What is upskilling and what are the benefits?

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Digital transformation has created opportunities and challenges for corporate leaders. Ways of doing business have changed dramatically. Today, consumers want to engage and transact with brands digitally, which has led to massive investment in technology. Yet the workforce’s skills have not kept up at the same pace, leaving businesses playing catch up as they race to hire the right talent to meet consumers’ demand for modern experiences.

According to Statista, global investment in digital transformation is expected to nearly double from $1.8 trillion in 2022 to $2.8 trillion in 2025, which will only serve to widen this skills gap. As companies continue to struggle to find the right technical talent from external sources, they are increasingly turning to upskilling their existing workforces to fill needed roles.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is when an employee learns new skills that enable them to advance in their career. For example, an individual contributor might learn data skills so they can be promoted into a management role. Upskilling shouldn’t be confused with reskilling, in which an employee learns new skills that enable them to transition into an entirely different role.

When it comes to digital transformation, upskilling is a powerful tool that will help your business realize the full potential of its technology investments. According to the World Economic Forum, 54% of all employees require significant upskilling. However, for many businesses, upskilling strategies are missing the mark. Often, this is because they make the mistake of rolling out large libraries of asynchronous learning without a road map or context, putting the onus on their employees to figure it out on their own.

Like all investments, upskilling must be thoughtful and strategic. Business leaders should strive to tie upskilling initiatives to the company’s strategic objectives and goals. For example, if your organization is making a major push to become more data-driven, upskilling can help employees gain the data skills they need to advance this goal. If your company is looking to increase diversity in management, upskilling programs can help foster talent from different backgrounds. Tying upskilling to specific tools your business intends to leverage can be another way to ensure learning efforts support broader organizational goals.

What are the benefits of upskilling?

1. Upskilling helps you access key skills from your existing employees.

Skills gaps pose a direct threat to companies’ ability to innovate and remain competitive. According to one survey from PwC, 55% of CEOs concerned about skills gaps identified being unable to innovate effectively as a potential impact. Other potential impacts included negative effects on quality standards and customer experience, the inability to pursue market opportunities and canceled or delayed key strategic initiatives.

For example, BNP Paribas has an overall goal of being a tech-driven company, and they began working with General Assembly in 2018 to create their upskilling program. According to Chief Digital & Acceleration Officer Nathalie Doré, people are the company’s most important assets. So, as the leader in creditor insurance, BNP Paribas knew building a culture of continuous learning for its 8,000 global employees would be key to retaining its competitive edge. The company has already trained more than 900 unique participants from all over the world and throughout the business, from operations to finance, accounting, and marketing and communications.

Upskilling is more than a learning and development benefit for employees—it’s an essential tactic that will support your business’s long-term strategy and future ability to grow and remain competitive.

2. It improves employee satisfaction and retention.

As The Great Resignation continues, employee engagement and retention have become major focuses for corporate leadership. With Gen Z and Millennial employees more likely to rank “lack of career progress” among their top reasons for leaving a job, upskilling is one way to demonstrate to your employees that you are invested in them and their career growth. As Doré from BNP Paribas put it, “knowing they can learn new skills without having to leave their job encourages people to think differently about what they can do in the company and what their career path could be.”

While some leaders may fear that training workers in more advanced skills could lead them to seek employment elsewhere, the data shows the opposite to be true. Companies who invest in developing in-house talent see an incredible boost in employee engagement and loyalty. For example, Booz Allen Hamilton invested in reskilling and upskilling 5,000 workers across more than 80 locations, which drove 11% growth in employee job satisfaction and retention. Similarly, a LinkedIn study found that employees at organizations with internal mobility programs that upskill, reskill and invest in existing employee bases stay at their companies nearly 2x longer.

3. It helps attract new, diverse talent.

Not only will upskilling improve retention of your current workforce, but it will also help you attract new talent. Today’s candidates are spoiled for choice when it comes to companies hiring, and for many, picking an employer that will offer opportunities for continued learning and growth is paramount. According to one study, 83% of office workers wish their employer would provide more upskilling opportunities.

As more candidates value diversity and companies who put action behind diversity pledges, upskilling is also a way to demonstrate measurable investment in bringing diverse talent into more technical and leadership positions.

Additionally, when you have a robust upskilling strategy in place, you can stop competing for the most expensive candidates and instead hire for potential. If less qualified candidates have the foundational skills and motivation to learn, they’ll thrive at an organization that has the infrastructure in place to evolve their skills.

Close your skills gap with General Assembly

Upskilling is key to unlocking your employees’ potential, but not all upskilling programs are created equal. It’s tempting to roll out a large library of content for employees to start learning at their own pace, but without tying learning to business goals or being clear about objectives, it’s rarely effective.

We’ve worked with some of today’s top enterprises, like Macy’s and Sage AI, to successfully upskill their employees and we’d love to help you, too.

If you’re interested in working with us on
your upskilling strategy, get in touch.

How to Build a Successful Talent Development Strategy in 5 Easy Steps

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A successful talent development strategy is critical for businesses to remain competitive and bridge the skills gaps within their workforces. Today, the rapid pace of technology development and digital transformation has forced companies to be more nimble and creative with talent development. Gone are the days where learning and development consisted primarily of soft skills training, like people management and conflict resolution. Today, talent development teams must also ensure their workforce has the skills needed to compete in the digital economy. 

In the US alone, corporations spend nearly $180 billion annually on formal training programs. Yet, somehow, businesses still face a global talent shortage. Talent development programs can help address this by unleashing the full potential of a company’s existing workforce. 

This isn’t something businesses can think about in a silo. According to IBM, 120 million workers in the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained due to automation. If companies don’t plan for the future with innovative approaches to talent development, mass displacement of workers could occur—with serious economic ramifications. 

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One Way to Recession-Proof Education Investment? Work-based Learning

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Despite budget cutbacks and headlines warning of Big Tech’s hiring slowdown, overall employer demand for technical skills is still on the rise and projected to grow, with job postings across technical sectors still twice as high than any other fields.

But many workers are struggling to access the opportunities that put these in-demand jobs within reach. COVID-19 has driven the skills gap even wider, with nearly six in 10 U.S. workers expressing that a lack of skills prevented them from applying for a job they wanted in the last two years and countless employers complaining of a labor shortage. Automation and digitization are accelerating, and millions of low wage workers are at risk for displacement.

Resolving the global training deficit is a massive and complex undertaking – and while significant, meaningful work is underway, it cannot be accomplished without wide-scale public and private sector collaboration. As rising inflation wears away personal disposable income, and the college debt crisis reaches new heights, it’s clear the onus cannot be on individual workers to bankroll solutions. Instead, for an industry known for cutting edge innovation, a tried and true model is emerging as an effective tool: apprenticeships.

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Alumni Success Stories: How this GA Grad went from Farmer to UI/UX Designer Build Blog

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Ming Xuan Teng Alumni Portrait

Meet Ming Xuan🧑‍🎓, a proud GA User Experience Design graduate and successful UI/UX Designer. Read first-hand about her difficult but rewarding career change journey and see how General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) helped prepare her for a career in the UX Industry.

What were you doing before joining GA?

I was a farmer (farm specialist trainee) looking for full time opportunities but had little luck. I started taking up free online courses and learnt about UX. I later heard from my boyfriend that GA was offering an immersive course and, with his encouragement and support, I decided to take the leap of faith for a career switch.

What inspired you to decide to change careers and move into UX design specifically?

I have always been interested in design and found that UX was a great combination of art (design) and science (research). I was fascinated by how research could lead to designs which were both intuitive and aesthetic. 

What was your GA journey like?

My GA journey was really great! I had super fun classmates who were a joy to work (and play) with. Many of my classmates were already in the creative industry and were very willing to share tips and tricks, and discuss various topics. The instructional team was also very experienced in the field and were super supportive and helpful throughout the intense course.

How did you feel throughout this career transition?

I was very nervous quitting my previous position to enter this completely unrelated field and afraid that I won’t be able to pass the course. Through the duration and intensity of the course, I got more confident in my abilities and skills. 

When I graduated, I was faced with Imposter Syndrome and was very worried about not being able to land a job. A couple of us from class formed a support group and we just cheered each other on whenever any of us felt burnt out. 

As a UX Designer,  I find it most fruitful to see my designs slowly come to live and work through technical limitations with the developers. I look forward to seeing real users interacting with the products and further improving from there!

What advice would you give to someone who is keen to join a GA Course?

Do your research! Take up free online courses first to have a taste of what it’s like. If you like it and are ready to commit yourself to it, just take that leap of faith! It won’t be easy but “nothing worth having comes easy” right?

Alumni Success Stories: From Public Relations to UX Design

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Megan Cruickshank Portrait. UXDI GA Sydney.

Meet Megan Cruickshank🧑‍🎓, a proud GA User Experience Design graduate and now a successful Designer. Find out why she made the decision to join General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI). She shared with us her learning journey, how she prepared for the course and what the transition to a new industry was like for her.

What were you doing before you came to GA?

I started my career in public relations and social media before I realised that what I wanted to be doing was more holistic problem solving – it never made sense to me to spend huge budgets to market products that (sometimes) were flawed! I felt like I was solving the wrong problem. 

What did you enjoy most about your course? 

I loved how practical the course was in replicating real working conditions – completing projects within constraints, rather than only learning UX within a perfect world. Susan was an amazing instructor and my biggest learning was how to trust my gut, learn the rules, and how to break them. I’m still friends with many of my fellow students even now and appreciated meeting new people who shared the same passion as me. 

What are you doing now professionally? 

I work as a Service & Strategic Designer at a Design Studio in Melbourne now – my favourite thing is always working on different projects and different problems – every day is so different. Personally I also love working as a generalist designer so I get to flex different muscles all the time and continue to learn constantly. 

What advice do you have for individuals who are looking to change careers?

Lean on your past experience and the soft skills you already have as much as you can, especially if like me, you don’t have any previous “design” experience on paper. Think about all of the things you can offer that other designers can’t and what your own unique value proposition is! Get good with telling your brand story to anyone who will listen.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

You get out of the course what you put in. Go above and beyond, listen to your instructors and career coaches. Everyone is here to help you win – the only person standing in your way is YOU! Decide you’re passionate about it and go all in. 

Feeling inspired to start your own path as a UX designer? Check out GA’s part-time and full-time UX design courses and introductory workshops. 

3 mistakes you’re making when setting DEI goals…and how to avoid them

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When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), top global businesses are struggling to bridge the gap between aspirations and actions. They know building a truly inclusive work culture is essential when it comes to social expectations, political trends, and board and shareholder demands. But business leaders also understand the direct correlation between a strong DEI program and attracting–to retain–top diverse talent. So, many businesses have stated their goals and started working toward them. They have established employee resource groups. They have appointed an array of DEI executives. They have made public pledges to elevate diverse employees to the C-Suite level. They have set a timeline for building a more diverse workforce. In short, they have taken the first–and very necessary–steps.

While society is committed to advancing DEI in the workplace, logic and statistics show there is still much work to do–from ensuring better diverse representation to more equitable compensation. Only 4% of companies employ a female chair and a meager 3.2% of executive or senior-level managers at Fortune 500 companies are Black. When you dig into pay disparities, the statistics are even more disconcerting. For every dollar a white male employee makes, Black employees make 62 cents, and Latina employees just 54 cents. The facts, while stark, are hardly surprising. Businesses have been talking about building a more diverse workforce for years, but–for the most part–they have been stuck in neutral, spinning their well-intentioned wheels.

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Don’t Let These 5 Career Change Myths Hold You Back

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How old were you when you chose your career path? 

Likely it was some time in your early 20s — when you chose your university or college major, started looking for full time work, or maybe just felt societal pressure to make a decision about what career you wanted to pursue. 

Whenever it was, you’re likely a different person then you were at that age. You know more, there are new career options and your interests might have changed altogether. People evolve, and it’s okay for your career to evolve with you. 

But a big change comes with obstacles, both internally and externally. 

“I’m not good enough”

 “It’s financially impossible” 

“I don’t have the right connections”

…these are some of the lies we tell ourselves that get in the way of making a positive change. We get it, change is scary and hard. But you know what’s more scary? Staying in a job you don’t like. That’s why it’s time to put those anxieties aside.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through some common career change myths and actionable steps to help you overcome your fears.

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3 Things we Learned from HR Leaders at the Talent Acquisition Institute ‘22 Event

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The month of May is traditionally associated with new beginnings. In many parts of the world students graduate in May, moving onto their next level of education or into the workforce. How fitting, then, that last month, we attended the Talent Acquisition Institute event in Nashville, Tennessee from May 15th to 17th. Across the street from the conference at Vanderbilt University, just a few days earlier LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman delivered the university’s 2022 commencement speech.

The Talent Acquisition Institute event represented the opportunity for a new beginning for the over 70 talent acquisition leaders who had come together for the opportunity to share experiences with each other through this unfathomable era that has been dubbed the great resignation. Most importantly, it brought us all together to learn from some of the top talent acquisition minds in the industry about what we can–and must–do to adapt with these changing times and build a robust workforce of the future.

We learned so much from the leaders and my colleagues, not only about the shared challenges we are all facing when it comes to filling talent needs, but about the employment landscape as a whole. These are different times in talent acquisition, this is a different workforce, and it demands of us a different approach.

Here are three great takeaways from the Talent Acquisition Institute Event:

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Your complete guide for getting a tech job without a degree

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Working in tech means good pay, flexibility, and a chance to solve big problems and advance The tech industry also has a reputation for an having an “it” factor. Known for hip offices, perks, and collegiate atmospheres, it can seem from the outside like a party you aren’t invited to. 

Especially if you never went to college.  

We’re here with some good news: the exclusivity is ending. According to research by LinkedIn, 72% of employers think that bootcamp graduates are just as prepared and likely to be high performers as candidates with computer science degrees. Another 12% think that bootcamp grads are more prepared and more likely to succeed than traditional job candidates.

Yes, you can find a job in tech without a degree. We’ll tell you how. 

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4 Questions To Ask Yourself To Be Your Own Best Career Coach

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If finding a great, new job sounds challenging, the thought of transitioning careers altogether might feel downright insurmountable. There’s a lot to consider!

Folks will often engage a career coach when they need some extra guidance working through personal goals, professional development, and the job search process. At GA we have a team of skilled Career Coaches who play a pivotal role in our students’ job-seeking journeys. 

The value of a coach lies in their ability to listen carefully and ask you open-ended questions that spark insights and encourage self-discovery. This gained knowledge helps you navigate from where you are now to where you’d like to be.

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