Reskilling and Upskilling: the Art of Training Employees to Meet Changing Demands

Last Updated on July 10, 2024 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

There is no doubt that the tech industry is facing many challenges. From the tech talent gap to job insecurity, those working in tech or considering a career in technology can justifiably feel confused and anxious about their career opportunities. At a time where jobs become obsolete as quickly as new roles emerge, upskilling and reskilling are core tactics that employers can deploy to meet the ever-changing needs of the industry without too much disruption to their workforce. 

Those looking for guidance in the market need only look to companies such as IBM, who announced in 2023 that they would be replacing 8,000 jobs with AI but who are also deeply committed to reskilling and upskilling. Motion Recruitment’s IT Salary Guide offers further optimism, predicting a rise in demand for key roles, including data analytics, IT, mobile and web designers, and product and service design. The World Economic Forum’s future of Jobs report further highlights the almost self-leveling impact of AI on the job market, predicting that 85 million jobs may be lost to automation in the next couple of years but, on the other hand, 97 million nascent roles will emerge. The overriding message is clear: the IT workforce isn’t shrinking, it is changing. And savvy employers (and employees) will make sure that they make appropriate changes via reskilling or upskilling before their existing posts become obsolete. 

Reskilling or Upskilling?

Reskilling and upskilling are both valuable tools, particularly in a period of such dramatic change. While upskilling involves the acquisition of new skills to bolster existing roles, reskilling, in contrast, centers on equipping individuals with the proficiencies that they need in order to transition into different job roles or alternative career paths

According to projections by the World Economic Forum, by the year 2025, approximately half of all employees will need to undergo some kind of reskilling initiative in order to keep up with the industry. Reskilling aims to specifically target individuals who possess “adjacent skills”; skills which are closely aligned with the new proficiencies demanded by the organization, and which may be in short supply. The process of reskilling facilitates a lateral learning trajectory that is valuable for meeting the ever-changing demands of today’s workforce. 

The benefits of staff development

The process of upskilling provides employees with advanced skills to bridge talent gaps. Via this continuous education approach, employers support employees to identify core capabilities and train them appropriately to allow them to reach their potential in a similar, or new, role, despite the changing demands of their work.

The advantages of investing in your team members’ learning, development and growth go further than internal skill and resource development. By creating a culture of investment in your employees, they will feel valued and secure in their role and future development prospects. This will lead to staff retention; according to a McKinsey study, feeling undervalued and as though there are limited opportunities for challenges and development are a key motivation for leaving a job. 

Upskilling and reskilling also help to create a productive environment, with empowered team members choosing to invest more time and effort whilst in the workplace. And, of course, by developing a culture of staff investment and care, organizations can attract the highest caliber of talent – and retain it. 

The importance of workforce development

A well-structured workplace development framework yields a host of benefits for the organization and its employees. 

Employee retention is a significant benefit, with 94% of employees saying that they would be more likely to remain with a company that actively invested in their career development, according to LinkedIn Learning. Keeping employees saves significant amounts of time and money for organizations; instead of investing in recruitment and induction, companies can spend less, and with more impact, via retention and upskilling and reskilling. 

While some organizations say that reskilling and upskilling programs are not within their budget, it could be argued that, faced with the risks associated with the impending skills gap, organizations can’t afford NOT to invest in an upskilling and reskilling program. The important element is to appropriately encourage team members to embrace any upskilling or reskilling opportunities; communication plays a significant role in this. In order to upskill appropriately, it isn’t just enough for employees to know what is available to them: the onus is on employers to understand potential future needs and skills gaps, and understand which of their employees have the capability and desire to develop the appropriate skills. 

A structured approach

When considering the potential costs of an in-house skills deficit in the future, organizations would be well-placed to see their retraining program as a sideways movement of the potential recruitment budget: a preventative measure that will save resources in the future rather than a n additional endeavor. A structured approach will enable departments to see current – and future – skills and competencies, identifying potential gaps and working to address them before they become critical. While this can be done easily at recruitment and throughout onboarding, it is not too late to undertake a full organizational skills, competencies, and aspirations analysis. Such an undertaking will help employers to identify team members who are willing and able to develop their skills to meet future needs. If skills and aspiration analyses are embedded within the organizational ethos, they can not only help to build a strong workforce but identify employees with unrecognized skill and ambition while contributing to employee wellbeing and, hence, performance and retention. 

Conclusion

Employers today are currently grappling with two pressing HR dilemmas simultaneously: the imperative to attract and keep top talent, and the urgency to confront the ever-expanding skills gap. In view of the anticipated emergence of new roles, the pressure to recruit individuals possessing the requisite skills and capabilities for those roles is mounting. However, getting the right people in posts today (and keeping them there), is simply not enough; there is a parallel need to ensure that both incoming hires and current employees are staying abreast of developments and actively cultivating the skills, experience, and knowledge that will allow them to meet the ever changing demands of the industry. 

About TheAuthor

Shahin Fard is the founder of Bravr. With over 20 years of diverse experience, he has a keen interest in technology and data. Outside of work, Shahin is passionate about cars and speed. He also enjoys managing people and believes in positive and empowering leadership.

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