or, “How to manage staff as they upskill themselves”



  • Assess team’s current skills and identify upskilling needs.
  • Consider individual interests and career paths.
  • Promote varied skill sets to enhance team collaboration.
  • Allow flexibility in how goals are achieved.
  • Recognize that talents differ from skills and cannot be taught.



As a seasoned analytics professional with 20 years of experience and eight years managing direct reports, I’ve observed that teams dedicated to continuous skill development are not only happier and more productive, but also deliver increasingly significant impacts over time. In this article, I’ll share practical steps to enhance your team’s skills strategically, respecting individual strengths while fostering a collaborative and flexible workplace.


Step 1:

Assess current levels of skills for the team and compare those skills to the skills needed to achieve the tasks at hand and planned activities. Get a general sense of what upskilling is needed by the team, but don’t be too specific or prescriptive at this point.


Step 2:

Assess team member interests. What are they interested in learning and in being able to do? Be careful not to demand that your staff do things that are radically different from what they’ve been doing or what they’ve trained for. I once left a company that spent a lot of money for me to become a Certified HEDIS Data Auditor. They were correct in thinking that that I could do the job, but they didn’t believe me when I said that didn’t sound like something I wanted to make my full-time job for months at a time.


Step 3:

Make the end goal team members with varied skills. Do NOT try to make all team members have the same skill set. If all team members have identical skills, that’s less a “team” and more a collection of individual staff. In the interest of keeping your plans transparent, make this point clear to the team. You want them to know that they’ll be treated as individuals, so that if one team member is given time to get a specific skill, others are NOT being left out. It’s just not their particular path.


Step 4:

Encourage differences and specialties, which will then foster collaboration between team members. Collaboration here provides many positives:

  • More connection. People who feel more connected and have friends at work are more engaged, more productive and stay at the company longer.
  • Avoids silos where no one knows who else is doing what. Collaboration is a more effective way of knocking down silos than meetings with round robins of who’s working on what.
  • Staff can develop their own expertise and brand, and become known for doing a particular thing or having a particular skill. This in turn makes it easier for them to connect with people outside the team and contribute more directly (and not just through you as their supervisor).


Step 5:

Specify the data and the goals for the project at hand, but allow your staff flexibility in HOW they achieve the goals. This gives them the opportunity to flex their newly acquired skills if they’re ready for that, or rely on methods they already know. Also, it let’s them investigate skills you as their manager might not have even thought about. Sometimes, your team will surprise you with what they can do!


A caution:

I’ve led a number of very capable analytics people, and I’ve seen first hand that skills are very learnable, but talents are not. If a team member struggles with attention to detail, no amount of training will change that. This article is about adding new skills, not about trying to imbue talents.



Effectively up-skilling your team involves assessing their current skills, respecting their individual interests, and encouraging diversity in their skill sets. This approach not only increases the collective capability of the team but also fosters a workplace where each member’s strengths and preferences are recognized and valued. By allowing flexibility in achieving goals and understanding the difference between teachable skills and inherent talents, you can create an environment ripe for innovation and sustained growth.


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