A shortage of skilled candidates is the biggest challenge recruiters expect to face over the next 12 months, according to our survey of recruiters from September 2017.

In addition, more than two thirds of companies say that hiring experienced/qualified candidates has become more difficult compared to a year ago, while 29 percent say that retaining good employees has become more difficult compared with a year ago.

However, instead of trying to fill skills gaps with hiring new people and waiting for them to get up to speed, businesses should invest in reskilling and upskilling employees to help close the skills gap in a more cost efficient and effective way.

According to McKinsey, almost two thirds of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization.

The added benefits of providing additional training include:

  • Better employee morale and satisfaction (especially among millennials who often prioritize development opportunities over pay)
  • An increase in productivity
  • Better retention.

Leading enterprises such as software company Autodesk and AT&T are already investing in reskilling and upskilling, and it’s already on the agenda of executives. Some 82 percent of executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues believe retraining and reskilling must be at least half of the answer to addressing their skills gap.

McKinsey reskilling and upskillingSmall businesses that don’t have the resources of these giants should also be investing in reskilling and upskilling, as the gains will be even more noticeable.

Learning management systems (LMS) can help businesses do this in a more structured and effective way. Here’s how:

Upskill employees in different locations

The benefit of having a cloud-based learning management system is that you don’t have to reskill and upskill employees in one particular location or office, but you can broaden this opportunity to workers across the globe.

You can even decide to train your contractors or freelancers by choosing a LMS with extended enterprise capabilities, which means that the system is specially designed to provide learning opportunities to external workers or companies.

Make better use of resources

You don’t want to start upskilling your most valuable employees at your busiest time of the year, either because you’ll have to give them time off from their normal duties, or if you don’t, they’ll be more likely to leave because of the extra work piled on them. This is where microlearning components of a LMS come in.

Instead of making employees carry out a set amount of training each week say in a classroom, a LMS can let them take in bitesize chunks of content as and when they can. That could be as little as a 15 minute video in a week.

Report on successes (or failures)

Just because you want to train certain employees in particular skills doesn’t mean that they will end up being the right person to take on those responsibilities. Maybe an employee starts a course, but soon finds that they really hate the subject matter or they are struggling with the content.

If you’re keeping an eye on metrics like quiz results and progress through the course in your LMS, as well as getting regular reports, then you’ll be easily able to identify when this is happening. Equally, if an employee is excelling in a certain area then you can earmark them for more training in this field. Having an open culture that allows employees to bring these issues to your attention also helps.

Enable better collaboration

Chances are, you won’t want to just upskill or reskill one employee in a particular skill, but several. LMS can help with this but allowing employees to work together to learn, even if they aren’t in the same location.

Virtual classrooms can bring geographically dispersed workers together to collaborate on projects or take quizzes together. Workers can collaborate better and help each other out with areas they don’t understand, share knowledge and experiences, or motivate each other to complete the training.

Gamify it to make learning more fun

We’ve been talking about the gamification elements of LMS for several years, but this is one way that you can encourage employees to want to take time in reskilling and upskilling.

Not only is learning in the form of a game more fun and more rewarding (who doesn’t want to earn a star for moving to the next level), you can also add in an element of competitiveness by creating leaderboards and pitting colleagues against each other.

Learn in a more modern way to increase buy-in

We’ve all been subject to those dreary courses where you have to watch videos set in the 1980s where someone falls off a ladder in a silly way to demonstrate the importance of health and safety. Or, what could be even worse, those online courses where you have to read seemingly insurmountable amounts of information. Learning management systems help with reskilling and upskilling by offering a wide variety of course content in different ways.

You can offer videos, podcasts, quizzes, games, simulations, checklists, peer-to-peer training, interviews with subject matter experts, and so on. If you make training more exciting, more people will want to do it.

Personalize content

As well as allowing employees to learn a their own pace, LMS also enable personalization of content and study methods. Not everyone learns in the same way, and will the variety of content types and delivery methods available with a learning management system, you can enable all your workers to learn the best way, and at the best time, for them.

Going one step further, learning experience platforms provide a Netflix style catalog of course content from internal and external sources that can be personalized to each user.

Integrate with other HR systems

If your workers gain new skills that contribute in a valuable way to your business then you should reward them. We hope you already have some sort of employee recognition program in place, and that’s the perfect way to recognize their achievements.

By integrating your LMS with either your general HR system or your performance management solution, you can also track career progression, and help get more buy-in from employees. If you extend this to succession planning and leadership development, then you will be in a better position to replace leaders (or high-performing talent) as they leave.

Next steps in reskilling and upskilling workers

Once you’ve invested in reskilling and upskilling employees, don’t let the knowledge stop there. Ask these employees to share their skills and knowledges with their coworkers. This could be through formal training sessions, or more informal Friday talks, or lunch and learn sessions.

By sharing knowledge like this, you’ll be better prepared should any of your high-performing individuals decide to leave your company, as it won’t be the case that just one person knows how to perform key tasks.

If you don’t yet have a LMS and you want to start the search, you can check out our independent ranking of the top 25 learning management systems for small businesses.