5 Tips to Reskill Your Workforce

smiling woman holds a mobile phoneWhen we talk about reskilling, we usually start with the fact that many workers won’t have their current jobs in a few years. Their position might be terminated, automated, or be otherwise fundamentally changed by a rapidly shifting market.

But what if jobs themselves are about to change?

Several recent reports are predicting a fundamental change in the nature of work. McKinsey’s most recent Future of Work report defines job sectors not by industry, but how physically close workers must be to co-workers and clients. Deloitte is predicting the “end of jobs,” saying skills have become more important than roles. The World Economic Forum (WEF) advocates a “reskilling revolution,” reporting that 44% of workers’ skills are likely to be disrupted in the next five years.

With 93% of respondents to Deloitte’s survey saying that moving away from jobs to a skills-based approach is important to their organizations, it makes sense that upskilling and reskilling continue to be major priorities for companies that want to match their current workforce to work.

What is reskilling?

Reskilling is more than simply providing ongoing training to your employees. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “reskilling is the process of teaching existing employees new skills so they can perform new tasks and, in some cases, new jobs.” In other words, as long as the learners are able to take on a new job once they’ve completed the training, it’s reskilling.

Reskilling programs are a major focus for Learning and Development (L&D) organizations in 2023. LinkedIn, for example, finds that large-scale reskilling programs are the third most important priority for L&D this year: they help to close the skills gap, keep people employed, and make companies more agile. Rather than hiring new workers with the right hard skills, it makes more sense to reshuffle jobs, training the workers you have for the jobs that are available

Reskilling, however, isn’t easy. LinkedIn also found that despite being a priority for L&D pros for a few years, it takes a while to ramp up large-scale reskilling initiatives. This means companies that have been focusing on reskilling since 2020 aren’t quite as agile as they would have liked to be by now.

How to build a reskilling strategy

While there are many ways to develop a reskilling program, there are a few basic points to keep in mind if you’re reskilling a large number of workers at once.

  1. Prioritize the skills you need right now
    It can be tempting to completely retrain your entire team for whatever the world might throw at them in the next year… or five. You’re retraining them anyway, right? Why not future proof them with a whole set of new skills? Bear in mind, however, that you need your team to be up and running quickly. Identify the skills essential to your organization, and train your employees on those first. Whatever the skills you need right now, those are the ones to prioritize. The rest of your team’s shiny new skills can wait. (We’ll get to that a little later.)
  2. Use learning pathways for individual workers
    You need your team reskilled fast. Rather than training everyone with the same modules, it may make more sense to use learning pathways to get specific workers up to speed quickly. Use a tool that allows you to enroll a learner in specific assignments to build competence for a new job role.
  3. Commit to an online training program
    The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we work. Many workers didn’t return to the office, and some companies have gone remote-first. An online training program is a safe, easy way to make sure that all workers – no matter where they are based — have access to the same training content. An online learning management system (LMS) also ensures that you can quickly push out training to all the learners who need it.
  4. Make a plan for future retraining
    Just because you reskill once doesn’t mean you’re done forever. While the pandemic forced a focus on reskilling, change was already on the horizon pre-pandemic. According to the WEF, the largest job changers right now are the environment, technology and the economy. So, as you move past your immediate retraining needs, consider the changes you’ll need to make in your organization, and design your reskilling plans for next year accordingly.
  5. Don’t hire people for what they know how to do.
    While reskilling is about training new workers rather than hiring new ones, it’s important to consider your hiring strategies as well.  Rather than hiring for hard skills, look for soft skills, particularly skills that make employees better at learning. If your employees are good learners, after all, they can be reskilled again and again, as technology — or the world — changes.