Reskilling and Upskilling Your Workforce for the Post-COVID-19 Era

September 10, 2020

Reskilling and Upskilling Your Workforce for the Post-COVID-19 Era

As employees return to the new normal, employers face tough choices regarding shortcomings in skills and knowledge that were laid bare by the forced telecommuting following the pandemic shutdown.

A 2018 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study found that 50 percent of jobs ran the risk of greatly changing or becoming obsolete. After COVID-19, that's even more possible. Thanks to all of the workplace adaptations due to the pandemic, the question for many becomes how to re-educate the available workforce to fill the vast void in new digital technologies.

Reskilling vs. Upskilling

Reskilling and upskilling are both important tools for closing the skills gap in today's technology workforce. Upskilling involves learning new skills or teaching workers new skills, while reskilling involves learning new skills to qualify for a different job or teaches employees new skills to help them get a new job in the same company or elsewhere.

Reskilling focuses on creating new skill sets so individuals can qualify for new positions and upskilling teaches new skills for the same job. Unlike reskilling, upskilling merely requires an enhancement of skills for a role that remains relevant. Typically, reskilling programs require a degree or certification that individuals complete through corporate learning initiatives or outside education institutes. Employers who wish to start upskilling/reskilling programs must first identify the skills needed to leverage the new technologies that will benefit their organizations.

Post-COVID Workforce: What Employers Need

Today, digital transformation is at the top of priorities for CEOs around the world, once we overcome the COVID-19 crisis. This transformation will define the jobs of the future and will set the stage for companies to contribute to the economic reactivation, providing their employees with appropriate training so that they can occupy the new positions that will be generated.

In the 2020 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, results show that this year 51 percent of companies globally plan to implement an upskilling program within their organizations; 47 percent will do the same for reskilling. For its part, the Boston Consulting Group reports that 86 percent of the workforce in Latin America is interested in reskilling to obtain a new job. Without a doubt, this opens the door to significant changes within the HR department, not only in the United States but also in Mexico and Latin America.

It may be more than worthwhile to invest in upskilling loyal employees in finance and technology rather than losing them. That doesn't mean reskilling or upskilling your entire workforce, but look for the most vulnerable positions and evaluate the contribution of employees whose jobs are quickly becoming obsolete.

Roadmap to Upskilling or Reskilling Employees

Here's an outline of the steps needed to create an upskilling or reskilling strategy for your employees.

  • Define the initiative. To avoid layoffs and upgrade the skill set and knowledge that your current workforce has to offer, determine whether you can upskill employees already in similar roles. Given a choice and clear objectives, most employees will choose to adapt and learn the new technology.
  • Design a skills plan. By carefully identifying the employees capable of reskilling and matching them to open positions, you can develop a skills plan tailored to your organization's exact needs.
  • Match jobs and begin reskilling. Use software designed to identify your skills gaps. You can start with open positions that have remained unfilled due to a shortage in the labor force at large. You can even gain an edge on competitors by teaching your existing employees new skills in artificial intelligence and big data.

Time Is of the Essence

Don't be afraid to implement, test and tweak your upskilling program. The more your employees learn, the faster your company will be able to bridge the technology gap and overcome difficulties needed to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than ever.

The Authors: 

Fernando Ortiz-Barbachano is President and CEO of Barbachano International.