Companies are investing billions of dollars in upskilling. Here’s what that means.

A lot of needless work jargon has surfaced over the past year, but some terms represent more than just buzzwords. Gartner, the global advisory firm, has recently collected data on upskilling — and they’ve determined that this is not a useless label. In fact, it’s a concept all workers should know.

Without upskilling, there’s a chance you won’t get that next promotion, job opportunity, or make the career move you’ve been dreaming of. And recent reports say that it’s now up to your company to ensure your success with upskilling perks included in your HR package.

What exactly is upskilling?

The literal definition of “upskilling” is to “teach an employee a skill,” but that’s vague. Skills can range from anything to practical field-related knowledge to computer proficiency or social office etiquette.

Upskilling is a hot topic at the moment, and its importance is stressed by executives and HR professionals alike; 60% of HR leaders “report pressure from the CEO to ensure employees have the skills needed in the future,” and another 68% say that they’ll be “building critical skills and competencies.”

Gartner also reports that when HR implements upskilling programs to train employees, workers end up applying 75% of the skills they’ve learned in their current roles.

But not every business has the tools to train and build critical skills and competencies — a top goal of HR leaders for three consecutive years. Forty-five percent of managers state that they “don’t feel confident in their ability to develop the skills employees need” if they were required to start training today. Others state that workplace skill programs aren’t reacting to the progression of individual fields; they’re simply predicting where skills will be needed next.

Haven’t I been upskilling all along?

If you’re constantly seeking to improve your skillset and go further in your career, upskilling might sound like a stupid word. Isn’t it assumed that we learn more as we progress in our work roles?

The 2020 Pulse of the American Worker Survey reports that one in five workers have made “pursuing education” or learning more about their fields a “higher priority” over the pandemic. So why should a business have to step in and hold your hand?

Even if you’ve been upskilling on your own, without the help of a company, the argument here is that you shouldn’t have to. If you had a question about paperwork or forms, you’d Google it. If you were unclear on the specific terminology in a client’s field, you’d ask a coworker or find an informative YouTube video. But soon, that won’t be enough, as the job market will be filled with those who correctly predicted trends and talents, and you’ll be left in the dust, having learned a bunch of information you didn’t need.

According to The Gartner TalentNeuron — a talent planning and management platform — the total number of skills required for a single job increases by 10% every year. Additionally, “over one-third of the skills present in an average 2017 job posting” will be rendered obsolete in 2021.

So, while you might be investing in yourself for your own needs, your company should be providing you with an organized effort to secure your foundation of learning and development, so that you can forge a stable future wherever your career may take you. If they refuse, it could have a detrimental effect on your career going forward.

Why does it need to be a benefit?

While upskilling used to just be another buzzword, the data shows that if businesses don’t start investing in the future of their employees’ skill sets as much as they’re investing in their 401(k)s or stock options, the future of many companies could be in jeopardy.

The 2020 Pulse of the American Worker Survey reports that “among those planning to seek new employment post-pandemic, 80% say they are concerned about their career growth,” and another 72% are rethinking their skill sets, wondering if they have the chops to pursue a new career.

Even those who aren’t looking for new work are worried about their skills as a result of the pandemic; 46% of workers have recently re-evaluated their skill set, and another 40% see “adaptability and a willingness to learn…as one of the most important skills workers will need in their careers.

Have companies been taking this seriously?

As one would expect, the companies investing in upskilling are the ones that have a ton of capital and employees to test out new ideas and create new curriculums. Amazon’s new initiative, Upskilling 2025, is just that — multiple programs, like Machine Learning University, that not only provide employees with cutting-edge information but reimburses various tuition costs for programs and degrees.

They also have a school called Amazon Technical Academy, which provides both training and job placement opportunities for those who are looking to progress in the field of software engineering.

Mastercard’s deal with upskilling platform Degreed uses AI technology to help employees identify their weak areas, and help them build skills that will contend with their startup competitors. Pricewaterhouse Cooper also has mentioned that they’ve invested $3 billion in creating an upskilling initiative over the next three to four years, but it’s yet unclear how that money will be used.

Upskilling is clearly more than just an office term being thrown around the water cooler. It is a valuable approach to excelling in your career.