What is Upskilling and Reskilling? And Why Employers Should Care

Upskilling and reskilling are both critical parts of the modern workplace, and are different sides of the same learning and development coin.

  1. Upskilling: Training that enhances an employee’s existing skillset, equipping them to perform better in their current position.
  2. Reskilling: Equipping an employee to learn new skills to perform in a new position that requires a different skill set from those needed in their previous position.

Particularly in the context of hybrid working, upskilling and reskilling need to be put front-and-centre in your L&D strategy. New methods of communication, new tools and new strategies are all transforming business as usual. Upskilling and reskilling can work together to make real change possible.

For example, “being a leader” on Zoom isn’t the same as leadership in the office. Training on how to use new communication tools is a standard example of reskilling. However, expanding existing skills, and translating those skills into a new context is just as important to outcomes — and is what upskilling is all about.

It’s also important to remember that you may need to “upskill and reskill” your existing L&D programme to match the realities of remote and hybrid working — something we know a lot about. At Video Arts, we’ve spent more than 50 years helping businesses and employees reskill and upskill, and spent a lot of that time upskilling and reskilling ourselves.

Personal computers didn’t even exist when we got started in L&D! But if we can transform ourselves into digital leaders in L&D, you can incorporate remote access into your learning programme too! Here, we’re going to help you get started.

Further reading: For more information on how to make your learning platform more effective, check out our free eBook — So, You Need a More Effective Learning Platform?

Why are upskilling and reskilling important?

As it turns out, you can teach an old dog new tricks — but why would you want to? Upskilling and reskilling should deliver a valuable return on investment (ROI) in your employees, here’s why —

1. Allows retention of top talent

Providing more opportunities for your employees to learn and keep growing will enhance their job satisfaction. No one wants to be stuck knowing and doing the same thing — the morning commute is repetitive enough. Clear progression and the ability to advance within a company are critical components of staff retention. In fact, 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if that company would invest in their career.

2. You can overcome the digital skills gap

The world has gone digital. These days, every form of company operation has a software or an app for it. Even before the pandemic, the average mid-sized business used about 123 SaaS applications. The young generation is particularly tech-savvy — they may work the whole day with AirPods in their ears. This however is not always the case with employees that are not digital natives and reskilling them to use digital products is so important for them to feel supported at the workplace.

3. You cut unnecessary costs

The pandemic has shaken the foundations of businesses across the globe, and many of them are looking for ways to cut their budget due to ongoing instability. Upskilling and reskilling will equip your employees with the highly sought-after skills that are prevalent in today’s hybrid work economy. As well, this kind of re-training will eliminate the need to hire new employees simply for the need of their skillset — you can put away the dreaded onboarding protocols, the staff and skills you need are right in front of you.

4. Encourages employee engagement

There are likely hidden talents within your workplace. Some people will have IT expertise while others might have experience and wisdom to share. Your upskilling and reskilling programme will create contexts in which those skills can be shared. For example, consider appointing people to be “leaning champions” on specific subjects — providing support to those who need it.

Learning, on its own, demonstrates to employees that you value them — and can encourage engagement. However, constructive collaboration can take this even further. By allowing people to shine, you help them feel valued and supported.

Fundamentally, the whole need for upskilling and reskilling ultimately comes with the desire to be agile as an organisation. Learning is all about this — and so is enabling employees to help each other. The past year has shown that agility is crucial for business success. Just don’t ask us to be ‘agile’ first thing on a Monday morning…

Don’t forget about soft skills

The move to remote working highlighted a huge deficit in soft skills within businesses. By 2030, it’s predicted that without a serious soft skills intervention, we risk 10 million people remaining underskilled in communication, leadership and decision making.

Current collaborative software, such as Slack, Zoom or Teams can only go so far. New ways of thinking about work are needed to really adapt to these changes. Collaboration only works if people actually talk to each other, and will learn to work together — now that employees are no longer gathering around the water cooler, or lined up next to each other in cubicles, you need to teach them how to be productive, wherever they may be based.

Fundamentally, what’s needed is the adoption of a “growth mindset” in which individuals continually work to expand their talents and skill sets through ongoing learning. Soft skills are a central part of that mindset, including:

  • Adaptability: The quality of being able to adjust to new conditions and still be able to perform excellently.
  • Resilience: Is about the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Hybrid working comes with its own challenges but resilience is about working to still produce positive results amidst those challenges.
  • Teamwork: Communication and collaboration are key skills in driving hybrid working, especially now that team members are potentially widespread geographically.
  • Leadership training: This is to do with expanding the capacity of individuals to perform in leadership roles within organisations.
  • Persuasion: Communication, collaboration, leadership, customer service all often come down to being persuasive. So learning that is focused on persuasion is vital to fueling your business in the face of increasing competition.
  • Creativity: The remote working and hybrid working context has shown the need of a creative culture in any organisation. The past year has shown the need to be creative with traditional business processes in the face of unprecedented change — if your organisation is uninspired and uncreative, they’ll struggle to keep up.

By prioritising these characteristics you can ensure your workforce will be more engaged, more effective, and most importantly, more fulfilled. A soft skills-driven reskilling programme will allow you to execute the following:

  1. More effective and supportive leadership: Leaders are better equipped to lead their teams through periods of turmoil and upheaval in a supportive way.
  2. Widespread receptiveness to change: Anything can change at any point — 2020 showed us that. Employees who have learnt how to embrace business-wide change rapidly rather than resist, are highly desirable. Soft skills training can deliver the adaptability required to see change as an opportunity, not a hindrance.
  3. Greater employee engagement and satisfaction: Your employees will be more empowered, they will take their professional future into their own hands, taking an active role in the organisation because they want to.

Further reading: For more information on how to devise your soft skills training strategy, check out our blog — How To Create an Effective Soft Skills Training Plan

Where do you begin?

The first step is to undertake a skills gap analysis to identify which skills are needed to achieve your business goals, and which skills do your current workforce hold.

Imagine you’re tasked with the gargantuan, and tedious task of booking the restaurant for the work Christmas party. If you don’t take stock of who can come, of coordinating their dietary requirements, and many other nightmarish considerations, the party will be a dud — regardless of if it’s an open bar or not. You need to work out what you have, to know what you need.

Practical next steps

Your L&D strategy will naturally contain plenty of opportunity to up/reskill your team but how you deliver that strategy will make all the difference to your learning outcomes. If it’s not engaging, it won’t work. So, how can you create the most eye-wateringly engaging up/reskilling programme the world has ever seen?! Read on.

1. Make it relevant

Relevancy has to do with whether that particular skill is needed for an employee to do their job and also the timing of when you are proposing to have them do the learning. The soft skill must be needed for the employee to do their job or it will soon be needed in a new position or even in the same position. The earlier they practice what they have learnt, the more they can retain.

2. Make access convenient

The current shifts in learning, driven by technology, have made learning more accessible. The more accessible the content is, the higher the chance that they will actually find it and use it. I’m sure if we had to spend 20 minutes loading up Netflix everytime we wanted to watch something — we’d end up with a smashed TV, learning is no different.

3. Use humour

Enjoying light moments is a big motivation for people to go places. If you can teach a skill while also making sure that your team enjoys the class, the more engaged they will be. Humour has a way of keeping learners engaged — one that doesn’t involve free snacks. It also helps to tackle difficult topics such as mental health, without making learning sessions too heavy.


💻 Watch our webinar: Practical guidance for managers on approaching mental health conversations 


4. Use video content and consider professional help

75% of employees say that they are more likely to watch a video than reading documents, articles or pamphlets. But using video is not the be-all and end-all, you should aim to produce high-quality content in the videos. The higher the quality the more engaged your employees will be. You might want to consider partnering with a professional company like us, Video Arts, to provide you with that content – the best the industry has to offer, some might say.

Further reading: For more information on how to get your HR team onside with humorous video-learning content, check out our blog — How To Explain These Humorous Learning Videos To Your HRD

How can we help you…

So, now we know what up/reskilling is, why it’s important, and how to do it. At Video Arts, engaging, accessible and humorous (even Joe from accounting might crack a smile) high-quality content is our bread and butter. And, reskilling/upskilling (including soft skills training) is just another area where we thrive.

Video Arts is equipped to meet your upskilling/reskilling needs. You can pick your skilling video content from our already built library or we could just create bespoke video content that matches your organisational needs. Whatever you choose, just reach out to us.

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