Fight the skills gap with a great upskilling and reskilling strategy

Just say 'no' to a skills gap and high turnover with upskilling and reskilling. Here's a look at the ins and outs of these important talent management concepts.

If your organization is facing a serious talent shortage, take matters into your own hands with upskilling and reskilling.

Your workforce likely needs new skills to handle new technologies such as AI. You're likely also dealing with a prevalence of job-hopping employees and the difficulty and expense of replacing talent. You're not alone.

Hiring new talent is costly and not just in terms of money spent on recruiting a new employee. Companies lose valuable capital when employees who have deep knowledge of the business quit. Also, it's tough to find external candidates who have the latest skill sets. If you look within the organization for potential talent, you can likely save money. And, in this way, you can target skill development to better meet business goals.

Here's a look at how you can craft these important talent management strategies.

When to upskill and when to reskill

Choosing when to upskill the workforce and when to reskill it depends on your business goals. Upskilling is the process of providing employees with new skills to do their existing job more effectively. Reskilling is the process of providing employees with new skills so that they can perform a different job.

Organizations that invest in training often focus their investment in upskilling. For example, you can provide a sales executive with customer services training. If you have problems related to existing teams' efficiency, you can upskill them in ways that solve the problems.

The need for upskilling and reskilling

Reskilling is more common when an organization needs to retrain employees to move into a new business area or when an organization needs to shift resources from one business area to another. For example, you could retrain a production assembler to become a welder. Reskilling can be more cost-effective than layoffs or recruiting new employees with the right skills. In some situations, unions might prevent layoffs, so reskilling provides a new way to use potentially affected workers.

New skills bring new advantages -- for both the employee and organization.

Other examples where reskilling might be a good option: If you are looking to create a new product or service line or open a new manufacturing plant, then you may wish to staff this with some existing employees, particularly at a more senior level. Reskilling can help you retain employees who already understand your business and culture -- instead of starting from scratch.

Benefits of upskilling and reskilling

New skills bring new advantages -- for both the employee and organization.

Among the many benefits of upskilling and reskilling are the following:

  • reduced cost of finding talent for hard-to-fill positions;
  • improved productivity and efficiency;
  • a talent pipeline that can meet new technology skills -- for example, AI and analytics skills;
  • organization's knowledge and culture that can gain a competitive edge in a new business area;
  • better career development and opportunities for employees;
  • greater mobility within the organization;
  • increased retention; and
  • enhanced employee experience.

How to foster new skills

Training and education are foundations of upskilling and reskilling.

Common methods include internal courses that use internal or external content and courses at external institutions -- for example, professional development companies or a university. However, mentoring, coaching and microlearning are other options. In addition, some organizations use social media for employee learning and development, as well as other social approaches.

You'll need to take into account employees' existing jobs when planning upskilling or reskilling, since these endeavors require a time commitment from employee and employer.

How you upskill and reskill the workforce and which methods you choose depend on your business strategy and needs:

  • What are your current business and workforce challenges?
  • Where do you see your business growth in the next five to 10 years?
  • What talent shortages can be solved through upskilling or reskilling?
  • Are you planning on opening a new business segment?
  • What is your career development and retention strategy?
  • Who is in your talent pipeline?
  • Who are identified as successors for your senior and key positions?

Create a reskilling and upskilling strategy

An upskilling and reskilling strategy is complex and includes multiple steps. You need to customize that based on your organization's unique needs. Here's a template your organization can use as a foundation:

  1. Identify and evaluate the current state, challenges and long-term strategy of the company.
  2. Assess the jobs and skills that are needed.
  3. Assess employees' current skills and their ability to take on new skills.
  4. Identify which employees are right for upskilling and reskilling.
  5. Communicate to employees the plans for upskilling and reskilling, including the types of training that are needed.
  6. Execute the reskilling and upskilling plan.
  7. Assess success of the plan.

Most workers were educated before modern technologies were common. This makes upskilling and reskilling more difficult, but that also makes the argument for why it's so important to consider.

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