Learning & Development

Upskilling and Reskilling: What's the Difference?

Some changes post COVID-19 like upskilling and reskilling for corporate learning will remain relevant. The reason is every employee needed to make adjustments when the pandemic hit. One of the major shifts was to adopt a more digital way of life. And while these changes are necessary, it requires a degree of learning how to use several new platforms. That’s why upskilling and reskilling are important for all employees.

What is upskilling and reskilling?

If you are unfamiliar with these two terms, upskilling is when employees expand their knowledge and improve their current skill sets. The process of upskilling allows employees to take on additional responsibilities or be promoted to a new level with more job requirements. It can also fill a new need like Tesla for example who trained its employees to use car parts to build needed ventilators for COVID-19 hospital patients. Everyone in an organization benefits from upskilling. Employees gain new skills, companies become more diverse in skill sets they can offer their customers and company culture becomes stronger. 

On the other hand reskilling is training employees for a totally new job skill. As today’s world is ever-changing some job roles may be extinct altogether while new roles may pop up. With this constant shift, company culture changes, and reskilling is a great way to fill new opportunities with current employees. Because as you know, it’s cheaper and less labor-intensive to hire new employees.

What advantages can upskilling and reskilling offer your organization?

Besides the benefits we pointed out already, upskilling and reskilling can give your company several advantages. Here are a few worth noting.

1. Improves employee retention

One of the reasons employees often cite for leaving an organization is lack of growth. Reskilling and upskilling can help keep employees from walking out the door. By explaining your company culture is one built around learning and development, it’s also a great onboarding message for new employees

2. Helps company culture

When employees know there is a plan in place for their personal development, they are more invested in their jobs. It reaffirms that personal goals they have for themselves align with learning goals set for the company. And reskilling and upskilling also create a roadmap of what they will learn over time. This helps employees see what they need to learn in order to progress in their current role or move to another area within the company. With happy employees, it creates a good company culture. 

3. Increases customer satisfaction 

The more skills you teach your employees, the more your customers benefit. For example, the more employees understand new product trends, what’s taking place within your industry, and what technology can help their daily tasks, the better they can perform their jobs. And when they perform their jobs better, they can better help customers in the process. Plus, happy employees create better customer interactions. And the happier customers are, the better your sales will become. 

4. Attract new and more qualified employees

When considering a few jobs, new hires often look at company culture. For example, what are current employees saying about their company? What are the advantages to working for a particular company? When current employees are satisfied, company scores go up and word of mouth spreads that your company is the place to be. And when that happens, you’ll get better job candidates that are more qualified for the open positions you are looking to fill.

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How to implement upskilling and reskilling for employee training?

Now that you know the benefits of upskilling and reskilling, how do you incorporate these into your existing training program? Here is a good plan to follow.

1. Define company learning objectives

The first step is to define what new skills your company needs. Do some research. Look at trends in your industry and how needs are shifting over time. Also, look at feedback from customers to see how you can better support their needs. Then create a few concrete learning objectives that solve for these necessary new skills. Once you have these created, it will give you a roadmap for upskilling and reskilling training.

2. Survey your employees

Next, you’ll want buy-in and weigh-in from your employees. Each manager should sit down with the team members and go over personal goals. In addition, survey employees on satisfaction, culture, and engagement. Once you have this feedback, compare these results against your learning objectives. This should give you a good idea of which upskilling and reskilling are most needed across your company. Plus, it makes everyone a part of the learning process which will increase engagement once the training is rolled out.

3. Create a training plan 

Next, you’ll want to create courses around your upskilling and reskilling needs. A good idea is to use a learning management system (LMS) partner to assist. Not only can they offer templates to help you create these training sessions, but they can also incorporate your existing training materials into this system. And part of your LMS launch plan can include when employees will take the training. That way you can keep track of who has taken the training, how well the courses are being received and which courses you may need to tweak.

4. Evaluate often

It’s important to get feedback often, especially when you are offering new upskilling and reskilling training. Talk to various departments to see how new skills are being translated over to customers, talk to human resources to see what new skills are needed, and get feedback from employees themselves. All this communication will give you a clearer picture of what is working and what needs to be added to your upskilling training modules

What type of training works well for upskilling?

Once you have a plan in place for upskilling and reskilling, it’s time to develop training courses. There are few methods that work well for each type of training. Here are some ways to implement upskilling.

1. Technology-driven

As more and more people are working from home these days, new technology is being rolled out across companies. For example, Zoom has emerged as a go-to option for conference calls. When a group or even an entire company is using new technology on a daily basis for their job, it’s important to add a layer of upskilling training. It will help each team member get up-to-speed quickly on how to use the new technology.

2. Microlearning

Microlearning is taking a larger training module and breaking it up into brief sections. Each of these training sessions is only about three to 10 minutes long. They focus on a singular concept. When you use microlearning for upskilling, it can help drive new skills to a memory quicker. For example, say you discover through customer surveys employees don’t have a good grasp on a new product line. You can offer several microlearning sessions each focusing on a single product from the same line. 

3. Breakout sessions

Breakout sessions are a great way to learn a new skill. While the pandemic has shifted the way we work, if your company is temporarily working from home or permanently working remotely, you can try these sessions virtually. Several learning management systems offer breakout sessions that can be done regardless of where employees are geographical. You'll want to designate a facilitator and have an agenda. The goal is to learn a new skill as a group. Breakout sessions help talk through key concepts so that learners can fully understand what is being presented.

4. Subject matter experts

Another great way to upskill employees is through subject matter experts. You could either choose to bring in a guest speaker who specializes in a new skill. Or you can see who would be the best point person from your current company to teach their peers. Sometimes it’s easier to understand new concepts when they are being taught by a peer or mentor versus through a PowerPoint presentation or essay-style training session. Plus, these individuals are great sources to create further training modules in these needed skills. 

What type of training works well for reskilling?

Now that you understand how to implement upskilling, let’s talk about what works well for reskilling. Here are some types of training when you want to transition employees from one career path to another.

Industry courses and certifications

A good start for reskilling is to see what industry courses and certifications are available within your business sector. If you are a smaller company with limited budgeting, this is a great way to take advantage of courses already created. Plus, you know these classes are up to industry standard and are reputable within your industry. For employees, they receive certifications that are valuable badges to add to their resumes. 

A good example is LinkedIn Learning. You’ll find a ready-made catalog of industry-specific courses. Plus, it can integrate with some learning management systems connecting your already-made learning catalog with LinkedIn’s classes. This makes it easy to facilitate and keep track of how the training is progressing. 


One of the best ways to learn reskilling is through coaching or mentoring. There are several ways to train in this way. You can either look outside your organization for a coach or look at who you have on staff inhouse. Sometimes there may be a better option internally. Either way this person should work with the employee to retrain them for a new job role. This includes looking at what current skills the employee possesses and how these translate into new skills to be learned. 

Job shadowing 

You see job shadowing in some industries like restaurants where a new server will follow around a current one. But really this same philosophy can be used in any industry. Job shadowing is a great way to reskill in the workforce. If an employee is being moved to a completely different department or job role, this employee can slowly learn new skills. Once a few skills are learned, the employee can try these skills out before progressing to more advanced skills. This type of job shadowing builds a great foundation when reskilling is needed. Plus, the person that is teaching or mentoring can offer feedback or advice to aid in the learning process.


mLearning or mobile learning is becoming more and more prevalent. Many employees are not in the office every day of the week and some companies are 100 percent remote. Reskilling can become a challenge when every employee has their own schedule. That’s why mLearning can be valuable. Make short and quick reskilling training sessions available via a mobile phone. Employees can download and take these short learning sessions that focus on a single topic to learn. The advantage to mLearning is it keeps employees’ attention and doesn’t tackle too many concepts at once. The result is more information learned in a shorter amount of time. 

Train to transition

Some transitions can be lateral or rather flat within a company. Take for example an employee who wants to jump from marketing to sales. They already know what materials the sales team needs to sell and what current customers needs are. So many of the skills they need to be a salesperson they already know. With this in mind, you can slowly teach this employee skills like strategies to win over new customers or techniques to retain more repeat buyers while they are in their marketing role. Then once they have the necessary skill set, the transition into the new role will be smooth.

Why upskilling and reskilling is becoming more important

The ability to adapt and change is more important than ever no matter what industry you are in. The more upskilling and reskilling you can offer your employees, the more agile your business will become over time. Plus, your employees will benefit from the increased training and development. For the company as a whole, you will become better at anticipating change and filling new job roles internally in the process. The company culture will be one of growth and a company new employees will want to be a part of.

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