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Upskilling & Reskilling: Empowering Your Workforce of the Future

By March 4, 2024March 6th, 2024Learning
Upskilling and Reskilling

Upskilling and reskilling – these practices have never gone away, but in today’s business environment they’ve moved back into the spotlight more than ever before. At CARA, we’re not just witnessing this shift – we’re leading the charge. In a world where generative AI and disruption are future-certain, empowering employees with the right skills isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity.

According to researchers at Harvard who are currently studying upskilling and reskilling, the average half-life of many job skills is already less than five years, and in some tech fields it’s as low as 2.5 years! This means that for many workers, upskilling alone won’t be enough. In fact, what this research shows is that in the coming decades, millions may need to be entirely reskilled, requiring workers not only to acquire new skills but to use them to change occupations.

As you’ve probably read, AI, automation and other new technologies are able to manage an ever-increasing number of repetitive and manual tasks. What we’ve discovered recently is that AI also has the ability to master more sophisticated types of knowledge-based work—like writing, editing, research and coding—areas that have long been considered “safe” from disruption.

So, without a doubt, both upskilling and reskilling are truly vital strategies for organizations to take seriously in the face of constant technological advancements, talent shortages and other disruptions. However, upskilling and reskilling are NOT the same. In this article, I’ll share some distinctions between the two and a few reasons why both are indispensable in today’s dynamic business environment.

“In a world where generative AI and disruption are future-certain, empowering employees with the right skills isn’t just an option, it’s a necessity.”

Upskilling and Reskilling – What’s the difference?

Before delving deeper into the importance of these two, it’s important to point out the difference between upskilling and reskilling.

Upskilling involves expanding and enhancing existing skill sets, which empowers employees to stay relevant and competitive within their current roles. It focuses on increasing and refining skills in order to adapt to the evolving demands of their current professions. For instance, a marketing professional may upskill by learning advanced data analytics to improve campaign targeting.

Reskilling refers to acquiring entirely new skills to transition into a different role or a new field. It involves a more significant shift in expertise, often necessitated by technological advancements or changing market needs. For example, an administrative assistant might reskill to become a data analyst in response to the growing demand for data-driven insights.

Why is this Important?

Both upskilling and reskilling are essential for organizations to remain competitive and agile in dealing with change. Here are a few ways this dual strategy can help position your organization for success.

  1. Provides Flexibility to Adapt to Technological Advancements: With the rise of new technologies, digital transformation has become ever present across industries. This paradigm shift requires employees to continuously upskill to leverage new technologies effectively. Reskilling may also be necessary to fill emerging roles created by these advancements, such as AI ethics specialists or automation consultants.
  2. Improves Ability to Mitigate Cybersecurity and Data Security Challenges: As businesses become increasingly reliant on digital infrastructures, cybersecurity and data security have become paramount concerns. Upskilling employees in cybersecurity protocols and data privacy measures equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to safeguard sensitive information. Additionally, reskilling initiatives can create a pool of cybersecurity experts who are able to address evolving threats and vulnerabilities.
  3. Establishes a Strategy to Stay Ahead of Market Disruptions: Market volatility, whether driven by technological innovation or national or global events, can require swift responses. Upskilling enables employees to stay ahead of these disruptions by fostering agility and versatility within their roles. Meanwhile, reskilling empowers individuals to pivot into new areas of opportunity, ensuring that your organization remains resilient in the face of uncertainty and change.

The Intersection of Upskilling, Reskilling, and Business Success

Strategic Imperative: For organizations of all sizes, investing in upskilling and reskilling initiatives isn’t just a matter of staying relevant—it’s a strategic imperative. By nurturing a culture of continuous learning and development (which identifies and includes upskilling and reskilling opportunities), organizations can foster innovation, improve employee retention, and drive bottom-line results.

Compelling Differentiator: In addition, when leadership prioritizes upskilling and reskilling initiatives, they demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ well-being and future readiness. This positive and highly visible support enhances employer branding in the marketplace which can help attract top talent. In a competitive job market, being known for offering opportunities for growth and development is a compelling differentiator for prospective hires.

Prioritizes People: Whether adapting to advances in generative AI, addressing cybersecurity challenges, or navigating digital transformation, to succeed, organizations must prioritize investing in their most valuable asset: their people.

Business Agility: By fostering a culture of lifelong learning and empowerment, business leaders can position their organizations for long-term success by remaining agile and resilient in the face of constant change. Embracing the dual strategies of upskilling and reskilling isn’t just about staying ahead—it’s about shaping the future of the way you work.

At CARA, we design compelling upskilling and reskilling programs customized to meet the challenges and particular environments of our clients. I invite you to learn about our solutions and expertise and find out how we can partner to empower your workforce of the future.

Louann Swedberg

Author Louann Swedberg

With over 25 years’ of experience, Louann provides project oversight and direction for critical learning and development projects for key CARA clients. Louann is a CARA PURE Winner and a CARA Leadership Team Member. As an Engagement Manager, Louann leverages deep practitionership in learning and performance consulting coupled with strong business acumen to architect project solutions, identify resources, and guide and manage project engagements to meet business and learning needs. Louann is a recognized leader in establishing long-term partnerships and providing learning expertise, thought partnership and proven practices to help CARA consulting teams design, develop, and enable impactful learning strategies for our clients.

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