Upskilling and Reskilling: The Importance of Continuous Improvement

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Upskilling and reskilling are terms commonly used in the Human Resources industry.

They describe actions taken to equip individuals better to stay in positions that have changing job requirements or to prepare them to move into new jobs requiring different skills. While the buzzwords may be somewhat new, the concepts have been around for ages. Simply put, they equate to continuous learning and career development.

Upskilling

Though the two terms sound quite a bit alike, they mean different things. According to LinkedIn, the definition of upskilling is when an employee undertakes learning to expand their existing skill set. These additional skills enhance the worker’s performance in their current role, potentially advancing them along their career path.

Reskilling

Reskilling, according to the employment-focused social media platform, “involves learning new skills outside of the worker’s existing skillset. These skills are often closely adjacent to their current function but may sometimes be geared toward a different path entirely.”

The benefits and importance of both upskilling and reskilling…

A good example of someone taking advantage of both upskilling and reskilling is a young woman I recruited to work as a receptionist in a medical office. She had been working as a bank teller, but the receptionist position offered better pay and hours. Through her efforts, as well as those the office provided, she advanced over time to become the office’s assistant administrator. She ultimately left that position to run her practice. Today, years later, she is a successful real estate agent. It’s obvious that throughout her career, this individual worked to continuously improve and revamp her skills to suit her personal career goals.

In today’s work environment, upskilling and reskilling remain critically important to employment and advancement, maybe even more so than in the past. Why? Industry experts point to several factors causing skillset gaps that make hiring and retaining employees difficult: ever-changing digital technology, an aging workforce population, and the increasing need for more specific and specialized job skills. As we all know, the look of work continues to evolve at a rapid pace, while at the same time, many seasoned and skilled employees are retiring, leaving knowledge and experience gaps behind. Add to that the fact that today’s jobs are becoming more and more precise due to technological advances and you can see the need for continuous improvement both at the individual and organizational levels.

In an article in Forbes, Kara Dennison, CEO of Optimized Career Solutions, put it this way: “To ensure future career success, professionals will need to be proactive and adaptable to stay relevant and thrive in their careers. For leaders, staying competitive will require pushing for more learning initiatives within the organization, facilitating upskilling opportunities for their employees while providing and participating in leadership training.”

Here are other reasons it is so important to invest in continuous learning and personal development:

  • Employees want to grow and advance in their jobs and expect employers to provide ways to do so.
  • Employee development helps organizations be in a better position to hire from within, saving both time and money.
  • Upskilling and reskilling enable businesses to be more nimble in responding to market evolutions and changing job requirements, thus making them more competitive.
  • And perhaps most importantly, all of the above rationales contribute to employee retention and satisfaction, keys to continued success.

 

The ways individuals can improve their skills come in many forms with varying degrees of difficulty, time, and expense required. For example, continued learning could be as simple as job shadowing a more senior person in the organization to learn more about their job duties and abilities. Or it could be as aggressive as going back to school to earn a higher degree in a different field. Think nurse turned public relations professional (I know of someone who made this career switch!).

Organizations can help their employees in the upskilling and reskilling process through a variety of channels, including:

  • Providing college tuition reimbursement plans.
  • Offering online learning and development courses.
  • Allowing employees to use work time to take classes and pursue other career development activities.
  • Encouraging job shadowing and offering company-supported mentoring programs.
  • Advocating for personal development plans among employees.

 

Whatever path you take as an employee or employer, ensure continuous learning, professional development, and personal betterment are core components of your strategies for success. Ensuring your organization and your employees are ready for what comes next is not a one-off, but a continuous process that should be a key element of your business culture.

 

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