Utilizing Online Degrees and Certifications to Effectively Upskill Employees and Promote Internally

The modern workplace is more competitive than ever. The innovation of SaaS (subscription software business tools) makes it so that every company has access to a highly refined and capable tech stack. It’s not enough to use data. Everyone uses data. It’s not enough to be agile. Agility is the standard.

You need employees with an up-to-the-minute understanding of their trade to stand out and succeed in a competitive marketplace. Outside hires are one way to attract high-level leadership. However, external recruitment comes at a cost. Not only is it expensive and time-consuming, but it can also be demoralizing to loyal employees who fear they may never get a shot at leadership.

Upskilling programs are a great way to help your existing team members develop into leadership positions. In this article, we take a look at how online degrees and certifications can be used to upskill and promote internally.

Why Upskilling Matters?

Studies consistently show that internal promotions benefit companies more than outside hires. There are, of course, scenarios where it does make sense to bring someone in from the outside. If a vacancy emerges for which there is no easy or natural internal replacement, you do need to start headhunting.

However, you should also use this as an opportunity to ask yourself a difficult question: Are we doing everything we can to prepare our current employees for bigger and better opportunities?

If not, you may be missing out on these key benefits: • Upskilled employees are more capable: The most obvious benefit to initiating upskilling opportunities is that it teaches your staff new things. The world of business changes rapidly. Data implementation and AI did not exist in nearly the same capacity ten years ago as they do now. If your staff is several years removed from their last major professional development opportunity, they simply aren’t as prepared for the responsibilities of their job as they otherwise could be. • Upskilling opportunities entice new hires: Naturally, you will need to hire new people sometimes, even when you have a great promotions pipeline. When it comes time to make a job listing, “professional development opportunities,” will be a big boon for the exact type of candidate you most likely want to attract. Smart, driven, hardworking. They will appreciate the fact that they can expect free or affordable ways to improve on the job in a supportive professional environment. • Upskilling improves employee satisfaction: Finally, employees simply like the opportunity to work in an environment that fosters the conditions necessary for promotions. Upskilling opportunities send a clear message. Work hard, and there are opportunities waiting for you.

Now you understand why upkilling and additional certification opportunities are important. How can you implement them in your workplace to improve morale and attract new talent? Below, we take a look at a few ways to use online training opportunities to effectively upskill employees.

Consider the Timeline

Online upskilling opportunities can range significantly in terms of time requirements. Some involve full-time participation, no different than what would be required to get a degree at a brick-and-mortar university.

Others can be completed in months, weeks, or even days. Choose the path that makes the most sense to you. There is nothing wrong with big upskilling programs. However, if you are interested in implementing a demanding training, you should be prepared to modify your expectations in terms of what other responsibilities the employee should be attending to. It is important that upskilling opportunities not be seen as stressful or overly cumbersome.

Provide the Funds

Most upskilling opportunities do not cost as much as a traditional college degree. Depending on the length of the program costs could vary considerably from several hundred to several thousand dollars per person.

This is, undeniably, an investment. To ensure participation, you will, of course, need to supply the funds. For many years, businesses have financially supported team members who want to develop their skills. This is done for several reasons. • It encourages participation. • It entices future hires. • It (could) save you money in the long run.

To that last point, it’s important to consider the value your team members bring to the table. Ideally, you will have a concrete idea of the tangible benefits each training will produce. Participation will still cost money, but the expense becomes more tolerable when there is a return on investment on the horizon.

Do It Sensibly

It is important to fully commit to any upskilling initiative. Many businesses already have poorly used programs in which the company pays for some or all of the employees' educational endeavors. These opportunities are great for those who take advantage of them, but they ultimately appeal only to a select few.

The idea is to implement a program that improves and motivates everyone on the staff. Make upskilling opportunities built into the standard working day.

Otherwise motivated employees may decline opportunities that take them from their families on nights or weekends. Putting these training opportunities into the core business schedule makes them accessible and demonstrates how seriously your business takes them.

Also, make a point of highlighting programs that emphasize the skills that are most important to you. Think about your skill gaps. What areas do you need to brush up on? This is fertile territory when it comes to deciding on upskilling opportunities and establishing a pipeline for internal promotions.


Remote education makes upskilling easier than ever. Instead of sending people to a seminar for the weekend, you can cut costs and access the same high-quality training remotely. While vetting programs, do be careful to ensure that the curriculums you are interested in have been fully certified.

Credentials earned online carry as much weight as those earned at a brick-and-mortar university. However, you do have to do your due diligence. Internet scams can befall even the most well-established of companies (see, Marriott) so do a little digging before making your selection.

Your efforts will be well rewarded in the form of improved productivity and employee morale.

Andrew Deen