What Upskilling and Reskilling Can Do for Your Team

By Jenna McCoy

November 18, 2021
7 min read

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the nature of the workplace was changing. A study from the World Economic Forum in 2020 estimated that approximately 85 million jobs could be displaced by increasing automation. The pandemic didn’t change this number—it simply accelerated the change.

However, the same study also noted that there is potential for nearly 97 million new jobs to arise based on the changing integration between humans and technology.1

In order to take advantage of these new positions, workers will need upskilling and reskilling to close any gaps between their current skills base and the skills that will be necessary for new positions.

To help you understand the potential value of reskilling and upskilling for your team, we've explored the following topics and questions:

What are Upskilling and Reskilling?

Upskilling and reskilling refer to helping your team members develop new or updated skills that will align to your company’s growth trajectory and strategic vision. This can take a variety of forms, from enabling them to gain expertise in their particular job function, to helping them prepare for a role they’re set to advance into or learning skills they need to take on an entire new role with confidence and excitement. 

For individuals, upskilling and reskilling can be vital to career progression. It’s rare that a person joins your organization or team with all the skills they need for that role. In order for them to achieve their career ambitions at your company, they’ll likely need to continue adding and developing skills. 

For team leaders, a focus on career progression can be a win-win. Not only can you gain the benefit of a more highly skilled team, learning and growing from shared experiences, but it can bolster overall job satisfaction, engagement and productivity. 

In short, the goal of these programs is to give your people the resources they need to succeed.

Differences Between Upskilling and Reskilling

While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some important differences between upskilling and reskilling. 

Upskilling refers to adding new skills that help augment a person’s ability to perform their current role, take on stretch assignments or step into their next role in their same department. Examples include:

  • Learning a new coding language

  • Developing leadership skills

  • Becoming familiar with the latest digital marketing techniques

  • Increasing mastery with a vital software package

  • Honing their business acumen

  • Working on their interpersonal skills

Reskilling, on the other hand, focuses more on developing a new skill set that will help them succeed in a new role, most likely for another team or department. The workplace is dynamic, and that evolution has led to an increased need for digitally fluent talent. For some teams this change has created roles that we’ve never seen before, and the need for talent to fill them is high. Sometimes finding individuals with competencies that are complementary to those roles could prove beneficial. Along the lines of hiring music majors and then training them in cybersecurity because they are in tune with pattern recognition.

With a reskilling and upskilling approach, you can leverage an existing team member’s familiarity with the company while providing them with the tools they need to fill a new role. 

Why is Upskilling Important?

An upskilling program can help your current and future leaders in several ways. Most notably, it can prepare them to either improve their performance in their current position or work toward a promotion goal.

A survey from The Harris Poll shows that nearly 77% of the workforce feels unsupported in their career development efforts. As a result of this feeling, many of these people choose to leave their current company for what they perceive to be a more supportive learning culture. 

Employees want career paths and development opportunities.1

And what does this mean for your bottom line? According to Gallup, “the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary – and that's a conservative estimate.” Therefore, the cost of acquiring and training a new employee could be greater than offering existing high potentials the tools they need to advance.

Upskilling and reskilling can offer your team well-deserved opportunities for personal and professional development. Demonstrating dedication to your team members in this way may play a critical role in determining whether they choose to remain with your company or seek learning and development opportunities with other employers—or even your competition.

Amidst the Great Resignation, in which more than 19 million US workers have already quit their jobs,1 organizations simply cannot afford to lose critical talent over something as solvable as learning culture.

Setting the Foundation for Upskilling & Reskilling

Building a custom plan for your team is crucial to deploying a successful program. Consider these foundational elements as you begin to plan.

Create a talent succession plan to map your talent pipeline to your organization’s strategic vision. And one of the first steps in that plan is identifying the skills that must be strengthened, amplified, or added within your group or department. This includes skills that ladder up to roles or functions your organization may need to address in both the short- and long-term. For example, take a look at our skill development focuses for Operations & Supply ChainIT & SecurityAccounting & Finance teams as well as Leadership

Staying informed about current technical trends and tools in your industry is an excellent foundation for creating an effective upskilling plan. You want your program to target critical skill gaps you need to close at your organization, as well as provide a proactive approach to fast-paced advancements and emerging needs. Just as you stay aware of your competitive business landscape, the talent landscape affecting your industry must also be considered.

Cultivating individual and team buy-in. As you identify your high potentials, who are candidates for upskilling or reskilling, meet with them to ensure they’re on board with the opportunity to grow. Discuss skill gaps together and correlate the benefits of the program to closing those skill gaps. Involving them throughout the process can help them embrace the exciting learning path that awaits them. Demonstrating consistent executive support for this initiative will pave the way for successful implementation and long-term impact.

Be collaborative and iterative. Consider collaborating with your team, stakeholders, peers and industry thought leaders when building out your plan. What skills are they hearing about? What skills do they think your team is missing or needs to remain competitive in your industry? What beneficial client offerings could your team help develop, but you don’t have the skills to handle today? 

If you start to think through some of these elements now, you might quickly see how your plan could shape up. 

Key Resources for Upskilling and Reskilling

As you’re thinking through the skill gaps ahead of you, you might start to realize you don’t have the internal tools available to help. In order to create the learning pathways your team needs, you might consider seeking out an education partner. This partner should be able to help you craft your plan with custom learning pathways to help close your teams’ gaps, but also someone that sticks with you throughout and ensures you’re achieving the ROI you need from the program you create. 

These potential upskilling and reskilling resources might include:

  • Skills and needs assessments

  • Hands-on, experiential learning tools

  • Flexible options like boot camps, micro-credentials, and online/in-person blended programs

  • Prior learning assessments

  • Leadership development curriculum and case studies

  • Support skills training to enhance professional skills, such as communication and critical thinking 

  • University level programs with stackable credentials

  • Cohorts and coaching or mentoring programs

With this range of program resources at your fingertips, designing effective upskilling and reskilling programs that link talent to strategy are possible for every team. If you’re ready to begin, connect with a member of our team to see how we might help. 

About Jenna McCoy

Senior Manager of Sales Enablement, DeVryWorks

Jenna McCoy provides strategic leadership over the DeVryWorks commercial partnership process, upskilling of the DeVryWorks strategic account management team and supports sales technology innovation. In addition, she leads development of the customer buying journey by collaborating with product, marketing, sales and service to evolve the corporate partnership process based on partner needs.

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