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Top 4 Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling

Top 4 Strategies for Upskilling and Reskilling

7 minute read | January 2, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

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Upskilling and reskilling employees is essential in today’s business environment – one that’s dominated by a plethora of macroeconomic pressures and the rapid advancement of technology. The shelf life of skills is dwindling: according to a recent Springboard for Business survey, 1 in 3 leaders say the shelf life of hard skills today is under two years, contributing to growing skills gaps.

Upskilling refers to helping your employees enhance the skill set needed for their current roles. Reskilling, on the other hand, means giving employees the resources to learn an entirely new skill in order to transition to a wholly new role, like software engineering or data analysis. Both play significant roles in creating a booming business that’s ready to face the future head-on.

At a time when sourcing new talent is an uphill climb, it’s better to invest in your current employees than to push your HR department (and budget) to fire up recruitment efforts in a challenging labor market. One way to do this is to institute a robust upskilling and reskilling strategy at your organization.

Running an always-on upskilling and reskilling program is an investment that pays off in many ways, but knowing which strategy works best for your business can be tricky. Read on to ensure that you’re making the right moves to equip your team to thrive in both the short- and long-term.

Why upskilling and reskilling is important

Upskilling and reskilling your workforce is the key to long-lasting business growth. With the latest advancements in technology speeding up by the day, helping your workforce keep up with the ever-changing landscape of work is much more pressing than it was just a few years ago.

We’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tech developments. And yet, they’re already changing the nature of work as we know it. HBR reports that the half-life of a skill is now less than 5 years; skills in the tech sector age even faster, becoming out of date in as little as 2.5 years. 

With AI adoption growing globally, many roles are significantly changing – and some are being eliminated entirely. For your business, that means potentially losing strong talent that could otherwise fuel company growth in a different position. Proactive upskilling and reskilling can prevent that.

Upskilling and reskilling isn’t just a way to ensure your organization is properly equipped to navigate the future of work. It’s also an underappreciated method of building community. Upskilling and reskilling programs that prioritize group or cohort-based learning (like Springboard for Business) cultivate collaboration and a sense of belonging. This has spillover effects on employee happiness, engagement, and retention. 

Additionally, offering company-wide upskilling and reskilling programs evens the playing field when it comes to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). According to Bain & Company, “companies have struggled to meaningfully improve the number of diverse candidates that they recruit and hire into management positions.” Workers from underrepresented backgrounds often hold low-wage frontline positions; by investing in these employees, you can develop a path for “raising up diverse talent” and fill critical roles from within.

Top strategies for upskilling and reskilling

If you want your business to thrive in an environment of change, upskilling and reskilling is the way to go. You must consider the technical “hard” skills you’ll need in the short term but also prioritize enduring “soft” skills like strategic thinking and problem-solving that will equip your workforce with the cognitive skills needed to adapt, strategize, and execute.

Here are some of the steps you should consider to ensure your talent development program is a lasting success.

Identify skills gaps

The days when one could reasonably expect to gain most of their skills in higher education and then retire having followed one career path are behind us. These days, skills are fleeting, and organizational skills gaps need to be filled frequently. To make sure that your workforce is properly equipped to tackle key business objectives, you’ll have to identify where those skills gaps actually lie. 

You can do this by mapping skills to objectives and key results (OKRs) – rather than trying to assign certain jobs to these business goals. Then, analyze the current skill set of your employees against those required to achieve company OKRs. This will help you see any potential deficiencies that need to be filled, and then act on them.

The exact skills gaps will vary depending on your industry, but three key areas are now more critical than ever, and the global workforce isn’t adequately prepared without additional training. 

  • The digital skills gap is particularly bad, and data literacy is a big problem. HBR reports that 90% of business leaders believe that data literacy is key to company success. Yet, only 25% of workers currently feel comfortable working with data.
  • Few buzzwords are simultaneously as scary and thrilling as artificial intelligence. According to IBM, business executives estimate that reskilling will be necessary for up to 40% of their workforce in the next few years because of skills obsoletion driven by AI and automation. That adds up to a staggering 1.4 billion people. This statistic is echoed throughout industries, with a quarter of Springboard mentors noting that AI has already changed their jobs.
  • The importance of critical thinking cannot be overstated. A workforce that has sharp strategic thinking skills is equipped to handle anything thrown their way. This decade has already shown us the importance of agility and flexibility when it comes to steering businesses through various challenges (and crises). According to the WEF Future of Jobs Report 2023, cognitive skills like critical thinking are the #1 priority for major global organizations – surpassing the need for any technical skills. 

Seek out cohort-based learning experiences

While your employees work together daily, building a sense of community is now harder than ever. Work is globalized, and many organizations are operating with remote, hybrid, or distributed workforces. While this is popular with workers, employees do suffer from detachment and isolation, which contributes to low satisfaction and fuels retention issues. 

This is why small, cohort-based L&D programs like those offered by Springboard for Business are a great upskilling and reskilling solution for all types of businesses. Employees from a single organization or team can all upskill or reskill together. This deepens in-course conversations because of a shared understanding of company goals and culture. Additionally, cohort-based learning breeds a sense of community – one that has staying power even after a particular upskilling or reskilling course ends. 

Take an individualized, human-centered approach

A one-size-fits-all approach to upskilling and reskilling may have sufficed a decade ago, but it simply won’t cut it today. Large self-serve course libraries (LMS or LXPs) offer passive learning experiences that are mostly ineffective. Completion rates are low, and content relevance is difficult without constant updates. 

While a motivated individual with plenty of time to spare may still find use for these passive on-demand tools, an effective upskilling and reskilling strategy revolves around one-on-one support and engagement. That’s exactly the Springboard for Business approach. Coaches keep participants accountable and motivated, bringing the course completion rate to over 3X the industry average. Employees are also assigned an industry mentor who offers an outside perspective while helping them work through challenging concepts and demonstrating the real-world application of new skills.

Integrate learning into everyday work

Most L&D curricula cover generalized theory, but the fact is that many people just don’t retain knowledge equally well if all they’re taught is how things work on paper. Applied learning mechanisms are essential when it comes to cementing new knowledge and skill sets. 

Look for upskilling and reskilling programs that have employees tackle actual projects relevant to their day-to-day work. That way, participants get to immediately learn and reinforce their freshly acquired skills – and they don’t have to feel like they are “wasting time” by focusing on their development. This approach not only engrains new capabilities but also offers a direct impact on your business performance. 

Many of the upskilling and reskilling programs offered by Springboard for Business (like the Data-Driven Strategic Thinking course) center around a company-specific project. Employees design a project in partnership with their manager – one that’s directly tied to a company OKR. As participants learn new skills, they get to apply them directly to solve a critical business problem, optimize a process, or launch a new initiative.

This hands-on approach has already brought measurable results to industry-leading brands, bringing immediate returns in the form of ROI and tangible business growth. HP, a three-year Springboard partner, has seen an average $187K financial gain for every project completed in the Data-Driven Strategic Thinking program – amounting to a conservatively estimated ROI of 11X in just eight weeks’ time.  

The lasting benefits of upskilling and reskilling

By making upskilling and reskilling a priority, you cultivate a future-proof workforce equipped to thrive in a constantly evolving business landscape. Invest in strategies like cohort-based learning, personalized coaching, and project-based training to solidify knowledge and drive immediate returns. 

Remember, upskilling and reskilling isn’t just about staying ahead of the curve – it’s about igniting innovation, fostering employee engagement, and building a company culture that values continuous learning and individual growth.

Since you’re here…
Springboard for Business grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, JPMorgan Chase, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Click here to learn more.

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.