Learning & Development

What Is Reskilling?

In today’s workforce, technology seems to be changing the way we work more and more each year. We perform more and more of our work online, and we utilize digital and mobile technologies in new and exciting ways. We’re using artificial intelligence to interact with customers and employees. We’re automating more and more tasks and even entire roles. Software and technological advancements are changing how we work and improving our efficiency.

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Technology is changing quickly, and it’s taking some jobs away and creating new ones. But employers can’t always wait on new cohorts of applicants who are already trained in these new areas. Even if educational programs could keep up, the skills your employees need will continue to evolve each year, and the skills of existing employees who have already completed their education will need to keep up.

The implication of all this change is that employees and applicants may have skill sets that are no longer in alignment with business needs. The organization may be facing a skills shortage and may find itself unable to fill open positions because there are not enough candidates with the required skills. What should an employer do?

One option is reskilling. Reskilling essentially means changing the skill set of your team.[i] Employee skill sets need to be updated. This not only allows employers to remain productive but also may be an essential component of employee development plans, which will have an impact on employee retention.

Reskilling: How to Get Started

Reskilling can be undertaken by employers by launching proactive initiatives to determine what skills will be needed in the coming years and then comparing that to the skill set of the workforce. Next, assess what necessary skills the workforce is lacking, and then set up training programs for employees to close the gaps. Employers can offer flexible training options and encourage or require employees to participate.

Reskilling can also be undertaken by individuals, with or without the help of an employer. Individuals can recognize that their skill sets may be dated and can opt to find ways to gain new skills on their own. This may be accomplished through participating in employer-sponsored programs, going back to school, attending conferences or seminars for additional certifications or skills, or using online programs to gain new skills. While this is often a more expensive route for an individual, it can pay off by having more marketable skills for promotions or future jobs.

Bearing that in mind, it can be in an employer’s best interest to invest in employees before they do so on their own. The investment may help retain those employees once they gain additional skills. Though, of course, with any training program, employers understand there’s a risk of putting money into the program only to lose the now higher-skilled employee. But the alternative is worse: Allowing skills to stagnate does not bode well for the future of the organization.

[i] Note: There is also a reskilling movement separate from the employment/corporate environment. In this other reskilling movement, the focus is on giving basic skills to communities to allow them to become more self-sufficient. This movement looks to reestablish skills that may have been lost to industrialization and globalization. It brings local skills back to communities to reduce their reliance on globalization and increase their sustainability. The idea for corporations is entirely separate, but it holds a similar theme: bringing skills to groups to help them thrive going forward.

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