Business technology

How to upskill to grow your local business

- August 21, 2021 5 MIN READ

Rumours about mass job loss in the face of automation are rife today, but thankfully, they are largely unfounded. While automation may be able to take over certain careers and manual tasks, the World Economic Forum and PwC have suggested that there are other alternatives available for human-run businesses that wish to remain that way.

Survive and thrive: Upskill to grow 

If modern technology is going to reward human workers rather than replace them, then re-skilling and upskilling are the keys to job success. Especially for soloists and small businesses. Focusing on upskilling yourself (and your team) will ensure that you can give your business the best chances of growth and success while preserving the viability of your jobs in the long run.

PwC’s report has highlighted skills like creativity, complex communication and digital tool usage as the ones that will be most crucial as the technological age advances. It also provided Australian business owners and leaders with some positive news. Upskilling will both boost their organizations and expand their profit margins.

Australia alone could earn as much as $90bn by 2030 simply by closing the skills gap. This figure equates to a whopping 5.2% of the national GDP. When it comes to employment, this could generate over 200,000 new jobs in the country by 2030, creating a 1.6% rise in local employment rates.

Why You Should Focus on Upskilling

We live in an increasingly fast-paced world, and business owners can only lead profitable ventures when they prioritize upskilling. This statement comes from the Director and Head of Training Product Development at PwC’s Skills for Australia, Tim Rawlings. Rawlings says that every single business strategy should be supported with the question of, “What skills do my staff need in order to execute this strategy?” He says that if you want to grow your business, you will need to embrace change and diversify the mix of skills available in your organisation.

If you don’t focus on upskilling, you have to bring in new talent to meet your evolving skills requirements. Alternatively, you may have to place people in jobs which they do not have the right skills to perform well. Both cost money, especially if you’re flying solo. You’ll suddenly face new expenses that may chip away at your bottom line, drastically reducing your profitability.

So, how can you upskill yourself and any staff you already have in your business and facilitate its growth and expansion?

Practical steps to upskilling

  1. Develop a Long Term Strategy

You can upskill yourself and your team in a wide variety of ways, as there’s certainly no shortage of learning opportunities available today. However, not these opportunities will suit your business’s needs, or those of your staff. This is why it’s so important to have a solid, long-term view of the skills your organisation will need in the future, aligned with its strategic operational plan.

According to Tim Rawlings, your strategic plan will help you to accurately assess the upskilling curve and ensure that you know exactly which skills you need to procure. From there, you can assess skill gaps in your current workforce and find efficient ways of addressing them.

It might seem daunting to create an upskilling strategy, but breaking it down into iterative sections may help. You can deliver on these sections over a staggered period to make the task more approachable. As long as you prioritize consistent upskilling, you should be able to keep your own and any team member’s knowledge and abilities up to date.

  1. Start from the Top

As a team manager or leader, you’ll need to do more than just sign off your company’s upskilling strategy. You will need to invest your time and energy into it, and ideally, you should take part in the upskilling process yourself, too.

Upskilling isn’t a simple IT or HR issue that only pertains to specific employees within an organisation. It demands buy-in from every part of a business to prove successful. You will be able to better motivate your team to learn new skills and trust your judgment when you are actively upskilling yourself.

  1. Create a Healthy Culture of Upskilling

Managers and leaders alike need to create a culture of upskilling within a business to keep everyone on track. Think of it like going to the gym. The more consistent you are about exercising regularly, the better your end results will be.

Consider implementing a combined learning approach to develop a culture of upskilling in your business. Combine a wide range of professional development opportunities, including mentoring, social learning, coaching, self-assessments, and hard and soft skills training.

Formal learning can play an important role too. Quality training for everything from marketing to engineering and data science is now available online, which has made it easier for many workers to access. If you want your development activities to make an impact, it’s also important to link training to people’s unique jobs. Development efforts should be directly relevant to specific jobs so that people can see the relevance of the training and obtain real, actionable value from it.

  1. Consider Upskilling an Investment

Some Australian business owners worry that upskilling employees makes them more appealing in the job market and could encourage them to leave their current employers. However, it’s equally true that employers that do not offer their staff upskilling opportunities will find it significantly harder to attract and retain talent.

Upskilling should be considered a primary investment in your business, whether it’s for yourself or a team, or both. If you don’t maintain your office machinery and equipment, it will eventually fail. This same logic applies to yourself and any staff. People need to develop and learn new skills to perform well in their jobs.

Upskilling increases the productivity of your workforce and could actually make them more loyal as well, according to Rawlings. People who try new things and grow on the job are far more likely to stay with their employers, especially if their upskilling gets recognised and rewarded.

  1. Lead by Example

As a leader or manager, it’s critical to recognise your own need for personal and professional development. Refining your existing skills is all very well, but in this rapidly changing global marketplace, it’s important to keep acquiring new skills to stay competent too.

Managers in particular can ensure successful management approaches by honing and improving their transferable leadership skills at every level of their careers. Nobody is perfect, and you will still have to continue to upskill and evolve if you want to perform optimally in your role.

Adapt, Evolve and Grow

Some folks are expecting the worst when it comes to automation and robots replacing human roles, but the World Economic Forum and PwC beg to differ. They recommend Australian businesses respond to national skills shortages by making concerted efforts to upskill their staff, managers, and leaders.

Anyone can reap the benefits of a rapidly changing economy if they continue to move with the times and adapt their skills accordingly. Will your business be one of those that’s willing to embrace change and respond innovatively by cultivating the collection of new skills?

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"