Employers Need a Scalable Model for Upskilling In-House Talent


Upskilling improves employee skills, prepares them for changing roles, and exposes them to new career opportunities.
Business leaders must establish an upskilling strategy to retain and upskill in-house talent. 

About a year ago, CNBC shared a story of an AT&T employee named Susan Bick. Susan worked for the company for 20 years and in that time saw the telecom giant change dramatically, shifting from a voice network to a data network, from hardware to the cloud, and from landline business to a mobile-first enterprise. 

AT&T isn’t the only company to experience dramatic change in service or product. Employers across industries are experiencing this shift as our economy grows and evolves alongside advances in technology, automation, and the development of new industries and job descriptions that didn’t exist five or even two years ago.  

Employers are experiencing difficulty filling jobs that are key to sustaining and growing their businesses. Long lead times, high recruitment expenses, and exorbitant onboarding costs are some of the consequences they deal with when seeking high-quality applicants for their most critical jobs. 

But what if your best talent can be found within your walls? 

With one of the largest workforces in the world, AT&T—aware of the high turnover and onboarding costs associated with recruiting a new workforce to meet demand—instead launched a massive retraining effort to “reskill their existing workforce to be competent in the technology and skills required to run the business going forward.” 

In response to a challenge finding the talent they needed, AT&T developed an internal talent pipeline strategy. Employers looking to make this shift to an upskilling model have many options, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. At the U.S. Chamber Foundation, we define a successful upskilling strategy as a sustainable process to improve the skills of current employees, prepare them for success in new and changing roles over time, and expose them to new opportunities for career advancement. 

Whether new and changing roles are due to modernizing technologies, transformations in how work is organized and carried out within a company, or retraining workers to transition into new jobs because their current jobs are being eliminated, employers must demonstrate leadership in identifying these transitional moments as an opportunity to establish an upskilling strategy to build on existing investments and skill sets. 

TPM’s New Upskilling Model

For the past few years, close to 200 partners nationwide have put the Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management™ (TPM) six-strategy process to work, building pipelines of talent from classroom into a career. In industries like healthcare, manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity, and many others, employers have witnessed firsthand how working with one another to clearly articulate their hiring requirements for their most in-demand jobs can result in more effective solutions and shared value for workers, educators, and employers. 

Over the next several months, the Chamber Foundation, in partnership with the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation, will test out new resources to extend TPM to focus on building high-performing internal talent pipelines to retain and upskill in-house talent. 

What could this look like in practice? Colleagues in Vermont identified a need to develop more construction site supervisors—without whom new build projects cannot be taken on. With an aging workforce and too few young workers, 18 construction companies worked with one another to develop common job descriptions and career pathways to demonstrate how to transition from skilled craft roles, to crew leaders, to site supervisors. And it’s working.

By providing more flexibility in the crew leader and site supervisor credentialing programs, more existing employees are able to dedicate the time to participate without the construction companies suffering from losing their most valuable employees missing a days’ work due to training. 

If you are interested in learning more about TPM as a model for upskilling your workforce, let us know!