What is upskilling and reskilling?

Published on 11/8/2022 by Smriti Arya

As the demand for new capabilities within an organization grows, upskilling and reskilling can help your firm develop skills needed to be at a competitive advantage. Let’s understand these two terms and how these strategies can better prepare your organization to address the skills gap.

Upskilling and reskilling with learning management system software

According to the Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, 26% of Canadian companies have hired people they otherwise would not have just to deal with labour shortages and high employee turnover. There can be several ways that employers can use to deal with labour shortages; one of the ways could be investing in upskilling and reskilling new and existing employees. 

In addition, according to one of our surveys on Capterra, 44% of employees in Canada picked up at least one new skill during the pandemic. In this context, having upskilling and reskilling strategies in place could possibly help employers retain staff and overcome the skills gap issue. Organizations can take advantage of learning management system (LMS) training software to create and deliver learning content to employees. 

Let’s go into more depth and understand how upskilling and reskilling can help address the skills gap. 

What is upskilling and reskilling?

The Cambridge dictionary defines upskilling and reskilling as follows:

  • Upskilling: the process of learning new skills or of teachings workers new skills.
  • Reskilling: the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job. 

While both upskilling and reskilling are associated with learning new skills, the context for each of them is a bit different. Let’s discuss both in detail. 

What is upskilling?

Upskilling can be defined as the strategy of teaching employees new and advanced skills to close the talent gap. It can keep your team members involved in continuous learning and help them become experts in their chosen fields. 

According to the Global Workforce of the Future Report 2022, 31% of employees state that the main reason to quit is a lack of reskilling and upskilling opportunities. The report further reveals that only 4 out of 10 non-managers say they are satisfied with skills investments at their company. 

What is reskilling?

Reskilling can be defined as training employees in entirely new skills to make them ready for a different role within the organization. This may happen when employees’ previous roles become irrelevant due to advances in technology, for instance.

Reskilling can involve getting a new degree or certification in a different area of expertise. Using reskilling strategies, businesses can ideally retain reliable workers and reduce turnover by investing in employee growth.

Benefits of upskilling and reskilling employees

Why should you reskill and upskill talent?

Developing talent should ideally be holistic, in a way that it can focus on both team and individual performance. While an upskilling and reskilling plan can give your organization a competitive edge, it can also help boost your team’s self-confidence. Below, we list some of the reasons why your organization should reskill and upskill talent.

Helps to adapt to market changes

Upskilling could help your organization adapt to change and keep up with market trends. For example, your customers may expect different product features in the future. If you invest in the continuous learning of your employees and keep your employees’ skills aligned with changing market trends, you might not find it difficult to provide improved product features to your customers in the future. 

Can enable you to analyze skill sets early on

Upskilling and reskilling can also allow employees to identify limiting gaps, behaviour, and beliefs that could obstruct job performance. They can reveal these pain points through self-evaluations in order to achieve organizational goals. For example, your upskilling strategy might focus on improving employees’ communication or interpersonal skills. By testing their active listening, employees may be able to understand if they want to pursue potential leadership positions and ideally continually improve their abilities. 

Could help you retrain and retain top employees

If you launch an upskilling and reskilling program, your employees may feel more reassured that you care about their personal growth and development. In this way, they can have ample opportunities to reflect on their skill sets and possibly cross-train in other departments that suit their interests. 

This —in turn— can benefit your organization as you build a team of highly qualified workers and potentially cut down on new hire training costs. 

Can aid in foreseeing emerging challenges

A new culture of work due to the COVID-19 crisis may not be the only obstacle that organizations face. Employees should ideally also be ready to tackle emerging challenges that pertain to the evolution of their industry and other business practices. For example, if your organization has to implement a new tool to improve employees’ productivity or simplify work processes, your employees might need to know how to leverage such new technology to maximize functionality.

Without an upskilling and reskilling strategy, your workforce could experience a steep learning curve as they may lack the necessary support. 

How can upskilling and reskilling address the skills gap?

Once you understand the need to upskill and reskill the workforce, you might have a question about how to execute such a strategy successfully and make sure that it helps close future skills gaps. We have listed some pointers below that could possibly help you create a better strategy to inculcate regular learning. 

Assess the skills gaps

To identify the skills gaps amongst your employees, you may first have to discover your goal of development. To identify and set those goals, you can possibly ask yourselves the following questions:

  • Which skills would you need as a company? 
  • Which skills might be required by your employees to do their jobs well now and in the future? 
  • Which skills should you potentially invest in to make your business future-ready? 

After you have a defined goal, you can then classify your short-term and long-term goals to find out which skills you want your employees to have. When you have your priorities aligned, you could then assess whether your employees have the required skill set. 

Identify learning opportunities for employees

After executing the skills gap analysis, the next step could be to determine learning opportunities for your employees. But before you run this step, you may have to prioritize adaptability.

Since each employee has a unique skill set, the opportunities you align for them should ideally sync with their individual skill sets to ensure a smooth learning experience for them. To identify ideal learning opportunities, you should potentially look at employee reviews, managers’ feedback, and employees’ proven competencies and performance metrics. 

Empower your employees with a blended learning experience

Once you have identified learning opportunities for your employees, the next important step could be to develop a comprehensive and scalable learning program. Running a formal learning and development program might not be an easy process. You can also outsource experts to create cohort-based learning programs for your employees. Alternatively, you can look for an online learning management system to streamline the learning process for your workforce.

What is cohort-based learning?

Cohort-based learning can be defined as a collaborative learning method designed for a group of individuals. In this approach, a group of students or learners go through an educational course together.

Monitor and modify learning programs

Lastly, you can monitor training programs you have aligned for your employees to ensure they are maximizing their learning. But before you do so, you should keep in mind that each employee has a different learning pace and needs. Therefore, firms should ideally make sure that the learning structure is flexible enough to accommodate different learning styles. 

A good practice would be to try to get frequent feedback from employees on learning programs and modify the learning program based on the collected feedback. 

Conclusion

This new world of work may require people to continuously hone their skills to stay competitive. A curious and learning-oriented mindset can help keep both a workforce and a company agile by ensuring learning initiatives are relevant to futuristic business objectives. By identifying which skills might be needed in the future, you can ideally build thoughtful and sustainable skilling programs to better develop talent in your workforce. 

What’s next? Check our learning management system software catalogue to find the tool that suits you best. 

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Smriti is a Content Analyst for Capterra Canada, helping SMBs deliver key insights into software, business and tech trend.

Smriti is a Content Analyst for Capterra Canada, helping SMBs deliver key insights into software, business and tech trend.