The future of work has never been vaguer. With the business world changing rapidly as the global landscape is turning into a stranger place, companies felt the urge to adjust. And so did employees.
Employee reskilling and upskilling might have been gaining momentum, but they’re not new. However, people started getting more familiar with the terms amid the coronavirus outbreak and the rise of eLearning during the lockdown.
During the quarantine, professionals all over the world took some time to invest in remote online employee training. According to Udemy, enrollments in the platform’s courses for consumers and usage from businesses and governments increased by 425% and 80%, respectively.
So, it is safe to say that we’re now witnessing a time of a fully-equipped global workforce with all the knowledge they need to succeed in their areas. But is it enough? And what does an employee reskilling program has to do with it? According to McKinsey, “87% of executives said they were experiencing skills gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.”
The same article also suggests that today’s employees need to find out how to adapt to all these rapidly changing conditions in the business world. What’s more, companies must match their current workers to new roles — especially now that remote work is a proven, globally recognized business model.
But the thing is that we’re talking about two different things here. Employee reskilling and employee upskilling. So, what’s the difference?
The difference between employee upskilling and reskilling
In the 2018 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), there’s a stat that has been a point of discussion among the HR community. According to the report, 75 million jobs will be displaced by 2022 in 20 major economies. On the other hand, 133 million new jobs are expected to be created due to technological advancements and digital transformation.
This is where reskilling comes in.
What is employee reskilling?
Employee reskilling is the process of acquiring new skills so they can fill a completely different position.
Companies that wish to reskill their workers usually identify employees who have skills close to the ones that will be essential for the business in the future. Then, they build a career path based on which they develop a plan to close skills gaps or meet new industry standards. And as the WEF report suggests, by 2022, 54% of employees “will require significant reskilling.”
Read more on how companies should reskill their employees and how to develop an effective employee reskilling program below. But first, let’s see what differentiates reskilling from upskilling, a term that’s been gaining more and more popularity lately.
What is employee upskilling?
When reskilling is about teaching employees new skills, upskilling is about teaching employees additional skills. Meriam-Webster adds another interesting term to the definition of upskilling: to provide (someone, such as an employee) with more advanced skills through additional education and training.
Did you see the word that makes such a huge difference? “Advanced.”
So, when we’re talking about upskilling programs, we’re basically talking about ensuring business growth by teaching employees additional and advanced skills to do their job better. As a result, we’re talking about highly qualified employees whose job role allows them to advance and not pursue a career shift.
Time for action: Employee reskilling strategies for your business
Now that you know the difference between upskilling and reskilling, you’ve probably figured out that upskilling is inextricably linked to employee training because this is what most companies do.
Reskilling is, of course, part of employee training, but it still feels kind of neglected, so not many guides on how to develop a complete program have been published.
Keep reading for 5 tips and strategies for developing an employee reskilling program to close those skills gaps.
Step #1: Identify the skills your company is currently missing
Each business has different needs. All this skills gap situation that is forming in front of our very own eyes is not going to affect every company the same way or time.
But companies need to be ready in advance.
The first thing you need to do when developing an employee reskilling program is to map out what skills you’re lacking and/or are going to need shortly. To be fully ready, you can think of specific job roles you believe that would be beneficial to your company, and imagine how much they would help you with current and future problems.
Make assumptions and monitor your industry to see what the biggest players in the market do. For example, the tech world has 12.1 million employees just in the US, if full of job roles that most people have never heard before.
2. Group missing skills together and create skillsets
Now that you have a pile of skills that you would like to target through your employee upskilling program, you need to roll up your sleeves and start organizing them.
Now, it’s not the right time to think of job roles and job descriptions. Again, simply create a scenario where people with specific skills come to work with you. How would these skills together affect your day-to-day life at work? After that, all you have to do is rank them in order of importance.
Now, you have all the skills (and skill sets) you’re going to need in the future.
3. Come up with metrics and OKRs beforehand
Whether you’re data-driven or not, metrics are always needed to measure the success of your efforts. With reskilling, the metrics you need to zoom in on are not just about business performance. They’re also about people.
Come up with metrics that will allow you to measure both how reskilling has affected business metrics but also employee sentiment and engagement. For example, you need to see whether your employees like this change or if they feel uncomfortable. You can track turnover and how much it has changed after you launched your employee reskilling initiative. What about your company’s reputation? Does the fact that you have an employee reskilling program in place affect the number of candidates?
Set up goals and they will definitely guide you in the right direction.
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4. Find the right employees
You need to start somewhere, and you’re just one step away before your “roll-out pilot.” But to get a leg up, you need to track those employees that you believe would be an excellent fit for your reskilling initiative.
Find team members who immediately see the benefits of joining an employee reskilling program. Get those who are eager to get started right away, and they will work as internal ambassadors who will inspire and push co-workers in the same direction. A good idea would be to reach out to employees who’ve been interested in other employee training programs before.
Of course, you also need to identify workers who don’t really want to get involved. Not because you have to change their minds — after all, not everything is for everyone — but because you also want to track engagement rate.
5. Roll out your pilot (and keep testing)
Congratulations! Your employee reskilling program is now ready to go, and all you have to is to push the “PLAY” button.
Feeling excited and impatient when you’ve put so much work into something makes complete sense. But you must take baby steps. Focus on a small group of employees first — depending on your company size. For a small business, this could range from 2 to maybe 20 people.
Launch your program and ask for feedback all the time. Identify your mistakes, things you may have missed in development, bugs, etc. Try, fail, approach things differently, and, sooner or later, you will have created the perfect employee reskilling program.
Conclusion: Don’t let it fall through the cracks
At first, you’re going to be excited. A couple of weeks later, you will feel like you may have bitten more than you can chew. And suddenly this whole plan that was high-priority becomes a side-project.
We get it. Developing and refining a reskilling training program from scratch can be exhausting. But you must not let it fall through the cracks. Your task lists might be endless, but putting this whole plan on pause will be like not listening to the future asking you for a change.
We’re at a turning point. Why not be ready?