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6 Ways to Start Upskilling and Reskilling to Keep Top Employees Investing in employee development is good for workplace culture and helps you meet critical business needs.

This story originally appeared on principal.com

Renteria Vineyard Management, courtesy of Principal®

Every day in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, employees of Renteria Vineyard Management carve out work hours to attend the business's training academy—learning how to prune, operate machinery, and develop leadership skills.

This investment in development is a key reason owner Oscar Renteria, a Principal® client, has successfully kept employees—even a large share of his seasonal workers—year after year.

"Getting top-level talent starts with attracting the best employees," Renteria says. "To retain them, you must provide methods of mastery, purpose, autonomy, coaching, training, mentorship, and personal growth."

As a large majority of small and midsize businesses report struggling to find candidates with the right skill sets, many are also turning to employee development to fill needs.1

These practices not only help employees advance in their current roles and keep skills sharp (upskilling) but can also help expand their skill sets to take on different work to fill a business need (reskilling).

Take the next steps to help grow your business at principal.com/benefits.

An investment in employee development can save you in the long term.

The potential costs of reskilling and upskilling may feel daunting but consider this: The average cost to hire and train a new employee is nearly $4,700.2 And that doesn't account for the time leaders spend screening applicants, conducting rounds of interviews, and talking internally about which candidate is the right fit.

Then weave in the price of losing current talent: Career growth opportunity is the second most cited reason employees resign for new jobs.1

In fact, businesses that successfully help employees move internally—vertically or laterally—keep talent nearly twice as long as businesses that don't.3

"When businesses can train existing employees in areas with skills gaps, they can meet their needs and offer new and enriching career opportunities for their employees," says Kathy Kay, executive vice president and chief information officer at Principal®. "It's a win-win."

6 steps to formalize an employee development program

Ready to start upskilling and reskilling employees? Here's how to get started.

Step 1: Consider where your business is going.

Creating a long-term strategy is a good starting point: Where do you want to be in five years? What efficiencies would you like to implement? What services would you like to offer?

Step 2: Assess knowledge and capability gaps.

Inventory your current employees' skill sets with the goal of identifying gaps that exist in your business now and for the future. What knowledge and skills are needed?

Step 3: Engage employees in the process.

Review individual track records, current skills, growth-mindedness, and dedication to your business as you explore internal candidates for skill development. The goal here is to align work with an employee's strengths and interests, setting them up to do their best work.

Next, meet with potential matches to discuss your business needs and their potential. It's important for individuals to feel ownership of the opportunity.

Step 4: Explore development options.

Reskilling and upskilling will vary by industry and objective. Some skills may be built through team mentorship or job shadowing. Others may require third-party instruction or an online certificate program. Industry groups or local small business community members may have valuable recommendations.

Involve employees in the brainstorming process—challenging them to find development opportunities that interest and suit them.

Step 5: Work out the details.

Work one-on-one with employees to set expectations, being clear about what milestones affect what responsibilities. Also, align on whether their hours and compensation will change. In some situations, the opportunity to stay on board, learn, and redefine their job description is the compensation itself.

Step 6: Put the plan into action.

Finally, it's go time. Stay available for progress reports and troubleshooting, and measure how successful development turns out to be for your business.

While it likely won't equal overnight success, the goal is to fuel valuable, long-term growth for both your business and your employees.

"I love hearing how employees have grown because of opportunities for professional development, training, and all we've been able to provide as a company," Renteria says. "I don't think there's any more fulfilling feeling."

Take the next steps to help grow your business at principal.com/benefits.

Renteria Vineyard Management is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®. Oscar Renteria and his employee's viewpoints may not be representative of other clients' experiences. Clients have not been paid for their appearance.

Insurance products and plan administrative services provided through Principal Life Insurance Company®, a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.


1 Principal survey of small and midsize businesses (fewer than 500 employees), including 458 business clients and 250 employees, Jan. 25–Feb. 5, 2023.

2 "The Real Costs of Recruitment," Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 2022

3 2023 Workplace learning report: Building the agile future, LinkedIn Learning