HR · 14 March 2016

Five ways to upskill your employees for next-to-nothing

upskill your employees
Set aside an hour a week for your staff to spend immersing themselves in the latest management thinking

Recent research carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses revealed that worries about the cost of training is putting small business owners off investing in their staff. But training doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Whatever level of education they already have – from a degree to no formal qualifications – the creative suggestions below will let you upskill your employees without having to touch the company credit card.

Show and tell

The easiest and most efficient way to increase the knowledge base of your workers is to encourage them to share what they already know with each other. Whether they’ve picked them up at school, in a previous job, or through their outside hobbies, your employees are almost certain to have hidden talents.

The infamous blight of British politeness will inevitably be holding people back from blowing their own trumpets – but send an email round encouraging staff to do so and you’ll be amazed at what they come up with.

Once you’ve identified the Excel whizzes, psychology experts or audio recording pros, getting them to prepare a lunchtime presentation to the rest of the team will not only increase everyone else’s knowledge, but provide the person doing the sharing with invaluable experience of giving presentations.


For skills you can’t crowdsource from within your team, there are now more videos,  podcasts and interactive tutorials available for free online than ever before. But plenty of people are not only overwhelmed by choice but can never seem to find the time to concentrate on the talks they do want to listen to.

The solution? Create a curated list of multimedia content that covers topics relevant to your organisation, and set aside an hour a week (and a quiet meeting room if you have access to one) for your staff to spend immersing themselves in the latest management thinking.

If you’re struggling to know where to start, TED Studies Management brings together the platform’s business content in one place and even has an introductory essay on the subject, while iTunesU has a wealth of podcasts created by the world’s best management universities, including a series by Harvard Business School.

Fill in the gaps

If it’s your employees’ functional skills that need boosting, there is plenty of government funding available, and multiple training providers out there who work with employers to deliver maths and English GCSE programmes.

One national provider of such training is learndirect, whose training programmes combine online and office-based training – and a searchable government directory of courses is available on the National Careers Service website.


With over 10,000 business books published each year, there are certainly no shortage of experts offering to sell you the tricks to business success. Here at Business Advice we get sent hundreds of such books, and while it can sometimes be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, plumping for something with a title that doesn’t sound too good to be true is always a good start.

“Getting More of What You Want” by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys, which uses economics and psychology to help you be a better negotiator, is one of the best we’ve come across so far this year, while anything by marketing guru Seth Godin is always a safe bet.

Once you’ve identified a promising title, get copies for everyone (many of last year’s most popular titles are available second hand for a couple of pounds each) and commit to reading a chapter a fortnight. Use the first hour of your weekly pub session to compare notes and talk about how you could put the advice into practice.

Knock off early

Every higher education campus in the country offers a range of public lectures on topics from innovation and technology to economics and finance. Up-and-coming examples include a talk at Manchester University on accounting and a speech at the London School of Economics on how to increase gender equality in the workplace.

Many of the best are held at lunchtime or at student-friendly times which make them impossible to get to after the working day – but giving your employees a couple of hours off to listen to something relevant and inspiring will not only increase their knowledge but increase motivation.

Looking for more ways to increase staff wellbeing and productivity? Don’t miss this guide.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.