Learning & Development, Recruiting

Upskilling and Reskilling: The Secret to Retaining Talent and Doing More with Less

Over 93,000 employees of U.S.-based tech companies were laid off in the first 2 months of 2023. As we head further into economic uncertainty, every company is faced with the challenge of doing more with less—less talent, less budget, less time, and fewer resources.

One way companies can maximize what they already have is by upskilling and reskilling employees. By teaching workers additional skills (upskilling) or an entirely new skill (reskilling), organizations show their commitment to employees by providing them with new knowledge and opportunities that will serve them throughout their careers.

Investing in current employees eliminates the time and cost associated with hiring and onboarding new workers, which is a big win for businesses. It also increases retention: When organizations give employees skills training to support their career goals, they’re less likely to shop around for another job that may not be as invested in their growth.

The benefits of upskilling and reskilling are clear, but there are a few important things to consider when executing this approach.

Be Transparent

Many workers are feeling uncertain regarding job security, and rightfully so given the number of layoffs and amount of change happening in the market. Investing time and resources into upskilling and reskilling communicates that employees are valued and more than just a number, but it’s critical that employers be transparent throughout the process.

Companies should clearly demonstrate how new or additional skills training aligns with the business’s objectives: What need will this new role fulfill? How will employees’ jobs change? And why now? These objectives must also align with the individuals’ career goals. The timing and area of upskilling or reskilling should make sense for them, too. Everyone needs to buy in, and the road map should be crystal clear. Being transparent— especially when it comes to change—is essential for retaining talent.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Mentorship

Mentorship is an invaluable and underutilized tool for upskilling and reskilling employees. In years past, mentorship usually entailed HR coordinating monthly meetings between employees and the head of their department. But for mentorship to be effective, especially when it comes to training and development, coaching needs to be frequent (ideally on demand) and include guidance from more than one mentor.

For example, a sales representative who’s training to be a manager might talk with a company’s star salesperson about objection handling one day and then need to chat with a project manager for management advice the next day. Different people have different strengths, and creating a knowledge-sharing culture with a heavy focus on mentorship is the best way to support—and retain—employees on their upskilling or reskilling journeys and beyond. 

Leverage the Right Tech

Training employees on a new or an adjacent role requires the right tech. Artificial intelligence (AI)-based platforms like ChatGPT have been getting a massive amount of press lately and for good reason. This tech can help with things like training salespeople on the best ways to pitch different buyer personas or helping marketing teams ideate on copy to use in marketing materials. Human input is still needed, but AI-based platforms provide a framework for employees to build upon—or suggest things they may not have thought of—to assist them in their new role.

Additionally, videoconferencing and on-demand coaching platforms make mentors easily accessible to employees. Some of these platforms even include skill indexing so workers can easily identify whom they should connect with based on the specific area they need help with. Providing employees with ongoing support during (and after) training further cements retention.

On the business side, technology lets companies determine which employees have the soft skills such that upskilling or reskilling them makes sense for the organization. They can also conduct return-on-investment (ROI) surveys to estimate how the output from a given employee will impact the business to ensure they’re maximizing their budget.

Every company needs to get creative with how it uses its resources. By upskilling and reskilling employees, organizations can invest in their people and create a culture employees want to be in. With the right combination of transparency, mentorship, and tech tools, companies can achieve more with less while creating new opportunities for employee growth.

Ravi Swaminathan is the founder and CEO of TaskHuman.

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