Cross-industry upskilling falls under the same workplace umbrella as reskilling and upskilling. However, it is still unique. Where upskilling and reskilling usually involve increasing abilities within the same industry or team, cross-industry upskilling goes one step further, encouraging employees to learn new skills that would typically be seen in another department or industry. While these new skills might fall outside of their explicit job description, they can be incredibly valuable.
Why might you specifically want to incorporate cross-industry upskilling rather than traditional upskilling or reskilling in their current role? We’ll take a look at just some of the many ways cross-industry upskilling can add value to your workplace, including improved employee versatility, employee retention and reduced business costs, and even encouraging continuous learning.
For one, cross-industry upskilling can broaden the scope of your staff’s industry knowledge, and when you know more, you can do more. To be clear, we don’t mean those that have completed cross-industry upskilling should suddenly take on tasks for a team they’re not even in. We just mean that with more insight into how the business operates, everyone can complete their work in a way that considers the business overall, not just their specific team.
Similarly, it can be tempting to stick within your own department and only reach out to other teams when required. However, when this happens, misalignment between departments is a serious risk. Cross-industry upskilling opens up the doors of communication between departments, encouraging them to interact with each other. When various departments better understand each other, it’s easier to understand what work that team might currently be undertaking, and therefore what capacity they may or may not have to complete additional tasks.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ll be keenly aware of the competitive nature of the job market. Employees and potential employees know what they want and are willing to jump on the opportunity of a new job if it aligns with their goals and values. At the same time, employees know that the job search process can often be long and arduous. Accordingly, if they can complete work that aligns with their goals and values at their current workplace, they're more likely to stay there, thereby boosting employee retention.
Furthermore, 79% of L&D professionals believe it is less expensive to upskill a current employee than it is to hire a new one. Even from a purely financially motivated standpoint, cross-industry upskilling makes sense.
That being said, if you, as a workplace leader, add new tasks/responsibilities to an employee’s workload in light of their new skills, you must ensure their pay accurately reflects this new workload, and that they have the capacity to complete this workload without impinging on their work-life balance.
Picture this: an incredible opportunity has opened up for your workplace that needs input from your talented design team. It has a tight deadline, but you know that the team is up to it. You can’t wait to brief them, only to discover that some of the design team are out of work sick.
While in some situations, that could mean it’s time to panic, for a workplace with employees that are cross-trained across industries, it’s no sweat! A problem like this could be solved by temporarily bringing over an employee from another team that’s cross-trained in graphic design to help pick up some of the work left by the regular design team while they recover.
While completing a few short courses about graphic design as part of workplace learning and development certainly isn’t the same as hiring a fully qualified and experienced graphic designer, what it can do is form a base level of knowledge that can be used to build a deeper understanding of the work that a graphic design team would complete. Therefore, emergency situations, like the example we mentioned above, no longer seem like emergencies.
Many of us, whether part of the learning and development industry or not, are well aware of the benefits of continuous learning. It keeps employees’ brains active and helps them to perform at their highest potential.
Giving employees the option of expanding their knowledge outside of their current field of work is one extremely effective way to encourage learning in the workplace beyond simply ticking a box.
When employees don’t feel restricted in terms of what they can learn about, they’re far more likely to enjoy the learning itself, rather than viewing workplace learning as something to dread.
Moreover, while some employees may be long finished with their formal education journey, that doesn’t mean there’s not more that they want to learn. When workplace leaders encourage employees to pursue learning outside of their current field of work, it gives employees the freedom to explore a new industry in a more digestible way than formal education.
You never know what incredible talents you could unlock with just some simple encouragement and an employee with the desire to try. It could allow the employee to move into a field they’re truly passionate about or even create a brand-new position in the workplace that may not have existed before.
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