Understanding the Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling

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The main difference between reskilling and upskilling is that reskilling refers to an employee learning a new set of skills in order to perform a different job, while upskilling refers to an employee learning additional skills to be better equipped to do his/her job. In brief, reskilling and upskilling can enable companies to develop the skills needed to remain competitive.

What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling can be defined as the need to have an employee learn additional skills to be better equipped to do their job.

What Is Reskilling?

Reskilling can be defined as the need to teach an employee an entirely new skillset. While an organization may not need an employee’s specific skill set anymore, they are interested in utilizing some of the knowledge they have acquired over the years in terms of the company and its processes.

Upskilling vs. Reskilling

Upskilling focuses on continuing education in enhancing performance and knowledge in a current profession or specific field. These skills also help to adapt to changing market conditions. Often, upskilling enhances an employee’s value by updating their skill set and positioning them for the future.

Reskilling adds new skills so a person can move into a different job within the company or another organization. It does not simply refresh existing skills. Reskilling may require completing several certificate programs – or even obtaining a degree – to become employable in a new area.

Benefits of Upskilling and Reskilling

  • Fill skill gaps to increase the chances of promotion or keeping a job during a merger, acquisition, or company downsizing. (Upskill)
  • Stay on top of the newest skills and trends to master current roles and remain a valuable asset and leader to the company. (Upskill)
  • Gain a better understanding of a new career path. Individuals can test the waters of a new field by first taking a course or two. (Reskill)
  • Improve chances of getting hired in another department or company in a new role. (Reskill)
  • Develop often overlooked soft skills such as communications, leadership, and management that complement hard (technical skills) in gaining management positions.
  • Show self-initiative and drive to improve performance and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities. (Upskill)

Why upskilling and reskilling is becoming more important?

The employer-employee relationship has changed greatly over recent years, with employees expecting more from their organizations than before. If employees don’t feel they’re getting development opportunities, they won’t hesitate to look outside for organizations that offer learning and development as part of a role. Additionally, in today’s ever-changing world, continuous learning needs to be adopted as a lifelong process and pursuit and should be supported by organizations.

We also know that it costs more to recruit someone outside of a company than it does to develop and retain an individual that’s already a part of the organization. By upskilling or reskilling, companies are allocating their investment to the people that have prior knowledge of the company.

The advantage here is to find the potential of the individuals within your organization, understand the skills that they have, and measure them up against the roles that you need to fill and the objectives that need to be accomplished and match them.

How to implement upskilling and reskilling for employee training?

1. Define company learning objectives

The first step is to define what new skills your company needs. Do some research. Look at trends in your industry and how needs are shifting over time. Also, look at feedback from customers to see how you can better support their needs. Then create a few concrete learning objectives that solve for these necessary new skills. Once you have these created, it will give you a roadmap for upskilling and reskilling training.

2. Survey your employees

Next, you’ll want buy-in and weigh-in from your employees. Each manager should sit down with the team members and go over personal goals. In addition, survey employees on satisfaction, culture, and engagement. Once you have this feedback, compare these results against your learning objectives. This should give you a good idea of which upskilling and reskilling is most needed across your company. Plus, it makes everyone a part of the learning process which will increase engagement once the training is rolled out.

3. Create a training plan 

Next, you’ll want to create courses around your upskilling and reskilling needs. Not only can they offer templates to help you create these training sessions, but they can also incorporate your existing training materials into this system.

4. Evaluate often

It’s important to get feedback often, especially when you are offering new upskilling and reskilling training. Talk to various departments to see how new skills are being translated over to customers, talk to human resources to see what new skills are needed, and get feedback from employees themselves. All this communication will give you a clearer picture of what is working and what needs to be added to your upskilling training modules.

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