren’t planning on leaving the workforce in droves, and your dreams of long-term employee retention aren’t out of reach. If you’re willing to make upskilling a meaningful part of your workplace culture. 

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The majority of Americans are ready to find new work. But upskilling might make them stay…

According to The University of Phoenix’s 2023 Career Optimism Index, 80% of Americans are hopeful about the future of their careers. But that doesn’t mean they want to stay with their current employer. Nearly half of these employees are experiencing burnout, and 53% are already looking at other opportunities — or expect to be within the next six months. 

But there’s hope. The survey also revealed that the majority — 68% of workers — would be willing to stay with their current employer if their company changed a few key policies. And one of those is upskilling. 

What is upskilling, and why do employees want it?

Upskilling refers to the process of helping your existing employees gain new skills, or improve their current ones, so they can perform their jobs better — or transition into a new, more valuable internal role. It’s a great way to improve employee morale because it shows your team that you care about, and are willing to invest in, their long-term growth. And it helps companies maintain a strong workplace culture by reducing the need to bring in outside talent. 

Depending on your industry and the type of skills you want to develop in your employees, upskilling can take on a few different forms, including:

  • Formal education
  • Certification programs
  • In-house or outside workshops
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • On-the-job training

Upskilling isn’t just good for your team, it’s good for business

In a 2021 study by Gartner, a global research group, as much as 58% of the current workforce needs new skills just to get their current work done. Every year, new technology and methodology challenge employees’ ability to perform their tasks effectively, and company growth pays the cost. 

By continuously upskilling your staff, you can help your team stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. That improves workplace productivity, boosts job satisfaction, and increases your employees’ earning potential, while strengthening your chances of long-term growth and success. Upskilling even offers a cost-effective way to reorganize your workforce, without terminating employees or investing in new hires. 

While upskilling significantly benefits the companies that offer it, according to the Career Optimism Index, 40% of workers say their company never provides specific opportunities to reskill and upskill. That creates a huge opportunity for companies willing to invest in it. 

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Want to help your employees develop their skills — and boost retention in the process? Here’s how to start:

1. Create a mentorship program

Mentoring your employees is one of the simplest ways to improve workplace culture, help every employee develop stronger connections at work, and boost overall performance. Yet, according to The University of Phoenix’s 2023 Career Optimism Index, 56% of Americans say they do not have a mentor. This offers companies a huge opportunity to improve their employees’ skills while creating a more engaged work environment.

To build a successful mentorship program, look for leaders who are willing to invest their time and attention into the employees they mentor. In order for the program to have a lasting positive impact, the team member must feel they have a true advocate who listens, supports their growth, and believes in their abilities. 

2. Invest in upskilling opportunities

Workers are hungry for opportunities to learn new skills, expand their knowledge, and grow in their roles. That’s why 70% of surveyed workers would be more likely to stay at their current employer if given more opportunities to develop and apply new skills. 

One way to expand the upskilling opportunities you offer your employees is to create a professional development fund that covers the cost of sending key team members to industry-relevant conferences, seminars, workshops and other events. You can even provide opportunities to join these events virtually, so employees can access the event conveniently from home or the office. 

3. Promote workplace wellness

Employees in every industry are on the brink of burnout. But intentional company wellness programs that prioritize mental health, physical health, and workplace flexibility can reengage workers and energize teams. 

The best workplace wellness program for your company varies based on your size and work structure, but many companies have benefitted from offering: 

  • Flexible schedules and increased remote work opportunities.
  • On-site support communities that encourage employees to gather and connect.
  • Mental health support, including counseling services or an Employee Assistance Program.
  • Greater recognition for workplace achievements.
  • Physical activity incentives.
  • Workplace improvements, like healthier breakroom snacks and more comfortable lounge areas.

Upskilling your team, and focusing on workplace wellness, is a small investment with a major impact

Offering higher wages, more time off and remote work opportunities aren’t the only ways to keep your top talent engaged. Investing in the development, mental health, and mentorship of your employees can have a significant lasting impact on your employee retention — and help your team members feel optimistic, not just about their overall careers, but about their role within your company!

Want more? Escalon has helped over 5,000 companies across a range of industries to optimize routine business functions, like taxes, accounting and HR. Talk to an expert today.

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This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. Escalon and its affiliates are not providing tax, legal or accounting advice in this article. If you would like to engage with Escalon, please contact us here.


Celene Robert
Celene Robert

Celene heads up the marketing at Escalon. Passionate about helping companies grow their business, she spends her days finding new ways to bring essential business services to startups, SMBs, and growth-minded companies. Based in the PNW, she’s the proud owner of 8 pairs of Birkenstocks and a sassy, cuddly cat.

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