The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling During COVID-19

• 7 min read

The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling During COVID-19There are few stones left unturned when it comes to COVID-19. Everything from “how to make your own hand sanitizer” to timelines of the Coronavirus pandemic have been laid out and made searchable.

There’s no way of tip toeing around it: in this present moment for most people, job security is on the decline and unemployment is hiking.

An ominous truth that we have had to come to terms with has been that a lot of what happens next to the global economy and job market is out of our control. The best any of us can do is start anticipating what may come, and begin strategically planning our next move. Now is as good a time as any to become familiar with upskilling and reskilling your employees.

Reskilling is defined as the development of additional skills to help them move to a new role, whereas upskilling is defined as the training that enables someone to become better at a job they already perform. It’s important for us to understand where the need for upskilling and reskilling is coming from, the importance of it, and how we even go about it. As learners continuously react to the market and gain new required skills, they become an adaptable force that can shift and bend with any changes in your market.

As a result, employees will have a greater wealth of knowledge and become used to reacting to what your industry and what the market demands, allowing you to leverage their skills to carry your organization across murky waters.


Economic impacts of COVID-19

If you’re able to work from home during this time, you’re one of the fortunate few. Drastic slowdowns and halts in business have quickly necessitated action to keep businesses profitable or even just afloat.

Most industries have taken drastic blows from this global pandemic, and have resulted in Coronavirus layoffs, hiring freezes, and furloughs. Some of the major industries affected include, but are not limited to transportation, hospitality, restaurants, oil and gas, etc.

The New York Times predicts that unemployment in the United States is sitting at approximately 13%, which means it is higher now than it has been since the Great Depression. There are more than one million people sick globally, and about 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment in March subsequently, which marks the worst week for unemployment since 1982.

At this moment, we are personally and professionally walking on eggshells while also flying by the seat of our pants. Our new normal seems to change each day, and all of the new information we receive can sometimes make it more daunting to try and create actionable plans. The best we can do during this crisis is to try and optimize our workforce to the best of our ability and set ourselves up for success for when everything picks back up.

Related: How to Scale Your Learning Efforts While Improving the Learner Experience


The importance of upskilling and reskilling your employees

If ever there was a time to set fire to your inhibitions, this is the day. One of the most diligent ways to obtain seniority or job security at a company is to incessantly seek out new skills and opportunities to add value to the business.

If you’ve recently had to implement a hiring freeze to prevent layoffs, how do you continue striving towards success? One way is by upskilling and reskilling your workforce so that your teams can maximize their potential in their current position, or take on new tasks where the business needs support.

The jobs you were hiring for or have had to let go don’t suddenly not need to be done. The skill sets needed for job competencies that have not been hired for yet likely live in your organization already, or just need some professional development to get there. Ideally, you want your people to be able to wear multiple hats if necessary.

For example, if you’re on a hiring freeze but still need business development reps, what’s to stop you from transitioning your junior recruiters over to business development for the time being? It requires some reskilling and peer-to-peer coaching, but you can reassign talent to suit the business’ needs. Companies survive times like these solely with a workforce that is flexible, agile, and ready to learn.

Thought leader Beth Steinberg is the VP of People and Talent over at Chime and has hired over 10,000 people in her career, and has also been in the unfortunate position of having to lay off 2,000, as well. With her experience on both ends of the spectrum, she offers a unique perspective in this article by the First Round Review on How to Lead and Rally a Company Through a Layoff.

When it comes to defining skill sets for jobs you need done, you may already have a good candidate internally. This is Steinber’s two cents: “By extracting the skill sets you need from the person you think might have them, all of a sudden there are many other ways of obtaining the capabilities you need to grow … from a management point of view, these types of options keep your workforce flexible and lean. Also employee development not only gives you more depth with your existing workforce, but it’s a retention mechanism”.

If you can identify roles that share similar skill sets, you can then identify how to upskill your existing workforce to enable their malleability for the business’ needs and for their growth.

Related: L&D Pros – It’s Time to Step up as Strategic Partners of Your Business


How to approach upskilling and reskilling your employees?

This is a crucial time where we need to look inward at our organization and audit the talent that we do have, especially if undergoing layoffs and hiring freezes. We can maximise the ROI on each person contributing to the business by analyzing their transferable skills. Now is the time to get creative, and here are some ways to attack it.

  • Give Admins More Time Back: In times like these, where you need your workforce to quickly onboard and enroll into new roles internally, take out as much of the admin work as possible. Automate your enrollment process for your learners so they can hop in courses that will quickly get them suited up for their next role without a hassle.

Now is not the time for your admins to be manually tagging content, enrolling users, and manually pulling reports. Their time is valuable and should be spent on strategizing to reskill as many people as possible. Enable your admins and learners with content delivery that is automated and personalized without the added headache.

  • Share Ideas: Collaborative learning is more important than ever now that we have less people. Sharing best practices are essential during times of layoffs, freezes, and furloughs because you only want to replicate success. Collaborative learning environments enable upskilling and reskilling that is seamless and intuitive to learners by allowing peers to educate each other.

With these fast paced changes taking place, you want to enable learning in the flow of work. Subject matter experts should be contributing their own content so that learners who need upskilling and reskilling can come in and quickly learn from the best. They can also learn in the flow of work by sharing questions and answers with subject matter experts for a holistic social learning experience that quickly ramps them to where they need to be.

Finally, you should also enable learners to contribute and access learning assets using thematic channels specific to their new roles, where formal learning assets and informal ones can be made available depending on topic and teams for the entire organization. With content that is relevant and easy to find, your learners who need reskilling can source what they need with little thought.

  • Embrace Mobile Learning: Remote learning is not just for our kids right now, and learners are frankly glued to their devices. Most say their smartphones never leave their side. Smartphones and tablets play a crucial role in eLearning on the job, especially for those of us working from home right now. These devices are another way to reach your learners and capture your audience even for bites of micro-learning. It is crucial that the progressive L&D professional develops a learning strategy that takes mobile elements into account, especially during times when remote learning is necessitated.

People often use Google and Youtube in the flow of work, and eLearning should be no different – after all, it is just another resource that can be used to craft skills. Corporate eLearning needs to be accessible and easy to use so your workforce can rapidly reskill and adjust to the changes happening within your organization. Mobile learning is a way to guarantee that the workforce remains engaged and armored with the tools they need, whether on the go or from home, to help your company continue to succeed.

Related: New Learning Technology Means New Opportunities


Final thoughts: How organizations will rise again after COVID-19

By upskilling and reskilling your workforce with collaborative learning opportunities, easily accessible cross training, and mobile learning, you can still achieve ambitious goals with lower headcount. Learning opportunities such as these will identify your most agile and devout learners who you’ll want to keep around after COVID-19 stops wreaking havoc.

Retaining top talent through hard times is important so that, once you are back to business as usual, you’re able to scale up as quickly as possible with the best talent in-tow. Your remaining top talent will be pivotal in helping you quickly restore your organization’s former glory by sharing their knowledge with new hires.

Take this time to look within your organization and determine how to best optimize your current sitting talent. Use this time to begin planning how you can improve the learning and development process for when we’re back to business as usual so that your org can go back to scaling its growth seamlessly.

To get you started, download our Practical Guide to Upskilling and Reskilling Your Workforce today!