May 13, 2019

Upskilling: A Critical Tool for Workforce Empowerment


Upskilling to navigate a working environment in constant flux.

Automation, A.I., and data analytics are changing what the workforce looks like and how it operates. When, where, and how people work and collaborate – along with the information they access, technology they use, and jobs they do – are all changing faster than ever. In fact, most experts believe the nature of work will change more in the next decade than it has in the past 100+ years.

As change continues to accelerate, upskilling is playing a larger role. Money is no longer enough. Employees want a mission and purpose when they enter the office. Why they do what they do is as important – if not more important – than title or salary. Now more than ever, belonging, purpose, and connection are the driving forces behind employee acquisition, retention, and workplace satisfaction.

In the face of constant change and shifting employee expectations, how companies use emerging technologies and culture to connect with employees has lasting implications. To examine these trends and the role upskilling plays in the workplace, we partnered with our colleagues at the Churchill Club to discuss several of the key insights driving success in the workplace today. We hosted a panel including Tracy Brower, Principal, Applied Research + Consulting, Steelcase, Joe Burton, President & CEO, Poly and Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & Founder, Constellation Research. Their thoughts align with our recent headquarters redesign, which you can read more about here, that workplaces need to be living, breathing spaces designed around and built to adapt to the people inside them.


While we encourage you to watch the full conversation here (YouTube link), we want to share four key insights we learned during the evening

Engagement comes in threes.

Nothing measures workplace success better than engagement. An engaged employee is happier, more productive, and connected to the company in a meaningful way. To increase engagement, companies should consider the following:

1. Offer recognition

Employees must see and feel like they are getting work done—and that it’s being valued.

2. Provide access

At any given point during the day, there are relevant, special moments that employees should have access to. Whether it’s a training or cake on the 5th floor, companies need to find ways individuals can access the right events, people, and opportunities.

3. Deliver impact

People need to feel like they’re making an impact on something bigger. This takes bringing purpose, social connections and working tools together in dynamic ways, something we built into The Modern Village within our own headquarters. You can read more about that here [LINK].

Choice and Control are more important than ever.

If engagement is the holy grail of workplace effectiveness, choice and control is the map. According to a recent Steelcase survey spanning 17 countries and over 13,000 individuals, employees directly correlated choice and control to engagement.

This is a challenge with open office plans that come at the expense of choice and variety. For employees to feel connected and engaged, they need variety and choice – and the two are different. Variety provides different rooms and spaces where people can rejuvenate, focus, collaborate, and more. Choice, on the other hand, is the cultural freedom that companies give employees to utilize those spaces and work on their own terms.

Upskilling is a path.

Continual learning and preparing for an unknown future take an individualized process that helps each employee navigate their own unique career path. To successfully implement a culture of upskilling within the workplace, companies must give them both opportunities to learn and grow every day, while also understanding what exactly employees want out of their careers.

Data should start giving back.

From health management and HR systems to space analytics and communication technologies, companies collect a wealth of employee data. While all that data has traditionally been used to benefit the companies themselves, today organizations must use it to give back to employees. Contextually relevant data might help employees manage their calendars better. It might match them to the right mentor. It also might identify career development opportunities. Introducing upskilling into the workplace means being transparent about all this data and then applying it in ways that provide opportunities, development, and a better way to work for each employee.

For more insights and ideas from an amazing panel listen to the full conversation here.