upskilling the industrial workforce
Training & Learning

How To Upskill the Industrial Workforce

The industrial sector is experiencing a significant shift towards automation, digitalization, and Industry 4.0 technologies. As a result, the demand for more digitally skilled employees has increased, while the shortage of qualified workers has become a significant challenge for industrial companies. This has made it difficult to achieve maximum operational production, meet customer demand, and maintain a competitive edge.

One of the most effective solutions to this challenge is upskilling the existing workforce. Rather than hiring externally, industrial companies can invest in their current employees by providing them with training and development opportunities to enhance their digital skills and knowledge.

Not only does upskilling ensure that employees are equipped to meet the evolving demands of their industry, but it also improves employee engagement, retention, and career development. Instead of hiring externally, upskilling an organization’s current workforce is also a more cost-effective solution.

This article will explore the need for upskilling in the industrial sector, how upskilling can combat rising inflation, and how technology can be used to upskill the industrial workforce, including remote skills development, gamification, data-based training, and virtual and augmented reality training.

Training ROI Calculator

Measure your training ROI 🧮

The need for upskilling in the industrial sector

The industrial sector is one of the largest employers in the world, providing jobs to millions of people across various industries, including manufacturing, construction, energy, and logistics. However, the sector is facing significant challenges as it grapples with the impact of digitalization and automation. Many of the jobs that were once done by humans are now being automated, and new roles are emerging that require different skills.

The speed of technological change is outpacing the ability of the workforce to keep up, and at this crossroads of evolution in the way we work, this skills gap is having a significant impact on industrial companies. A study by the World Economic Forum found that over 50% of all employees will require significant upskilling and reskilling by 2025 to meet the demands of emerging technologies. 

This means that industrial companies must invest in their workforce to remain competitive and meet the evolving demands of their industry. Yet even with this clear evidence creating a strong case for the need to reskill and upskill employees, a global BCG study from 2020 revealed that there remains stubbornly huge underinvestment in improving “talent and skills” as part of corporate transformation strategies.

Consider upskilling as an investment in the company

The advantages of upskilling the industrial workforce far outweigh the costs. By investing in their workforce’s upskilling, industrial companies can increase productivity, reduce turnover, and improve employee morale.

Upskilling can also provide a way to attract and retain talent in a competitive job market, as employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their development and career growth. Most upskilling training programs remain inefficient because they fail to account for the real business impacts of the training.

Hiring a new employee with specific technical expertise helps solve an immediate problem by filling a particular current skills gap. But upskilling and reskilling existing employees means providing a longer-term solution for future developments, as workers who have been trained in multiple approaches to solving the same problems will not only bring more to the table each time a complex situation arises, but they will also be eager to adapt their skills towards future training, growth, and professional development opportunities.

That makes for a cost-effective, loyal, motivated, adaptable, and flexible workforce–an invaluable company investment with plenty of foresight.

Prioritize existing employee development

Upskilling the internal workforce is a much more effective and, ultimately, mutually beneficial arrangement. Rather than going through the costly and time-consuming hassle of crafting job descriptions, seeking out and recruiting new employees, onboarding new employees, and training them in not only their job requirements but also company-specific policies and procedures, businesses can invest a reasonable amount in the development of their existing employees. 

Choosing to prioritize the professional development of already hired workers means those employees will be more loyal and enthusiastic towards their work in the company. If they know that the company supports them enough to include professional development training in their path of career growth, employees will be willing to adapt to the addition of new technological innovations in the workplace.  

How upskilling combats rising inflation 

As inflation continues to impact the business landscape, small business owners are feeling the squeeze as they struggle to maintain profitability. A recent survey found that roughly a third of small business owners are concerned about how inflation impacts their ability to do business. 

In the United Kingdom, employee earnings seemingly increased from 2021 to 2022, but in reality, wages fell by 2.6% as inflation depleted consumer spending power. One solution to mitigating the effects of rising costs and wage gaps for businesses is to leverage technology to upskill their industrial workforce. 

Investing in technological tools and training can help companies improve efficiency and increase their employees’ skill sets, ultimately leading to a more competitive and adaptable business. By embracing technology and upskilling their workforce, organizations of all sizes can better navigate the challenges of inflation and position themselves for long-term success.

Offer remote skills development in your upskilling program

Remote work has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend. As a result, remote skills development has emerged as a new employee learning and development approach. Remote skills development involves leveraging technology to train employees in different regions so they don’t have to leave their job site or travel to a training center.

Industrial companies can use various technology-enabled training methods for remote skills development, including live webinars, virtual classrooms, online self-paced courses, and virtual reality simulations. This means that employees can participate from different geographical locations and time zones and according to different time schedules. 

Hybrid businesses may have employees who are also work-from-home parents or caregivers; these employees can still be included in essential training development, as they can adjust their work development schedule to incorporate the other aspects of their daily lives. 

Developing remote skills has proven to be more cost-effective than traditional training methods. Industrial companies can reduce the cost of travel, lodging, and materials associated with in-person training. Furthermore, remote training can be recorded and made available for on-demand learning, providing employees with a more flexible and convenient training option.

Gamification as a method of upskilling

Bringing joy back into learning has been proven to be an effective method of motivating and stimulating employee development. In this vein, gamification is another approach to upskilling that industrial companies can consider.

Gamification involves incorporating game-like elements into training programs, such as challenges, leaderboards, badges, and rewards. This approach can increase employee engagement in the learning process, making it more enjoyable and engaging. Market research has shown that 90% of employees say gamification makes them more productive at work.

In the industrial setting, gamification can be used to simulate real-world scenarios and provide hands-on training in a safe and controlled environment. This approach can be particularly effective in teaching workers complex procedures or machinery operations, as they can practice and receive feedback without the risk of damaging equipment or endangering themselves or others.

By making training more engaging and interactive, gamification can help industrial workers develop new skills and knowledge that will benefit both themselves and their employers.

Gamification can also provide a way to track employee progress and engagement. Industrial companies can use gamification to log employee performance, rank employees based on their engagement and performance, and award badges or other incentives. This approach can also provide a way to identify areas where employees may need additional training or support.

Incorporate data in upskilling training

Data can be a valuable resource for upskilling industrial workers. By collecting and analyzing data on production processes, machine performance, and other key metrics, companies can identify areas for improvement and develop targeted training programs to address specific skills gaps. 

For example, by analyzing data on machine performance, companies can identify areas where workers may need additional training to improve efficiency or reduce downtime. Additionally, companies can use data to track employee performance and identify areas where individuals may benefit from additional training or support.

AI-powered L&D tools can review a particular employee’s previous job experience and determine where their skills gap exists in light of their future career goals. This can help enhance the upskilling learning process by crafting hyper-personalized learning journeys that set individual employees up for success on their career paths. And the same approach can be applied to groups of employees whose jobs may undergo a phase of serious disruption due to a larger-scale company skills transition.

AI and data-enabled training processes can help guide the way toward efficient and effective learning journeys that provide meaningful growth for individual employees, teams, and the entire company. By leveraging data to inform their training programs, companies can ensure that workers are receiving the training they need to be successful and contribute to the organization’s overall success.

Use virtual and augmented reality training

Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technology can deliver immersive training experiences for industrial workers. VR/AR technology allows employees to practice their skills in actual work processes, providing a more realistic and engaging training environment that can prepare them for the on-the-ground experience. 

With virtual and augmented reality training, employees can safely practice and explore potentially dangerous workplace tasks. VR/AR training can help to reduce the risk of injury or damage to equipment during training, as employees can safely practice real-world situations in a virtually simulated environment.

VR/AR training can also be more cost-effective than traditional training methods. Industrial companies can reduce the cost of materials and equipment associated with in-person training. These technologies enable workers to receive instant feedback and guidance, helping them learn from their mistakes quickly and improve their performance in both the simulation and real-world scenarios. Unlike traditional training methods, VR/AR training can be repeated as often as needed, providing employees with more opportunities to practice and improve their skills. 

VR/AR training can be scaled up to encompass large teams across distances and time zones, making it a smart choice for hybrid and remote work environments. It can also help instill the sense of confidence that employees need to directly address complex work scenarios in the industrial setting while allowing companies to save money on training budgets. And since the technology can accommodate large groups, it provides a flexible training approach for industrial workers across all sectors. 

Staying competitive in the long-run with upskilling

In today’s competitive and quickly shifting market, upskilling the industrial workforce is a critical step for companies to remain competitive and meet the evolving demands of their industry. By leveraging new technologies and ways of working, such as remote skills development, gamification, and VR/AR training, industrial companies can provide their employees with cost-effective and engaging upskilling opportunities. 

By developing and implementing upskilling initiatives, companies in industrial sectors can benefit from increased productivity, reduced turnover, and improved employee morale. As industrial companies continue to evolve, keeping their workforce up-to-date with the essential skills to navigate new technologies will become even more critical to their success.