Beginning in 2021, publications (such as Learning Solutions) that deal with the anticipated needs that will emerge as the world progresses through the pandemic have paid increasing attention to reskilling and upskilling the workforce. What has been missing is a discussion of the reskilling and upskilling of first-line and mid-level managers to facilitate their skill improvement for managing the reskilling of the employees. This article aims to begin addressing this need.


No two managers are likely to have the same reskilling and upskilling needs. The skills depend on the larger business strategy changes as they affect each first-line and mid-level manager, and the individual manager's own self-assessment of their personal experience and skills. This, in itself, requires a lot of self-reflection but there is more.

It also requires coordination with the upskilling planned for the manager's team members. For example, if executing course development in a way that meets the requirements of the new strategy involves changing to Agile development, a manager who is not familiar with this will have to do some upskilling or reskilling to lead the change.

Ideas to consider for manager upskilling

It would be difficult to come up with a list of manager upskilling topics since the answer will wind up being "it depends." This list of ideas comes down to three categories that may address a broad range of topics.

Skills to support organizational strategy changes

In a few words, this means leadership and change management skills.

Remembering that 2022 will be a year of transition, it is also likely to be a year of emotional turmoil for employees (depending on the organization, this may have started in 2020). The Bridges Transition Model anticipates that organizations and employees will be experiencing The Ending of what is the beginning of the transition.

Managers in the first two levels are in the best position to support employees during this important time. It is an important time because it is the key to positioning the organization as competitive and a place where employees will want to remain. One of the early and ongoing activities for managers is to develop their own leadership skills. Employees want to know that they have a place in the organization through career pathing and succession planning. They also want to know that they can grow.

In any event, managers in the first two levels must assume responsibility as necessary for their own leadership development (and this may require doing some persuasion of senior levels). Consider how to support leadership development in the organization, especially by planning for strategic assignment of employees.

Skills needed for full-time remote work or in a hybrid setting

There are many soft skills that employees need no matter what industry they are in or what department they are assigned to. But it is important for managers and line supervisors to remember the hazard of "do as I say, not as I do." For that reason, the leadership at the line level also needs to consider and upgrade as necessary their knowledge and skills in such areas as communication, time management, learning effectively online, and paying attention to the needs of remote employees. As they apply to a particular organization and individual manager, better skills dealing with DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and with cybersecurity are also important to sharpen.

A manager who might have trouble creating this kind of training can make use of pre-packaged courses that exist in nearly every LMS, or lining up in-house instructors who teach to these topics. The instructional development manager and others in L&D can offer their help to line managers as well.

Pay attention to the ratings and comments on "smile sheets" to get an idea of the topics and formats employees choose and their ideas for improvements.

Compliance and mandatory training

Many occupations and industries have mandatory compliance training requirements. Unless a manager or supervisor is in a job to which these apply, there is probably no good reason for them to attend, although there should be an awareness of the requirements and how often affected employees must attend.

At the same time, there are other topics that do not fall into this category where first-line supervisors and managers should develop knowledge as the topic applies to them. Some examples include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Agile learning development
  • Video planning and production

Training in subjects such as these may be available through the LMS, or through reading, Learning Guild conferences, and other sources. Knowing what the local organization requires as to content and frequency will help the manager or supervisor deal with questions from employees and also deal with creating a schedule.

Where to find more information on upskilling

In 2022, The Learning Guild will provide many resources for all of these activities.


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