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The secret to upskilling talent: L&D and tech partnerships

April 20, 2023

Working with people across your organization can sometimes feel like shouting across a void. Our 2023 State of Upskilling report found that while 87% of HR directors are confident in their upskilling partnership with tech leaders, only 57% plan tech skill development jointly. 

You need to bridge the gap between tech and HR/L&D to avoid miscommunication and create an effective upskilling program—together. Here’s why partnerships between tech and L&D leaders matter and how to strengthen them when upskilling talent.

What is upskilling talent?

Upskilling talent means giving existing employees the resources they need to enhance their skills. Upskilling is sometimes referred to as skill development. While upskilling talent is important for any role, it’s critical for people in technical positions because technology changes lightning fast.

What is L&D in tech?

Learning and development in tech means giving technologists the skills they need to grow their careers, keep up with tech trends, and create innovative products. Tech skill development isn’t solely restricted to tech teams. Non-technical teams in fields like marketing, sales, and customer success need tech fluency, a basic understanding of key technologies, to collaborate effectively and drive business outcomes.

Why are HR/L&D and tech partnerships important when upskilling talent?

No one works in a silo, and HR/L&D and tech teams are no exception. A disconnect between these leaders makes it difficult to achieve organizational goals and often creates friction for individual contributors in the process. 

Job postings are one prime example. In a viral tweet, a technologist said he was browsing through job postings and found one that required at least four years of experience in FastAPI. He couldn’t apply because he had only one and a half years of experience—even though he’s the one who created the framework.

If a tech leader had reviewed the job posting, they would have caught the mistake. They could then work with HR to identify the necessary skills and experience to craft an accurate job description that attracts technologists.

An upskilling partnership (or lack thereof) between tech and HR/L&D leaders can have even wider-reaching implications. 83% of HR/L&D directors say they understand what skills their organization’s technology teams need—but a lack of partnership with tech leaders is still one of their biggest upskilling barriers.

What are the benefits of upskilling talent?

When HR/L&D teams work together, they boost the benefits of upskilling talent, making it easier to:

  • Retain employees

  • Attract new talent

  • Develop existing employees for new roles and projects

  • Reduce hiring costs

  • Implement other strategic initiatives 

Upskilling talent: How to create partnerships between L&D and tech leaders

These tips can help you create strategic partnerships between HR/L&D and technology leaders to amplify your upskilling initiatives.

Start cross-functional conversations

HR/L&D and tech leaders may think they’re aligned—until something happens. The easiest way to ensure they’re in agreement is to get them together in a (virtual) room to ask questions and share their perspectives.

After all, leaders from each department possess unique strengths that will benefit upskilling talent. To develop an effective upskilling program, tech and HR/L&D leaders should discuss these elements:

Organizational strategy

65% of tech managers look at how upskilling talent impacts organizational outcomes to determine success and secure executive buy in. But 52% of tech managers also agree that team members might not learn skills aligned with the organization’s strategy, even when given organization-paid time to learn. 

HR/L&D leaders tend to have a better understanding of the organization’s overall strategy and industry trends. They can see the big picture, guide upskilling programs in the right direction, and give insight into common questions like:

  • What tech skills do technologists need to align with corporate strategy?

  • Where do we fall behind competitors based on industry trends, the demand forecast, and customer requests?

  • When is the best time to implement a tech skill development program? 

  • What other internal tools could we use to push learning resources out to technologists?

If you can show that technologists are developing skills that contribute to measurable outcomes, it’s exponentially easier to make the business case for upskilling talent.

Looking to get executive buy in for an upskilling investment? Our Building the business case whitepaper provides a framework to help you create a compelling case for your investment.

Most effective learning resources

On the other hand, HR/L&D leaders may not understand what technologists need to learn. As a result, the learning resources organizations provide aren’t always the resources technologists need.

For skills like software development and cloud computing, most technologists value hands-on experiences where they can put their learning to the test. In fact, 37% of technologists say they’ve used hands-on labs or sandboxes to learn software development skills. They like hands-on experience because they:

  • Learn better with hands-on practice

  • Get experience in a real-world environment

  • Can make mistakes without any risks

  • Get practice with their organization’s specific tech stack and use cases

Lean on tech leaders

Tech leaders understand what technologists need to learn, retain, and apply new skills. When upskilling talent, they can provide expertise on:

  • The specific technical issues technologists need to understand better

  • Which learning opportunities technologists find most effective for which topics

  • The best way to measure training quality

  • How leaders determine upskilling success (beyond metrics like completion rates)

When tech and HR/L&D leaders collaborate, they can better identify the learning resources their teams will find most effective. This can boost employee engagement in the upskilling program and reduce spending on ineffective resources.

Check out these expert tips to learn more about how to choose effective upskilling resources for your tech teams.

Continuous learning culture

Organizations with a continuous learning culture are dedicated to their employees' growth and development. In these organizations, upskilling talent isn’t just an employee benefit—it’s an organization-wide priority. These organizations empower employees to learn, provide upskilling opportunities, and foster psychological safety.

If HR or L&D teams roll out an upskilling program, but tech leaders don’t build learning time into delivery dates or ask about skill development progress during daily standup meetings, employees likely won’t have the time or support to learn. But the opposite is also true—when HR and tech leaders align, they can create a safe learning environment and cultivate a continuous learning culture.

Upskilling talent through strategic HR/L&D and tech partnerships

True talent transformation occurs at all levels of your organization. When HR/L&D and technology leaders align, the impact (and ROI) of upskilling talent will resonate throughout your business.

Unlock the secrets to upskilling success with our comprehensive report.