What is Upskilling and Reskilling?

An A-Z guide on upskilling and reskilling to make your organization the next best workplace. Read on to know more.

Years ago, McKinsey & Company, the leading global management consulting firm, predicted that the rapid pace of the digital revolution would cause the job market to plummet and result in a shortage of skilled labor.

Fast forward to today and 72% of employers are struggling to find qualified candidates. The pandemic years certainly pushed upskilling and reskilling to unprecedented heights as people were compelled to work remotely and acquire new digital skills.

However, all good things must come to an end and the surge in upskilling and reskilling has slowly subsided, with employees having either acquired the new digital skills or remote work no longer being the norm.

Nevertheless, skill development has not stopped evolving, leaving recruiters grappling with a dearth of qualified talent.

It is high time for employers to address the pressing issue of skills shortage because there might come a time when all their employees will become obsolete and there is no replacement ready to take on the new challenges and demands of the ever-evolving digital landscape.

What can be done? What is the solution? You may ask.

In order to stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive, employers must invest in their employees' skill development and embrace a culture of continuous learning and development. Embracing upskilling and reskilling is now more crucial than ever before.

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling basically means learning new skills or improving the ones you already have to become more valuable in your job or career. It's like upgrading your knowledge and abilities to stay competitive and stay on top of your game.

For example, a graphic designer who wants to upskill could take a course on user experience design to learn how to create more user-friendly designs. By doing so, the graphic designer can expand their skill set, making them more competitive in the job market and increasing their chances of being hired for projects that require knowledge of user experience design.

You as an HR professional could focus on data analysis. By learning how to analyze and interpret HR data, you can gain insights into workforce trends and make more informed decisions about talent management, recruitment, and employee engagement.

What is Reskilling?

Reskilling is when you learn new skills or make a career change to adapt to changes in your industry or the job market. It's like switching gears and learning something new that can help you stay competitive and valuable.

An example of reskilling could be a construction worker who decides to become an electrician. They might take courses in electrical wiring, safety, and code compliance to learn the skills needed to become a licensed electrician. This way, they can expand their skill set and become more valuable in the job market, while also pursuing a career that aligns more closely with their interests and goals.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

While both upskilling and reskilling involves learning new skills, the goal and focus of both are miles apart. Upskilling is enhancing your existing skills whereas reskilling is learning a whole new set of skills. Nevertheless, below is a table of differences between upskilling and reskilling for your better understanding.

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The Need for Upskilling and Reskilling

By the year 2030, the U.S alone is touted to face a loss of 8.5 trillion given the skills gap and talent shortage. 87% of companies are aware that they either already have a skills gap, or will have one within a few years, said a McKinsey survey. Not only that, employees themselves are anxious about the widening skills gap, with 46% of those surveyed believing their current skill set will become irrelevant by 2024.

These statistics give us a very limited period of time to start thinking and implying upskilling and reskilling at every organization possible.

As aptly explained by Klaus Schwab, the chairperson of the World Economic Forum in his book “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, emerging technologies are exciting and hold greater capabilities than they represent.

This transformational wave is rushing at a global level and instead of being the victims, we should leverage the opportunity to give it structure and purpose.

Coming back to the point, the automation of certain tasks and the emergence of new technologies is not stopping any time soon. It is upon us to pull our socks and start learning new skills to stay on top of the heap.

Organizations should focus on upskilling and reskilling their employees in the next 2-3 years or we may face a situation so grave that there is no coming back from it. But how do you do it? Let’s talk about the methods of upskilling and reskilling in detail in the next section.

Read: Closing the Candidate Skills Gap

Methods of Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling is not a one-time job but a learning and development (L&D) strategy that should be inculcated as a continuous learning process in all organizations. Facilitating upskilling and reskilling among their employees is said to improve productivity, increase employee satisfaction, and maintain a competitive edge.

Here are some ways or methods that you can use to organize upskilling and reskilling initiatives at your workplace.

1. Training Programs

Training programs are essential for organizations to develop and maintain a skilled workforce that can adapt to changing business needs and industry trends. These programs can be designed to address specific skill gaps, build leadership capabilities, promote diversity and inclusion, and support employee retention and engagement.

One effective approach to training is to provide a mix of in-person and online training options that allow employees to learn at their own pace and in their preferred format. This can include classroom-style training sessions, interactive workshops, e-learning courses, webinars, and self-directed learning modules. Offering a range of options can help accommodate different learning styles and schedules, and enable employees to choose the format that best meets their needs.

To ensure the success of a training program, it is crucial to align it with the organization's goals and objectives. This can involve identifying the skills and competencies needed for specific roles or functions, and developing training programs that target those areas. Additionally, it is important to provide ongoing support and resources to employees, such as coaching and mentoring, job aids, and access to subject matter experts.

Another effective approach to training is to use gamification techniques, such as quizzes, badges, and rewards, to engage and motivate employees to learn. Gamification can make training more interactive and enjoyable and can help employees retain information and apply it to their work more effectively.

2. Mentorship & Coaching

Mentorship and coaching are effective methods of upskilling and reskilling employees in an organization. These programs can provide personalized support and guidance to help employees develop specific skills, improve performance, and advance their careers.

Mentorship involves pairing an experienced employee with a less experienced employee, with the goal of providing guidance, support, and feedback to help the mentee achieve their goals. Mentors can provide insight into the organization's culture, industry trends, and best practices, and help mentees navigate challenges and identify opportunities for growth. Mentors can also serve as role models, sharing their own experiences and insights to help mentees develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their roles.

Coaching, on the other hand, involves working with a coach to develop specific skills or improve performance in a particular area. Coaches provide personalized feedback, support, and guidance to help employees overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Coaching can be used to improve communication skills, leadership skills, time management, and other competencies that are critical for success in the workplace.

Mentorship and coaching programs can be particularly effective for promoting diversity and inclusion within an organization. By pairing employees with mentors or coaches from different backgrounds, employees can gain valuable insights and perspectives that can help them develop a broader understanding of the organization and the industry.

Additionally, mentorship and coaching programs can help organizations retain top talent by providing employees with opportunities for growth and development. Employees who feel supported and valued by their organization are more likely to stay and contribute to the organization's success.

3. Job Shadowing

Job shadowing is an exciting and immersive method of upskilling and reskilling employees in an organization. Essentially, job shadowing involves a less experienced employee following a more experienced employee in their role to learn from them firsthand. This can be an excellent way to gain a deeper understanding of the skills and knowledge needed for a particular role or to learn about a new field or department within the organization.

Job shadowing allows employees to observe the day-to-day responsibilities of the role they are interested in, and to ask questions about the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. It can also provide opportunities for employees to gain hands-on experience and to develop new skills by working alongside a more experienced colleague.

Furthermore, job shadowing can be a great way to foster relationships and build networks within an organization. By spending time with colleagues in other departments or roles, employees can gain a broader understanding of the organization as a whole and develop connections that may be useful in the future.

4. Rotation Programs

Rotation programs are a highly effective way to upskill and reskill employees within an organization. These programs involve rotating employees through different roles and departments within the organization, allowing them to gain a broad range of skills and experiences.

Rotation programs can provide a number of benefits to both the employee and the organization. For the employee, rotation programs can provide an opportunity to develop new skills, gain exposure to different areas of the organization, and build relationships with colleagues in other departments. Employees who participate in rotation programs are often more well-rounded and better equipped to handle new challenges than those who remain in a single role or department.

For the organization, rotation programs can help to promote cross-functional collaboration, break down silos between departments, and foster a culture of learning and development. By exposing employees to different areas of the organization, organizations can also identify potential future leaders and build a pipeline of talent for key roles.

To implement a successful rotation program, it is important to identify the right employees to participate. Employees who are adaptable, open-minded, and willing to learn are ideal candidates for rotation programs. It is also important to establish clear goals and objectives for the program and to provide employees with the support and resources needed to succeed in their new roles.

5. Internal Mobility

Internal mobility, or the practice of allowing employees to move within an organization to different roles or departments, can be a powerful tool for upskilling and reskilling. Not only does it help employees stay engaged and motivated, but it also helps organizations retain their top talent and fill skill gaps in the workforce.

Think about it - when employees are given the opportunity to explore new roles or departments, they have the chance to learn new skills and gain valuable experience. They might discover hidden talents or passions they didn't know they had. Plus, it keeps things fresh and exciting, preventing employees from getting stuck in a rut.

Internal mobility also benefits organizations. By investing in the development of their employees, organizations can build a strong pipeline of skilled workers and leaders. They can also fill skill gaps in the workforce and adapt to changing business needs more quickly. And when employees feel supported and valued by their employer, they're more likely to stay with the company long-term.

6. Learning and Development Platforms

Learning and development platforms have revolutionized the way organizations approach upskilling and reskilling. These platforms provide employees with access to a wide range of courses and resources, allowing them to learn at their own pace and on their own time.

Whether it's an online course, a video tutorial, or a virtual workshop, learning and development platforms offer a wealth of opportunities for employees to gain new skills and knowledge. They can learn everything from technical skills to soft skills like communication and leadership. And because these platforms are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, employees can learn from the comfort of their own home or office.

But the benefits of learning and development platforms go beyond just convenience. They also provide a way for employees to take ownership of their own learning and career development. When employees have access to a variety of courses and resources, they can choose what they want to learn and when. This helps them feel more invested in their own growth and development, and ultimately leads to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

These are some methods that every organization and business is applying these days for their L&D strategy, but we bring to you some innovative ideas that could be fun and out-of-the-box to upskill and reskill your employees.

7. Lunch-and-Learn Sessions

Lunch-and-Learn sessions are the perfect way to break up the monotony of your employee’s workday and invest in their professional development at the same time. These short, interactive training sessions can take place during lunch breaks and can be designed to help the employees learn new skills, gain insights into industry trends, and connect with colleagues across different departments.

How can you attract employees to these sessions? Offer free lunch. Keep them fueled up and focused on learning by providing delicious meals and saving them the time and money to run out to grab a quick bite.

These sessions can be led by internal experts or external trainers who bring their knowledge and experience to the table. Make it a dynamic and engaging learning environment, where everybody has the opportunity to ask questions, participate in discussions, and collaborate with their peers.

8. Innovative Projects

Innovation is at the heart of every successful business. And innovative projects can just be the way your company is always on the lookout for new and exciting ways to solve problems, improve processes, and drive growth.

Picture a room filled with whiteboards, sticky notes, and a team of passionate and creative individuals. That's the scene you'll find when your team embarks on an innovative project.

Design your innovative project such that they are all about breaking the mold and thinking outside the box. Don't settle for the status quo or follow the same old routine. Instead, look for new and better ways to do things, fueled by curiosity and a desire to make a difference.

But innovation is not just about creativity and brainstorming. Also apply a rigorous approach to your projects, using data and analysis to guide your decisions and measure progress.

And the best part of innovative projects? They're collaborative and inclusive. We believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute, no matter their role or level of experience. That's why bringing together people from different departments, backgrounds, and perspectives to work together and share their insights could be a groundbreaking strategy for upskilling and reskilling your employees.

9. Cross-Functional Projects

A fantastic way to widen the skills of your employees can be through cross-functional projects. Cross-functional projects are all about collaboration and teamwork.

When you give your employees an opportunity to work with people from different backgrounds and expertise, they get to learn from them and see things from a different perspective. You might be surprised by how much people can learn from colleagues in other departments, and what other employees can bring to the table.

It can be an innovative approach to get your projects done faster along with employees learning new skills from each other.

10. Conference and Seminar Attendance

Attending conferences and seminars is one of the most effective ways to stay up-to-date with industry trends, learn new skills, and connect with like-minded professionals. It's an opportunity to step away from your daily routine and immerse yourself in a world of ideas and innovation.

Conferences and seminars provide a unique environment where you can learn from experts in your field, ask questions, and share your own insights and experiences. They often feature keynote speakers, panel discussions, and workshops that cover a wide range of topics, from technical skills to leadership development.

But attending a conference or seminar isn't just about sitting in on sessions and taking notes. It's also about networking and building relationships with your peers. Your employees will have the opportunity to connect with people who share common interests and passion for the industry. They might meet potential collaborators or mentors who can help them take their careers to the next level.

But let's not forget about the travel and location! Conferences and seminars are often held in exciting cities around the world, providing an opportunity to explore new places and cultures.

This is where you as an organization can step in and start providing your employees with opportunities to attend such conferences. You can either sponsor employees to attend such industry conferences and seminars to learn about the latest trends and best practices in their field. Or, you can offer them attendance for the trip so that they don’t lose their salary or holidays.

Why not hire Externally than going through the pain of Upskilling and Reskilling?

Looking at the previous section, some might think that upskilling and reskilling initiatives are a lot of pain and require too much planning and execution. To top that, a lot of money and time is spent organizing such sessions, training programs, and shadowing activities.

Given such conditions, it might seem easier and a better idea to hire candidates with a new set of skills from external sources. On paper it might sound like a good idea, but hiring externally will not solve the problem of skill shortage.

First of all, it is going to be very difficult to hire candidates, given the labor shortage. In 2022, the Manpower group reported that 75% of companies are facing a talent shortage. And even if you manage to recruit candidates from external sources with the skills you are looking for, there is still going to be a need for skill-building activity down the line, because nobody is equipped with skills that won’t go obsolete for years to come. Gartner reported that 33% of the skills required by an average 2017 job posting are no longer necessary in 2021.

Therefore, it is a good idea and a better company practice to start organizing upskilling and reskilling initiatives for a better future. To verify this further,

  • 94% of workers say they would stay at their company longer if they invested in their careers.
  • 86% of CEOs reported that launching digital training and education programs led to improvements in employee engagement.

The Much-talked Benefits of Upskilling and Reskilling

For the Employers

  • Stay Ahead of the Competition

    When you as an organization invest time and money in upskilling and reskilling initiatives, not only do you help your employees to stay ahead of the curve but it also boosts your company’s reputation and increases your competition.

    Let us understand this with an example. Say you are a marketing company that deals with different clients. If you launch an upskilling and reskilling program for your employees, they will learn new skills, new technologies, and new softwares for a better marketing strategy. This will help your company to stay ahead of the competition and you have a workforce that is newly skilled.
  • Get more work done Upskilling and reskilling your employees can help them do their jobs better and more efficiently. By acquiring new skills and knowledge, employees can work more effectively, complete tasks more quickly, and produce higher-quality work.

    In a recent survey by PwC, it was found that [93%](https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-survey/2020/reports/pwc-23rd-global-ceo-survey.pdf) of CEOs who introduce upskilling programs see increased productivity, improved talent acquisition and retention, and a more resilient workforce.

    Moreover, improved productivity can lead to cost savings for the company. When employees work more efficiently and produce higher quality work, there is less waste and fewer mistakes, which can save time and money in the long run.

    In addition to the tangible benefits of improved productivity, there are also intangible benefits that can boost employee morale and job satisfaction. When employees feel that they are doing their jobs well and contributing to the company's success, they are more likely to feel valued and motivated in their work.
  • Enhanced Innovation When your employees learn new skills they are capable of generating new and creative ideas and solutions that can improve your products, services, or processes.

    Upskilling and reskilling can also help employees feel more confident in their abilities to take on new challenges and solve complex problems. By gaining new skills and knowledge, they can become more self-assured in their work and more willing to take risks and experiment with new ideas.
  • Lesser Employee Turnover When employees feel that they have opportunities for professional growth and development within a company, they are more likely to stay with that company long-term. By offering training and development opportunities, you are not only investing in your employees' skill sets, but you are also investing in their loyalty and commitment to the company.

    When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave for another opportunity. This is especially true for high-performing employees who may be seeking new challenges and growth opportunities.

For the Employees

  • When employees receive adequate training, they tend to feel more confident and satisfied in their work.
  • If employees perceive that their company is invested in their employability, they are less likely to experience stress and seek new employment opportunities.
  • The fear of redundancy and job loss can lead to significant mental stress for workers, which is totally wiped out.
  • Provides opportunities for fresh engagement and avoids monotony which is particularly beneficial for long-term employees.
  • Gives opportunities for career advancement and increased compensation which can boost employee confidence and motivation.

Risk of Upskilling and Reskilling

One potential disadvantage of upskilling and reskilling programs is the possibility of employees leaving the organization for better opportunities. By investing in their growth and development, you may be inadvertently making them more attractive to other companies who are looking for highly skilled workers.

This can be frustrating for organizations that have invested time, effort, and resources into developing their employees, only to have them leave for higher-paying jobs or better career opportunities. It can also be disruptive to the organization, as the loss of highly skilled employees can create knowledge gaps and impact productivity.

However, it's important to remember that turnover is a natural part of any organization. Employees leaving for better opportunities is a sign that your organization is producing highly skilled workers that are sought after by other companies.

The role of Automation in Upskilling and Reskilling

We are no strangers to automation. Automation has grabbed the world at its core and shaken things off in every sector. In the job market, automation has led to the innovation of new technologies and machinery that is slowly eliminating human work and leaving people jobless.

In a survey by Deloitte (a leading global consulting firm), it was conducted that reskilling, along with work re-invention is a necessary response to increased automation. They also believe that it is not necessary that automation will eliminate all jobs, rather we should take it as a challenge and opportunity to use automation for redundant work and focus on more “human” tasks.

The only need of the hour is to reskill employees with such automation technologies so that they can become more productive and efficient at work.

How to Implement Upskilling and Reskilling Strategies?

We have seen what upskilling and reskilling are, the need for skill-building and what methods we can apply to train your employees. But where to begin the quest for upskilling and reskilling your employees? Here is a full-proof five framework plan that can work well for your L&D strategies.

1. Address the Skills Gap

First and foremost, identify the skills gap at your organization. Address the skills that your employees have and compare it with the list of skills you desire to have.

To do this, you can start by analyzing job descriptions and evaluating the skills that employees currently possess. You can also look at industry trends and research to determine what skills are in demand and likely to be valuable in the future.

Once you have identified the skill gaps, you can then prioritize which skills to focus on first based on their importance to the organization's success. This will help you to create a training plan that is both relevant and impactful.

It's important to note that assessing skill gaps is an ongoing process. As the industry and job requirements continue to evolve, new skill gaps will emerge, and existing gaps may change in significance. Therefore, it's essential to regularly review and update your assessment to ensure that your upskilling and reskilling strategies remain relevant and effective.

2. Create a Personalized Plan

This is the most important step of the framework on which you need to spend a good amount of time. Once you've identified the skill gaps in your organization, the next step is to create a comprehensive training plan that outlines the specific goals, timelines, and resources required for each training initiative.

When we talk about personalization, what we mean is to create a learning plan that caters to the needs of each and every employee, be it an entry-level executive or a senior-level manager. Choose the mode of learning according to the needs of those employees.

Next, establish a timeline for each initiative taking into account the availability of employees and any other organizational priorities.

Finally, it's essential to communicate the training plan effectively to the employees who will be participating in the training initiatives. Make sure to provide clear instructions, timelines, and expectations so that everyone is on the same page.

3. Provide Support and Resources

To start, it's important to communicate the importance of training to employees and provide clear expectations for what's required. Make sure to provide them with adequate time and resources to complete the training, such as access to training materials, equipment, and mentors or trainers.

For instance, if the skill requires hands-on experience, you might opt for on-the-job training or mentoring programs. If the skill is technical, you might consider e-learning or classroom training.

Another critical aspect of providing support and resources is offering regular feedback and coaching. This helps employees to stay motivated and on track with their training goals. Managers can offer constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, as well as praise for accomplishments, which can go a long way in boosting employee confidence.

4. Apply and Evaluate Progress

To monitor and evaluate progress, it's important to establish clear performance metrics that align with the learning objectives of each training initiative. These metrics can include factors such as increased productivity, improved quality, and reduced errors.

It's also important to track the progress of individual employees as well as the organization as a whole. Regularly check in with employees who are undergoing training to ensure that they're making progress toward their learning objectives and offer support if necessary.

Additionally, it's important to gather feedback from employees about their experience with the training initiatives. This feedback can be used to make improvements to the training programs and to identify any areas where employees may need additional support.

5. Foster a Continuous Learning Culture

This is another important step of the framework that needs special attention. Keep in mind to not treat upskilling and reskilling initiatives as a one-time thing, but think of it as a continuous process that needs to be managed and updated all the time.

Foster a culture of continuous learning at your organization such that employees keep learning new skills and technologies every other day.

To create a learning culture, it's important to start by establishing a clear vision and strategy for upskilling and reskilling in the organization. This can include setting specific goals for employee development, identifying key skills and competencies, and creating a plan for implementing training initiatives.

When to Implement Upskilling?

When it comes to upskilling, the old adage "the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now" definitely applies. In other words, there's no time like the present to start implementing upskilling initiatives at your organization!

In today's fast-paced and rapidly-changing world, it's more important than ever for organizations to keep their employees' skills up-to-date and ensure they have the tools they need to be successful. By investing in upskilling, organizations can stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in their industries.

But when should you implement upskilling at your organization? The answer is simple: as soon as possible! Don't wait until your competitors are already ahead of the game or until you're facing a skills shortage crisis. Instead, be proactive and start implementing upskilling initiatives today.

So, whether you're just starting out or you've been in business for years, there's no time like the present to start implementing upskilling initiatives at your organization. The benefits of upskilling are clear, and by investing in your employees' skills and knowledge, you'll be setting your organization up for success both now and in the future.

When to Implement Reskilling?

One of the most common situations where reskilling is needed is when you want to retain your reliable, high-performing employees whose roles have become obsolete.For example, your organization has removed a department, and you are left with a talented pool of employees who are now redundant.

Now, you might think of laying off these employees and hiring new ones for different roles. But what about the investment you made in their professional development, their expertise, and the experience they bring to the table? Instead, you can use reskilling to take these employees into a new role within the organization.

This way, you retain your talented workforce, and they are equipped with the skills needed for their new role.

Another scenario where reskilling is useful is when your organization implements a business strategy that involves shifting personnel from one department to another. Let's say you're moving some customer support specialists into sales support roles to push toward sales. In this case, instead of hiring new sales support staff, you can reskill your current employees to fill the roles.

The Final Word

Upskilling and reskilling are not mere buzzwords that require one-time attention. But it is a continuous process that organizations need to start inculcating as a regular practice.

Think of it this way - would you rather be constantly onboarding new employees every few years or have a loyal and dedicated team who stick with your organization for the long haul?

We know which one we'd choose! By investing in upskilling and reskilling, you're creating a culture of continuous learning and development that can benefit your organization in countless ways.

So what are you waiting for?

Make upskilling and reskilling a staple at your organization.