Two people in white hard hats stand in front of a robotic arm that ends in a welding tool. The person on the left, a woman in a neon yellow high-visibility shirt, is using one hand to indicate something on the welding arm and the other hand to hold an electronic tablet. The person on the right is a man in a blue jumpsuit and safety goggles. He holds a black control panel connected to a cord.
Upskilling may involve getting employees up to date on the newest technology related to their work, while reskilling could involve teaching them tools related to a different job. — Getty Images/Nitat Termmee

Are you considering offering upskilling or reskilling opportunities? You're not alone. A skilled workforce benefits your company in many ways and helps you overcome challenges, specifically those related to attracting and retaining talented employees. However, your small business may have a limited budget for developing and training staff. To combat this, you'll need to focus on core requirements.

Upskilling helps current team members grow in their current roles, whereas reskilling prepares them for a new one. Learn how these concepts differ and identify use cases in your organization.

Upskilling vs. reskilling: the importance of workplace development

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently delved into upskilling and reskilling. We found significant opportunities for businesses to become (or remain) globally competitive. However, doing so requires an emphasis on reskilling and upskilling offerings.

Improving your training and development initiatives drive business value, allowing you to reach your full potential. Likewise, transforming learning enhances your corporate reputation and empowers staff to pursue meaningful work. Your business can take advantage of upskilling and reskilling programs to solve challenges today and in the future.

According to Deloitte, the benefits of a strong learning culture include:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency gains.
  • Higher employee satisfaction.
  • Increased profit.
  • Decreased worker turnover.
  • Leadership development.
  • Corporate culture improvements.
  • More agility and adaptability.

Upskilling: definitions and use cases

Upskilling is when employees learn new information and skills to help them do their current job better. It optimizes their performance while helping them navigate change. The training may enable staff to be more efficient and productive or educate them on modern techniques. Upskilling deepens an employee's abilities, essentially creating specialized workers.

Improving your training and development initiatives drive business value, allowing you to reach your full potential.

There's a good chance you can identify at least one skill gap in your business right now, whether it's a colleague struggling to learn a new technology or one that's out-of-touch with the latest industry knowledge. According to ATD research, 83% of surveyed U.S. organizations reported a skills gap, and 78% expect one in the future. That's a relatable figure considering that the World Economic Forum said that "42% percent of the core skills within roles on average are expected to change by 2022."

Think about the marketer who needs to stay on top of search engine optimization (SEO) tactics, leverage analytics technology, or learn about a new social media platform. Or consider your accounting staff, who must understand how legal and regulatory changes impact your business. They may also need to adjust to new services or recently implemented technology platforms.

Therefore, upskilling may involve hard and soft skills. If your business shifted to remote work during the pandemic, you likely had people who needed extra assistance navigating software virtually. But you also might have identified staff who communicate effectively in person but needed help to do so over a video call. Improving both aspects can enable your business and employees to achieve goals.

Reskilling: meaning and examples

Reskilling refers to learning new abilities to take on a different job role or function. It allows businesses to retain exceptional employees even if their job or department was eliminated. The new position may share some aspects of their previous one but require new skills. In some cases, reskilling requires workers to earn a degree or certification in a different area of expertise.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum predicts that more than one billion people need reskilling globally by 2030 due to technological transformations. For example, your software might reduce the need for a full-time data entry staffer but open up a spot for a data analyst. Or you may shift to chat customer support, decreasing the number of agents required.

In this case, you could reskill interested employees for alternative in-demand jobs with similar interpersonal skill requirements, such as sales. However, when it comes to reskilling, it's vital to look for candidates whose current talents overlap with the abilities required for the new role, or ones who show an apparent interest.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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