Unnecessary risk or ‘non-negotiable’ business practice?

Unnecessary risk or ‘non-negotiable’ business practice?

How you should approach upskilling your employees

Upskilling has become a common term in the business world, broadly referred to as “the process of individuals learning new skills”.

The need for upskilling in the workplace has been driven in recent years by technological advancements and skills shortages, pushing employers AND employees to more acutely understand the need for developing and enhancing skills and competencies. 

While enabling employees to develop and enhance their skills might seem like a no-brainer, there are differing views on upskilling and its benefits – and some business leaders are skittish about the potential ‘waste’ of upskilling their employees, only to have them seek employment elsewhere.

Here’s what we think YOU need to know as a business owner or manager:

The ‘Great Resignation’ and the fear of upskilling

Investing in upskilling for employees can be seen as a ‘risky’ proposition for some business owners or managers.

This was confirmed by a recent PwC Australia survey of CEO’s which found that retaining employees was the issue of most concern when it came to upskilling.

The fear of upskilling employees, only to have them move on isn’t entirely unwarranted. PwC’s study also found that, when the survey was conducted in 2021, more than one-third (38%) of Australian workers were planning to leave their job in the following 12 months.

Dubbed ‘the Great Resignation’, a number of factors appear to be driving Australians to look for a change in the workplace. These include low levels of job satisfaction and happiness with employers and mangers, limited options for career progression, and uncompetitive salaries. It has also been suggested the COVID-19 pandemic has played a part in this trend – leading Australians to re-evaluate their personal and professional goals.

Despite the significant concerns arising from these trends, PwC also found that “nearly half of Australia’s top executives have no plans to re-imagine their employee value proposition - how they look to attract and retain talent.” Nevertheless, the author of the report (Walsh) believes there has been an increasing recognition that upskilling is essential – something business leaders need to understand.

Identifying WHO and WHEN to upskill

While the question of employee retention may pose a concern for investing in upskilling employees, avoiding upskilling poses dangers of its own. There is a view that employees have come to expect professional development and opportunities for career progression in their workplace. Walsh suggests that this kind of development is often considered as ‘non-negotiable’ and, if employers are “not thinking about all of those things…people can and will leave’.

While the dangers of avoiding upskilling your employees seem clear, it is important to approach the questions of “who” and “when” clearly and smartly. This means, considering ‘which cohorts in an organisation have the highest turnover rates’, understanding the skills and competencies employees need to succeed in their individual roles and identifying where and when there are opportunities to upskill.

As Walsh points out, "it's easy to say, 'everyone needs development', but I think you really need to be targeted because all firms need to look at how their investment is going to have an impact.”

Having a clear understanding of the competencies and skills your employees need to successfully carry out their roles can make targeted upskilling a much easier process while ensuring your business has the right people with the right capabilities.

The Akyra Organisational Competency Matrix

Understanding employee roles and their corresponding competency levels is a key first step in making sure you hire the right people and can identify where there are opportunities for learning, development, and upskilling.

Akyra’s Organisational Competency Matrix can provide businesses with the tools to identify the core competencies employees need to be successful in their roles and to help to identify potential areas for further skill development. Utilising this framework can also assist you in your search for the right people for your business.

The competency matrix identifies qualifications, skills, experience, knowledge, and personal attributes needed to achieve your business’ vision. Each competency is assessed at the level required for the position, ranging from ‘not required’ through to ‘mandatory’. The matrix was designed to provide managers with the tools to:

  • Have competency-based conversations in the context of people management practices;
  • Provide concrete steps to increase the skills level of your workforce; and
  • Identify possible questions to explore with individuals.

This matrix is an incredibly useful tool that allows businesses to identify what level of competency is needed for each role and then to assess employees against that determined level to ascertain whether there is a learning and development / upskilling opportunity.

Akyra’s Top Tips

Retaining upskilled employees only to have them later move on is always a risk. These risks seem to have been exacerbated by recent trends like the ‘Great Resignation’, stoking fears amongst employers that upskilling will be ‘wasted’ on employees who later decide to look for work elsewhere.

But the risks of avoiding upskilling are also significant, particularly when you want to attract and retain the right people. Approaching the question of upskilling in a smart and targeted way can help businesses to attract and retain talent while driving the success of your business.

Utilising tools such as Akyra’s Organisational Competency Matrix can be highly valuable in allowing you to identify the specific competency levels required for specific roles, and when upskilling is employees will be appropriate and beneficial.


Akyra can help your business to assist and support all your questions and concerns related to upskilling and professional development in the workplace.

Please contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830 or book a free 30-minute consultation for an obligation-free conversation.

Disclaimer – Reliance on Content

The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not and is not intended to be legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation. 

Sources: https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen1/2019/09/03/upskilling-why-it-might-be-the-most-important-word-in-the-legal-lexicon/?sh=6de5170336a9, https://www.pwc.com.au/ceo-agenda/ceo-survey/ceos-are-concerned-about-attracting-and-retaining-key-skills.html,  https://www.hrdaily.com.au/news/6153, https://www.smartcompany.com.au/coronavirus/great-resignation-australia/, https://www.pwc.com.au/press-room/2022/pwc-australia-25th-ceo-survey.html  

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