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Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are Critical to Building a Sustainable and Resilient Workforce

September 20, 2023 | By Soma Bhaduri


Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are Critical to Building a Sustainable and Resilient Workforce

Upskilling and reskilling refer to acquiring new skills and knowledge to upgrade an individual’s capabilities. Both upskilling and reskilling are important in building a sustainable and resilient workforce, as it enables individuals to develop the skills necessary to adapt to the evolving needs of a workplace, and, therefore, contribute effectively to the organization’s success.

Workforce sustainability is especially important in today’s era that has been marred with economic uncertainties, redesigning of organizations, lay-offs, technological shifts, and quiet quitting. Against this backdrop, upskilling and reskilling can help organizations demonstrate commitment to employee well-being while also improving productivity, reducing attrition rates, and supporting business success. 

The Need for a Modern, Sustainable, and Resilient Workforce

In recent years, organizations have realized that a sustainable and resilient workforce is crucial to their success. A sustainable workforce is an environment where every employee is provided equal opportunities to learn, grow, and voice their opinions.

Upskilling and reskilling are essential elements in building a resilient workforce. They help ensure individuals remain employable with the relevant skills needed to keep pace with the changing job market dynamics and career advancement while feeling connected with the organization.

As a result, there is a massive focus on building such workforces by ensuring:

Well-being of the employees:

Organizations that are prioritizing employee well-being have higher retention rates and employee productivity.

Strengthening employee skills:

Organizations that are able to identify skill gaps and provide appropriate training to the employees and strengthen their skills will progress within the company and are better placed to succeed.

Open communication and learning:

Organizations that promote open communication, active listening, and learning may achieve a 30-50% higher employee retention rate, with a greater sense of belonging among employees.

Growth mindset:

In view of the new hybrid work order, organizations are reworking their strategies to build a sustainable hybrid workforce. They regularly seek employee feedback to fine tune their policies for greater employee involvement and encourage a growth mindset.

Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are Critical for Building a Sustainable and Resilient Workforce

Rapid digitalization and technological changes are transforming industries and the types of jobs offered. Automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are replacing many traditional jobs and redefining the skills needed for modern jobs.

Upskilling and reskilling enable workers to remain relevant in the job market by empowering them with the required skills. It also fosters a culture of lifelong learning and allows individuals to remain professionally engaged, motivated, and adaptable in a rapidly changing work environment.

Building a sustainable and resilient workforce through upskilling and reskilling is, therefore, essential to keeping pace with the requirements of dynamic workplaces. A skilled workforce increases productivity and helps organizations attract investment, promote innovation, and foster economic growth. This can also result in greater employee retention, engagement, job satisfaction, and loyalty.

The Benefits of Upskilling and Reskilling

Employees are the assets of any organization. Upskilling and reskilling help build a sustainable and resilient workforce by ensuring their well-being and enhancing the value of these assets by providing them with the latest skills. These efforts enable employees to keep pace with the changing job demands, improve productivity, deliver greater employee satisfaction, and contribute to the growth of the organization.

Some of these benefits of upskilling and reskilling are listed below:

Reduce training and hiring costs:

Upskilling and reskilling efforts demonstrate the commitment of an organization in the development of their employees. When employees are more invested in their organizations, it helps reduce attrition. Lower employee churn, in turn, reduces the costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

Retain company knowledge and improve time to market:

By providing specific skills training to employees, organizations can better respond to emerging opportunities and challenges, innovate faster, and deliver higher-quality products and services. This helps retain the company knowledge and improve productivity and the time-to-market.

Keep the top employees:

Upskilling and reskilling helps retain the top employees by ensuring their development and well-being within the organization.

Internal mobility:

New or upgraded skills empower employees to take on greater responsibilities and new roles within the organization.

Improve employees’ morale:

Upskilling and reskilling facilitate professional development of employees, leading to greater recognition and appreciation. This helps improve their morale and confidence, creating a healthy company culture.

Improve company reputation:

Organizations that invest in upskilling and reskilling enjoy greater respect not only among their existing employees but also prospective employees. This positive reputation allows the organization to attract the right professionals, which helps gain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

More versatile employees:

Acquiring new skills or enhancing their existing skills empowers employees to take on a variety of roles. This versatility makes them quite sought after, thereby providing them with greater opportunities for their career growth.

Implementing an Upskilling and Reskilling Strategy

To maximize the benefits from their efforts, organizations must consider implementing a detailed upskilling and reskilling strategy that can help them build a sustainable and resilient workforce.

Some of the key considerations that can help organizations build an effective upskilling and reskilling strategy include:

  • Analysis: Begin with an assessment of the current capabilities and those that are lacking. This will help determine the training needs that are aligned to the business objectives. Consider the skills that may be needed in the future, say, the next five years, to help prioritize upskilling and reskilling needs and set realistic training objectives.
  • Tailor-made programs: Consider creating training programs that cater specifically to individual employees’ learning needs and preferences. Seeking feedback from employees and their managers on the skills needed can prove useful in developing custom training programs.
  • Regular training programs: Create a program that provides training opportunities on an ongoing basis. These schedules may range from monthly, quarterly, or a defined number of hours per month.
  • Mentorship: Mentorship is an excellent way to upskill and share the knowledge of seasoned employees with others. Mentorship can help foster greater learning, increase employee satisfaction, improve retention rates, and aid faster promotions.
  • Paid training: In addition to the company-led training programs, enable employees to pursue external training by helping them pay. These may include online courses, certifications, attending conferences, or organization memberships.
  • Working with specialists: There are several companies that specialize in offering bespoke upskilling programs. Evaluate the programs they offer with organization-specific training needs. Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages prior to committing to the investment.
  • Learning-led culture: Build a culture of learning within the organization which goes beyond in-house training to include social- and self-directed learning. Employee recognition, promotions, and compensation may be tied to the learning and growth of the employees, which will strengthen the learning culture.
  • Learning mindset: Consider linking learning opportunities to the evolving processes, policies, and business strategies to foster a growth mindset in employees.

Using Technology to Bridge Knowledge Gaps

Right from planning to execution and evaluation, technology can be a key facilitator in implementing personalized upskilling and reskilling programs at scale. Using digital learning software, Learning Management Systems (LMS), and performance evaluation tools, organizations can design their upskilling and reskilling strategies to better equip their employees with new-age skills.

They can create organization-wide learning frameworks to deliver continuous learning, which is interactive, engaging, and impactful. Strategies like microlearning and support tools such as apps and interactive videos can help enhance practical application of learning at the workplace.

Technology can help create custom training courses and bespoke course libraries that offer personalized learning opportunities to the learners through device-agnostic access. Social learning tools such as discussion boards, internal messengers, and leaderboards can help share knowledge through collaboration. Further, technology can make learning fun and engaging. Various gamification options may be considered to improve the learning experience.

Measuring Upskilling and Reskilling Programs

Measuring the impact of an upskilling and reskilling program is essential to assessing its effectiveness. In addition to using high-level strategies to evaluate the efficacy of the upskilling and reskilling programs, it is recommended that organizations conduct a detailed analysis of their business and performance needs.

Some of the parameters to measure the efficacy of upskilling and reskilling programs include:

  • Performance: Are the employees able to demonstrate the identified performance behaviors expected from them? These behaviors may include better confidence levels, higher motivation, lower errors, improved quality testing, greater adoption of the processes, and better performance reviews, among others.
  • Productivity: Are digitized learning modules, with their ability to reach a wider audience without compromising quality, proving useful in reducing the time to learn at scale and improving employee productivity?
  • Costs: How much does it cost to implement an upskilling and reskilling program? Does this investment justify the increase in revenue after skill building?
  • Customer Experience: Does the upskilling and reskilling program help improve the quality of customer experience, such as fewer complaints and better adherence to the set processes?
  • Employee value proposition: Are the upskilling and reskilling programs focused on the employee value proposition to demonstrate the commitment towards employee well-being, skill development, and career progression?
  • Retention: Is the investment in the training programs, such as onboarding training, reskilling programs, leadership training, and other corporate training initiatives, helping to improve retention rates?
  • New talent: Does the upskilling and reskilling program help create a positive impression of the organization on potential candidates? Does it have a positive impact on recruitment and hiring?

Parting Thoughts

The end goal of an upskilling and reskilling program should be to build a sustainable and resilient workforce that can adapt to the changing workplace requirements and contribute to the success of the organization.

Preparation is, therefore, key to maximizing the benefits of an upskilling and reskilling program which begins with the buy-in from the senior management. Upskilling and reskilling programs can help organizations strengthen their workforce with the required skills, create a more sustainable and resilient workforce, and gain a competitive advantage.

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