Upskilling Disparity Exists Between HR and Employees
Workspan Daily
April 15, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Increased upskilling for employees. A WorldatWork Pulse Poll found that 57% of organizations have increased upskilling opportunities for their employees in the past 12 months. 
  • Solving talent shortages. While compensation tends to be the focus to attract and retain talent in a very tight labor market, upskilling could also help alleviate workforce shortages.  
  • Less opportunity for HR. A separate WorldatWork Pulse Poll found that 10% fewer organizations are investing in upskilling for HR compared to employees. 
  • A critical function. HR is the function of the organization that is responsible for identifying and implementing upskilling opportunities for the workforce, so providing upskilling to the department could better position organizations to navigate the future of work. 


The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey showed that 4.35 million workers left their jobs in February, which was an increase of 94,000 0from the previous month. In addition to an extremely tight labor market, organizations are facing a historic talent shortage as well, as there are a record five million more job openings than unemployed people in the United States

A natural solution for employers has been to increase compensation to retain existing employees and to attract new talent to fill labor gaps. However, many organizations are also supplementing this approach by investing in upskilling opportunities for their workforce. 

WorldatWork Pulse Poll conducted in March found that 57% of organizations have increased upskilling opportunities for their employees in the past 12 months. The investment in upskilling serves dual purposes as well. When employees are offered and encouraged to take advantage of upskilling opportunities for their personal or professional growth, people metrics, such as employee engagement and retention, also go up, notes Harvard Business Review. In addition to improving retention, the organization also has more talent on hand capable of filling important roles instead of investing more resources attracting outside talent. 

In support of this concept, WorldatWork’s Pulse Poll found that 35% of organizations that increased their investment in upskilling did so to meet changing needs within their organization, while 32% did so to enhance the employee experience and engagement and 27% did so for talent retention purposes. 

“As employers continue to navigate an incredibly tight labor market, it is apparent that compensation cannot be the answer to all instances,” said Alicia Scott-Wears, compensation content director at WorldatWork. “Upskilling offers a rewarding enrichment to the employee experience that benefits not only the employee themselves but typically also the employer.”

The most common kind of employee upskilling opportunity employers are providing are single-skills courses (67%) such as one on LinkedIn Learning, while 37% noted they are investing in college/university degree programs for their talent. 

The function of the organization that is responsible for identifying and implementing upskilling opportunities for the workforce — human resources — typically do not have access to the same level of upskilling themselves, a separate WorldatWork Pulse Poll found

The poll found that 34% of organizations are not providing opportunities to upskill their HR department compared to 24% of organizations not providing upskilling opportunities for their overall workforce. This is an area leadership should address, as it could also help alleviate talent and retention issues, given the prominent role HR plays in an organization’s success in those two areas. 

The poll also found that upskilling opportunities for the HR department are limited to certain areas of business need for 40% of organizations. Examples of these upskilling opportunities included diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (55%), performance (48%), workforce engagement (44%), rewards (43%) and compensation (43%). 

While all five areas are clearly significant to the business, organizations that go beyond these areas in upskilling their HR department are better positioned to navigate the future of work, said Scott-Wears. 

“Organizations that invest in their employees’ personal and professional development, which allows them to find purpose and reward in their work, are better positioned to achieve the loyalty of top performers that are skilled in the areas the business needs most,” she said. “HR is crucial to business success and yet one-third of respondents are indicating no upskilling is being provided to this critical function.” 

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Best Practices for Paying Remote Workers: Choose Your Compensation Strategy
Addressing Inflation and Stemming the Turnover Tide
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