Upskilling: How to thrive in a period of uncertainty

Upskilling: How to thrive in a period of uncertainty

Posted by Paradigm Learning on May 07, 2021

Heraclitus once said, "The only constant in life is change". We've all had to deal with a lot of rapid changes during this past year - many of them quickly altering our lives and requiring us to shift our daily tasks. As a society, how do we overcome these changes and thrive in a period of uncertainty? The answer - We learn and adapt.  

According to the former Dean of Harvard's Division of Continuing Education, Huntington D. Lambert, life-long learning is hardly a new concept. However, what's new is the ever-growing necessity to engage in learning opportunities to support the many shifts we make in our careers. Lately, the topic of upskilling has emerged as we've shifted and adapted to new work environments. Almost every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, forcing employees out of the workforce or causing them to adjust the scope of their roles. To adapt, workers and organizations have recognized that reskilling and upskilling are creating more opportunities. According to human resources writer Suzanne Lucas, the cost of replacing an employee can be as high as 150% of that person's annual salary, and training current employees is a cost-efficient alternative.  

What is the definition of upskilling? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is to provide someone, such as an employee, with more advanced skills through additional education and training.   

Upskilling is an influential and effective tool, which is why we have identified five powerful yet versatile areas of opportunity that will help workers to adapt and thrive in today's working environment.  


Communication skills  

According to Sunny Giles's Top 10 Leadership Competencies Survey, six of the top 10 competencies rated by participants involved communication. Being in the age of information and amid a pandemic, our typical forms of communication have been altered, making emails, chat, and video calls ordinary in our daily routines. In fact, written communication has become the most common form of business communication. Managers must develop effective written communication skills and encourage the same in all employees. We have had to adjust to different types of communication and enhance our effectiveness in the way we communicate. Forbes suggests that strong communication skills are beneficial on an individual and organizational basis, and unclear messages can lead to confusion internally and externally with customers. Clear communication is key in creating success in our everyday tasks as well as executing strategies and initiatives. So, whether you're negotiating a deal with a client or simply replying to an email, make sure your message is clear and effective in the following areas:  

  • Verbal - Human interaction through the use of words or messages in linguistic form.  
  • Non-verbal - The transfer of information through body language, including eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and more.   
  • Visual - The expression of ideas and information using visual forms or aids.   
  • Written - Any interaction that makes use of the written word.  


Leadership & team management skills  

Management skills are crucial as we shift into the new terrain of working from home. Managing teams and their expectations has always been necessary. However, according to the CEO of TalkPoint Leadership, Brent Gleeson, managing expectations has become increasingly important in the current environment. Many teams have had to pivot, which means the same employees may now be focused on new tasks, impacting ability and motivation...and therefore, performance and outcome. More responsibilities and dealing with various operational changes can be challenging for both managers and their employees when your team is hybrid or fully remote. To overcome common challenges, Forbes states that leaders must remain adaptable and flexible to meet changing environments and sweeping reforms effectively. For managers to be successful while implementing change, there must be a focus on navigating individual and collective emotions with compassion and empathy. Understanding your team's challenges and setting expectations both individually and as a whole will enable organizations to thrive with future initiatives.   


Decision-making skills  

According to Indeed, decision-making skills can be the difference when making a choice that improves your organization and shows your proficiency in choosing between two or more alternatives. With so many changes occurring in recent months, decision-making skills have become more critical than ever. Workers and managers must quickly respond to shifting environments, operational changes, and new initiatives to remain competitive in today's market. Decision-making requires critical thinking and analytical skills. According to GCFGlobal, critical thinking is the act of deliberately analyzing information so that you can make better judgments and determinations. Employees that can effectively analyze information can make better decisions.   


How can you instill better decision-making in the workplace?  

Given today's varied work environments, it is essential to instill a culture of ownership, accountability, and entrepreneurial thinking that extends beyond the walls of your business and into the homes of workers. This type of culture promotes critical thinking and allows individuals to make explicit links between their business decisions, the impact of those decisions, and ultimately the enterprise's success.   


Interpersonal and soft skills  

Like effectively communicating with others, having excellent interpersonal skills can also play a key role in your overall adaptability. Interpersonal skills are also known as soft skills. Soft Skills are character traits that define a person's relationship with other people. According to the National Soft Skills Association, many of the core competencies for soft skills have a foundation in emotional intelligence. Utilizing emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills allows employees to build relationships with their peers and clients more cohesively.  Harvard Business Review studies have shown that a high emotional quotient (EQ) boosts career success, entrepreneurial potential, leadership talent, health, relationship satisfaction, humor, and happiness. Since the pandemic has shifted the ways we communicate, interpersonal skills have played a significant role in filling the void of interactions we typically receive face-to-face. Increased soft skills allow workers to remain cognizant and empathize with their peers' and clients' expectations, needs, or concerns. Interpersonal skills are the foundation of developing relationships. Because successful relationship-building can require a combination of different soft skills, it can be essential to improve these skill areas to help you grow in your career.   

Here are a few soft skill and interpersonal areas to help develop your relationship-building skills:  

  • Communication  
  • Conflict Resolution  
  • Open-mindedness   
  • Empathy  
  • Optimism   


Computer and technical skills  

Almost every job in today's market deals with a form of technology. Computer skills have become essential for professional success. The Wall Street Journal states that the pandemic is forcing changes in workforce technology - or accelerating changes already in place - that will continue long after an effective vaccine is produced. In other words, technology is the new norm. Enhancing technical skills will increase the ability to keep pace with innovation and advancements in the workplace. Here are 6 tips to improve your IT and technical skills:  

  • Take online courses  
  • Acquire certifications  
  • Attend conferences  
  • Read trade publications  
  • Learn from proven leaders  
  • Teach  


The ability to shift focus and remain in alignment with an organization's changing priorities is a competency that requires increased levels of adaptability and flexibility in employees. According to The Business Journals, those who maintain a consistent focus on individual and team-based operational goals - while using creative and critical thinking processes to solve challenges - are essential in a dynamic environment. Begin utilizing and enhancing the five upskilling areas listed above to start adapting and begin thriving!  

Are you looking for more tips on how to improve your critical thinking to make better business decisions and solve challenges? Check out our infographic on building better business acumen 


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