Upskilling And Reskilling: How Companies Must Stay Relevant

Change is the only thing that is constant. In as much as this is true, we now live in a period where change is changing. The 21st century has witnessed some of the biggest advancements in digital technology. These developments have gone ahead to influence and challenge the status quo, creating a new culture of work at the same time. And as the need for innovation rises in the digital space, so does the need for upskilling and reskilling in the workplace.

As organizations face the complexities of an ever-changing world triggered by the developments in the field of digital technology, the necessity for a workforce equipped with a modern skillset is required. As such, human resources managers are rethinking their approach to the upskilling and reskilling of employees in the workplace.

According to a recent study by PwC, it was found that 79% of CEOs regularly worry about their workforce’s existing skills and their ability to meet dynamic workplace needs. Going by this, the necessity for upskilling and reskilling of employees is not lost on business leaders. The global business landscape is changing rapidly. Aside from  improving on employee benefit essentials such as healthcare, paid time off, and stock options, companies must provide substantial upskilling and reskilling options if they are to retain their top talents.

Upskilling and reskilling are two terms that are often used interchangeably due to a misconception of similarity. The two don’t mean the same thing. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, upskilling refers to the process of learning new skills, or of teaching workers’ new skills. Reskilling, on the other hand, is defined as the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job.

You might also be interested to read: The Importance Of Human Skills In Your Business

To put in a business context, upskilling refers to the provision of training that enhances an employee’s skill set, allowing them to grow in their current role and bring added value to an organization. Reskilling can be equated to the retraining of employees. When workers are reskilled, they’re being prepared to take up new roles or positions in the organization. Reskilling is a process that companies use to retain workers whose positions have become redundant.

Essentially, the concept of upskilling and reskilling refers to the learning opportunities companies offer their employees. In the world of business today, increased paychecks and fat bonuses don’t give enough motivation for employees anymore. Employees know that in no time, their current set of skills will become inadequate. As such, they look out for organizations that offer the best opportunities to grow and develop. This ultimately influences recruitment and the ability of enterprises to attract and keep the best talents.

Upskilling and reskilling as the future of work

Employee learning and development (L&D) is a tradition that has existed for a while among organizations. However, the traditional approach to training employees is inadequate to prepare workers for the current demands of the business world. This is due to the level of developments in the digital space, which have created a massive disruption to the world of work.

The popular misconception is that training is only needed by employees in the early years of their careers and they will pick up gradually as they move on in the job. However, experts have found this to be largely untrue. According to a study by PwC, 55% of employers feel the shortage of skills is responsible for the inability to innovate effectively. Therefore, upskilling and reskilling are necessary for every generation of workers entering the workforce.

A study suggests that  approximately 80% of all job roles will require digital competencies by 2020. However, only a fraction of the current workforce is equipped with digital skills. In addition to this, there is an increasing awareness of the need for soft skills. Based on this, employers need to rethink their upskilling and reskilling strategies to ensure their workers are adequately equipped.

Companies must consider certain elements when providing upskilling and reskilling opportunities for their employees. As digital transformation keeps fast-tracking, the need for employees to develop a new set of skills gets clearer. As reported by a Microsoft research on the future of learning, only 42% of employers believe new graduates have the soft skills necessary to be adequately prepared for the workforce, providing an opportunity to reinforce existing talent with important skills such as creativity, innovation, design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving.

For an adequate upskilling and reskilling structure, here’s what companies need to consider;

The need to accommodate bite-sized learning

The generally accepted form of upskilling and reskilling employees has proven deficient over time due to two critical challenges:

  1. One-off courses have low absorption rates, and the employee is likely to forget learned insights without continuous applications in the workplace
  2. Protracted sessions without any immediate relevance to the employee can leave the learner feeling disengaged and uninterested in the topic

As a result, companies need to incorporate bite-sized learning into the upskilling and reskilling of their employees. This has been at PwC, where 50,000 members of their U.S. teams receive the opportunities to upskill through bite-sized offerings.

Upskilling and reskilling should allow cross-functional skillsets

Many of the developments spurred by digital transformation are based on interchangeable skills. As a result, employees are often interested in developing different skillsets for competency and boost productivity. Companies should invest in customizable L&D tracks, allowing an employee to focus on their area of interest.

Companies should also focus on developing employee soft skills

In as much as technical skills matter, companies must focus on developing soft skills. With the onset of digitalization, soft skills are likely to witness renewed focus as employees are pushed to innovate, solve new business problems, and steadily cut down their learning curve for new technology adoption.


  • Why upskilling and reskilling are the future of workplace L&D by Staff Writer||August 19, 2019
  • Upskilling and reskilling your workforce of the future by David Mills||January 14, 2020
  • Reskilling and upskilling: A strategic response to changing skill demands by Talent Guard
  • 7 reasons for upskilling and reskilling your workforce by Kerri Moore||October 31, 2019

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