How to build an effective workforce upskilling program

November 8, 2023 By Tyler Stike, Director of Demand Generation at Honorlock

Your organization operates in a fast-paced, competitive environment, and you can’t afford to have employee skill sets fall behind. Upskilling programs can help develop employees’ current skills and competencies. Implementing an upskilling program, or even just updating your existing program, may seem daunting because it’s a complex, company-wide effort. However, the effort is worth it for your organization and, more importantly, for your employees.

In this article, we’ll cover what you need to get your workforce upskilling program started, or how to improve your existing program. Want to start planning today? Download our free workbook to get started on your upskilling strategy now.

Planning workforce upskilling

Planning is the key to developing an effective upskilling program that gets your employees where they need to be. To start planning your program, you’ll need to figure out who’s involved, use data to prioritize training needs, and then set realistic and measurable goals.

Determine who’s involved

Workforce upskilling involves participation from various roles and departments at different stages. While participation varies by organization, here’s an overview of who’s involved:

  • Planning: executive leadership, department leaders, managers, HR, IT, learning and development (L&D)
  • Assessing & prioritizing needs: employees, department leaders, managers, HR, finance, data analysts
  • Budgeting: finance, leadership, department leaders, IT
  • Employee training: trainers, subject matter experts, L&D, technologists, and employees
  • Tracking progress: all roles involved in employee training as well as HR and data analysts

Collect & analyze data to prioritize training needs

Collecting data

To better understand employees’ skills and abilities and where they need to be, collect internal and external data such as:

  • Internal: employee surveys, interviews, performance reviews, exit interviews, and skills assessments; department-level and company-wide performance
  • External: industry studies, market reports, competitor analysis, regulatory mandates, and compliance standards

Analyzing & prioritizing

Carefully analyze the data and prioritize training based on factors like urgency, financial impact, long-term or short-term goals, and the number of employees affected. It’s important for your organization to stay flexible during this process because priorities can shift at any time.

Set realistic, measurable goals and objectives

After understanding employees’ current skills and abilities and where they need to be, set realistic and measurable goals and objectives to get there.

Here’s an example of a goal and objectives:

Goal 1: Improve the accounting staff’s software proficiency


  • Assess skills: assess the accounting staff’s current software proficiency and develop baseline performance metrics by [date].
  • Complete training: all accounting staff will complete software training by [date].

Improve performance: improve software proficiency performance metrics by at least 60% based on performance assessments by [date].

Evaluating and budgeting

Now that you’ve established some goals for your upskilling program, it’s time to figure out how you’ll achieve these goals, and what it will cost. 

Whether training is internal or external, your organization needs to find the most impactful training that works within your budget and available resources.

For internal upskilling, consider the following:

  • Modality & format: will training be in-person, hybrid, or remote? Synchronous or asynchronous?
  • Audit existing materials: review existing training materials and determine what needs to be developed or updated.
  • Resources & technology: do your current software and hardware meet your needs, or are others required?

Estimate costs & set a budget: include overhead costs (trainer and employee time, updating and creating training materials), hardware and software expenses, etc. Once you have a full picture of associated costs, set your budget and establish where the money will come from (i.e., will each department cover expenses? Is this a new budget for the organization to develop?)

For external training vendors, consider the following:

  • Evaluate vendors: list vendor options and compile information about: 
    • Curriculum: will the program effectively prepare your employees? Is it up-to-date? Can it be tailored based on your organization’s needs, or is it one-size-fits-all?
    • Modality & format: in-person, hybrid, or remote? Synchronous or asynchronous? Will employees be permitted to complete training during work hours?
    • Technology requirements: what hardware and software will employees need?
    • Assessments: how are assessments conducted in the program? Is remote proctoring used to prevent the use of AI tools and detect cell phones? 
    • Data privacy & security: how does the vendor protect your organization and employee data? Do they meet important compliance standards?
  • Estimate costs: gather pricing (and quotes, if possible) for the training and include any costs related to hardware and software.
  • Set your budget: determine your budget based on your comprehensive vendor evaluation.

Courses, content, and curriculum

Whether your organization is updating existing content, building new courses from scratch, or reviewing vendor offerings, training should:

  • Provide bite-sized content in various formats to boost engagement and retention while offering flexibility that works with their schedules. 
  • Deliver fully accessible courses within a flexible learning platform that makes it simple to create custom courses that are easy to navigate. 
  • Focus on practical application to prepare employees for the real situations they’ll face at work.
  • Administer proctored assessments to protect integrity and validate that employees have the required skills and competencies.
  • Apply continuous updates to improve and customize content based on feedback, performance metrics, and evolving needs.

Implementation of your upskilling program

After assessing needs and developing content (or choosing a vendor), you’re ready to begin implementing your upskilling program.

Get hardware and software in place

The level of effort required depends on what technologies your organization already has in place and what’s needed for employees to complete training. 

Distribute and provide training 

Employees should have all of the necessary hardware and software well in advance of the upskilling program’s start date. Offer training on all technologies—even if they’re already used by employees—and develop a central location that includes information about setting up software and hardware setup, help guides and FAQs, and links to support and platforms.

Generally speaking, you’ll need a few platforms to build a strong foundation for your upskilling programs:

  • Learning management platforms provide a centralized location for your training courses and content. Flexible platforms, like Moodle Workplace, offer diverse tools to build engaging courses with interactive content, customized learning paths, diverse assessments, and real-time communication. Here are some steps to consider when choosing an LMS for your organization.
  • Remote proctoring platforms level the playing field during assessments—even hands-on performance assessments—by blocking ChatGPT and detecting cell phones while also locking the browser, recording and monitoring behavior through the webcam, and more.
  • Video conferencing tools give employees the ability to collaborate, ask questions, role play, give presentations and demonstrations, and receive feedback in real time.

Create awareness & understanding

Develop a communication plan that creates awareness and understanding of the organization’s upcoming upskilling efforts. Use consistent messaging across communication channels, like email, messaging platforms, town halls/webinars, and team meetings. 


Use shared calendars or tools within the learning management platform to schedule upskilling training sessions at times that minimize disruptions.

  • For live training sessions (synchronous), find times that accommodate the majority of participants across various teams and time zones, ensuring that key sessions aren’t missed.
  • For asynchronous training, set specific times for employees to complete the training so that it remains a priority and removes pressure to complete training outside of their working hours.

Monitor progress & make continual updates

Monitoring and measuring

Track and measure participants’ progress using your established metrics. Continually update training based on employee performance and feedback, as well as organizational goals.

Assess effectiveness and ROI

Assess the effectiveness and ROI by analyzing performance metrics and comparing costs to factors like productivity increases and error reduction.

While workforce upskilling is a complex process requiring an investment of time and money, the return on investment is significant: upskilling can boost productivity, increase employee retention and satisfaction, improve organizational adaptability, and prepare organizations for the future.


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Start planning your upskilling program today

Download the workbook version of this guide to get started on your upskilling program now.