Many employers are struggling to find talent in today’s hyper-competitive labor market. One way to help alleviate recruitment woes is to do more with the workforce you already have.
We don’t mean just giving your current employees more work. That’s a quick road to burnout and potentially worse problems. We’re talking about leveling up staff with new and advanced skills — upskilling and reskilling.
This strategy can not only lessen your hiring burden, but also make your existing workforce better at their jobs and even serve as an effective retention strategy.
Upskilling vs. reskilling: what’s the difference?
Think of upskilling and reskilling as opportunities to make the best use of the talent you already have. The difference between them lies in the end goal.
Upskilling your teams involves expanding an employee’s existing skill set so they can advance along their current career path. As job requirements evolve, upskilling allows workers to gain new abilities and contribute more productively to their organization.
Reskilling is teaching employees new skills, often so that they can move into a different role within the company. This allows talented workers with limited growth opportunities in their current jobs to reposition themselves — while your business retains valued team members who’ve already proven their worth.
Why upskilling and reskilling matters more than ever
There are several pressing reasons why upskilling and reskilling initiatives should be near the top of your agenda:
- Digital change is happening faster than ever. Technology has made many jobs evolve while creating new roles that require advanced skills. And it’s not just in IT — accounting, marketing and administrative staff must now be competent with an array of digital tools. Companies need workers with the right skills for existing and future jobs, but right now there just aren’t enough talented people to fill all the roles.
- The pandemic has changed how people work. Flexible schedules and managing remote teams have become commonplace. Robert Half research found that half (50%) of the professionals working from home would look for a new job that offers remote options if their company required employees to return to the office five days a week. To help retain top talent, businesses need to provide employees with the digital skills they need to do their jobs from outside the office.
- Employees want to learn and grow. Generation Z workers tend to value growth opportunities above all else when assessing a potential new position, while savvy professionals of all ages know the importance of skills development. Many workers lack the time or resources to invest in training outside of work, putting the onus on employers to provide support.
- Training boosts retention. Many workers feel that the pandemic has been detrimental to their skills development and career advancement. Investing now in upskilling and reskilling can boost employee morale and loyalty. Furthermore, training existing workers reduces recruiting and onboarding costs for your business.
Tips for building skills programs
To have a positive impact, your upskilling and reskilling programs need to be tailored to your organization’s business needs. How do you work out what skills you require to stay competitive?
Enter the skills gap analysis. Analyze your business strategy and identify any skills your organization lacks that are needed to meet your medium and longer-term objectives. While technical skills are usually the first to spring to mind, don’t forget soft skills such as adaptability, problem-solving and communication.
When you know where your staff’s skill gaps are, you can choose from a range of tools to help shape your training program. Here are some effective options:
- Mentoring and reverse mentoring — Professional mentoring programs are a cost-effective way to upskill junior team members and make them feel valued. Reverse mentoring flips the script, giving senior staff the chance to learn from entry-level colleagues (particularly ones who are digital natives). The best mentoring matchups work in both directions.
- Job shadowing — This is a great way to reskill workers by letting them gain experience in a different area of the business.
- Subsidized online learning — Remote workers may feel cut off from the company’s core operations. Offering to pay for a qualification or professional accreditation can help them re-engage with the business.
Also, remember that the success of your program hinges on whether your employees are invested in it. So how do you get their buy-in?
- Let employees own their career development. Often, employees know what they want to learn more about or do more of, but they may not know how to get there. Empower them to set and reach their own goals by discussing their professional interests and identifying opportunities for career advancement with them.
- Communicate honestly. Rather than leaving employees to wonder why they’ve been targeted for training, be upfront. If someone is being offered the chance to reskill because their current role is no longer needed, explain that they are still valuable to the company and that you want to keep them on board.
As business priorities and employee expectations evolve, upskilling and reskilling will become ever more critical. Start addressing your skills gaps now so you can reap the benefits of a motivated, loyal team equipped for the future of work.