A Complete Guide to Skill Building in the Workplace (2024)

In this guide, you get the essential components of skill building in the workplace + how to identify skills gaps, create an effective training plan, and use mentoring programs for faster upskilling.

Matthew Reeves

CEO of Together

Published on 

November 20, 2023

Updated on 

Time to Read

mins read time

49% of skills that are commonly used by the workforce today won’t be relevant by the end of 2024.

Let that sink in.

As generative AI takes the world by storm, most repetitive tasks are being automated. Organizations are switching to AI to automate tasks such as data entry, document processing, and even customer support. If you want to keep up with the competition, your workforce will need to learn how to use AI and other advanced technologies to their advantage. That’s why you must focus on skill building.

What is skill building and why is it important?

Skill building is the broad process of developing new abilities and improving existing ones to match the evolving needs of the organization. It encompasses both the acquisition of new skills and the enhancement of current ones. For HR and L&D professionals, skill building is the process through which you upskill and reskill your employees.

  • Upskilling is the practice of teaching employees additional skills or enhancing their existing skills to help them progress in their current roles.
  • Reskilling is the process of training employees in an entirely new sets of skills, often due to a change in their job role or a shift in organizational focus.

Any investment you make in skill building pays dividends in the form of improved performance, increased productivity, and faster achievement of organizational goals. Skill building is important because:

  • Organizations that prioritize skill building are better prepared for future industry trends and technological advancements.
  • Employees are more likely to stay engaged and committed when they see investment in their personal and professional growth.
  • A skilled workforce can adapt more easily to market changes and industry disruptions, maintaining the organization's competitive edge.
  • Skill building helps in identifying and nurturing future leaders, ensuring a robust succession pipeline within the organization.

Get the best tips on how to develop your top talent in this handy guide ⬇️

eBook Develop your high-potential employees with mentors

How to identify skills gaps

Recognizing the importance of skill building is the first step towards upskilling your employees. The next critical move is to identify where the skills gaps lie within your organization. This involves understanding the current skill levels of your employees and comparing them to the skills needed now and in the future. By doing so, you can tailor your skill-building initiatives to address these gaps effectively. Here's a step-by-step process to do just that:

Step 1: Conduct a training needs analysis (TNA)

TNA is a methodical process of determining what training is needed to fill the gaps between current and desired skill levels among employees. To assess your training needs, you first need to know where your employees stand in terms of skills. 

Evaluate your employees’ skills with the help of these templates by 360Learning and TrainingFolks. Use tools like surveys, interviews, and performance data to gather information about your team’s skill set.

Step 2: Review performance data

Performance reviews provide valuable insights into both the strengths and weaknesses of employees. Analyze recent performance evaluations to pinpoint areas where employees are underperforming or where there's room for improvement.

Collecting detailed performance review reports should be easy if you use performance management software like BambooHR or Lattice.

Step 3: Use the Skill Will Matrix

The Skill Will Matrix is a tool for assessing an employee's skill level in relation to their willingness to perform a task. The Skill Will Matrix has four quadrants:

  • Low skill, low will — Employees that land on this side of the quadrant need direction, skills training, and motivation to perform better. 
  • High skill, low will — These employees have the skills they need to excel at their roles and just need motivation to give their best to their roles.
  • Low skill, high will — These employees are highly motivated individuals and just need skills training and to build their capability and achieve more.
  • High skill, high will — These high-potential employees need more challenging targets. Also, they can be good candidates to be mentors to others.

Plot your employees on this matrix based on their skill levels and willingness to help identify who needs what kind of training opportunities.

Step 4: Gather employee feedback

Direct feedback from employees can reveal unseen gaps and areas they feel need development. Conduct focus groups or one-on-one interviews to understand employees' perspectives on their own skills and training needs. 

Use anonymous feedback tools to encourage honest and open communication.

Step 5: Ask your mentors for input on mentee skills

Mentoring provides a personalized approach to identifying and addressing skill gaps. By including a mentoring program into your skills gap analysis, your organization can benefit from a more nuanced and employee-centric approach. This step goes beyond traditional methods, offering a dynamic way to continually assess and address the evolving training needs of your workforce.

Encourage mentors to have structured conversations with their mentees, focusing on identifying areas where the mentee feels less confident or skilled. Create a system where mentors can provide feedback to HR or L&D teams about the specific skills their mentees need to develop.

🧠 Read how these high-performing organizations are skill-building with the help of mentoring programs 

Step 6: Monitor industry trends and market changes

Staying informed about industry trends helps predict the skills that will be in demand in the near future. Right now, AI skills are in huge demand, but in a rapidly evolving business landscape, new skills will continue to emerge. Regularly review industry publications, reports, and market analyses to anticipate future skill requirements.

Subscribe to industry newsletters, join professional networks, and use LinkedIn for insights into evolving market needs.

Step 6: Update your skills inventory

A skills inventory is a living document that tracks the skills, experience, and qualifications of all employees. Periodically update this inventory to reflect new skills acquired and identify areas of development.

Use HR Information Systems (HRIS) like SAP SuccessFactors or Workday to maintain an up-to-date skills database.

How to design effective training programs

Having completed a thorough skills gap analysis, you will be in a good position to design an effective training program. Here's how you can proceed with the data and insights you collected during the skills gap analysis:

Use the findings from the TNA to prioritize training areas

Focus on developing training programs that address the most critical skills gaps first. If the TNA reveals a significant gap in AI literacy among a large portion of your staff, prioritize a training program focused on enhancing AI skills and proficiency. This can include certification training on using generative AI for accomplishing common daily tasks.

Customize training based on performance data

The insights you collected from performance reviews will help you customize training content. Focus on specific areas where employees are underperforming. Let’s suppose performance reviews indicate that a number of team leaders are struggling with effective communication. In response, develop a training program that focuses on communication skills, such as active listening, clear and concise email writing, and effective team briefing techniques.

Create training programs for all quadrants of the Skill Will Matrix

Having placed all employees on the Skill Will Matrix, it is now time to develop distinct training pathways for all quadrants. For example, create motivational training for high skill, low will employees, and foundational skills training for low skill, high will employees.

Address specific employee feedback in training design

You asked your employees what they need in terms of training, and they replied via anonymous feedback tools. Now, it is time to deliver your end of the bargain with skill-building activities and development plans. If your team has expressed a desire for more training on project management, include a comprehensive project management training module.

Use feedback from mentors about their mentees’ skills gaps

Create special sessions or modules where mentors can directly impart their knowledge and experience. Let’s say mentor feedback indicates that new hires lack proficiency in client handling. To address this area, schedule specialized training sessions led by experienced mentors that focus on client communication strategies, understanding client needs, and managing client expectations.

Adopt blended learning for increased engagement 

To make your training program more effective and engaging, use a blended learning approach. A mix of e-learning, in-person workshops, on-the-job training, and peer-to-peer learning will help you upskill and reskill your team effectively.

How to measure employee training impact

You conducted a skills gap analysis and implemented a training program, now it is time to measure the impact of this training on your workforce. Measuring the outcome of your training program will help you identify areas of improvement and get the best returns on your investment. You can do this with the help of the Kirkpatrick Model.

The Kirkpatrick Model is a widely recognized framework that helps evaluate the effectiveness of training programs. It provides a structured, multi-dimensional way to measure not just what participants learned, but also how that learning impacts their behavior and the organization as a whole.

This model consists of four levels:

  • Reaction — This level measures how participants respond to the skill-building efforts. It assesses their immediate reactions, gauging their level of satisfaction and engagement. Use surveys or feedback forms immediately after training sessions to gauge participants' reactions.
  • Learning — This level measures the extent to which participants have actually learned the material presented during the training. Conduct assessments or tests right after the training to measure what participants have learned.
  • Behavior — This level is all about assessing the change in employee behavior and the extent to which they implement their newly acquired skills. Observe participants over a period following the training, or use follow-up surveys and interviews to assess behavioral changes.
  • Results — The final level measures the impact of the training on organizational goals and outcomes. Analyze organizational performance metrics before and after the training to evaluate its impact on business goals. 

Analyze the data collected at each level to identify strengths and areas for improvement in the training program. The insights you gain using the Kirkpatrick Model will also help in creating new training initiatives based on your organizational needs.

The role of mentoring in skill building

Mentoring is a vital component in the skill-building ecosystem. While conventional training programs lay the foundation for skill development, mentoring adds a personalized dimension that significantly enhances and complements these efforts.

Unlike structured training, mentoring offers a one-on-one learning experience, allowing for the development of skills in a more personalized and context-specific manner. Mentors provide guidance and insights tailored to the unique needs and career aspirations of each mentee. With their wealth of experience, they help mentees apply new skills in real-world scenarios, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge gained in training and practical application in the workplace.

Adding a mentoring program into your skill-building strategy is simply a more comprehensive and practical approach to workforce development. With the help of Together, you can simplify the process of matching mentors with mentees, tracking progress, and measuring the impact of mentoring on skill development. 

Book a demo to create an upskilling plan with Together's mentoring platform

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