Top 5 Ways to Upskill

Upskilling is a bit of a buzzword right now. It makes sense, because in this age of information, work environments and procedures are constantly changing.  

If you’re a half-decent manager, you’ll champion upskilling, because it means you’ll have an agile team ready to take on the world.  

But not all upskilling is created equal. Don’t worry, though, we laid out the top five things to look out for while on the road to upskilling. 

Use an Intelligent Upskilling Platform 

Sure, YouTube or LinkedIn Learning courses can both be used for training teams. But, how much of that course content does your team already know? And how do they know what they don’t know?  

I know, this sounds like a riddle. But, if you use a platform that intelligently surfaces content specific to filling skills gaps, then there won’t be anything you or your teams don’t know. You know?   

Are You a Reader, a Listener, or a Doer? 

The good news about technology is that we have entered an era where we can accommodate all varieties of learning styles.  

It can be frustrating for visual learners to only have audio or written instruction. Kinesthetic learners might take longer to grasp concepts without practice exercises to guide them.  

Find yourself a platform that offers it all for your teams, so everyone can feel comfortable.  

Keep it Short 

How often have you looked something up on YouTube, only to be inundated by the instructor’s life story?  

Chances are, you didn’t come for the autobiography—you came for the skills. 

 Instead, try a platform that pinpoints exactly what you’re working on. This saves you time and the energy it takes to keep your eyes from sticking after you’ve rolled them so hard at an anecdote about someone’s great-aunt twice removed.  

Nurture Growth 

Offering personalized learning paths lets teams grow their careers. Happy employees, happy company.  

If you concentrate on your employee’s satisfaction, they’re less likely to try to find a different opportunity. It can take up to $4,000 to bring on a new hire, and that doesn’t even include how much time and money it takes to onboard that new employee.  

Keep your current employees and keep them growing.  

Delivered Your Way 

Learning shouldn’t impede productivity, it should enhance it.  

Need-based learning and solutions cater to individuals, providing answers they need, right when they need them. This can look like upskilling on the go, via mobile apps, or in-application performance support. 

Isn’t it time that learning came to you? 

In Short 

Upskilling done right can feel like a huge undertaking, but it’s worth it for your team and company to make sure they have a fighting chance at actually gaining new skills. Using a platform that does it all for makes the process painless.  

Microlearning Isn’t So Easy Peasy

It’s not news that microlearning is crushing today’s learning and upskilling market. But, turning bite-sized lessons into high-quality content is deceptively tricky. 

Sure, microlearning looks easy enough to create. Anyone can take a huge course and chisel it into smaller pieces, claiming that, “Now, learning is faster than ever!” But, too many folks have experienced that less-than-optimal e-learning experience. 

The Agony 

I’m talking about the slideshow presentation that was meant for in-person lectures.  

Or the course on emerging tech where half the videos are almost a decade old and are completely outdated.  

Or the lessons offer transcription, but they’re formatted as an illegible block of text.  

Heck, maybe the instructor’s mic goes in and out, and you have to strain to hear what’s going on, and when you realize what’s happening, they’re referencing a previous lesson that was accessible at one point, but is now lost to the world wide web. 

The Ecstasy 

At the root of it, great microlearning starts and ends with great content. In most cases, for microlearning to be truly successful, this content must be engineered with quality and brevity in mind from the outset. Unfortunately, you can’t just trim videos and hope for the best. 

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if each and every bite-sized lesson went through a quality checkpoint system? You would be able to rely on the same quality and consistency throughout your learning experience!  

Not only should microlessons be brief, so you can get back to what matters to you, but they should also be stand-alone. Imagine being able to mix and match lessons, without needing to know what happened in the previous lesson to progress! Just think of all the time and agony you’d save in NOT going over content you already know! 

Good microlearning creation isn’t as easy-peasy as it sounds, but nailing down an industrialized process to produce concise, standalone content using rigorous quality assurance checks sure makes it feel that way. 


Skills Vs Competencies

Have you noticed how upskilling has become a pretty big deal recently? I suspect it has to do a lot with increased focus on being happier and more productive. A person that has more skills is more likely to be better at work, which means an increase in pay, right? 

And it’s not just individuals who obsess about this kind of growth. If they’re doing their job right, management also wants their teams to upskill and be the best version of themselves. Think: The Power Rangers after they’ve morphed.  

It’s safe to say, we’re in a culture of upskilling currently. It’s all about adding new skills, growing old ones, and training yourself on skills you didn’t even know you needed.  

But, have you ever stopped to think, what happens when you gain all those skills? Do they sit like so many pennies in a piggy bank? Or are you actually putting them to use? 

This is where competencies come in.  

Let’s step back a bit, first, though, to lay it out.  

A skill is knowing how to do a task.  

A competency is knowing when to do that task, and the best way to implement it.  

Say you learned two skills recently. One is how to ride a bike and the other is how to drive a car. Both of these skills can be used for the same end, which is getting places quickly.  

Now, the big day has come, and you’re ready to get somewhere quickly. The place is a small path running along the river and the start of it is only a block from where you’re located. Competency is knowing to take the bike and not the car.  

In a flipped scenario, you may need to get across town, and only a busy highway leads there. Again, competency is knowing to take the car, not the bike.  

Competencies translate across industries. Gardeners need to know the best time to transplant their sprouts. Architects need to know when their model is ready for analysis. Baseball pitchers need to know when to toss the ball.  

When upskilling, it’s pretty important to use a platform that focuses on gaining competencies just as much as gaining skills.  


Collaborative Learning

By Matt Murphy

Individual versus Team Learning

When you think about traditional learning and training models, there is very little opportunity for collaboration. We take tests and exams where we are graded as individuals. Yet, in the real world, we work in teams and rely on a group effort to attain a common goal or outcome. Could this be the reason that so many graduates from programs are ill-equipped to function within a team?

What you know is only a piece of the knowledge and experience that’s contributing to the goal of the team. This is why collaborative learning, as an educational approach to teaching and learning, is critical. Simple examples involve a group of learners working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. Typically, this is done in small groups where students can both share their strengths and develop their weaker skills, while developing interpersonal skills.

Benefits of Collaborative Learning

What are the advantages of collaborative learning? There are many. But the most beneficial are:

  • Finer critical thinking skills
  • Better student/faculty engagement
  • Higher student retention
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Improved attitude and satisfaction 
  • Development of better oral communication skills

Collective Thinking

Collaborative learning teams attain higher-level thinking and preserve information for longer times than students working individually. Why is this so?

Groups tend to learn through discussion, clarification of ideas, and the evaluation of others’ ideas. Like a good conversation, that exchange of information is retained in long-term memory. There is plenty of research that suggests that students who worked collaboratively on math computational problems earned significantly higher scores than those who worked alone. Plus, students who demonstrated lower levels of achievement improved when working in diverse groups.

Collaborative learning teams are said to attain higher-level thinking and preserve information longer than do students working individually.

Here are the general rules for collaboration:

  • Establish goals
  • Establish norms
  • Build trust

Effective collaborative learning needs to have defined goals and objectives, as well as individual accountability. Interactivity and negotiation skills are important to drive quality interactions. But most important is developing successful interpersonal communication by building trust. Allowing each team member a fair and equal opportunity to explain concepts and express their views without judgement is critical. Otherwise, dominant members will suppress the views of others.

Is it time to ensure that you have a functioning collaborative team? Whether in a collaborative learning environment or in a fully functioning work environment, I think we can all agree that the old adage of “two heads are better than one” will drive better and more successful outcomes.

Blended Learning

By Matt Murphy

We have crossed the training industry threshold that performance-based learning can only be achieved at the point of need, based on true job competencies. The things that work are learning paths, prescribed workflows, purpose-built content and process-based training.

Completing a training program or passing a product certification just doesn’t ensure that somebody can effectively transfer the knowledge from the test to on-the-job performance. Simply providing a mixed bag of blended learning options doesn’t get us there, either. You have to start with the job role or define the outcome first, from either a top-down or bottom-up approach. What is most important is that the time is taken to ensure the outcome is clearly defined based on tasks and competencies for the job.

Step 1: Define the outcome

Most likely, your organization has a unique set of workflows that lead to specific outcomes. No one person is responsible for all deliverables of a project, but each person, each role, has unique competencies that define it and contribute to the team. You can do this by answering a few key questions:

What are the required competencies for the tasks to meet the deliverable?

Who is responsible for that deliverable?

Does that person have all the knowledge and skills they need to complete the deliverable?

Do we, as an organization, have all the required resources to ensure that people tasked to perform the job can be evaluated based on the required knowledge and skills?

Step 2: Align the Job/Role

Giving someone a training guide or a library full of product lessons will not ensure job competencies. The key to building more effective blended learning paths is to create a hierarchical structure of the knowledge and skills in your organization. Define the job role and responsibilities. In many cases, this starts by looking at the job title, description, and defined responsibilities within the organization.

Do these descriptions actually align with the tasks performed on project deliverables?

If not, what changes and adjustments need to be made to meet the requirements?

Typical job/role descriptions address recommended previous experiences, but they don’t address the current requirement or outcome. For example, the job responsibility might state, “working with BIM,” but the actual goal is to generate a facilities energy analysis from a model. This is a much more specific definition of the needed outcome—define the deliverable, give it a name, and then determine what specific, actionable competencies and skills are needed to create the desired outcome.

Step 3: Define the Competencies/Skills

Once you have defined each job/role, then you can then drill into the actual competencies and skills required that must be met in order meet the outcome. This is where the tactical aspects of the workflow are defined. In all cases, the candidate must complete a task that is actionable and measurable. To do that, you must clearly define an objective for each step of the outcome.

Objectives need to be actionable and measurable. You MUST write them down. The outcome is met when a series of tasks or skills are performed. The objectives must meet a defined criteria.

Only after you follow these three steps in identifying the outcome, determining whose job/role is expected to complete the outcome, and then defining the competencies or skills, can you then start evaluating what available content resources you have to support the learning.

Content and Context

The term “content” here refers to the learning resource. This content could be in the form of video, PDFs, or other institutional knowledge. Some of this content may exist in other training formats, possibly buried in “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “advanced” training guides. The guides could be self-paced or part of an instructor-led program. Doesn’t matter—It is not useful in the current form. Classifying content the “Old” school method is purely subjective. “Intermediate” doesn’t mean anything regarding defining the task or skill required for the job. That’s why it’s so important to complete the three steps I’ve defined first. The next step is to figure out what lessons, descriptions, exercises and samples should be extracted from existing content and then align it specifically to the defined context and outcomes. In this case, “blended” then simply becomes a term that describes gathering the appropriate content, regardless of its form. This is extremely powerful because the variety of content types ensures those with different learning styles can select based on their preference while still conforming to the desired outcomes. If there are gaps in content resources, then “purpose-built” content needs to be created, but it absolutely must be targeted and specific to the goal, and it must align with the outcome defined by the competency. Nothing more, nothing less. All the other content is just a distraction to the consumer. If you can package the content in multiple formats, even better. For example: video screen captures using Camtasia could have a naturally spoken narrative. If the narrative is descriptive enough, the audio could be transcribed into a written guide. Using screen captures from the original video could compliment the narrative text with step-by-step procedures. Thus, providing a blended solution for both visual and verbal learners based on the same content. The key here is not whether a “blended” solution is the answer, but whether the content provided is within the context of the defined knowledge and skills for the job based on the required outcome.