Should You Consider Upskilling or Reskilling Your Workforce?

A recent Wall Street Journal article headline stated, “Forget Going Back to the Office—People Are Just Quitting Instead,” and went on:  “As the pandemic clouds lift, the percentage of Americans leaving employers for new opportunities is at its highest level in more than two decades.”

Clearly, the expectations of many working Americans have changed due to their experiences during the  pandemic. Organizations also experienced a change in how work was accomplished during the last 15 months. As the pandemic restrictions loosen, it’s natural for organizations to consider what the future of their employees’ work experience will be. Both upskilling and reskilling could have a role in preparing your employees for the work your organization will need to have done in the future.

Which should it be–Upskill or Reskill?

Upskilling is designed to improve an employee’s skills for their current job. Many organizations regularly “upskill” employees but probably don’t refer to it by that moniker. For example, teaching employees how to use a new software program or helping them gain more knowledge about their field would be upskilling. In contrast, reskilling teaches an employee new skills that apply to a different job. For example, retraining an administrative assistant to be a project manager. Reskilling may also involve the employee acquiring a new certification, degree, or license.

What skills should we start with?

If you’re unsure what skills your organization will need in the future, consider starting with technology. Digitization could help organizations remain competitive and accomplish work efficiently. Employees currently doing routine work that can be automated may need to develop digital literacy. What level of digitization expertise do your employees currently have?  Are there ways you can begin introducing digitization at work if they’re not currently very savvy? How can you increase the knowledge of those who already have some digital knowledge?  By taking small steps now, you can help employees build digital literacy over time.

As routine tasks become more automated, emotional skills will become more important for employees. Abilities like working well in teams, connecting with others, and maintaining productive work relationships will become more valuable. These skills may be more difficult to help employees build. Honest feedback on strengths and weaknesses, or mentoring programs, are examples of ways to help employees increase these skills.

If your organization has already identified the types of work needed in the future, consider upskilling or reskilling your employees using these steps:

  • Identify the skill gaps of current employees. What opportunities are there for upskilling? What new work would require reskilling to accomplish? Who are good candidates for upskilling or reskilling programs?
  • Identify training resources. Consider online courses and outside training sources like degree or certification programs, along with in-person and other training methods to ensure the best learning outcomes.
  • Finally, match new work needs with employees’ new skills. This could include creating opportunities for employees to use their new skills or even develop career paths based on new skills.

As employers move toward automation and more efficient ways of working, they can retain trusted employees through upskilling and reskilling. By being honest about the anticipated future skill requirements of jobs, employees can be encouraged to develop new skills to help move themselves and their organizations into the future. Employers Council can help; give us a call.