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How Upskilling and Reskilling Can Help Your Business

Throughout 2021, businesses across the country have been reopening at a steady pace, but it’s clear the pandemic has changed the job market as we once knew it. Industries that once had a surplus of candidates now face scarce talent pools with fewer applicants to fill their roles.

Huge shifts in the labor landscape may be beyond your control as a small business owner, but luckily there are steps you can take to strengthen your current team. We always say the number one recruiting strategy is retention – so consider turning your focus to the professional development of your existing employees by offering them opportunities to upskill or reskill.

In this article, we’ll show you how upskilling and reskilling can help fill the gaps on your team caused by applicant shortages, as well as protect your business against the future risk of unexpected turnover. 

What is upskilling and reskilling?

While the definitions of these terms may differ slightly in their meaning, both can be useful in lending a helping hand to your business during hiring difficulties.

  • Upskilling teaches your employees an advanced skill set relevant to their job-specific duties, allowing them to improve in their current roles. 
  • Reskilling prepares your employees for an entirely new position unrelated to their current job and helps translate skills they already have. 

To differentiate the two, let’s look at an example: Stacey, a hotel manager, takes an online leadership course to improve her hospitality skills. This is an example of upskilling. Now, say the same hotel manager attends a workshop or bootcamp to learn skills for a new back-end developer role at the company. This is an example of reskilling.

How upskilling and reskilling can help

According to researchers at the World Economic Fund, at least 54% of all professionals will need to upskill or reskill by 2022.  That’s over half the workforce!

Depending on your industry, upskilling and reskilling can help close skill gaps in your team by teaching hard or soft skills to employees. For example, let’s say your sales representative needs to be more concise during conversations with clients. They would likely have more of an impact on your business by upskilling their communication strategies. More effective communication skills could close more deals and make more efficient use of your employee’s time so they can service more clients.

Or imagine you’re a restaurant owner and a server expresses an interest in building their skills in online marketing. You can help foster their professional development by inviting them to take courses in social media marketing and allowing them to use what they’ve learned to manage your restaurant’s social media outreach. In this way, you’re helping an employee reskill into a role that interests them more, while also potentially increasing their impact on your business.

If you’re a hiring manager, you know that the hiring process can be time consuming. After all, attracting new applicants, screening, interviewing, and onboarding the right hires takes time. But what if you could streamline this process? By upskilling your team, you can leverage an internal recruitment strategy, making it easier and quicker to bring new hires on board

Upskilling and reskilling during COVID-19

Let’s face it: the pandemic has been hard on everybody. With COVID-19 forcing layoffs and furloughs, employees have found themselves relying heavily on their co-workers. Luckily, upskilling and reskilling gives workers the opportunity to take on new tasks and responsibilities as well as provide support to their team. All of these can offer tremendous relief to your staff and help your business bounce back from an unprecedented year.

In fact, many workers have found the pandemic accelerated the need for new skills. Of course, this makes upskilling and reskilling more relevant than ever. According to Training Industry:

Six in 10 workers say the pandemic and resulting economic crisis have accelerated the need for new skills. At the same time, nearly half say their current skills are becoming obsolete. Many are likely to leave their current jobs if their employers don’t invest in their development. Yet, 46% of workers surveyed say their workplaces have reduced upskilling opportunities during the pandemic.”

The benefits of investing in your employees

Employees feel valued when businesses invest in their growth potential. After all, doesn’t everybody have career goals and aspirations? Ultimately, doing so reduces turnover, attracts new talent, and boosts collaboration as well as employee engagement and productivity

Creating a plan for employee development will be crucial for attracting and retaining employees entering their prime career growth years. According to a 2021 Gallup survey, 87% of millennials prioritize professional growth as well as development opportunities in the workplace. After a tough 2020, having an upward trajectory is important to many job seekers. 

Plus, upskilling and reskilling is an effective solution for saving money. Remember, losing an employee can cost a business up to 33% of that employee’s annual salary. Investing back into your business to boost employee retention should be a top priority.

How to implement upskilling and reskilling

If you’re a business owner considering how best to start a program of your own, we’re here to break it down for you.

Programs can be structured in several different formats, including:

Businesses have seen outstanding results among employees from these programs – in fact, many big names have even jumped on the bandwagon.

Nationwide Insurance started their “Future of Work” program, investing in their employees’ skill sets to make sure they’re future-ready.

Amazon has also announced an initiative to develop its employees over a six-year period. Their program includes tuition and curriculum redevelopment, technical programs, and e-learning certificates.

After discovering that only half of their employees had STEM skills, AT&T developed an online learning platform to help workers identify needed skills and plan ahead for the future.

Luckily, 42% of companies have strengthened their efforts to upskill and reskill employees amid the coronavirus pandemic, boosting confidence among workers and paving the way for a bright future ahead.

As the labor market continues to give job seekers the advantage, take a breath and think strategically about what you can do for the people you already have on your team. While it may take some upfront investment to get started, upskilling and reskilling can offer worthwhile rewards and benefits to all involved. Remember, many industries continue to struggle with an applicant shortage, but embracing this trend could mean swift recovery for your business and team in this post-pandemic era.

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