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Introduction

The world is changing. Tasks are getting automated thanks to the advent of AI and robotics in all industries. It is a common sight these days to see humans and machines working side-by-side at workplaces. In fact, according to a study, a workplace consisted of 71 percent human and 29 percent machines in 2018. The same study also points out that the share of machines is going to rise up to 42 percent by 2022. 

It has become a no brainer that many people are going to lose their jobs in the coming days and there is only one way to prevent this catastrophic situation as an organization – Make your employees get prepared to deal with the challenges and opportunities that the business world presents in the years to come.

Skill gaps are becoming one of the biggest issues plaguing countries across the world. A study estimates that there will be a shortage of 80,000 IT and Electronics workers in France in 2020. Even the US will deal with a shortage of 250,000 data scientists. 

So what’s the solution?

Upskilling and Reskilling

What are Upskilling and Reskilling?

Upskilling is the process of making your learners gain more expertise in their existing skillset that can help them to scale up in their existing job. Upskilling requires an employee to advance in their existing field of expertise to add more value to the organization. It is the responsibility of the organization to identify the right person who can upskill and take up the role of a leader.

Reskilling, on the other hand, is the process of making your learners learn a completely new skill that can help them do a completely different job than what they are doing right now. Reskilling requires an employee to become adept at a different field of expertise than what he/she is currently doing. Reskilling involves identifying those people in an organization who are star performers but are in roles that the organization believes will become obsolete in the coming years. To retain such star performers, reskilling helps by making them an expert in an upcoming field.

The next question in your mind might be which is more important between the two?

The answer purely depends on your requirements. If you ask an employee to upskill, he/she will become more professional and an expert in their existing field. However, when they reskill, they gain more than one expertise which can significantly improve their employability chances. But they lose out on the professional experience in both the fields. So as an organization, identify your skill needs based on the current business and also future businesses. 

Reskilling is also done by those who are not happy with their current subject and wish to make a switch to another role that interests them.

How organizations can adopt an effective upskilling and reskilling strategy?

Organizations must have a clear understanding of the skills that are important not just today but also in the future. It is their responsibility to identify such skills and start tracking those employees who have the capability to acquire those skills. The organization should also encourage employees to self-report their skills which will enable the organization to take a decision on whether to upskill or reskill the person based on their interests and skillset.

Some of the key points that an organization should consider while formulating an upskilling and reskilling strategy are – 

  • Identifying the skills that are most vulnerable to be obsolete due to automation
  • Estimate the time for such skills to get obsolete
  • Identifying employees with such skills
  • Filtering such employees into a bucket of those who have the capability to advance in the same skill and those who have the capability to excel in another skill
  • Identifying the ways in which you can upskill or reskill such employees
  • Identifying what success looks like for you after the training is complete for the employees

When an organization has the answers to all these questions, they are future proof and have the support of an excellent pool of employees.

Why should companies adopt upskilling and reskilling strategy?

Though there is a lot to gain for the employees by upskilling or reskilling, an organization benefits more by enabling a process for the employees to upskill and reskill. Here are some of the reasons why an organization should adopt an effective upskilling and reskilling strategy – 

Saves time on hiring new employees

An advantage of upskilling and reskilling is that it avoids the unnecessary effort to search for a specialist in a field. The time taken to search for an ideal candidate, select them, onboard them and make them adapt to the working culture of the organization is way longer than training an in-house employee to that skillset. 

Helps in retaining employees

Upskilling and reskilling serve as a motivating factor for your employees to stay in the organization for their own development. A study points out that nearly 87% of the millennials want professional development in their jobs. Thus companies can’t rely on free food and regular entertainment to keep their attrition rates low. Enabling upskilling and reskilling in an organization shows that the organization cares for its employees’ careers and futures.

Attracts fresh talent

Implementing upskilling and reskilling not only retains talent but also attracts fresh talent from outside. Every individual would like to learn and improve their skillsets. When they identify an organization that helps them in achieving this, they will automatically get attracted to such organizations.

Saves the cost spent on a new employee

Upskilling and reskilling also help in saving costs by avoiding costly hires as you get the same expertise from an in-house employee who has undergone upskilling at a fraction of the cost. 

Can help in preventing job losses

It is not just the employees who feel the impact when they lose a job due to automation, even the employers feel the pinch as it puts them in a bad light in the industry and will find it difficult to attract fresh talent. When an organization identifies a skill gap, it can ask the employees to upskill or reskill themselves to make them irreplaceable even by technology.

Improves productivity in the workplace

This is the most obvious advantage of upskilling and reskilling. The productivity of the employees improves when their skills improve. When an organization has such a large pool of productive and skilled employees, the overall productivity of the organization improves. This, in turn, improves your competitive advantage in the industry and improves customer satisfaction.

How employees can upskill and reskill?

There are various ways in which your employees can upskill or reskill. Here are they –

Learn using traditional methods

Employees can upskilling or reskill using traditional methods like attending classes in educational institutes. However, this method has lost its popularity because it seeks a lot of time and the physical presence of the employees at the educational institute. This might be quite difficult especially since the learners have their full time job and it will be difficult to manage the training along with their day to day activities. But this technique is still preferred by some people who love old school techniques in learning.

Opt for online courses 

This is arguably the most popular way to upskill and reskill these days thanks to the high penetration of the internet in every nook and corner of the world. Online courses can be free or paid and the choice depends purely on needs. Such courses can be taken by your employees to upskill and reskill at any point of time in a day in the comfort of their homes. Most of the online courses have a certification at the end of the course which attests their adeptness in that subject. 

Opt for Higher Studies Abroad

This is the most expensive form of upskilling and reskilling available. However, the ROI is excellent as a learner is exposed to new people and new opportunities. His/her foundation on a subject will be strongly laid due to the long duration of the courses. There are many organizations that have partnered with institutes across the world where their employees can go on a sabbatical and upskill at the organization’s expenses. 

The role of technology in Upskilling and Reskilling

It is clear that organizations have to invest in the upskilling and reskilling of their employees. Technology is one place where organizations can invest with their eyes blindfolded, particularly in a Learning Management System(LMS) or a Learning Experience Platform(LXP). 

An LMS or  LXP can help organizations to effectively engage their employees by improving their learning experience through features such as gamification or social learning.

But just investing in such platforms might not be enough. The organizations have to create a robust library of courses covering each and every skill required for the functioning of the organization today and in the future. Such platforms have various advantages over traditional learning methods such as flexibility in learning, cost savings in the future, improved engagement and better utilization of the time of the employees.

Hence it is evident that technology has a huge role to play in the upskilling and reskilling strategy of an organization.

Global Trends in Upskilling and Reskilling

A study by BCG reports various trends in upskilling and reskilling of the global workforce in the upcoming days. These trends were based on a survey conducted on nearly 366,000 respondents across the globe. Here are some of the key findings of this study –

  1. Around 61% of the respondents believe that their jobs will be significantly impacted by global megatrends. The megatrends are mainly based on technology and globalization. To counter this, employees are ready to devote their time to learning new skills both in their own domain(upskilling) and in other domains (reskilling). 
  2. The respondents also believe that the skills they learn should be a good mix of cognitive and interpersonal skills that can help them to communicate effectively with their managers and coworkers.
  3. The survey pointed out that nearly 65% of the respondents spend significant time learning new skills. They spend anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.
  4. The devotion to learning also depends on the time of employment. For instance, nearly 72% of respondents who are freelancers or work for themselves are ready to devote their time to upskilling or reskilling. On the other hand, only 62% of the respondents who work for others in full time employment care to upskill or reskill.
  5. The type of job also matters as nearly 72% of respondents who work in the IT sector or science and research sector devote a considerable amount of time to learn new skills.
  6. As far as the mode of learning is concerned, most of the respondents (63%) chose to study on their own while 61% preferred on job training. 54% of the respondents like to learn through online platforms while those who like to learn through traditional methods like education institutions was a paltry 34%.
  7. Nearly 67% of the respondents were open to learn another skill(reskilling) under any circumstances while only 29% said they would reskill if they are finding it difficult to get a job.
  8. The age range of those who are most willing to reskill is 21-40. The age range of those who are least interested in reskilling is below 20 and above 50.

Conclusion

The importance of Upskilling and Reskilling has increased even further today owing to the rise in automation in almost every industry. The modern workforce across the globe are keen to improve their skills and are ready to spend a substantial part of their time in learning. The current trends on upskilling and reskilling only confirm this point. Organizations have to understand that upskilling and reskilling are not just beneficial for the employees but also for the employers to stay relevant and ahead in an extremely competitive era. As a result, the responsibility of upskilling and reskilling also lies with the organizations. They have to invest in technology in the form of LMS or LXP to make the process of learning more engaging.

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