Upskilling vs. reskilling

Will I lose my job to robots? Will more talented individual take my job? This might be questions that are popping up in your employees' heads. But is that how it will be? And did the recent shakeup that occurred due to the global pandemic, cause a major shift in the way we think and do our work? For some industries, the fear of the future of work is looming; however, for others, they know the importance of human emotions and value the loyalty and hard work of their employees. So how can you shake that fear of loss from your employees? There are 2 options that you can explore: upskilling or reskilling. They sound the same, but don't get confused: their journey to the end goal is different. Which of these applies to your company and how can you start to implement these and prepare for the future?

What does your team need?

Upskilling – skill up for the future

Times are changing, jobs are requiring a different skill set, and tasks are becoming more automated and digital. In fact, according to the HR Director, by 2030 more than 90% of the workforce in the UK will have to upskill or reskill themselves. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the role of your employees is changing from what it was before. It’s more about being able to adopt and adapt new skills that will help make their workday become easier, more productive. It's also about staying up to date with the latest technologies in your employees’ line of work, and ultimately prepare them for the future.

An easy example of upskilling is resilience, a skill which was (and still is) imperative and unavoidable during the pandemic. Whilst we were used to having face to face meetings and closing our laptops at the end of day and heading home, and the kids were on their daily routines for school and activities, the work force was turned upside down due to the pandemic. We were constantly reminded and to remain ‘patient’ which thus led us to become more resilient in how we handled our work matters, our health and even our day-to-day life. This upskill, was easy for some to acquire, whilst others may still be struggling to adopt it.

Upskilling starts by understanding what are the latest trends in the industry or role at question or, are there any missing skills on the team that you want to be filled? Are there better ways of doing this on Excel? Is there a tool to help automate a process versus doing it manually? Did the Chief Marketing Officer decide to start implementing a new automation tool and now everyone is expected to use it? Are you in need of someone who is knowledgeable in how to write basic code? And even in some cases – employees will take their own initiative to try and introduce a new tool or way of working into the team which would require learning how to use it.

Once you have pinpointed what are the skills needed/missing from the team, take the time to sit with your employees and gauge how they feel about upskilling themselves. It is certain that some will be more than willing and eager to jump on the chance for personal development and learning a new skill set whilst others may be more hesitant (either out of fear of failure, fear of change, or lack of acceptance in changing the way they work). When sitting with your team try to use the following talking points to encourage upskilling:

  • “This will help enhance you on a personal level in this current role and prepare you for a future role” 
  • “Learning these new skills is going to help the team and you move forward and become more digitally savvy” 
  • “This could really help shape the way you work on the team” 
  • “Adding this skill to your personal toolbox will help prepare you for this role and other opportunities that come your way” 


Reskilling – shifting towards the future

Unfortunately, some jobs are becoming more obsolete as time progresses and with the move towards more digitalization, this comes as no surprise. But this doesn’t mean that you should be worried that you will need to let go of valuable and loyal employees. This is where reskilling comes in. Reskilling (just like it sounds) is reskilling yourself in a different set of skills to shift to another role in the business. Lisa Lyons, the UK Workforce Transformation Leader at Mercer, says that “Re-designing jobs in a way that prioritises skills over daily tasks means employers can also better support people in their careers.”

Reskilling gives employees the opportunity to maintain their place in the business, but just in a different role or title. For example, some businesses that had to shift from brick and mortar to web shops, had to have their employees learn how to function behind the computer versus face-to-face interactions.

However, reskilling is nothing new to the UK executives and leaders. A study by Mercer reports that UK and global executives believe to help drive business to success, that reskilling would be the most critical talent investment to achieve this. Reskilling helps your company save from rehiring individuals. In doing so, you are now enabling already existing and loyal employees to shift to another role, which is helpful since these individuals are already familiar with the organization. This is a fantastic way to engage employees because you are empowering them to reskill with a new set of skills. This will prepare them for a job that is on the rise and helps look towards the future.

Don’t let the future scare you

The future can be scary – but don’t let it fool you. It is an opportunity to take advantage of changes and chances to better not only your individual employees, but also your teams and your organsation. Learning and development are crucial in the journey so consider where your organization wants to go, how this can affect your team and who would need to either reskill or upskill. Investing in this will can lead to a greater success and happiness. The keys to future are in your hands!

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