Upskilling and Reskilling: Importance and Differences

It’s a conversation that began before the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased automation in workplaces and the advent of remote work. The global health crisis and its impacts on labor supply and demand, however, have made it a primary focus for organizations trying to pave a path into an uncertain future.

“The future of work has arrived — sooner than many of us anticipated — and workers and businesses are being forced to adapt,” says Maria Flynn, president and CEO at Jobs for the Future. Many organizations have responded to this opportunity by building talent-management strategies that incorporate reskilling and upskilling employees, which Flynn asserts will help them succeed.

Upskilling and Reskilling for the Digital Age

What is reskilling?

Reskilling is a process of training employees in new skills to take on different responsibilities or start a different job with the company. This can allow a company to begin completing new tasks while investing in its existing employees. Usually, companies focus on lateral skills, which are skills that are similar to the skills that an employee has. This can make it easier for them to transition into a new job at the company. Some of the benefits of reskilling include:

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is a term used in human resources that describes teaching current employees new skills. Companies often invest in upskilling in order to prepare for the future or adapt to changing demands in skills. It can allow an employee to take on new responsibilities or get promoted to a new role. When companies implement upskilling, they typically create a strategy and conduct training events to help employees develop new skills.

Often, companies want their employees to learn additional skills because of their institutional knowledge. Existing employees often understand a companys culture and mission, making them more valuable than new employees. Some benefits of upskilling include:

Why are upskilling and reskilling important?

Upskilling and reskilling are important because they can help businesses respond to shifts in skill demand. Because technology is changing the workforce, many companies may need to address a gap between their employees skills and the skills that their industry requires. Upskilling and reskilling can allow businesses to fill this gap while investing in their current employees.

Businesses can implement either strategy to create new jobs and responsibilities while benefiting from the knowledge and experience of their existing employees. Building the skill set of employees can help a business meet its goals, which can help it grow and stay competitive. Upskilling and reskilling are also useful because they can help employees explore their skill sets, identify new skills and make the most of them. This can increase employee satisfaction.

Upskilling vs. reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling may sound similar, but the two have different purposes. The purpose of upskilling is to train employees in new skills or enhance their existing skills so they can advance their careers. However, the purpose of reskilling involves training employees so they can transfer to different jobs in the same company.

Furthermore, an employee who undergoes upskilling usually stays in their same job with additional responsibilities. However, an employee who undergoes reskilling usually moves to an entirely different position.

How to implement upskilling and reskilling

Businesses can implement upskilling and reskilling by using career pathing strategies. These strategies involve creating a unique career path for each employee. Each path contains a series of steps to achieve goals, including what skills to develop. Here are four key steps you can follow to implement upskilling and reskilling in your organization:

1. Identify a skills gap

The first step to upskilling or reskilling your employees is to identify a skills gap. You can do this by finding in-demand skills and evaluating whether your current workforce can supply them. Try to identify the exact skills that your employees need to develop in order to meet future demand. You can also conduct a formal skills gap analysis, which involves comparing the skills that employees have to the skills that your business needs.

2. Train employees through a variety of methods

Once youve identified a skills gap and pinpointed the skills your employees should develop, its time to train employees. You can use a variety of methods to train employees in new skills, including:

3. Monitor progress

Monitoring progress is another important step. You can monitor progress by creating establishing success metrics and measuring your current progress against them. Try to spot areas of improvement and gauge how well your employees are learning their new skills. If necessary, create personalized strategies to help your employees learn.

4. Assign new responsibilities or move employees to new positions

After youve successfully trained employees in new skills, you can take the next step of assigning new responsibilities or positions. Give new responsibilities to upskilled employees, and move reskilled employees to new positions. Be sure to continually monitor progress and conduct periodic training.

Upskilling and reskilling vs. external hiring

Upskilling and reskilling are different from external hiring. External hiring involves bringing in new employees from outside of your company, while upskilling and reskilling take place internally. There can be advantages to implementing these strategies rather than hiring new employees.

One important advantage is that existing employees have more inside knowledge than people outside of the company, which can help them do their jobs more effectively. Another advantage is that drawing from internal talent and investing in employees rather than hiring externally can boost morale and increase employee retention. Companies with upskilling and reskilling programs can also attract top employees.


What are reskilling and upskilling?

Upskilling is focused on helping employees become more knowledgeable and develop new competencies that relate to their current position, while reskilling is about equipping workers to switch lanes and move into new roles within your organization.

What is the difference between skilling and upskilling?

Reskilling Definition

Unlike upskilling, which focuses on adding to an existing skill set within a role (for instance, due to new technology), reskilling refers to the process of learning new skills needed to do an entirely different job.

What is an example of upskilling?

Upskilling refers to employees learning new skills to progress within their current role or career track. The newly acquired competencies complement an existing skillset. New Skilling is a broader term that describes a continuous learning approach or program.

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