What Is Reskilling? +Benefits, Challenges, How-To (2022)

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Technology, office demands, and economic demands are evolving unprecedented speed in today’s competitive business environment. Advances in enterprise software driven by continuous digital transformation are leading to an increased demand for new competencies and skill sets. 


For an organization to stay competitive, it must have a workforce with the right skills to be productive, innovative, and ultimately drive more revenue. Creating a learning and development initiative around employee reskilling is a way to ensure your workforce has the skills needed to thrive and help your organization grow.

What Is Reskilling?

Reskilling is a process where employees learn new skills to move into a different job role within the organization or to meet the new demands of a current role. It typically occurs when an employee’s previous tasks or responsibilities become irrelevant, often due to advances in technology or skill gaps.

Why Is Reskilling Important Now?

Skill development has always been important, but COVID-19 has increased the stakes. It dramatically expedited the process of digitization. The pandemic left no choice for companies that were previously reluctant to switch from legacy systems to new cloud-based platforms. 

Embracing digital transformation and the integration of new technology into business practices is now every leader’s responsibility, regardless of job function or industry.

This digital transformation led to a sharp rise in the development of new systems and software, reducing the shelf-life of current technical skills and creating a demand for new skill sets.

Digital transformation has increased the demand for digital skills such as AI and machine learning, as they drive productivity, automate processes, and perform complex computational tasks quickly. Organizations must invest in their workforce reskilling to adapt to these changing conditions. Otherwise, they stand to lose market position and fade to their competition.

Prioritizing employee training programs to emphasize reskilling will help organizations remain competitive and continue to deliver on net-positive outcomes. And just as significantly, building industry-relevant skills will help employees stay up-to-date on the latest trends in their field.

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Reskilling vs Upskilling

Both reskilling and upskilling are effective corporate training strategies for employers to combat the skills shortage of their workforce. Each of these terms has its benefits and ideal use cases, but when is the right time to use upskilling, and when should you attempt reskilling?

Let’s understand by looking at the key differences between these two L&D trends:

1. Focus

Reskilling is when employees develop new skills to take on a new job function within their organization. Reskilling is suitable for employees whose current skillset overlaps with the skills needed for a new position. For example, a data entry specialist with strong technical skills can be reskilled into a data analyst role.

On the other hand, upskilling requires employees to learn new information and skills, but not to take on a new role. It simply provides employees with the tools and knowledge needed to perform their current job more effectively and efficiently. 

Upskilling is suitable for employees identified with a significant skill gap that needs to be bridged for them to improve performance. For example, consider a reporting specialist that is skilled in Microsoft Access. If the organization implements Tableau or another data visualization software, that reporting specialist needs to have upskill training to succeed in their evolved role.

2. Implementation

Reskilling is implemented in situations such as:

  • Retaining reliable, high-performing employees whose roles have become obsolete. 
  • Retaining a pool of employees whose original job function with your organization is no longer needed due to the sunsetting of legacy software.
  • Retaining your current employees while implementing a business strategy that shifts personnel from one department to another.

Upskilling is implemented in situations such as:

  • Helping employees succeed in their current job. 
  • Helping your workforce adapt to new changes in the industry. 
  • New software implementations
  • Helping your workforce remain confident and knowledgeable in their field of expertise – even if that field changes and develops.
Reskilling vs Upskilling

Benefits of Reskilling for Organizations

Here are a few benefits of implementing reskilling programs in your organization.

1. Reduced training and hiring costs

Hiring new employees is a costly endeavor for organizations, with a significant amount of money being invested in both the new hire, their employee onboarding process, and role training programs accompanied by new-hire onboarding and training programs. 

New hire training not only involves training in specific job roles but also in company processes, software, and protocol, which your current employees are already well aware of. 

When you have current employees reskilled to be working in different job roles across the organization, if and when their current position becomes obsolete, you can save the money spent on onboarding costs and overall employee training costs.

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2. Retain your best employees

Reskilling promotes employee retention by reducing voluntary employee separations. Providing reskilling programs enables employees to contribute more skills to your company, helps them stay competitive, makes them stay with your organization for longer, and showcases to them that you believe in their future at the company and that you’re willing to invest in them for the long haul. 

3. Develop your employees’ skills

Reskilling training programs give employees the chance to improve on both personal and professional levels. It provides a baseline for an employee development plan that provides reskill training to keep up with the fast-paced changes in technology and future-proof their careers.

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4. Retain company knowledge and processes

Between the Great Resignation, layoffs, elimination of old roles, and general employee turnover, company knowledge loss is a big concern for organizations.

When an experienced employee leaves, all of your company’s valuable information, which takes years to obtain, is lost.

Reskilling your employees with the internal company knowledge they need allows you to retain your best team members. Furthermore, these employees have invaluable company knowledge, which enables them to work without assistance, complete tasks more quickly, and generate higher quality products.

5. Higher workplace moral

Career pathing visibly demonstrates that your organization values its people. It provides comfort in the working environment and encourages employees to feel happier, satisfied, and motivated in their roles.

6. More versatile employees

As employees expand their skill set through reskilling, they become more versatile in their roles, gaining a way to elevate their positions within the organization. 

Reskilling enables the internal mobility of employees within the company. Internal mobility offers considerable benefits, including a reduction in time and money spent on hiring, improved employee retention rates, and greater diversity and innovation in the workplace.

For instance, an employee working with the customer relationship team replaced by customer feedback software might be moved to the public relations team. The employee can show off their highly transferable skills and use their knowledge of customer dealing to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the team.

7. Meeting future demand

Targeting the development of key skills in your existing workforce prepares you to meet future demand. This not only prepares your employees for challenges they will inevitably face, it will also provide your team members with the skills they need to be agile and adaptive in the workplace.

8. Improves reputation for the company

Today’s top talent looks for employers committed to investing in their employees. The right reskilling strategy makes your organization more attractive in the eyes of both your current workforce and potential hires.

Benefits of Reskilling for Employees

Here are a few benefits of reskilling from the employee perspective.

1. More job security

Reskilling provides a greater sense of job security for employees as it increases their value within the company. It showcases that their role requires niche knowledge and skills, and that their company is willing to invest in them.

2. Learn new skills for career advancement

For employees looking to change career paths on their own, reskilling helps them reach their goals. This is especially important as the speed of digital transformation continues unabated, and automation and AI eliminate many roles.

3. Option for internal mobility

Reskilling offers employees a better chance of staying with the company as the more skills an employee obtains, the more eligible they are for versatile or elevated roles within the company. Apart from maintaining their place within the company, reskilling gives employees a jump start to expand their skills and gain higher positions later.

How to Create a Reskilling Program in 2022

Reskilling employees is a complex task that demands strategic L&D planning. Here are a few steps you can follow to set your workforce up for success.

1. Create your reskilling plan

The beginning of any successful training project starts with planning. To create your reskilling plan, map out your current needs, your current skill gaps, where your business is headed, and what it takes to get there. Assess how well your current roles and workforce are equipped to support your initiatives and base your reskilling decisions on the present skill gaps.

2. Identify employees with transferable skills

Once you identify the critical skills needed, look for adjacent abilities or skills closely matched to those in demand to make the reskilling process more manageable. Employees with related competencies may already know or can easily learn what they need for a new role. 

An updated skills inventory of what your employees have to offer helps reveal their secondary and tertiary skills. Use it to identify skills gaps and select employees who can most easily transition to new job roles. 

A skill gap analysis results in a list of skills employees already have, need to improve, and need to develop.

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3. Set goals

Once you identify the skills required for specific departments, the next step is to set clear and tangible outcomes that will structure your reskilling efforts and gauge the end results.

One approach that can prove beneficial is to set SMART goals. The SMART in SMART goals stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Defining these parameters ensures that the objectives are attainable within a particular time frame. 

An example of a SMART goal for reskilling is – “increase the number of IT staff enrolled in cybersecurity training programs by 10% over the next three months.”

To get employees on board with the idea of reskilling, you may consider incentives to reward those willing to expand their abilities or build specific skills into an employee’s annual goals and learning objectives.

4. Choose the appropriate training method

Since there will be variance within your employees’ skillsets, training needs to be personalized for different employees to meet different learning needs. Consider having several employee training methods to ensure flexibility and options that work best for different learning styles and skill gaps you aim to address.

To find an employee training method that works best for your workforce, L&D teams need to understand their employees’ learning styles and consider other factors such as their training objectives, goals, cost, and timeline.

Some of the most effective employee training methods are

  • eLearning
  • On-the-Job Training
  • Instructor-Led Learning
  • Roleplaying
  • Coaching
  • Simulation Training
  • Group Activities
  • Video Training
  • Cross-Training
  • Job Shadowing
  • Case Studies

5. Utilize technology

Leverage employee training software to deliver effective reskilling programs. These software allow you to create engaging training programs, track employee engagement, analyze performance, and gather feedback. Let’s have a look at the two most popular learning and training software:

  • Corporate Learning Management System (LMS): A corporate LMS handles all aspects of employee training – from creating to delivering to tracking the training material. It helps identify both individual and organizational learning goals, track employee progress towards meeting those goals, and collect data for improving the learning process.
  • Digital Adoption Platform (DAP):  DAP integrates with different enterprise applications to help users learn in the flow of work with in-app guidance and reinforcement training. Using a DAP like Whatfix as your training software empowers employees to reskill themselves on the latest tools, applications, or processes without disrupting their workflow and productivity.
  • Knowledge Management System: Knowledge management systems provide an online, self-service center for employees to search for answers to any question on company policy, benefits, or processes. These knowledge base software tools act as internal wikis for companies and save time by decreasing HR questions and support tickets.

6. Collect and analyze metrics of success

There is no point of a reskilling program unless it’s effective. Therefore, you must measure the impact of your training efforts. 

Training effectiveness can be measured by collecting data from various sources, including surveys, discussions, and post-training assessments. Then this data can be assessed using an evaluation model such as the Kirkpatrick Model

Furthermore, monitoring KPIs such as course completion rates, training progression rates, assessment scores, lowering skill gap analysis, improvement in proficiency or productivity, etc., also helps determine training effectiveness and knowledge or skill acquisition by the end of your reskilling program.

Continuously providing reinforcement training and provide on-demand employee support with in-app guidance from Whatfix

Making reskilling a fundamental part of your organization is a crucial strategy to bridge employee skills gaps and ensure that your company remains in the strongest position to thrive, regardless of how the world of work changes.

However, to create effective reskilling programs, the employees’ backgrounds must be kept in mind. 

Whatfix’s digital adoption platform empowers L&D teams to develop personalized reskilling training programs to cater to different employee needs. 

Whatifix delivers personalized, on-demand training at scale to engage your employees with contextual, self-learning when they need it. Furthermore, self-support knowledge bases allow employees to continually learn without the need for IT or support tickets.

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