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A Guide to Reskilling: What It Is and How To Get Started

Reskilling is the process of learning a new skill with the purpose of changing your career. It's a great asset for both employees and companies. Learn more.

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Today’s workforce is going through changes at an incredibly fast pace. Skills that were a must five years ago are completely unnecessary now. Reskilling is a simple, yet effective way to keep up with all these changes, both for employers and employees. 

It allows companies to reduce attrition, stay productive, and even increase employee engagement and satisfaction. But the benefits don’t stop there. Let’s take a closer look at what reskilling is, what its benefits are, and how to reskill your workforce in a few easy steps.

What is reskilling?

Reskilling is the process of learning new skills in order to do a different job. It is a way for workers to change their career path and try something new.

It’s also a great strategy for companies that want to keep exceptional employees whose jobs become obsolete. Often, reskilling can be a quicker and cheaper way to fill a new position as opposed to hiring someone from the outside. 

With reskilling, the sky's the limit. You can have an accountant who becomes a web designer, a UX specialist who switches to data science, or a retail store worker switching to customer support.

What’s the difference between reskilling and upskilling?

Upskilling means learning new skills that will help employees get better at their current job. When employees upskill, they’re not aiming to change careers. Instead, they’re simply trying to improve.

Examples include a computer programmer learning a new programming language or a marketer exploring a new social platform.

Why is reskilling important for today’s workforce?

A study conducted by McKinsey in 2021 shows that most companies worldwide, 87%, already have a skills gap or expect to within a few years. And it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to slow down. The current economic landscape brought on by the recession, with layoffs happening left and right, is creating gaps everywhere. It’s the perfect opportunity for reskilling.

Plus, ever-changing technologies are making certain skills redundant, while requiring people to learn new things. A good example that we can’t overlook is artificial intelligence (AI).

Reskilling helps you keep top performers even after their jobs are no longer needed. And that’s not the only benefit. These people are already familiar with the company’s culture. They won’t need an extensive onboarding process once they learn the new skills. 

Plus, you’ll show employees they matter to the company beyond their initial job. In a time when skill gaps are widening and everyone fears layoffs, cultivating a culture where people matter and talent is appreciated can help your company thrive.

The benefits of reskilling

Reskilling can be beneficial to both companies and employees. It helps organizations reduce the costs of layoffs and new hires, builds employee trust, and allows people to change and even improve their career paths. 

The looming recession is making life harder for everyone, but reskilling can take some of the pressure off of your shoulders. Here are some of the most important benefits.

Avoid layoffs and rehiring

Layoffs aren’t only difficult during a recession. And they don’t just affect the impacted employees. They decrease the trust of remaining employees, their engagement, and their satisfaction. Plus, you'll need to invest a lot when you finally have to hire for a new position.

Sure, there’s an investment in reskilling as well. But the costs are often significantly lower. You already know the people you’re training. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. They understand the company culture, its goals, and its expectations.

Reduce employee turnover

An employee who feels their skills are not as important as they used to be to the company is more likely to quit. The problem is sometimes you might lose top performers. Whether a skill is needed or not has little to do with the person’s performance.

If, on the other hand, you offer learning and development opportunities, and thus reskilling, you could reduce turnover and get to keep your best employees.

Recruit new employees

Most people prefer a company that commits to them long-term. Investing in people’s reskilling, and allowing them to change jobs is seen as such a commitment. As a result, you’ll find it a lot easier to recruit new talent. 

Demonstrate that you want to see your employees grow and they’ll be more likely to come and stay with your company.

Identify hidden skills

Sometimes you might be surprised by what people know how to do. Just because someone has been an accountant for a long time doesn’t mean they know nothing about data science.

This is a benefit that goes both ways. Employees can grow, cultivating and improving some long-forgotten skills. The company can leverage these skills to improve its productivity and its presence in the market.

Create a culture of talent mobility

Talent mobility is great for both reskilling and upskilling. But the reverse is also true. When you create a culture of talent mobility in your company, people will feel motivated to learn new skills constantly. Those skills will help them improve in their current position, or switch to a new position altogether. 

Whether they’re upskilling or reskilling, your company will see immense benefits. More skills mean more productivity, less turnover and absenteeism, more engagement, and, in the end, better ROI.

access the free digital guide to answer 9 skills and learning questions for building the workforce of the future

How to reskill your workforce in 5 steps

The benefits of helping your high-performing employees reskill are clear. But understanding how to reskill your workforce effectively can be a bigger challenge. Here are five steps to help you get started. 

1. Identify the most important skills for your organization

Reskilling employees for the sake of reskilling will not bring you many benefits. Start by identifying those skills that will help your company the most. Perhaps there are some new technologies that you know will increase productivity and sales. Or perhaps you want to try some new communication platforms.

Whatever your goals are, prioritize those skills that will help you reach them faster. Don’t forget to look at open or future positions as well. What are the skills you’re looking for there? 

As your reskilling program grows, you can introduce more skills and experiment with different areas.

2. Identify the employees you’d like to include in the program

You can’t include all employees in a reskilling program—at least not all at once. That’s why you need to start by identifying the people who’d be the best for it. 

For example, it’s true that reskilling means learning a new skill. But the process can be much easier if the person has some background in the area.

You can also ask questions like:

  • Is there a certain department that is slowly becoming obsolete and could benefit from reskilling?

  • Are there any top performers whose positions are no longer needed?

  • Are there any people who may not be open to learning a new skill?

The answers will help guide you toward choosing the best candidates for your reskilling program.

3. Select a training style

Different people have different learning styles. Some respond well to reading books and learning on their own. Others prefer hands-on training. Some prefer videos or audio guides instead of reading and vice versa. 

Try to select the training style that would benefit most employees going through the reskilling program. Not sure what to choose? Ask them! A quick survey will give you all the insight you need.

Of course, some skills may require a combination of training styles. Often, you’ll need both hands-on workshops and some private study time. It’s important to keep in mind the different learning styles and be flexible.

4. Consider putting employees through formal training and/or classes

Internal training is great, but it can be limiting. That’s where formal training comes in. It’s a great solution when, for example, you don’t have enough trainers or materials to accommodate everyone’s learning style. 

These courses are often customizable, so they can fit everyone’s needs. Many also offer group enrollment options that are great for keeping people accountable.

5. Analyze metrics

How do you know that your reskilling program is successful? Through metrics, of course. These include things like:

  • Voluntary turnover rates

  • Average performance ratings

  • Acceptance rate

  • Employee performance—with an emphasis on those who went through the reskilling program

  • Engagement

  • Time to hire

  • Time to productivity

Keep in mind that success will look different for different companies. For example, you may be uninterested in hiring new people. In this case, the time to hire and the acceptance rate will mean nothing to you. Find those metrics that define success for your company and analyze them as you move through the reskilling program.

Reskilling, when done correctly, is an incredible tool for any company. Technologies are changing at a fast pace and keeping up with them is not always easy. Constant learning and development either through reskilling or upskilling is a must. 

On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and how to find what skills exist in your organization. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices how to create a strategic compensation strategymetrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.

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