How Upskilling and Reskilling Yields Returns for Employers

February 6, 2020
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Author: Stephanie Ludwigsen

The time for companies to think about upskilling and reskilling is … yesterday. Companies without a strategy to both upskill their current workforce and take advantage of newly skilled talent are likely to be left in the dust.

Even in Office Space, leadership wanted a skilled workforce.

Upskilling refers to teaching employees new skills so they can thrive in their current position; reskilling means teaching them new skills to do a different job.

According to the World Economic Forum, global reskilling will impact more than one billion people by 2030. And by 2022, 42 percent of the core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change in some way.

Alongside basic skill enhancements, there will be an increasing demand for advanced tech and interpersonal skills. Demand for specific skills is forecasted to grow over the next few years, including AI – especially machine learning – as well as specialized interpersonal skills used in roles associated with sales, human resources and teaching others.

Related: Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are Needed More Than Ever

Upskilling Employees – How Do You Choose?

Every company has finite resources in term of time, budgets, and so on. So deciding which employees to upskill can be a challenge. Human Resource (HR) teams can start by identifying these attributes to narrow the focus:

1. Align with each business unit’s needs.
Get input from department heads to uncover skills gaps among employees and what future skills each department will require for scalable performance. Ask leaders to list the skill sets their “dream team” will need. Analyze which hard skills and soft skills are desired across departments.

2. Determine forecasted supply for your employee base.
Identify the forecasted supply for your employee base from top to bottom. Many fast-growing occupations, particularly in the creative and technical spaces, are currently in shortage. Low supply coupled with high demand means your company is susceptible to having key employees poached by other companies. If this is the case, consider prioritizing professional development and continuing education opportunities for these employees.

In fact, research from Human Resource Executive found that 70 percent of employees surveyed left a job because of a lack of career development. However, an overwhelming 95 percent of respondents said they would have stayed had career growth opportunities been available.

3. Identify self-motivated employees.
Does someone on your accounting team develop websites on the weekends? Does your product manager teach Python classes at the local community college in her spare time? Employees often possess sought-after skills unrelated to their current job duties. Human Resource teams should train and empower managers to uncover these hidden skills. Asking employees what they do for fun or what motivates them outside of work could identify a gold mine of untapped organizational opportunity.

How to Start the Conversation About Reskilling and Career Growth

1. Know your area’s labor economics.
What does unemployment and job growth look like for your industry and your metro area? If your company’s industry is forecasted to recede, funds for reskilling staff may be limited. If job growth in your market is expected to skyrocket, talent acquisition may be more challenging and reskilling may be the only option.

2. Determine if your voluntary turnover metrics are acceptable. Companies should continuously prepare employees for their next role. Instead of routinely promoting employees from individual roles to management positions, consider giving them opportunities at the next skill level. Identify the top contributors in each department. Remember that some skill sets, like negotiation and public speaking, may be more difficult to spot if opportunities to use these abilities don’t currently exist. Know which roles are most affected by employee turnover and the resulting impact on your bottom line. In some cases, attrition may be the best option.

3. It costs less to reskill employees than to hire new ones.
According to Human Resource Executive, reskilling can be done for about half the cost of recruiting someone from outside the business. In addition, research from the Wharton School of Business shows that, on average, external hires cost 18-20 percent more and perform worse for the first two years on the job. Metrics like these are powerful reminders for companies to consider when deciding whether to invest either in their veterans or a new hire.

Where to Go – Opportunities for Upskilling and Reskilling Employees

You’ve identified the “who.” You’ve started the conversations with the right stakeholders. Upper management has asked, “So what now?” The next step is “where.” Identify and select resources that have what it takes to upskill and reskill your workforce. Listed below are four reputable organizations known to provide solid continuing education and upskilling opportunities.

1. General Assembly
Focus: Digital Marketing, Data Science, Product Management, User Experience (UX)
Trusted by: Google, Conde Nast, Microsoft, Loreal, Visa
Similar offerings: Udacity, Flatiron School, Thinkful, BrainStation

2. Coding Dojo
Focus: Programming Languages (Java, Python, C#/.Net, Mean, Ruby)
Trusted by: Google, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, eBay, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Apple, Uber, IBM
Similar offerings: Code Institute, App Academy, Hack Reactor

3. Dale Carnegie
Focus: Soft skills, Presentation skills, Sales, Leadership, Customer Service
Trusted by: John Deere, Green Mountain Coffee, Delta Dental, Cargill
Similar offerings: Linkage, SkillPath, AMA, Sandler Training

4. Udemy Business
Focus: IT Operations, Management, Marketing, Project Management, Operations
Trusted by: SurveyMonkey, Adidas, General Mills, Booking.com, Kaiser Permanente, Volkswagen
Similar Offerings: Khan Academy, Coursera, Skillshare, Lynda

There’s no doubt that low unemployment rates and tight labor markets have created extraordinary hiring challenges for business leaders. As a result, upskilling and reskilling have become growth imperatives for today’s organizations, many of which have seen positions go unfilled for months or years for lack of the right talent to fill them.