What is Reskilling? Benefits, Planning, and Challenges

What is Reskilling? Benefits, Planning, and Challenges

Reskilling is the act of training individuals in new skills so that they can occupy new job roles. These new skills are usually unrelated to their current and previous job roles. Reskilling can help companies save costs from hiring new talent for these new job roles. Learn how your company can retain more employees, eliminate skills gaps, and achieve digital transformation success through reskilling.

What is Reskilling?

Reskilling is a structured training process to equip employees with skills for different roles. It involves:

  • training the employee in foundational knowledge and practical application
  • transitioning the employee from their current job role to a different job role
  • assessing the readiness of the employee to assume their new job role

 

Reskilling often requires training or learning from scratch since trainees may have no prior knowledge or experience in the skills required for the new job role. Reskilling has to be both well-rounded and very thorough because employees need to be fully equipped for the specific requirements of the job role.

Reskilling vs Upskilling

The key difference between reskilling and upskilling is that upskilling enhances current skill sets while reskilling builds new skill sets. The objective of reskilling is to make trainees successful at their new jobs. On the other hand, the objective of upskilling is to make trainees better at their current jobs. Reskilling enables the performance of the new job while upskilling enables the improved performance of the current job.

Reskilling vs Retraining

The key difference between reskilling and retraining is that reskilling provides skills for the employee’s new job and retraining provides skills for the employee’s current job role/position. Reskilling is often driven by current roles being made redundant. Retraining is driven by changes in the trainee’s work that require new skills. For example, new or different responsibilities for the role may require retraining the employee. Retraining can also take place in situations where technology changes in their current role.

external reskilling of employee

Three Main Benefits of Reskilling

A McKinsey survey found that the benefits of reskilling include enhanced bottom-line growth, better customer experience, and improved brand perception among customers. According to another McKinsey report on talent in the UK, 75% of reskilling cases would be profitable for employers and effective reskilling will even likely lead to a productivity uplift of 6-12%. Given these benefits, reskilling in the workplace is certainly crucial to the overall success of a company.

1. Reskilling Helps Close Skills Gaps

While some skills gaps can be addressed through upskilling, certain skills gaps will need to be addressed through reskilling. If the skills gap consists of mostly skills related to the job role/s of the current employee or workforce, then upskilling can perhaps close it. However, if over half of the skills gap are skills unrelated to the job role/s of the current employee or workforce, then reskilling may be your only answer.

Because reskilling involves preparing employees for a new role, the range of skills being targeted can vary a lot. Some of the most commonly targeted skills are technical skills, digital skills, technological skills, soft skills, compliance knowledge, and industry-specific knowledge.

2. Reskilling Leads to Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the integration of new technologies in industries and workplaces. It is the primary driving force behind the rising interest in reskilling for new roles.

The increasing popularity of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has built up the need for workers who can adapt to or use these technologies to their advantage. Conversely, this has also resulted in less importance being given to more traditional job roles. What reskilling aims to do is to reduce the number of people who have to be let go as a result of digital transformation.

Though companies can opt to hire new employees for these new skills, this is likely to be more expensive than reskilling. Additionally, some skills are so new that it may be difficult to find candidates who already have these skills.

3. Reskilling Allows For Career Advancement

Reskilling can have a major impact on the careers of employees. Reskilling is what enables employees to transition into their new job roles within the company. Reskilling also makes them more valuable to the company and more employable to future employers.

 

While it’s possible that employees will return to their previous job roles after reskilling, the process of learning new skills can lead to a different mindset and other positive changes. In general, reskilling can help professionals advance in their careers and get better jobs.

How to Develop a Reskilling Program: 10 Important Steps

Here are the 10 essential steps for creating and implementing a reskilling program:

1. Identify Industry Trends & Future Skill Needs

Find out what’s popular in your industry by following key influencers and publications. Customer interactions also clue you in on particular trends. New statistics or research results may reveal hidden skill needs. After finding out what’s popular in your industry now, look for the future or predicted skill trends. You can ask key influencers for their thoughts on this or come up with your own conclusions based on the data you have collected.

2. Identify Gaps in Roles and Skills

Based on the current and future trends in your industry, define the roles and the associated skills that you think your company will need both in the near and far future. While you should prioritise upcoming skill needs, your reskilling program should be a long-term strategy and not just a quick fix. Once you have clearly defined the roles and skills you need, you can begin your analysis of the roles and skills you have.

It’s best to list all the roles and skills of your workforce using a tool like a skills matrix. However, this may not be feasible if your company is large. You can choose to just analyse the roles and skills that are relevant to your future needs. After getting a clear picture of what the current situation looks like, you can then identify what the skills gaps are and what would be needed to close those gaps.

3. Choose a Training Delivery Method

Figure out which training delivery method is the best option for achieving your training goals. You can start by choosing between internal and external training. Internal training in this context involves the use of only internal resources such as people and platforms from within the company. If the needed roles and skills are deeply connected to company-specific processes and problems, then you may want to choose internal training.

You might need to resort to external training if your company does not have the right systems or trainers. External training involves the use of third-party platforms and services, such as employee training software or training providers. If you have a larger group of employees to be reskilled, external training is likely to be the most suitable choice.

You should also check if government agencies and nonprofit organisations offer free training and if your employees can avail of that free training. While this can limit the cost of reskilling, you should still evaluate whether or not the offered training can satisfy your requirements for successful reskilling. UK employees, for example, may be eligible for free level 3 qualifications and/or partially free skills bootcamps where employers pay 10-30% of the cost.

4. Secure Support from Stakeholders

Once you have decided on a training delivery method, you should secure approval from your stakeholders. This is especially vital if you’ve chosen external training. Before you contact any third parties and get quotes for the training programs you need, you should ensure that your stakeholders approve your chosen training delivery method.

After getting the go-ahead from stakeholders and securing your chosen trainers for the reskilling program, you can begin implementation planning.

5. Create a Budget for Reskilling Training

Based on the costs involved in either the internal or external reskilling program, you should create a budget. A budget ensures that you don’t spend more than what stakeholders are willing to.

6. Plan How to Engage Employees

Think about how you will motivate employees to join if the reskilling is not mandatory. Maybe you can provide a monetary incentive or other benefits to convince them to participate in the reskilling program. If employees will be required to join the reskilling program, you still have to think of ways to make the entire experience engaging, enjoyable, and valuable to those participants.

For internal in-person training, use employee training methods which foster interaction and engagement. For external reskilling training, the software or training provider will already have engagement built into their training programs. However, you should still check if the built-in engagement features satisfy your requirements.

7. Plan How to Measure Success

Decide on how to measure the success of your reskilling program. Assessment is one of the more common ways to see if reskilling is successful. If you’ve chosen external training, the third parties might have their own assessment system included in their training offers. You can collaborate with them to ensure that the assessments fit your standards or come up with your own assessments outside of their training programs. The latter option is also what you’ll need to do if you’ve chosen internal training.

8. Plan How to Gather Feedback

Ensure that you set up a system for collecting, analysing, and using employee feedback. How your employees feel about and what they think of your reskilling program is vital to its success. If a majority of the participants fundamentally disagree with the structure and content of the reskilling program, expect lower engagement and lower post-reskilling performance as well. Reskilling programs should be open to change and strive for continuous improvement.

8. Plan How to Support Employees

You must provide additional support for employees being reskilled. Learning new skills as an adult can be exceptionally hard. Employees may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or powerless (if the reskilling is mandatory). You should schedule sessions for employees to discuss these personal challenges with career coaches, company mentors, or supervisors. You should also consider providing additional educational resources outside of the reskilling program for employees to access whenever they need more information about skills or roles.

9. Evaluate Workplace Readiness

Evaluate the readiness of your workplace for the reskilling program. In-person training may require training rooms within company premises. It may also require time away from the employee’s current jobs or lower productivity targets to make the reskilling process easier for employees to handle.

Online training may require adjustments to make company systems, employee devices, and the online training platform compatible.

10. Secure the Required Resources

Secure the resources necessary to implement the reskilling program. This will vary based on the results of the planning process. Make sure you leave ample time for this step and continuous liaise with stakeholders to ensure that you do not need to put in any last-minute resource requests.

11. Implement the Reskilling Program

Implementing the reskilling program is the goal of all your previous planning work. This is where everything comes together, but the work doesn’t stop here. There needs to be constant monitoring to ensure that the program is going according to plan and that your business goals are being met.

If at any point you feel that the training is not going according to plan, it is important to act quickly to ensure the success of the reskilling.

internal reskilling with fellow employees

Reskilling Program Development Example

Here is an example of what reskilling program development can look like:

Prepare the Reskilling Program Proposal:

  • Needed Future Roles and Skills
  • Current Skills of Our Workforce
  • Analysis of Specific Skills Gaps
  • Proposed Training Delivery Method
  • Initial Estimate of Reskilling Cost

Submit the Reskilling Program Proposal to stakeholders for approval and secure trainers.

Add to the Reskilling Program Proposal:

  • Trainers Profiles and Deliverables
  • Employee Engagement Plan
  • Reskilling Program Success Metrics
  • Collecting and Using Employee Feedback
  • Providing Additional Support for Employees
  • Full List of Resources Needed
  • Total Cost and Proposed Budget

Submit the Revised Reskilling Program Proposal to stakeholders for approval and proceed with reskilling program implementation.

Challenges of Reskilling Initiatives

Here are some of the challenges you may encounter when proposing and implementing a reskilling program:

1. Negative Employee Perception of Reskilling

Cause: Resistance to change – Adults generally have more difficulty learning new skills. Employees may also feel comfortable and secure in their current job role. The new job role, its responsibilities, and the new skills they have to learn can be daunting.

Solution: Encourage employees to enrol in adaptability and flexibility training.

Cause: Added effort and time – If employees will still need to perform the responsibilities of their current job role, juggling that with the time and effort needed for reskilling can cause mental and physical fatigue. Employees may end up not prioritising reskilling.

Solution: Lighten employee workloads and postpone non-urgent projects.

Cause: Irrelevance to career – When a specific kind of reskilling is assigned to employees without their input, employees may feel like they are wasting their time and effort going through reskilling that’s not aligned with their career aspirations.

Solution: Provide multiple reskilling options or adjust training content to align with the wider professional goals of employees.

2. Lack of Stakeholder Confidence in Reskilling

Cause: Strain on company resources – The company will need to allocate a portion of its budget towards reskilling. Initiatives also require the cooperation of everyone involved. This can take time, coordination, and additional work from employees.

Solution: Lower the cost by limiting the scope to the most important job roles and skills and reducing the duration of the program to an agreeable minimum.

Cause: Irrelevance to business goals – Executives may not see the reason why reskilling should be done now since its benefits may only emerge later on. Insufficient communication about the importance of reskilling may contribute to this mindset.

Solution: Conduct a needs assessment before you make plans for reskilling. If you have conducted a needs assessment, ensure that you properly communicate to executives that the results show a high need for reskilling employees.

Cause: Doubts about effectiveness – You may have trouble finding relevant research on the effectiveness of reskilling for specific roles and skills. This makes it challenging to quantify the potential effectiveness of your reskilling program.

Solution: Hire a data analyst to help you predict the benefits of your reskilling program.

3. Low Organisational Readiness for Reskilling

Cause: Poor learning culture – If your company hasn’t provided training programs and support for learning before this reskilling program was proposed, there likely needs to be a greater change in how the company views workplace learning.

Solution: If the reskilling program implementation has already begun, launch a workplace learning awareness campaign to hopefully initiate a learning culture in your company.

Cause: Ineffective management – Though reskilling can solve various problems, it can’t solve more fundamental issues such as ineffective management. Furthermore, even the most well-developed reskilling programs can fail due to these issues.

Solution: Have a talk with company leaders and suggest that the reskilling program be postponed until these urgent issues are fixed.

Cause: Insufficient infrastructure – Not having the resources for the reskilling program is a major issue that will be hard to overcome. If you don’t have enough training rooms for in-person training or stable systems for online training, it can hinder the overall implementation of the reskilling program.

Solution: Secure all resources even before implementation. Prepare backup resources and plans in case more resources are needed or unexpected events impact your resource supply.

Reskilling Best Practices

Follow these reskilling best practices for long-term success:

  • Include soft skills training in employee reskilling programs.
  • Inform employees in advance that they will be reskilled.
  • Listen to what employees have to say about reskilling.
  • Make reskilling as accessible and inclusive as possible.
  • Communicate the personal benefits of reskilling to employees.
  • Follow up on reskilled employees even after reskilling.
  • Provide skills-based career pathways for reskilled employees.

Here are some of the current and upcoming reskilling trends:

Reskilling Trends of Today

  • Emphasis on digital proficiency and advanced technology skills
  • Use of virtual and online training platforms for reskilling programs
  • Mostly employers’ responsibility and limited to working professionals

Future Reskilling Trends

  • Emphasis on soft skills such as analytical thinking and resilience
  • Use of AI and machine learning for reskilling program development
  • Collaboration between governments, schools, and employers

Case Studies of Reskilling Programs

Here are some real-life examples of successful reskilling programs:

1. World Economic Forum Reskilling Revolution

The Reskilling Revolution platform of the World Economic Forum (WEF) was launched in January 2020 to reskill 1 billion people by 2030. According to the WEF, 350 million people have since been reskilled as a result of the platform’s efforts. The Reskilling Revolution platform advocates the use of their skills-first framework. The framework encourages the following:

  • Identifying future skills needs
  • Mapping skills to work tasks
  • Creating skills-based pathways

Verizon Skill Forward

Verizon Skill Forward provides accepted participants with 1 year of free access to over 250 courses for 84 professional certificate programs. The programs are full-time and include technology skills, soft skills, and career coaching.

 

Verizon Skill Forward has had notable success stories. A quality inspector for a medical firm was able to become a business systems analyst at a fintech company through the IT Support Specialist program. After completing the Junior Full Stack Java Developer program, some participants were also hired as Verizon Thrive Apprentices.

2. IBM Apprenticeship Program

The IBM Apprenticeship Program caters to workers without degrees but with the relevant skills and/or knowledge in the field of their apprenticeship. While participants need to have some prior knowledge before entering the program, it still helps them learn new skills in their desired field.

The IBM Apprenticeship Program includes over 25 apprenticeship roles in fields such as cybersecurity, data science, and software development. According to IBM, more than 90% of their apprenticeship program graduates end up working full-time at IBM. There have been at least 1000 apprenticeship hires since the program first started.

Conclusion

Given the fast-paced nature of today’s (and likely tomorrow’s) work, reskilling is an effective method for adapting to changes and building skill versatility. It ensures that the current and future workforce can attain employment even amidst rapid technological evolution. Though effective reskilling may require a lot of planning, it will surely pay off in the end.

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