Upskilling defined as: learn new skills or to teach workers new skills:
Re-skilling defined as: teach (a person, especially an unemployed person) new skills.
Our workplaces are changing faster than ever before and key skills learned in an academic setting are becoming outdated fast. A growing number of employers are no longer asking for college degrees. Upskilling and reskilling are more than the latest learning and development buzz words and “nice to have” benefits. They are now vital for business success. Companies which are looking to the future forecast their skill set gaps and align them with their succession plans. They are coming to understand that internal upskilling and reskilling programmes can be very effective.
Why reskilling and upskilling at work are critical
1. A changing workplace
The nature of our jobs and everyday tasks is changing. Digital transformation is now part of the strategic plan for most businesses. AI and automation have made many jobs redundant as routine actions are now being carried out by robots or software. This creates other roles which demand different skills. Everyone now has to handle a wide range of digital tools and platforms that were previously the preserve of technical experts. Remember the time when we had to call for IT? Those days are gone and now everyone has to be digitally competent with a wider range of skills.
2. A changing workforce
The composition of the workplace is changing as older workers reach retirement. Younger demographics who have grown up in a culture characterised by fast technological change understand that being current is vital to career development. GenZ together with the newest generation iGen (born 1995-2012) who are now just starting to enter the workplace post-graduation. Both place a strong emphasis on continuous learning when applying for and accepting a job. All professionals of all ages understand well the value of continually upskilling and re-skilling to progress their careers.
Many are willing to invest personally, but with an expectation for employer support. Offering a wide range of options is now an important element of an attractive and dynamic employer brand. Providing access to programmes will be necessary to attract and retain top talent.
3. Drive retention and increase engagement
Younger generations place high emphasis on psychological safety, recognition and feeling valued. A culture of reskilling and upskilling at work promotes increased motivation, enhances the employee experience and encourages higher levels of employee loyalty.
4. Enhance business success
Addressing skill gaps within organisations especially when related to succession planning provides a number of benefits. It allows the building of more diverse teams. It can be more cost-effective and quicker to train existing talent rather bringing in external hires who will need to be onboarded. Companies that don’t provide the opportunity for internal promotion risk the loss of key employees at a time of a candidate driven market. Add on the loss of vital knowledge and experience, potentially to a competitor, the business case for both upskilling and re-skilling is compelling.
Ways to upskill and reskill
This is a fantastic way to target women in particular, and men as well, who have left the workplace on parenting leave or to assume other caring responsibilities. Or simply those who wanted a change. In the US 40% of mothers have adjusted their hours or taken a career gap to assume responsibilities as a carer. 27% have left the workforce entirely. Research from the EU 31.4% of women in employment worked on a part-time basis in 2016, a much
higher proportion than the corresponding share for men (8.2%) the low employment rate of
older women (aged 54-64) may reflect the fact that women are more likely than men to assume care responsibilities for elderly or dependent family members with long-term care needs and
are thus far more likely to reduce their working hours or exit employment altogether.
Many in these groups will be highly qualified professional women struggle to re-enter the workforce or apply for full-time roles. Companies are launching these initiatives with success but in some cases the searches are still narrow in the type of profile they are looking for and they could broaden the reach. They can also include corporate alumni – individuals who are ex-employees who know the company, its products and services but need a refresh.
2. Formal training
This can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Sponsored training at colleges, universities or other training body including corporate financial support, day release to attend course and study live to prepare for exams or certification
- In-house lunch and learn sessions either live or online where experts deliver workshops in their specialist field. These are particularly useful to employees who struggle to attend evening course or even leave their day jobs.
- Distance learning: This is particularly useful to train employees who are dispersed geographically. There are a number of online training using multimedia interactive tools including online breakout rooms, quizzes, games, videos and presentations. The downside of this is that sometimes participants can feel isolated without face-to-face interaction.
Assigning mentors to junior employees can give them exposure to skills it would be difficult to pick up in a formal training. Download my eBook “Make the most of Mentoring”
Creating opportunities for reskilling and upskilling at work is vital to the health and success of your business. Committing to lifelong learning is an essential part of planning for the future especially as advances in artificial intelligence and automation gather pace.