Upskilling And Reskilling: Ready To Future-Proof Your Workforce?
At the time of writing this, we’re all in the middle of a meltdown in the tech industry. Companies like Meta have had to lay off up to 13% of their workforce, and Amazon had to trim the salaries of 50% of its employees this year to manage budgets.
If you’re one of these companies that had to lay off members of your tech team or are finding it hard to hire due to fiscal constraints, then you’re undoubtedly facing a talent crunch.
Now, you have two choices:
Choice 1. Hire employees on a tight budget
Choice 2: Ask existing employees to take on the responsibilities handled by the employees who had to be laid off
The problem? Your existing employees don’t have the skills to take on those extra responsibilities. This results in halting the organization’s overall progress.
Upskilling and reskilling can be your weapons in such struggling situations. They put you at the forefront in helping your employees adapt to the new changes in the recession.
In this article, we’ll uncover:
- The difference between upskilling and reskilling
- Benefits of upskilling and reskilling
- Examples of companies leveraging upskilling and reskilling programs
- An important drawback of most learning platforms that employers need to be aware of
What is upskilling and reskilling?
Upskilling and reskilling sound very similar, but they both have different business goals. Your company needs processes for both in order to bridge the skill gap and boost growth. Let’s understand them in detail.
Upskilling refers to the process of acquiring new or advanced skills that are relevant to one’s current or future job, profession, or industry. It involves learning new techniques, technologies, or approaches to work that can help individuals increase their productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in their roles.
Upskilling can be done through a variety of methods, including formal training programs, online courses, on-the-job training, mentorship, and self-directed learning. It is often pursued by individuals who want to stay competitive in their careers, keep up with industry trends, or advance their professional goals.
For example, a backend developer can join a full-stack development program that teaches them about React and Node JS in order to transition to a full-stack role.
The three key reasons why an engineering leader might want their team to go through an upskilling program are:
- Helping employees perform better in their current job
- Helping the workforce adapt to new and future changes in the industry
- Helping the workforce stay confident in their skills and adapt to new industry changes
Also, read: How to Assess Programming Skills Before Hiring
Reskilling refers to the process of learning new skills that are different from one’s current job or profession, with the aim of switching to a new career or industry. It involves acquiring a completely new set of skills that are relevant to a different job or profession. However, the skills employees learn may or may not overlap with their current role.
Reskilling may involve pursuing formal training programs, apprenticeships, internships, or other learning opportunities to gain the necessary skills and knowledge required for a new profession. It may also require significant investment in time, effort, and resources, as individuals may need to start from scratch in a new field.
One example of reskilling in the tech world is when a software developer decides to transition to a career in cybersecurity. This would involve acquiring a completely new set of skills and knowledge, such as understanding different types of cyber threats, security protocols and measures, and the tools and technologies used to mitigate these risks.
Scenarios in which engineering leaders might ask their team members to reskill include:
- Transitioning to new projects or initiatives that require skills that are different from the current expertise.
- Adapting to new technology such as when rewriting their code base or changing their underlying infrastructure.
- Retaining high-performing existing employees whose roles have become redundant
- Filling vacant roles in the organization through lateral hiring.
How are upskilling and reskilling different?
Now you know what exactly upskilling and reskilling mean. So let’s weigh in the differences both the terms have for better clarification:
|It helps employees learn additional skills to perform better in their current job.||It helps employees to learn new skills to perform a different job.|
|The skills they learn are relevant to their current job.||The skills they learn are not related to their current job.|
|It involves employees polishing their current skill sets.||It usually involves a change in career.|
|More employee-focused. Upskilled employees can get new opportunities and develop talent for personal growth.||More employer-focused. It helps organizations retain their best talent by providing them with growth paths|
Why are upskilling and reskilling important?
According to the book Organizational Learning and Development During Recession by Marianne Reyes, Martin Clarke, Director of General Management Programmes at Cranfield School of Management, stresses:
It is vital to give your top people the support they need, especially during economic downturns” because a “well-trained and skilled workforce will be instrumental in supporting organizations during the downturn as well as after economic recovery and growth resumes.
The author talks about a survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group and the European Association of People Management that found cutting down the training and development costs during the recession can have a serious impact on the organization in the longer run.
Clearly: upskilling and reskilling of employees is crucial for the individual’s growth as well as the organization’s growth, and it becomes even more important during a recession. According to The Future of Jobs Report 2020, companies say that about 40% of workers will require six months of reskilling, and 94% will have to learn new skills on the fly. Why? Because tech leaders anticipate the in-demand skills to change in a few years, and the current hiring freeze has left them without the option of onboarding specialized talent.
This is not to say that skill improvement has benefits only during an economic downturn. The pandemic taught us that technology and business needs can change on a dime, and tech teams need to be prepared for more such “out of the left field” moments. However, it is true that learning and development programs have significant value in keeping the product pipeline churning during a hiring freeze.
With that said, let’s look at some of the ways in which timely learning programs can help your tech teams during crunch situations (with real-life examples):
#1— It can reduce skill gaps (the IBM example)
In 2009, the global recession significantly impacted IBM’s revenue and growth. To overcome this challenge, IBM decided to launch a program called the Skills Initiative that aimed to train and retrain IBM employees in high-demand skills, such as cloud computing, data analytics, and cybersecurity.
As part of the program, IBM offered employees a range of learning opportunities, including online courses, virtual classrooms, and hands-on training. The company also provided financial incentives for employees who completed training programs and achieved new certifications.
The Skills Initiative helped IBM to retain its workforce during the recession and equipped its employees with the skills and knowledge needed to meet the changing demands of the market. By upskilling and reskilling its tech team, IBM was able to remain competitive and even expand its business into new areas, such as cloud computing and data analytics.
#2— It can boost productivity and retention (the AT&T example)
During the 2008-2009 recession, AT&T faced a decline in its revenue and was forced to lay off a significant number of employees. To reduce costs and remain competitive, the company decided to upskill its remaining workforce to improve productivity and retain employees.
AT&T implemented a comprehensive training and development program called Workforce 2020, which aimed to upskill its employees in emerging technologies, such as cloud computing, big data analytics, and machine learning. The company invested heavily in online training programs, workshops, and mentoring to help employees learn new skills and apply them to their jobs.
The upskilling program had several benefits for AT&T, including heightened productivity, reduced errors and defects, and improved customer satisfaction. Additionally, the program helped AT&T retain its employees during the recession by offering them new opportunities to grow and develop their careers within the company.
#3— It definitely can save your budget! (the Microsoft example)
Imagine hiring a new employee during a recession. The process of starting from scratch is time-consuming. Instead, it is always easier to bridge the skill gap through learning programs than conducting the hiring process from scratch and bringing in the new hire.
In 2018, Microsoft announced a new initiative called Microsoft Leap, which aimed to reskill and retrain thousands of its existing employees who were at risk of being displaced by automation and artificial intelligence. The program included a four-month training course that covered both technical and soft skills and provided hands-on experience with emerging technologies such as machine learning, data science, and artificial intelligence.
Through the Microsoft Leap program, the company was able to reskill more than 10,000 of its employees and retain them in new, high-demand roles within the company. According to an article in Forbes, Microsoft was able to save approximately $30 million in recruitment fees alone by reskilling its existing employees instead of hiring new ones. The company also reported that the reskilling program led to a 38% increase in employee satisfaction.
Also, read: Internal Hackathons: Drive Innovation and Increase Engagement in Tech Teams
The drawback of most upskilling and reskilling programs
While the upskilling and reskilling programs are commendable initiatives taken by organizations, they come with a drawback: no measurable ROI, which means there is no clear way to see real skill development.
To understand this further, I sat down with our Founder, Sachin Gupta to understand skill benchmarking and why it is critical in today’s world. Here’s what he said:
- The technology landscape is changing so rapidly that organizations have to continuously adapt to the cumulative skills of their employees—to keep them in line with the tech innovation curve.
- Large organizations find it challenging to have an accurate picture of the skill map of their teams and data in HCM tools.
- While many organizations have learning programs, they struggle to measure the ROI from such programs.
- While employees intend to upskill, they may not always have a sense of their skill baseline as they may not know how they are progressing in their skill development journeys.
How to develop an upskilling and reskilling strategy for your employees?
According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, 89% of L&D pros agree that proactively building employee skills for today and tomorrow will help navigate the evolving future of work. That’s the reason organizations need to double down on their efforts to upskill and reskill their employees. But how?
Here’s a 5-step process you can use to develop an upskilling and reskilling strategy.
Step #1—Conduct a skill gap analysis
A skill gap analysis is an assessment conducted by HR teams to identify whether or not the current skill sets of employees can meet the overall needs of the company.
For example, the organization conducts a survey where they ask questions to their employees about the current skills they possess and how they have upskilled themselves. Employees fill out the survey, and the HR team analyzes submitted data.
To conduct a skill gap analysis:
Perform skill gap analysis at two levels—individual and team.
- For individuals, identify the skills a job needs and compare them to the employee’s actual skills.
- For teams, determine whether employees have relevant skills to work on a new project or will the company need to hire externally.
Identify key skills
What skills do we value as a company? What skills do employees need to do their work well and will need in the future? Answering these two questions will help you understand the skills you require.
Measure your current skills
Create a skills spreadsheet for each position, and list the skills employees in these positions have.
Step #2—Integrate upskilling and reskilling into your employee development plans
Emphasize the importance of learning and reskilling for employees. There may be times when employees cannot upskill themselves due to their key responsibilities. That’s where you as an organization need to integrate learning and development programs into employees’ annual goals and objectives.
For example, offering eLearning assets to employees every quarter, such as an eBook relevant to their expertise.
These employee learning programs can fuel knowledge and skills in employees, and help them stay prepared for the future.
So, make sure the goals are:
For example, developers on the engineering team need to learn at least two skills within the period of 6 months.
Step #3—Choose your training methods
There are several training methods to choose from:
- On-the-job training
- Instructor-led training
- Simulation training
- Group activities
- Video training
- Job shadowing
- Case studies
But before choosing a specific training method, make sure the learning and development team understands employees’ learning styles and uses the right format for them.
For example, the L&D team uses group activity learning format for employees who prefer learning one-to-one.
Step #4—Leverage technology
To streamline the development of your employee development program, you need to amplify technology. Here are two primary technologies you’ll need when you plan to create your own learning and development programs.
1. Learning management system
A learning management system handles all aspects of employee training—from creating to delivering and tracking training material. It helps both the organization and employees by:
- Tracking employee’s progress toward meeting their learning goals
- Collecting data for improving the learning process.
For example, Paycore, a corporate LMS helps administrators organize learning programs for individuals, teams, or departments. With this software, administrators can create interactive online course content with surveys, quizzes, and assessments.
2. Digital adoption platform
A digital adoption platform integrates with the company’s training program applications. It helps employees navigate the platform by offering step-by-step instructions to complete a specific task.
For example, Whatafix is a digital adoption platform that helps L&D teams create in-app content such as step-by-step guidance, walkthroughs, task lists, and smart tips to guide employees through complex digital processes.
Step #5—Follow up and track progress
The ultimate goal of the upskilling and reskilling program is not just to get your employees to upskill but to check if they have learned new skills. That’s where you need to measure the training program’s effectiveness and monitor KPIs. Some of the KPIs include:
- Course completion rate
- Training progression rate
- Assessment score
- Lowering skill gap analysis
- Improving proficiency.
So, use the following metrics to measure the effectiveness of the learning and development program:
Once the training program is complete, ask employees about their experience with the training program. What have they learned from the program? Was the program in-depth or did they need more resources to strengthen their skill development? How are they planning to use these skills in their job?
A skill assessment platform helps L&D teams see whether or not employees have learned the subject and topic well from the training program.
For example, HackerEarth’s learning and development program offers an assessment platform.
This is where L&D teams can create their assessment platform for their employees to take assessments after completing the training program. Further, the platform also provides employees’ progress reports to their managers.
Post-training job efficiency
Observe your employees and see how they have executed the newly learned skills on the job. But the problem with tracking the employee’s progress?
Even after observing their work, there is no documented data of how much of the newly learned skills they implemented and whether or not they are ready to take up the additional role or move to an entirely different role.
That’s where HackerEarth’s learning and development program helps organizations. It does not only provide you with a skill assessment platform but, as Sachin says:
- The product introduces a layer of objectivity to their upskilling program
- It creates a guided learning path where they can see their progress firsthand
According to Sachin, there are 4 things users can expect from this L&D product:
- Employees will get real-time and objective feedback on their skill development. Starting with baseline evaluations, through continuous evaluations, and ultimately a summative assessment. Over time, we will be able to recommend to learners what specific areas of skill development they should focus on.
- Employers will be able to measure ROI on their upskilling programs.
- Employers will be able to create a skill map for their organization. They can understand the current skill set in their team and plan for skill development over time.
- Accurate skill data can help employees and employers match people to opportunities they are most suited to.
All these things lead to greater output but also more engaged and retained teams.
You see? The goal here is for both employees and organizations to get a clear view. For organizations, it’s about whether or not employees have developed their skills, and if so, are they ready to take on more specialized roles?
For employees, it’s about seeing whether they have a clear career path to move forward on.
Use learning and development tools to upskill your tech teams
To sum up, learning and development programs should be an important facet of every tech team’s culture on any given day. However, during troubling times such as a recession, it can become a crucial weapon in fighting the wolves at the door. Upskilling and reskilling programs can help you:
- Retain your high-performing engineers
- Provide them paths to grow their skill sets and their career prospects
- Help your tech team stay ahead of time.
And so, choose the right learning platform to empower your employees in keeping up with changing technologies and on-demand skills. See their progress in real-time with HackerEarth’s learning and development platform that offers curated assessments and learning paths to your internal employees, and helps you quantify the benefits of every certification.
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