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  • Daisy Quelch

To upskill or to hire new staff?

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Should you upskill current employees or hire new talent?

Depending on your industry you might be finding it hard right now to hire the talent you need for your business to grow and thrive. It throws up the question of whether or not there's an opportunity to explore filling skills gaps by upskilling current staff. It's not an easy decision. One that has a few pros and cons on each side. In this blog, we explore the benefits of both approaches and some things for you to consider before deciding whether to upskill current staff or hire new talent.

What are the benefits of upskilling staff?

1. Confidence is increased

Staff who feel confident in their ideas are more likely to share their ideas, and those ideas are more likely to be backed up with evidence from their learning!

You will see an improvement in proactive behaviour at work- Staff members will be encouraged to work proactively rather than reactively if they feel prepared and educated to.

2. Improved productivity

Employees feel more productive when they are developing in their career and will contribute more to the business’s success. Staff engagement will improve, which in turn will improve productivity during office hours (and enjoyment outside of work hours too!).

3. Soft skills are developed

Training courses (especially ones held in person or in a group) provide space for employees to improve and develop their soft skills such as communication, resilience and adaptability.

Developed soft skills allow for improvement across the teams in your business, as improved communication and adaptability are always needed (whether people think so or not!).

4. Change can happen

Training employees in new technology or software that will be used in your company allows them to progress with the company, rather than being left behind and feeling resentful of the changes happening. New programme on your computers? No problem!

5. Retention of staff improved

Staff who feel valued and educated, are more likely to stay in their role (Deloitte via Harvard Business Review). Being educated and trained whilst IN their role means that employees are more likely to feel valued at work.

What are the cons of upskilling?

Are there any? Well, there are downsides to everything… but what could be the cons of training your current staff members?

1. You open your staff up for ‘poaching’

Naturally, investing time and possibly money into an employee to improve their knowledge and/or experience can be a slightly scary thing to do. Once they have gained the skills from the training you provided, who is to say they won’t move on to the ‘next best offer’? This is where it is important to pair the right training with other benefits of staying in your company, such as an emphasis on work-life balance or the introduction of a pay increase due to their newly-earned qualification (should that be the training they have received).

2. It can be costly

Some courses can cost you more than it would to hire a new employee in the short term but in the long term, investing in your staff is a great way of showing them you care and they deserve to be in your business.

So, it’s up to you to decide… are your employees worth investing in (hint: it’s 99.9% of the time a huge yes!)

3. You create extra vacancies

If you are training a member of staff who has foundational skills in one area but would like to move to another area of the business, you may just open up one (or more) vacancies as they progress into their new role. Example: You train a hair stylist as a colourist, which leaves space for a hairstylist in the business after the stylist moves to their new role. Unless you have planned for this, in your business strategy, this can be a BIG spanner in the works!

Okay so you’re not sure paying for training is the way to go for now.. so what are the alternatives to fill skills shortages in your business?


Arguably the cheapest alternative to upskilling, is mentoring. Mentoring requires an established member of staff to provide advice and guidance to a less experienced employee.

The result? Both mentor and mentee gain a great deal here - the skills shared from mentor to mentee could enable the mentee to create or take advantage of opportunities within the business. The downside? It's hard to do en masse, and consistently well. Each mentor will have a different approach and the mentors themselves may need support in delivering coaching.

Job shadowing

Similar to mentorship in its cost and involvement from other employees, job shadowing offers a cheap alternative to upskilling via training programmes. Allowing new or inexperienced employees to shadow a more established member of staff improves workplace behaviours and provides clarity around roles. This is something you can add into the induction or development process as an embedded practice.

Hiring new talent

This can be the option most employers have as a last resort. Why? It’s expensive, it requires extra time for preparing the employee for their new role in your company and you’re not sure if they will make a good fit for the business. (To be sure you’re hiring the right staff members takes a lot of work!) That’s not to say that it can’t be a great investment to hire a new employee… they can offer a range of benefits too!

Overall it comes down to the talent and skill requirements of your business and an understanding of the skills landscape of talent available to hire is required to ensure you're making the right choice.

One thing’s for sure, talent that's invested in will pay dividends, so whether it's upskilling or ensuring your current workforce has learning and development in place, it’s important to weigh up your options. Optamor can support you with both training needs and understanding the talent landscape, using our labour market reports to support you with your resourcing strategy. We have access to a variety of training providers to enable you the best rates to help upskill and develop your employees throughout their careers.



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