Strategic Human Capital Insights

The Upskilling Experience: 5 Milestones on the Upskill Treadmill

The Upskilling Experience: 5 Milestones on the Upskill Treadmill


What is upskilling?

Organizations face continuous change as the ‘new normal’. To meet these changing business demands, every person in the organization must critically look at their current knowledge levels and skills sets and measure them against the current and anticipated required task benchmarks.  The frustration for an individual and an organization is that as soon as you get the required knowledge and skill sets, it is very likely that the benchmark will shift once again.  It is often reflected in the statements, “I’m dancing as fast as I can” or the famous treadmill analogy, ”I’m running faster and faster just to stay in place.”

5 Milestones on the Upskilling Journey:

  1. Identify the changes in your operating business paradigm. Recognize that you need to upskill to continue to meaningfully participate and stay relevant.
  2. Understand the business needs and business consequences of not upskilling.
  3. Honestly determine your current knowledge and skill levels.
  4. Develop a Learning & Development plan to acquire the necessary expertise.
  5. Acknowledge feelings of knowledge inadequacy and emotional angst.

Leadership & Individual Implications

Leadership ‘Musts’ in the upskilling process

  • Leaders must plan for individual upskilling or the organization will suffer in terms of organizational agility, resiliency and effectiveness.
  • Leaders must monitor and measure the upskilling process and outcomes.
  • Leaders must recognize this as a new upskill leadership skill set.  Leaders, too, must upskill continuously.

Individual ‘Musts’ in the upskilling process:

  • Individuals must choose to upskill or not. Ultimately the decision comes from you, not leadership.
  • Individuals must accept the consequences of not upskilling.
  • Individuals must just do it and stop complaining about it.  IF we accept change as the ‘new normal’, evolving ourselves must be automatic.   “I accept change, as long as it doesn’t require me to change,” is no longer acceptable. 

Is anyone exempt from the upskill treadmill?

If we accept that continuous change is the new normal, then the answer must be, NO!  Sadly, if we ever just take a break and get off the treadmill, we can experience the dreaded ‘upskilling deficit’. What does that mean? 

A Personal Experience:  Avoiding the Upskiling Deficit

I have just recently launched a new business, my second one in 25 years.  Over that timeframe, I have had the opportunity to deliver my consulting services from a branded business franchise with a well-known value proposition. With the launch of my new business, I must brand my new company and get known in the marketplace. In 2014, I must do this with a completely new marketing strategy requiring new skill sets. 

25 years ago, my marketing tools consisted of an IBM Selectric typewriter, a fax machine and the most fundamental computer with a desktop publishing function.   The internet was not yet very commercial.  Proposals were either sent by mail or faxed.  There was no website.

Today, marketing uses the internet in ways unimaginable 25 years ago.  Here are some of my new tools.  Now I must have a website and it must stay current – revised every year.  Google determines my internet marketing score based on blogs, landing pages, SEO and visits, just to name a few things. My score determines where on the page I am ranked which impacts my visibility and gets me found.  Its all about good content.  The result: I can now keep a resource library for all my blogs, whitepapers, e-books and social media posts. Inbound marketing, and its new tools, now rules my marketing life.

There is nothing in the new reality that remotely looks like my business world 25 years ago.  If I am going to seriously participate in this new world, I MUST upskill my current marketing knowledge base and skill set.  (And there won’t be a typewriter or fax machine in sight!)

So, this week I went off to the yearly inbound marketing convention – learning about new products and functionality, and the challenges of incorporating the new changes to the strategic marketing platform that is now a required tool.  I must understand all this to do business in today and tomorrow’s new business reality. (And, I have barely upskilled from last year’s convention!)  A reality check – upskilling never ends! 

To learn more about leading and the upskilling process, subscribe to our blog to read Part II of the upskilling journey.

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Topics: Leadership, Organizational Alignment & Effectiveness

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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