Keep Learning or Fall Behind: Why Upskilling and Reskilling Are No Longer Optional

As a business leader, you know the value of your company’s culture. You also understand that culture doesn’t happen by accident and that it rises and falls on the strength of your team members and team leaders.

If you’ve been in a leadership position for any length of time, you’ve likely observed changes in what’s required to excel in various fields in your company. While some skills transcend the years, many don’t. Many of the technical skills your business relied on in the 1980s look completely different today—if they even exist anymore.

For your workforce to remain productive throughout their entire careers, employees must keep up to date with changes in their particular fields. Sometimes this is part and parcel of the job itself. But sometimes, keeping current requires ongoing formal training.

Worse is when an employee’s current skills and training are no longer sufficient or, in some cases, relevant to the work that you’re doing. In this scenario, the employee has a choice: Keep learning or fall behind. It’s time to upskill or perhaps reskill.

As a business leader, you can help create a culture where upskilling and reskilling are OK, even encouraged. One of the best ways to do this is by investing in employees with opportunities for upskilling and reskilling, as needed. Let’s examine why reskilling and upskilling matter for your business and your employees.

Reskilling and Upskilling Defined

Before we dive in, let’s define these key terms: upskilling and reskilling.

What Does Upskilling Mean?

Upskilling is learning new skills, generally related to current responsibilities in some way. Examples include a programmer learning a new coding language or a cashier learning how to use a mobile POS system rather than a legacy cash register.

Upskilling also refers to learning a new advanced skill that’s lacking in your business entirely. A business that does not have a customer success unit but wants to start one may choose to send a quality resource off for training so that the person can return and start the business unit.

What Does Reskilling Mean?

Reskilling, on the other hand, refers to learning another set of skills entirely so that you can do a different sort of job. There are times when industries shift, and an entire category of jobs slowly dries up or even suddenly evaporates. Several are on the decline right now, in fact.

An employee whose services are no longer required often heads for the exit, but this is a sad way to lose strong employees. Reskilling these employees to an adjacent/lateral position is the simplest way to avoid letting them go.

Reskilling and Upskilling Are Crucial for Your Company’s Culture

So why are reskilling and upskilling so important? First, there’s a direct positive effect on your company’s culture when employees are encouraged to reskill or upskill. People have a tendency to stagnate, and so do businesses that make it out of the startup stage. But stagnation in many cases equals death, which is the last thing you want to hear about your company culture.

When you foster an environment where upskilling and reskilling are not just encouraged but actively supported, you keep a freshness and vitality in your company culture. On the flip side, if employees don’t feel supported or feel discouraged from pursuing opportunities to improve their skills, company culture will suffer.

Nothing perpetuates the trope of out-of-touch management that isn’t invested in growth like failing to actually invest in your employees’ growth. But the good news is that this is easy to turn around.

Reskilling and Upskilling Enhance Your Business by Growing Your Employees’ Skill Sets

As important as company culture is to your long-term organizational health, there’s a more concrete reason to invest in your employees in this way. Everything else being equal, an organization full of happy employees with better, fresher skills is going to outperform an organization full of stagnant employees with dated industry experience.

This point is pretty straightforward: If you want to see increased performance, invest in the performers.

What Are the Benefits of Upskilling?

Upskilling offers numerous benefits to your organization. When you need a skill that you don’t currently have, you have essentially two options.

First, you can go out on the open market and find someone with the skill set. But hiring for specific niche skills can be exceedingly difficult in a tight job market. And you never know what kind of quality you’re going to get, given that many experts believe job interviews are poor predictors of job performance.

The other option you have is to upskill a current employee. Often, this is the desirable approach. You already know and trust the employee, and that person is already excited about adding value to your company through this new skill set.

Given a choice between rolling the dice on an external hire or upskilling a motivated employee, many organizations see the upside of the latter.

Upskilled employees may be more likely to stick around or be tagged for leadership positions in the future as well. A high performer who doesn’t feel invested in or appreciated may move on to the next shiny job offer when it comes, instead.

Another benefit of upskilling is increasing your ability to meet future demand. There are numerous areas where there’s a significant talent shortage: Cybersecurity is a big one that’s only getting worse even as cyberattacks continue to increase.

With a shortage of available talent, finding certain skills on the open market is nearly impossible for smaller firms. Upskilling motivated current employees allows you to bypass this challenge.

How Does the Participant Benefit from Upskilling?

There are numerous benefits to the participant as well. First, upskilling is often an upward move, so there’s added incentive for your employee to jump in. They tend to be moving to a more specialized position that brings higher pay or more influence.

Also, by being the one to help move the company forward in a needed way, an employee can quickly distinguish themselves from their peers. Those with the desire to climb the ladder may see upskilling as a step along that path.

Graduate Studies Are a Crucial Part of Reskilling and Upskilling

Not every instance of upskilling or reskilling requires earning a graduate degree or advanced certificate, but many do. As you transition your company to one that supports upskilling and invests in promising staff members, graduate studies will be a significant component of that effort.

Lewis University offers a number of master’s and certificate programs that can play a role in both upskilling and reskilling your workforce. Many of these programs are available in an online format. Your team member can continue contributing while furthering their skills.

We Can Equip You to Equip Your Team Through Reskilling and Upskilling

A critical aspect of leading your organization to begin investing in reskilling and upskilling is understanding how to administrate such programs effectively. If the idea of doing so sounds daunting, you may be missing some needed skills yourself. Consider the possibility that you need to upskill yourself in this way.

Lewis University  offers a quality M.A. in Organizational Leadership, including a concentration in an ACTP-certified Professional and Executive Coaching and a highly regarded Training and Development concentration. These or other programs from Lewis can equip you to equip your team through effective reskilling and upskilling.

See how Lewis University’s M.A. in Organizational Leadership can help you help your team members as they seek to reskill and upskill to meet a changing future.

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