As companies in every industry seek to grow leaner and more agile, reskilling and upskilling initiatives are becoming increasingly important. High turnover and disengagement rates have led companies to focus on training internal talent to take on new responsibilities versus hiring externally, thus optimizing their resources and supporting their employees’ career development in the process.

While this may seem like a daunting concept to many companies, reskilling programs can have a surprising impact on a company’s overall culture.

What Is Reskilling?

Reskilling is the process of gaining new professional skills to move into a new or different position, usually within the same company. Reskilling can be considered one step beyond upskilling, which is the process of improving one’s skills within their existing role.

Upon completing a reskilling program or training course, an employee may be eligible for a promotion or to transition to an entirely different department in the company. Reskilling can also prepare an employee to enter the next phase of their career, even if that’s beyond their current organization.

Companies that invest in reskilling their employees can experience significant cost savings, since they can accomplish more with their existing workforce and avoid having to hire new employees to fill niche roles. Other benefits are more apparent in employees’ day-to-day experience of work.

How Does Reskilling Affect Company Culture?

Reskilling programs invest in employees’ professional development. When employees feel as though their employer cares about their performance and successes, and wants to keep them around, it can have a noticeable effect on employee engagement and satisfaction.

  • Reskilling programs instill a “can do” attitude in the workforce — when given the opportunity to learn new skills and advance, some employees may find their capacity for growth is greater than they realized.
  • Employees can expand their skill sets on the job, without having to personally invest in outside training courses.
  • Optimizing an existing workforce can help support market agility; even the most junior employees can contribute to creating a lean, dynamic organization when given the right training opportunities.
  • Expanding employees’ skill sets and streamlining workflows increases efficiency, so teams can set new productivity records and be motivated to beat their personal best.
  • Employees can identify new talents or areas of interest, which increases their engagement in and commitment to their jobs.
  • Teams experience less stress related to staff shortages, since reskilling can decrease the need for new hires.
  • Rates of turnover decline as retention and employee satisfaction grows.
  • Support for leadership increases when employees feel like their employer cares about their growth and career mobility.
  • High rates of employee engagement and professional development opportunities can attract more talented and motivated job candidates.

Reskilling can help companies retain top talent and promote internally. By giving high-potential employees the opportunity to move up or laterally within the organization, the company can become a safe place for their workforce to grow.

Potential Reskilling Challenges (and Solutions)

Any proposed changes in an organization have the potential to be met with resistance. The success of reskilling initiatives is contingent upon employees’ willingness to participate — if employees are not in a place where they feel reskilling would be worth it, it can pose a potential challenge that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Some possible roadblocks to reskilling initiatives include:

  • A disengaged workforce: Employees who feel unappreciated, undercompensated and underutilized can be resistant to participating in reskilling efforts. They may be apprehensive about their employer’s commitment to new initiatives, perhaps due to a previous lack of follow through. Before building and rolling out any reskilling programs, companies need to give employees the opportunity to voice their concerns and hear how leadership plans to sustain the effort.
  • Lack of support from leadership: Behavior trickles down from the top: If employees don’t feel like the leadership team supports or cares about reskilling initiatives, they’ll be skeptical to participate and may even adopt a negative or resistant attitude. Leadership teams must demonstrate to employees the importance of reskilling initiatives to encourage participation.
  • Lack of training support: While it’s possible to build and deploy reskilling programs internally, it can sometimes be overwhelming for internal teams to handle all aspects of implementation. Especially in a larger organization, training and implementation consultants can be invaluable for getting a sustainable program built and off the ground.
  • Missing KPIs or analysis: Corporate initiatives will essentially be meaningless without a way to measure training effectiveness. Before deploying a reskilling program, establish specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine its success. Standard metrics of employee performance may include overall productivity, efficiency, revenue, expenses, employee retention and turnover, customer churn and safety incidents. Measure all indicators before and after program implementation and then at regular intervals. This data will help prove training results to key stakeholders.
  • Lack of employee input: Designing a program specifically for employees without seeking their input is like baking a cake without ever having seen one. Whoever builds a reskilling program needs context from the employees who will actually be participating; this includes gauging their current attitude toward work, finding out what they would like to learn, asking what their goals are within the company and determining what format would work best for them. This input can easily be gathered through measure training effectiveness.

By listening to employees and making sure all parties are on the same page, reskilling efforts can be met with more enthusiasm or, at the very least, a willing attitude.

Next Steps

Once leadership teams, managers and employees understand the benefits of reskilling, it’s time to identify employees who need or want reskilling and start them on a training track. At least for the first “class” of employees, it can be helpful to enlist a training consultant to guide the process, perform quality assurance, help track KPIs and make recommendations as needed.

Remember, your company’s greatest asset is your people. If people show up to work feeling empowered, supported and motivated to succeed and improve, the results — both tangible and otherwise — will be experienced at all levels of the organization.