L&D Words of the Moment: Upskilling and Reskilling

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March 2020. Businesses are undergoing a seismic shift as they are forced to send workers home. They have two options: give up, or invest heavily in upskilling and reskilling.

It’s storytime. We’re in the land of fiction, but our British readers will likely hear the clanging of a bell, reminding them of scandalous news stories of wealthy friends of politicians being awarded unusual contracts! Imagine you’re back in March 2020. The words ‘furlough’, ‘hand sanitizer’, and ‘the social distancing’ are starting to become part of your daily language. Businesses are undergoing a seismic shift as they are forced to send workers home, introduce Covid-secure practices, and operate in a world in shock.

The airline industry is nearly grounded. Large industrial and engineering businesses tied up in the once-bustling world of flights are as flightless as a once-soaring coastal bird in an oil spill. They have two options: give up, or change tack. One such organization spots an opportunity: the growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). They have manufacturing lines. They have functional international logistics and supply chains. They don’t have the skills.

What do they do? 

Suspend your political arguments about how to best spend taxpayer money, and consider this only from the perspective of the individual business. Through upskilling and reskilling, by shifting their operations enormously, the business just took what could have been a disaster and turned it into a resounding success.

Even without such dramatic oil-spill level struggles, and catalytic changes in approach, all businesses need to turn their attention to up-skilling and re-skilling right now.

Definitions, Definitions

Upskilling is adding an extra layer of skills to what you have in your repertoire already. It’s the mastery to your foundational knowledge. Reskilling is equipping yourself with totally new skills which enable you to transition to success in something totally different from what you were doing before.

Even before Covid, both were essential for organizations to manage the growing skills shortages being experienced across many sectors.

But now, in a Covid-centric world, upskilling and reskilling are even more important.

Mobilize Your Talent Base

You have an existing talent base. What they may lack are the exact skills that you need to thrive in a Covid-centric world and a post-pandemic future. If organizations can mobilize their existing talent, through upskilling and reskilling, which is considerably more cost-effective than new talent acquisition, then they have the potential for growth.

Chances are that your organization has been doing this, without the complete 180° turn demonstrated in our fictional case study above. When your workforce went remote, reskilling and upskilling were par for the course. It may not have been done neatly or efficiently, but you’ve already witnessed it on the ground of your own company.

The trick now is to harness upskilling and reskilling with greater aplomb. It’s time to do it consciously, so that you can direct growth. It’s time to create the agile workforce that you actually need to embrace the future that’s coming.

Use the right performance and learning management tools to understand your people, so that you can identify areas for effective upskilling and reskilling. Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration. Facilitate transition and foster engagement in doing things differently for everyone’s success in the long term.

It’s time to optimize the talent that you’ve got today for tomorrow’s opportunities. Business goals can be ambitious, even in testing times, when you realize the value of upskilling and reskilling the talent that you already have.

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