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With recent advances in technology, the skills needed for employees to excel and contribute to their organization's success are constantly in flux. As a result, the need for upskilling and reskilling the workforce has never been more critical.

In this article, I'm going to make clear the distinction between upskilling and reskilling and discuss a framework for your learning and development program that will serve both needs.

What Is Upskilling And Reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling aren't just some learning trend, they are proactive strategies aimed at addressing the evolving demands of the workforce amidst disruptive technological shifts and economic volatility.

While the definitions for upskilling and reskilling may appear similar, they are not the same - they serve different focal points.  

Upskilling - focuses on building onto employees’ current skill set, generally deepening the knowledge and expertise within their current job to aid and promote the employee’s continued success in their current role.

Reskilling - involves the employee learning new knowledge or skills to enable the employee to perform a different job or enter a different profession altogether.

Benefits Of An Upskilling And Reskilling Program

Recent studies have established the benefits of implementing an upskilling and reskilling program, for both the company and for the employees. These include: 

  • Enhanced productivity and efficiency: A skilled workforce is a catalyst for productivity.
  • Adaptability: Employees equipped with diverse skill sets are more prepared to navigate change and capable of meeting changing business needs.
  • Increased employee engagement and retention: A study from the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 76% of employees are more inclined to stay with a company that commits to offering continuous learning opportunities.

The World Economic Forum claims that 1.1 billion jobs will be radically different in the next decade because of technological advancements.

Furthermore, Korn Ferry states that by 2030, the demand for skilled workers will outnumber supply, resulting in a global talent shortage of more than 85 million people. In short, the biggest benefit to upskilling and reskilling is seen in the resiliency of your talent to the changing nature of work.

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Designing An Effective Upskilling And Reskilling Program

Creating an upskilling and reskilling program can be a daunting task just to find the most effective training method for your organization, to say nothing of executing it.

The use of a proven, structured instructional design framework can alleviate some of the challenges associated with creating a large-scale learning and development program.

One effective approach to design these programs is the ADDIE method. ADDIE stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate.  

Each stage within the ADDIE model is in a logical sequence which ensures a disciplined approach to designing a training program. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Analyze and identify skill gaps

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current skills within the organization and identify the skills needed to achieve future business objectives.  

Consider what skills, knowledge, and jobs may be needed 1 year, 3 years or 5 years out. This analysis and identification process will help establish the skills gap and will drive the upskilling and reskilling development priorities.

Author's Tip

Author's Tip

Use a combination of employee surveys, performance reviews, and industry benchmarks to gather data on current skill levels. Regularly update this analysis to reflect changes in business objectives and market trends, ensuring it stays relevant and actionable.

Design the roadmap

Establish a clear roadmap outlining the goals, timelines, and resources needed to accomplish the upskilling and reskilling objectives. Ensure the program is tailored to meet the specific needs of the organization and the employees.

Author's Tip

Author's Tip

Develop a detailed project plan that includes specific milestones, responsible parties, and resource allocations. Schedule regular check-ins to review progress and adjust the roadmap as needed to stay aligned with organizational goals.

Develop the program 

Create materials and resources for the program. This may involve developing training modules, online courses, workshops, or selecting the best learning management system (LMS) for your training goals.

Consider a blend of learning tools learning approaches to ensure success for different types of learners. Pair employees with coaches and mentors who can provide guidance and support throughout their learning journeys.

These mentors and coaches should be experienced employees who can share best practices and offer valuable insight as employees have questions or need assistance.

Author's Tip

Author's Tip

Incorporate a variety of learning materials and formats, such as videos, interactive modules, and hands-on experiential learning to cater to different learning styles. Establish a feedback loop with mentors and participants to continuously refine and improve training content.

Implement the program

Launch the program and provide appropriate communication and guidance. Provide clear timelines and establish expectations to ensure smooth execution. 

Consider using a pilot group to test the learning strategy. The use of a pilot group will allow you to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments prior to a large-scale rollout.

Author's Tip

Author's Tip

Start with a cross-functional pilot group that includes representatives from various departments to ensure diverse perspectives and feedback. Select a manageable group size, ideally 10-15 participants, to maintain focus and gather detailed insights. The pilot should last between 4-6 weeks, allowing enough time to assess the effectiveness of the training content and implementation process. During this period, schedule regular check-ins with the pilot group to gather feedback and make real-time adjustments.

Evaluate program effectiveness

Monitor the effectiveness of the program through appropriate feedback channels and looking at learning metrics that tell a story of how employees are progressing in their careers.

Gather feedback from participants, mentors, and coaches to assess learning outcomes and measure the impact of the program against the established goals and expected outcomes.

Share the lessons learned with key stakeholders to demonstrate the impact of the program and garner continued support for additional upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

Author's Tip

Author's Tip

Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, such as surveys, interviews, and performance metrics, to evaluate the program’s impact. Share evaluation results with stakeholders in a clear, concise report, highlighting successes and areas for improvement to inform future initiatives.

Implementation Challenges

Implementing upskilling and reskilling programs presents several challenges for organizations:

  • Financial Costs: These programs can incur costs such as hiring external trainers, purchasing training materials, and compensating employees for attending courses or workshops.
  • Time Costs: Employees taking time away from their regular responsibilities to participate in training sessions can lead to interruptions in business operations and possible delays in completing tasks.
  • Resistance to change: Some employees may resist upskilling and reskilling efforts due to their reluctance to learn new skills, which can hinder participation, engagement, and the overall effectiveness of the program.
  • Limited Time: Employees may struggle to find time to learn new skills, especially if they are already balancing a full workload and managing other responsibilities. 

For upskilling and reskilling initiatives to be effective, strong support from senior leadership is essential. This support should include not only aligning the skills taught with organizational needs but also providing active, vocal support and ensuring the availability of adequate training, resources, and encouragement throughout the program. 

Without this active involvement and endorsement from the top, these programs are unlikely to achieve their full potential.

Key Takeaways

  • Upskilling and reskilling are crucial strategies for companies to remain competitive as technology evolves, jobs change and the talent shortage worsens.
  • Upskilling enhances employees' current skills to improve their performance in their existing roles, while reskilling involves learning new skills for different jobs, both leading to increased productivity, adaptability, and employee retention.
  • Effective upskilling and reskilling programs follow the ADDIE model (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate), and require strong leadership support to overcome challenges such as financial costs, time constraints, and resistance to change.
Jason Herring
By Jason Herring

Jason Herring, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an experienced HR executive who’s passionate about leadership, culture, and all things HR. With over 15 years of experience, Jason is committed to core values that foster collaboration, inspire curiosity, and infuse enthusiasm into every endeavor.