Upskilling and reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling

Table of Contents

    There’s a global skills gap. And it’s growing fast.

    So rapidly, in fact, that the talent shortage and skills gap in the U.S. is predicted to reach a total loss of $8.5 trillion by 2023. 

    Skills gaps represent the bridge between the knowledge employees currently have and what they need to succeed at their jobs now and in the future.

    Automation, digital transformation, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the Great Resignation— we’re facing some of the hardest challenges that the business world has ever seen.

    But don’t fret. This guide walks you through two very powerful ways to fight these challenges and close skills gaps in your organization.

    They’re called upskilling and reskilling. 

    You’ll discover:

    • What reskilling and upskilling are all about
    • The difference between them 
    • The benefits of upskilling and reskilling
    • How to upskill and reskill your current employees 


    What is upskilling?

    Upskilling is the process of teaching your staff new competencies. This means giving your employees the new skills they need to perform well in their current position. 

    So, upskilling doesn’t change your team member’s job or title. But it does give them new information and knowledge they can use to do their job more efficiently or in a more modern way. 

    For instance, you might have an experienced sales manager in your company, but you’ve just got a new CRM and some new sales enablement tools. Your sales manager is unfamiliar with them, so you need to give them some training to use the tools effectively. 

    That’s an example of upskilling. New technology is one of the main reasons why companies upskill their employees. This is especially true in these times of digital transformation. As more and more of what we do moves online, we need new skill sets to keep up. 

    Upskilling benefits both employees and employers. Employees get an update on their current skills and an opportunity for professional development. Employers, on the other hand, get a little closer to closing skill gaps. They also save money by training their current workforce rather than going through the expensive process of hiring new employees. 

    Up next—what exactly is reskilling? Read on to find out.


    What is reskilling?

    Reskilling is training your employees with new skill sets to prepare them for taking a new position within your company. 

    When reskilling, you’re looking for those with transferable competencies that are close to the new set of skills that your company is looking for. You’re creating a lateral learning experience for your employees that will enable them to do a different job. 

    So, the employee that you’re reskilling will move from their current job to a new position that’s at least a little bit similar to their old one. 

    For example, a sales company that’s moving from brick-and-mortar selling to e-commerce might reskill their sales staff into customer support agents. 

    The key to reskilling is to choose employees whose current skills overlap somewhat with the demands of the new roles you need to fill in your organization. 

    Companies often choose reskilling when they want to keep high-performance employees whose roles have become obsolete. These people are good and reliable workers, but perhaps your company has closed a department or decided to discontinue a product or project.

    In this case, you might find yourself with a pool of highly experienced people that have nothing to do. If you want to keep them, reskilling is the right choice. 

    According to the World Economic Forum Future of Work 2020 report, automation and artificial intelligence are likely to displace 85 million jobs. At the same time, this digital transformation will create 97 million new jobs.

    From this, it’s clear that companies will need to invest heavily in learning and development if they want to meet this challenge successfully. 

    Upskilling and reskilling sound similar, but there are some key differences. We explore them in the next part of this guide. 


    Upskilling vs. reskilling: What are the differences?

    You’re probably wondering what the main difference between upskilling and reskilling is. Here’s a quick breakdown.

    Upskilling provides a boost to the employees’ existing skills so they can do their jobs better, and reskilling prepares workers to take on new positions within the company. 

    Both reskilling and upskilling are examples of development programs that give employees new competencies. The difference is in the area of focus. 

    Upskilling gives new skills to people who need to keep up with market trends and technological changes. It focuses on skill development for the same position. For instance, a new piece of technology or a new selling strategy. In those cases, employers need to implement appropriate employee training programs to give team members new capabilities. 

    With reskilling, the focus is on preparing an employee to take on a new role. Typically, an employee with a similar or overlapping skill set goes through a job training program that teaches them new skills. After that, they’re ready to take on the new job. 

    In brief: 

    • Reskilling and upskilling are both examples of employee development initiatives 
    • Both give employees new skills and help them along their career path 
    • Reskilling programs give training and skills that employees need to switch to a new role 
    • Upskilling programs give new competencies that employees need to keep up with changes in their current jobs 

    Want to know how to upskill your employees? Keep reading to find out.


    Three ways to upskill employees

    Upskilling is important because it creates resilient organizations that can adapt to future business challenges. 

    The pace of technological change is so fast that companies can’t afford to rely on how they did things in the past. 

    Upskilling is a great way to close the talent gap, boost employee engagement, and empower staff to perform better in their current role.

    With that in mind, here are three ways to upskill your employees.


    #1: Cross-train employees

    Cross-training is a great way to upskill employees. This means allowing your team members to train in roles that are similar to their current job. In other words, where there’s a lot of overlap between the skill sets.

    When employees return from the cross-training, they bring those new skills back to their teams. 

    You can cross-train your employees within one department or between two different ones. The key is to consider the talents and skills of each employee so that you can match them with the best cross-training opportunity. This also increases engagement and makes it more likely that the newly learned skills will stick.


    #2: Assign new responsibilities

    Possibly the easiest way to implement upskilling is to assign employees new responsibilities in their current job. It entails giving employees a learning opportunity to take part in new and more challenging responsibilities. 

    If an employee displays leadership qualities, you might let them lead a committee. Also, you can give team members some of the responsibilities from positions above them. For instance, a team member could take on a few managerial responsibilities. 

    Doing this enhances the skill set of the employee, and just like with cross-training, they bring that skill set back to their current position. 


    #3: Encourage self-training

    Self-training is a powerful and engaging method of upskilling. Managers can encourage employees to talk about the skills they want to have, and your company can provide the opportunity and flexibility for employees to take learning into their own hands. 

    Giving team members a learning budget is a great way to do this. Employees can spend this stipend on various online training courses, whether it’s learning how to use more advanced functions in Excel or soft skills training. 

    Seminars, conferences, and workshops are also great self-training opportunities. Consider allowing your team members to visit relevant events during work hours. 

    Adult learners respond very well to this kind of learner autonomy as it makes getting new skills more engaging and meaningful. 

    We’ve covered ways to upskill, but what about reskilling? That’s up next, so keep reading.


    Three ways to reskill employees

    Reskilling is crucial for companies that want to close skill gaps. This is because hiring new employees is generally more expensive than training existing ones in-house. 

    It’s hardly surprising, then, that 64% of L&D professionals marked reskilling the current workforce to close knowledge gaps as a top priority. 

    And it’s not just about plugging urgent skills gaps.

    48% of respondents in a McKinsey survey about skill gaps said that reskilling initiatives showed a positive effect on the bottom line. Reskilling also increases organizational KPIs such as employee satisfaction and customer experience. 

    On to the three ways that you can reap the benefits of reskilling.


    #1: Identify skill gaps

    We’ve talked about skill gaps a lot in this guide. So, here’s how they factor into employee upskilling and reskilling strategies.

    1. The first step is to research industry trends and your competitors. Where is your industry heading in the next five and ten years? What trends and technologies are driving these changes? What skills does your workforce need to future-proof the business? List the critical skills.
    2. Next, survey the current skills of your workforce and compare them to where you need to be. You can do this through training skills analysis and skill matrices
    3. Finally, identify the most urgent skills gaps and create employee training and development strategies to tackle them.


    #2: Create specific training programs

    Now that you’re aware of where the skill gaps lie, it’s time to create employee training programs to address them and start reskilling.

    There are a lot of ways to do this. From face-to-face training sessions to online courses to blended learning

    The training approach you take will depend on your organizational needs, business structure, learning goals, budget, and resources.

    For instance, large enterprises may want to include more informal learning opportunities to scale up reskilling efforts. Similarly, you may opt for microlearning courses to train busy sales representatives in the field. Check out our glossary for inspiration on the best ways to deliver employee training.

    If your organization is serious about upskilling and reskilling, you will need to invest in a powerful Learning Management System (LMS). 

    An LMS is the best way to deliver, manage, and monitor training sessions. You can use it to create personalized employee learning plans, assign training modules, and manage VILT sessions. LMS reporting allows you to closely track key training metrics at an individual, team, or organizational level. 

    All of this automates time-consuming L&D tasks, letting you focus on the important stuff. Like plugging those skills gaps.

    What’s more, top LMSs like Docebo are packed with interesting tools to enhance learning. For example, social learning features, gamification, and skills analysis.


    #3: Create a learning culture

    Finally, the most powerful way to enable continuous learning in your organization is to create a learning culture.

    Having a learning culture involves encouraging learning and development at every level of your company—from new hires to senior managers to the C-suite. 

    Companies that promote lifelong learning have a satisfied and engaged workforce that’s constantly taking in new information and skills and sharing that knowledge with others. 

    It means having a growth mindset and the entire organization realizing that personal career success and company success are inextricably linked. 

    In essence, building a learning culture puts in the groundwork that makes running specific reskilling programs much easier. An engaged workforce that’s already used to learning will take to reskilling much faster.

    Next up, we close out this guide with a quick recap.


    Next steps

    Upskilling and reskilling are types of employee development initiatives that give new KSAs (knowledge, skills, abilities) to employees. As a result, your workforce is prepared for changes in their current position or to take up new roles.

    The business world is moving fast and facing many challenges, such as skill gaps, automation, and remote work. This makes reskilling and upskilling your workforce crucial to stay competitive and achieve business goals. 

    But why stop there? There are a lot of ways that learning benefits companies—find out how by heading over to our glossary.

    Meet the companies that choose Docebo