Gone are the ‘jobs for life’ days with a planned career structure and clear functional identity within the workplace - rapid changes in technology mean that skills constantly need to be updated whilst employees are less likely to stay with one employer, and more likely to seek out a variety of career opportunities. Because of this, up-skilling staff in the workplace is a fundamental strategy for personal and professional growth. This is especially true if you’ve a small-to-medium sized business as staff within these organisations are often required to have a broader skill-set they can apply to a multitude of tasks that are beyond their immediate port of call. Up-skilling can range from employees having better negotiation skills and the ability to use technology to second language skills and better communication skills.

Up-skilling doesn't have to mean big training budgets and away days, but rather developing a culture of learning in the workplace that embrace a range of ways that staff can improve and hone their skills. Most skills will eventually become obsolete, which means ‘front loading’ those skills at the start of a career tends to be much less effective than a continuous program of ongoing skill development and renewal, for example each employees spending around 5 hours a week up-skilling to stay current.

Two children playing in front of a wall saying Keep Learning

It will be vital to assess what kinds of areas you are looking to up-skill staff in before establishing the most appropriate forms of teaching for them to best learn those skills. Look into the skills your employees currently hold and where the gaps in their knowledge lies. Take a close look at what skills are vital for your business as a whole and for each team to function, both now and in the future. Once a clear picture emerges of the skill-set of the workforce, you'll be in a better position to understand what kind of training can help to up-skill employees. If your audit establishes employees already with the skills you want to pass on, they can be deployed to teach colleagues and new members of staff on the job.

Although training typically conjures up images of classrooms and days out of the office there is a much wider range of options available to employers, and here are some ideas:

One-to-one mentoring

New and junior-level employees can get a lot of value from an ongoing close working relationship with a more experienced staff member. It doesn’t even have to be a formal program – just a commitment to set aside some time each week to provide feedback, assist with decision-making and problem-solving, and offer general support and encouragement. In this way it’s more focused on their career, rather than specific skills within the organisation. It can be a good way to bring new employees up to speed more quickly than if left unsupervised, and is effective at little or no cost. It also means that the more senior members are able to develop supervisor skills.

Seminars & Webinars

Attending a seminar can be a valuable learning experience. Attendees can learn new industry information and insights from the presenters, meet and exchange knowledge with other people in the industry, and learn about new technologies and tools they can use to grow the business. Webinars are virtual seminars, and although they can’t offer all the benefits of attending in person, they are still a highly cost-effective way of upskilling staff, requiring only an internet connection. Business Events Finder gives you the ability to search for business related training, workshops, networking, seminars and more from a variety of organisations in your area.

Special or "stretch" assignments

A “stretch” assignment is simply a task or project that is beyond an employee’s current knowledge or skills, and can be an excellent way to help combat stagnation as when a role is no longer challenging, the job satisfaction of the employee can suffer. It could simply involve putting the staff member in a role that falls slightly outside their comfort zone, such as leading a team. As they adapt to the new situation, they will learn and grow from the experience.


An apprenticeship offers young people and adult learners the ability to learn a real trade or skill, whilst gaining a nationally recognised qualification. It can take anything between one and five years depending on the qualification your employee will gain and they will work alongside their training. For more information about apprenticeships, please see our Employing an Apprenticeship page.


Technological advances mean that a lot of training can now be provided electronically, whether that’s on a smartphone, tablet or computer. E-learning is flexible and workers can dip in and out of their training whilst as everything is stored digitally it is easy to monitor learners’ progress and development. Many private companies and universities now run MOOCs (massive open online courses) which can benefit employees and we've a list of online courses available for your workforce.

One Day Courses & Workshops
If an employee has a specific skill to learn, such as health and safety in the workplace, emergency first aid  or food safety, workshops and one day courses give them the ability to focus their attention and learn the practical skills needed to gain experience over a short period.
Work-based Learning
Work-based learning (WBL) offer employees a longer-term opportunity (approximately 200 hours) to develop their current skills and gradually put their new skills to the test. WBL is often offered by local universities and colleges or professional bodies related to your sector and the course will be accredited these organisations. As they are formal, they may count towards a degree.
Your employees might want to work towards something more substantial, such as a undergraduate or postgraduate degree. A part-time degree will take your employees anything between six and ten years part time and, as well as e-learning, it will occasionally take them out the office, however the expertise and confidence they'll gain throughout their learning period will be beneficial and noticable to you.

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