Learning and Development Strategy: How to Successfully Choose Between Upskilling and Reskilling

Learning and development is an evolving focus for organizations. Over half of HR managers believe learning and development budgets will increase in the coming years as companies look to close ever-widening skills gaps and solve the talent crisis. HR leaders are also increasingly taking responsibility for developing workforces. Deloitte reports that nearly 73 percent of business executives believe it’s the expectation for their companies to invest in and develop their employees.

Learning and Development

One proven way companies are developing their workforces and solving the talent crisis is by introducing new learning and development initiatives such as reskilling and upskilling.

Both reskilling and upskilling are effective strategies that can create a more skills-driven workforce. However, the concepts are often used interchangeably even though there is a distinct difference between the two methods.

Continue reading to learn the differences between the two workforce development strategies and how companies can determine which to implement to future-proof their workforce and close skills gaps.

What is reskilling?

Reskilling is a key driver of internal mobility. It is the development of new skills (skills building) through education and training, leading to entirely different career paths or roles.

An example of reskilling would be a company sending its manufacturing or retail team through a program that taught them how to code. These teams didn’t have prior software development experience but became software engineers after completing the program. Reskilling aims to retrain employees in a completely different field or function. 

Rather than investing precious resources like recruiters’ time and your company’s financing into hiring external candidates, companies can retrain and redeploy their current workforce into in-demand roles. Not only does it make sense financially to reskill, but reskilling also enables companies to achieve key organizational goals such as increasing diversity, improving retention and boosting the employer’s overall brand.

Reskilling is a learning and development strategy that can also scale with an organization to accommodate various levels of need. KeyBank launched its reskilling initiative, the Tech Ready program, powered by Tech Elevator, to transform call center and fraud department employees into software developers. Initially starting with only five employees, the Tech Ready program now reskills 15 employees per session and has since experienced 100 percent retention of program participants.

“We want to give our employees the opportunity to invest in their skills to become future-ready. We could see that… roles were changing and we want people to know that if your role is going to change, we are going to help you get there.”Amy Brady, CIO at KeyBank

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is a driver of linear, internal mobility. It is the development of existing skills through education and training within a particular career path. This differs from reskilling since the skills learned in upskilling will be specific to the individual’s current role.

An example of upskilling would be sending a software developer team or individual through a program that teaches the latest software the company aims to utilize. Rather than hiring new employees with up-to-date knowledge of the latest software, the company can train its existing developer team with the skills needed.

Note that this example of upskilling built upon the employees’ existing skills and advances the team on a linear path. They learned how to implement a new solution with the skills they gained but ultimately stayed on the same career path.

Upskilling is a flexible workforce solution that can impact individual employees or entire teams. PwC launched its New World, New Skills Initiative to increase digital knowledge and cross-collaboration through its Digital Lab learning platform. The $3 billion investment in job training is built upon the employees’ existing skills and is a prime example of the reach of upskilling programs.

Determine if your company needs reskilling or upskilling.

According to the World Economic Forum, half of the world’s workforce will need reskilling or upskilling by 2025. Companies are already taking action, with over 70 percent of learning and development leaders agreeing that these programs are becoming a more strategic function within their organizations.

As companies look to implement these initiatives, it’s essential to establish clear objectives and desired outcomes to determine which program type will be most impactful. More importantly, deciding on what skills the workforce lacks and needs for future success is vital.

Utilize the information below to help determine which program will benefit your company:

Choosing Reskilling:

Companies seeking to expand their digital presence have much to gain from reskilling, especially as roles increasingly face job obsolescence due to increased automation and technology.

The average cost of reskilling an employee is $24,000 and takes less than six months.

As well as reducing hiring costs, reskilling is a powerful retention tool that offers employees new career paths. Employees at companies with internal mobility are twice as likely to stay with that company.

Reskilling programs can drive diversity initiatives by providing accessible education and career opportunities to underrepresented groups.

Choosing Upskilling:

Companies with established teams can benefit from upskilling programs. For example, organizations wouldn’t need to reskill employees if they only needed to learn to use a single software tool. Instead, they might explore upskilling to finetune skillsets and learn new, relevant skills.

Like reskilling, upskilling programs come in many forms and learning models. Fundamentally though, upskilling programs deliver training that builds upon an employee’s existing skills and presents a targeted approach to skills development.

Talk about your options with the experts.

Learning and development programs invest in creating a future-proof workforce capable of adapting to change. Programs like reskilling and upskilling can transform employees with skills building but take their unique approaches.

Determine which initiative is best for your organization by establishing clear program objectives. Companies with established teams and a strong talent pipeline could reduce skills gaps by upskilling their employees. Companies facing job obsolescence can use reskilling to retrain, redeploy and retain their workforce. With either option, your organization doesn’t need to solve it alone.

Solution providers like Tech Elevator have a team comprised of experts in implementing scalable reskilling solutions. With over 3,500 graduates and industry-leading outcomes, Tech Elevator’s reskilling solutions can help your company develop its future workforce.

Contact our team to learn how Tech Elevator’s Reskilling Program can partner with your organization.

Learning and Development

Written by Meredith Hendershott, Tech Elevator’s Director of Enterprise Account Management and Delivery