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How to build a career self-reliant workforce through upskilling

How to build a career self-reliant workforce through upskilling

By Alice Rush

  • Aug 26, 2020
  • 3 min read

Long gone are the days of lifetime employment like my dad had back in the ’70s and ’80s. He spent nearly his entire career with one company, working for a quarter-century.Back then, long tenure meant something special and was a benefit that companies could offer. He was part of a “Quarter Century Club,” with dinners and events for employees who had stayed at the company, committed fully to their employer for more than 25 years. That’s not a work relationship, that’s a marriage.

Today, that is not the case. After the ’90s, with outsourcing, downsizing, rightsizing and the increase of the temporary workforce now called the “gig economy,” employee tenure began to decrease.1


Our employer divorce rate is high, with employment lasting just about four years on average.2 Now, employers must encourage loyalty and commitment in other ways, since lifetime employment is no longer something to strive for.

Business needs change fast and organizations need to be nimble, but that doesn’t mean we need to downsize in times of change. What if our workforce was flexible and nimble? What if our workforce were fully upskilled, predicting the future needs of adaptability?

Then, we could transition from outplacement to in-placement, and recirculate our reinvented workforce, potentially saving millions of dollars on severance packages, outplacement and transition costs. We know the longer a high-performing employee stays, we are winning, because it is costly to replace employees (especially high-performers). When an employee leaves it is costly, period.

Not to mention the impact it has on morale. When one valuable employee leaves, then others think about leaving. It’s disruptive, but not in a good way.

So how do we encourage loyalty? If lifetime employment is no longer the goal, we must empower our employees to manage their careers as though it were their own small business. We must instill in them a purpose to take full ownership and to be fully dedicated to ongoing self-improvement―to continue to upskill and develop when we need them to.

Business needs change fast and organizations need to be nimble, but that doesn’t mean we need to downsize in times of change.

Alice Rush, MA, CCC, Certified Career Counselor, University of Phoenix

This is the definition of career self-reliance. Creating an empowered loyal and dedicated workforce committed to continuous improvement and upskilling is not easy, yet some methods can enhance your chances of building such a workforce, one that will volunteer to upskill, if it’s what they love to do.

Here are three steps to help build a self-reliant workforce through upskilling.

Step one: Assess your workforce.

Allow employees career assessment coaching to determine their best skills and strengths. Have them take the Clifton Strengths Online Talent Assessment, the Myers Briggs, or PathwayU. Allow them to develop their innate skills further for (as Dr. Donald Clifton- the Founder of Strengths Based Psychology would say)- “Near Perfect Performance.”

Yes, that’s right. If your employees are using their innate strengths and doing their best work, they can deliver improved performance, especially if they continue to develop and upskill in what they do best.

Step two: Choose what skills your employees need to upgrade

Once you know the composition of your workforce, its strengths and opportunities for improvement, now you will be able to make the right decisions moving forward in terms of what to invest in educationally.

Offering flexible, micro-learning bursts of training followed up with coaching has been found to be very effective in adult learners and diverse workforces. An empirical research study found that the best results occurred when a trained coach was active in transferring knowledge and skills to a trainee. Many employees said that they experienced improved work performance and communications skills after receiving coaching.3

Step three: Reinforce your investment

Next, after upskilling, we want them to stay employed as top performers in our organizations. Remember, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? On the pyramid directly above food and water is “a sense of contribution.” Employee recognition gives employees this vital need and sense of contribution.

Without recognition, we drop back down to survival mode on Maslow’s hierarchy, and this is when employees tend to leave because something is missing in their lives.

Recognition/contribution is a vital human need. How do we do this?

After training investment is completed, recognize your employees who choose to upskill in ways that are meaningful to each employee. Not sure how? Recognition.org could be a helpful resource and may have a few low-cost implementation ideas for you.

By following these three steps, you could potentially be on your way to building a powerfully loyal, upskilled and motivated workforce. Enjoy the results!

1 https://www.bls.gov/spotlight/2013/tenure/
2 https://www.bls.gov/news.release/tenure.nr0.htm
3 https://www.bizlibrary.com/blog/employee-development/formalized-coaching/

Alice Rush

Alice Rush, MA, CCC is a certified Career Counselor through the National Career Development Association, founder of CareerU with more than 25 years of experience. She currently serves as a national career coach for University of Phoenix alumni and students.