Upskilling and Reskilling Strategies

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Companies are healing from nearly four years of a global pandemic that brought turmoil, uncertainty, and financial hardships. Supply chain issues have improved in certain sectors, but high interest rates and increasing costs of supplies, compounded with ongoing talent acquisition challenges, still lead to challenging times for companies and Human Resources departments. 

Retaining talent can be a challenge, especially when companies evolve internally to maintain or leverage a competitive stance against their company counterparts. For companies to combat the shift from the “maturity” stage into the “decline” stage in the product lifecycle process, foresight and adaptability are essential to survival.  HR leaders need to proactively look ahead to anticipated trends and prepare for unanticipated changes in the organization.

This can start with reviewing a the driving force behind the company’s future – its talent. Upskilling and reskilling employees will craft a competitive edge in an ever-changing global market.  

An Evolving Workspace

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), major changes are anticipated in the workplace, not only for large scale businesses, but small and medium businesses as well.  In general, the WEF estimates that by 2025, 50% of all employees will need reskilling due to new technology. Think back to five years ago…how many leaders were planning, much less talking, about prepping for a global pandemic and record numbers of employees who resigned from their roles? Not enough. Change is inevitable, and it is crucial that HR departments and company leadership support its internal talent as change continuously cycles. 

As company products and service offerings evolve, internal disruptions will occur. Current employees who have extensive skills and cultural knowledge will need additional support. Instead of eliminating expiring and outdated positions resulting in a loss of skilled talent and cultural fit, companies can realign productive existing employees by molding them into evolving roles with proper support and guidance. Companies cannot afford to lose talent to their competitors.  As roles and tasks change within an organization, companies must do what they can to maintain a competitive advantage. This is where upskilling and reskilling are essential. 

Upskilling and Reskilling

Although the premise of skill-changing occurs with both upskilling and reskilling, they are not the same concepts.  Upskilling is providing the opportunity for employees to learn new skills for their roles when taking on additional responsibilities. Upskilling might or might not be the result of a promotion. Often, it can result from a promotion; however, upskilling can result from the elimination of another position where the duties of that discontinued role are divided between existing employees who maintain their same roles.

Reskilling is providing the opportunity for employees to learn new skills in order to perform a different job. These newly acquired skills are typically outside of the worker’s existing skill sets. Often, reskilling occurs when manual tasks become automated. Reskilling has a tendency to be a cost-saver; providing supplemental training on new skills saves the company money compared to the time and cost to recruit, screen, hire and onboard a new person. 

Both upskilling and reskilling are essential in today’s work culture, especially as technology tools develop at quick rates.  Learning opportunities through upskilling and reskilling are a time and financial investment with high returns. Here are ways for HR and company leaders to integrate upskilling and reskilling in their culture:

Create a Career Pathing Plan

Managers and employees need to communicate with each other to identify employees’ strengths and areas for growth. This will allow them to work together to craft a long-range career plan. Managers need to ask probing questions to employees to determine short-term and long-term employee goals and communicate how those goals co-exist with the direction of the company and global market.  Employees need to share their career goals and performance vision with managers to see where their goals align with the company’s needs and where modifications must occur.  Create a learning plan for employees, and track your employees’ progress within the company’s onboarding platform.  OnboardCentric offers the ability to link training videos and learning materialEmployee assessments are another way to assess skills. Use employee assessment results to chart a course of future progression for employees to help them increase their contribution to the success of the company.  

Connect with Education Providers

Training needs to be relevant and convenient for employees who are already methodically balancing work and life requirements. Identify different methods of training and offer alternative options to employees. Some employees prefer face-to-face instruction while others prefer to go at their own pace via online resources.  Training delivery needs to be incorporated during the workday for hourly and salary employees. This promotes a work-life balance and to adhere to company and legal pay and related guidelines. Many universities bring technical, soft skills and hard skill training onsite to the company as an alternative to traditional credit-based coursework at a learning institution. 

Keep in mind, not all training must lead to an academic degree; certain roles might require a particular licensure or certification while some employees can benefit from brief learning modules. Reputable online platforms such as Khan Academy, Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer convenient learning tools. Khan Academy, while geared more towards K-12 education, offers free programming learning modules focused on CSS, HTML, SQL, JavaScript and Python. Also, for native and immigrant workers who need additional support in language and math, resources of the sort can help with refining and attaining core skills to bridge existing gaps.

Develop a Mentorship Program

Upskilling and reskilling does not necessarily have to occur through formal coursework or training sessions. It can occur in the transfer of knowledge from one employee to another. Seasoned employees possessing specific skill sets and cultural knowledge offer a wealth of knowledge that can be lost with retirement or company departure. Transferring knowledge through a mentorship program yields a myriad of benefits.

A mentor and the mentee can develop a strong bond where questions and answers are confidently asked and answered without the fear of ridicule or looking ignorant in front of peers.  A mentor shares their wisdom about what works and what does not work which keeps knowledge retained within the organization. A mentee can ask questions to the mentor about processes and procedures that could lead to positive change because the mentee brings new perceptions and approaches about existing tasks and goals. From any angle, a mentorship program is a catalyst in upskilling and reskilling employees. 

Incentivize Upskilling and Reskilling

Although money is a highly desired incentive by many people, money is not the only incentive that is rewarding. When seeking to incentive upskilling and reskilling, find out what is important to employees. Added job security and/or promotions can be incentives. As employees upskill or reskill, companies can provide monetary rewards through bonuses and pay increases. Tangible rewards such as company swag and gift cards are popular options. No matter the type of incentive offered to employees, it is crucial for company leadership to publicly acknowledge employees’ successes and efforts. Employees want to know their hard work and additional efforts are known to others and especially appreciated. Ultimately, an incentive is an appreciation tool so find what motivates employees and use those motivators as incentives.

Upskilling and reskilling employees shows a bona fide commitment to employees by the organization. Employees feel valued and possess a sense of belonging. They appreciate knowing their talents and skills are appreciated in addition to knowing that companies value employees’ contributions. By creating a positive employee morale, it helps establish a positive work culture leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention rates. Employees who have the ability to learn new skills on the job tend to stay with the organization longer. Upskilling and reskilling is an investment in employees that will produce a positive return for companies.

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