Reskilling vs. upskilling – which should your organisation choose?

June 1, 2020 Geoffroy De Lestrange

Encouraging a workplace culture of continuous learning and open mindedness is one of the key steps to helping workforces find purpose in what they do. But learning new skills doesn’t always mean having to start from scratch, many employees will already have skills from previous roles and general life experience. Understanding these existing skills enables learning to be tailored and personalised to each individual before looking at the kinds of skills they could have.

Often, when we talk about skills, we immediately think of hard, technical skills as we think these are the most practical and important for day-to-day business activities. However, skills are more than just actions and techniques; they extend to behaviours and even ways of thinking. Looking more broadly at all skills ensures that all members of the workforce can improve and learn new ones.

What is the new skilling mindset?

We are amid a skills crisis, and to stay ahead, organisations must adopt a new skilling mindset.

The term new skilling represents all types of continuous learning techniques to help build in-demand skills whether that be trying to upskill current capabilities or reskilling to build entirely new ones. This helps individuals build confidence in their skillsets and strengths, as well as preparing businesses for future challenges.

However, new skilling is only the mindset; organisations must understand and incorporate both upskilling and reskilling. While they may sound similar, they are fundamentally different approaches towards developing an employee’s skillset.

Reskilling: Preparing for the next chapter

Reskilling entails training employees on a brand-new set of skills to prepare them to take on a different role within the company. This often occurs when tasks and responsibilities become obsolete, either due to a new person being hired or new technology being put in place to make the job easier.

Reskilling is particularly helpful for those looking to change job direction or for those in soon-to-be obsolete roles. It is also beneficial for employees who have been out of work for an extended amount of time, such as new parents back from maternity or paternity leave. Teaching new skills to employees can also actually help with employee retention. Often an employee may want to try something new and by offering a reskilling programme to these employees, they are able to not only reach their goals, but also understand that they are valued within the organisation.

Upskilling: Growing skillsets and capabilities

Upskilling on the other hand focuses on the skills that an employee already has and improves and deepens them to enhance their areas of expertise. Expanding the knowledge of workforces will enable individuals to take on new responsibilities quicker and aid in faster career progression, benefiting all aspects of the business.

The world is constantly changing and becoming more and more technologically advanced. With these changes happening so fast, one in five of the skills we currently have will be outdated in just three years meaning it is more crucial than ever to keep employees’ skills up to date.

For some, it can feel like new innovative technology is taking jobs away from people, but it is only doing the jobs we already do faster, and it is limited. Technology is not (and unlikely ever will be) able to replicate the human brain, the way we process emotions or read situations. Therefore, it is imperative to focus on the more “human” skills that technology cannot compete with, such as soft or behavioural skills. Humans will never become obsolete in the workforce, but they will need to adapt to prove their worth.

Both upskilling and reskilling are equally as important, but every organisation has different requirements and challenges, so which will work best will differ from company to company. The key takeaway is for organisations to begin to adopt a new skilling mindset to adapt and tailor to company needs and keep both businesses and workforces ahead of the game. While approaches will vary, ensuring you are able to foster a culture of eagerness to learn among your workforce will make the transition easier and ultimately, result in a more focused, determined and openminded workforce.

About the Author

Geoffroy De Lestrange

Product Marketing & Communication Director EMEA at Cornerstone OnDemand

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