Workplace training

10 minute read

Reskilling Your Workforce: How to Adapt to Change

Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Being agile and adaptable to new and fast-changing situations are great skills to have on a personal level, as well as at work. But that agility and adaptability also extends to organizations and the way they’re structured and operated.

Now more than ever, businesses are having to change the way they work because of rapidly evolving industries, skill sets and requirements. On top of that, entire industries are being impacted by the global pandemic, with thousands of people looking to rejoin the workforce.

In order to create an agile workforce, businesses need to invest in training their employees in different (soft and hard) skill sets. This is where reskilling your workforce could be a viable option. Reskilling the workforce means retraining some or all of your employees in the skills needed for different jobs at your organization. Reskilling existing employees can save companies a lot of money, as restructuring a workforce is an expensive exercise. 

man shows employee computer screen with code

What is the difference between reskilling, retraining and upskilling?

While retraining, reskilling, and upskilling are all closely related, and people often use these terms interchangeably, the reskilling definition has some key characteristics outlined below.

If you’re reskilling people, you’re likely retraining them in the skills needed for a different job at the same company. Reskilling often happens after redundancy, when organizations want to keep good employees when their current role has become obsolete. Instead of letting them go, they reskill them to put their talent to use somewhere else in the company. 

If you’re retraining people, you’re teaching them new skills or are training them on a completely new subject. This could come into play when hiring new people, who have for instance recently been laid off due to the pandemic, for in-demand roles that have opened up or have been newly created at your company. It could be that you’re hiring former hospitality professionals to work as reception staff at your organization.

If you’re upskilling people, you’re teaching employees new skills to improve their performance in their current role without immediately changing their position or career path. This is often the case when employees need to learn about new technologies or updates to software that have been rolled out at their organization. Upskilling can, of course, lead to a higher rung on the career ladder over time if the right skills are learned (for example leadership skills may help secure a managerial role).

Why is reskilling important?

Reskilling could be helpful to an organization for an array of different reasons. Perhaps your business needs to quickly change their offering to adapt to changing economic situations and demand. Or maybe your service or product offering remains the same, but you need to reskill your older employees on key parts of their ever-evolving role. 

Gone are the days where digital literacy only applied to the IT department. These days, staff across organizations need to be up to date with the latest software and applications in order to do their job effectively and efficiently. 

Even if you’re not focusing on adding to your employees set of hard skills (which you really should), focusing on their soft skills is equally important. Organizations are increasingly reliant on automation and algorithms and key employee skills such as communication, networking, critical thinking and problem-solving can take a hit. Neglecting interpersonal skills and analytical capabilities when it comes to your workforce isn’t a good long-term strategy.

woman and employee look at computer screen

Benefits of reskilling your workforce

In order to stand a fighting chance and meet this current challenge (and any future ones), businesses should create a learning strategy that develops critical digital and cognitive abilities in employees, as well as social and emotional skills and adaptability and resilience.

Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.

- McKinsey & Company

A workforce which is equipped with the skill sets (both hard and soft skills) most needed to meet challenges such as changing business models and technology improvements will help drive organizational success. 

On the flip side, good employees want learning and development opportunities to get ahead, either at the same organization or another one. So if you’re an organization that provides those career development opportunities in house, you’ll attract better staff in return and they’re more likely to stay with you longer. That will save the organization money long term, as high employee turnover is expensive business, with some studies saying the cost of one employee leaving an organization could be as high as $25,000. 

Skills gap analysis for reskilling employees

Before you start any type of training or reskilling, it’s helpful to do a skills gap analysis, in which you identify the gap between the skills needed to the business for continued growth and success, and the skills offered by the current workforce.

A skills gap analysis can be done on both an organizational/departmental level and an individual level. If done on an organizational level, the combined skills of all employees in the department or organization will be evaluated to assess the team’s capability to meet predicted future businesses needs. 

If a skills gap analysis is done on an individual level, the skills of an employee are evaluated against the current and future requirements of their job role. In both cases those existing skill sets can be reviewed through interviews, performance reviews and assessments. To figure out competency regarding future skills needed, it’s a good idea to review business goals and objectives and figure out what is required to achieve them.

Performing a skills gap analysis will help with succession planning, future proofing and individual career progression as well as being key in informing a successful reskilling strategy. It helps in creating a blueprint of internal progression and to form a foundation of upcoming job descriptions and required skills by future and current staff. 

It also helps greatly in assessing where your organization stands within the industry and what relevant skill sets you need to have within your organization to remain competitive. And, as always, if you’re offering your employees continuous learning and development opportunities, employee retention rates through job satisfaction are deemed to go up.

woman using laptop with headphone to learn online

Everyone has different ways of learning

Another key point is making training and development opportunities readily available for all employees (not just the ones you’re reskilling), for instance through an LMS such as GoSkills. Be sure to accommodate for different learning styles to get the best return on your L&D investment. 

There are so many different options out there to research and invest in; video training, face-to-face training, microlearning, adaptive learning, virtual reality/augmented reality, blended learning, and many more. Social learning should be another key part of any great learning strategy, whether you’re reskilling employees or onboarding new ones. 

Social learning is estimated to make up to 75% of learning within organizations and bridges the gap between knowledge and behavior change. From a business point of view, social learning means that learning among employees continues far beyond the formal training session. It’s key if you want to create a “social learning” culture within your organization.

Using a combination of these tools will create a development strategy your employees need to thrive and reap the benefits with increased employee satisfaction, better staff retention and more knowledge sharing across your organization. 

Wrapping it up

Reskilling your workforce can be a cost-effective way to remain competitive in your industry and to provide your employees with continuous learning and development opportunities to increase employee retention. With ever-changing industry requirements, technology improvements and on top of that a global pandemic, this might just be the time to look into reskilling all or some of your employees.

Running a skill set analysis either at an organizational/departmental or individual level will help to crystallize what skills are currently within your organization and what skills are needed to reach business goals in the future. Even if adding to your employees’ hard skills isn’t your focus, improving on their soft skills is equally important. Key soft skills such as communication, networking, critical thinking and problem-solving are more overlooked and neglected as organizations become increasingly reliant on automation and algorithms.

Make sure to include different ways of learning (for instance face-to-face, via video training or through social learning) in your training plan when reskilling employees as not everyone learns new information in the same way.  

With the GoSkills LMS you can quickly and easily reskill your employees, using different learning methods to suit their needs. Create your own courses and training, or access our library of 80+ bite-sized business courses on essential skills like Excel, project management, coding, soft skills, and more. It's completely free to sign up and add an unlimited number of learners. Sign up and start training your team today!

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Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Sara is a digital communications expert and former journalist with a passion for writing. In her spare time she loves Latin dancing and getting outdoors to run, hike or mountain bike.