Reskilling, Upskilling, & Cross-skilling to Build Workforce Capability

As organizations grapple with labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and new technologies, the skills needed to keep pace, or even outpace, industry peers quickly evolve. PwC encountered the question, “How are we going to prepare our people?” in almost every conversation with leaders at the World Economic Forum. With 87% of executives experiencing skills gaps or expecting to over the next few years, it’s really no surprise that organizations have turned to reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling to close these skills gaps and prepare for the new world of work.

What is reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling? These strategies, although similar, are used differently depending on the intended outcome for the workforce population. In general, however, reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling have one common thread. They’re all about investing in building out the capabilities of your workforce with a skills-first mindset.

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What is reskilling?

Reskilling is training employees to learn new skills so that they can perform in a different or evolving role. The World Economic Forum predicts that 50% of all employees will require reskilling within the next five years as the disruptions of the economy, COVID-19, and increasing automation take hold. Reskilling is actually the preferred method of skill and capability building for many executives as opposed to hiring external talent, as it contributes positively to the overall morale and financial health of the organization. When deploying a reskilling strategy, it’s all about providing the right training, educational resources, and guidance to ensure your people are successful along their learning journey.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is increasing the level of competence to an employee’s existing skill set so they can better perform or evolve with new requirements in their current role. The World Economic Forum’s report on upskilling explain the stark contrast between the current skills of the workforce and those needed to be successful in the future of work. PwC found companies that integrate upskilling can realize a 10% to 15% increase in benefits to their large-scale transformation initiatives, up to 40% reduction in workloads on individual roles, and more than 5% improvement to workforce retention. When deploying upskilling initiatives, it’s important to understand employee career goals and aspirations and their current mix of skills and capabilities. Doing so sets your employees up for success with specific learning, development, and participation incentives. It’s also important to note that upskilling is continuous, not a one-time event. So along with the necessary technical skills, upskilling should involve learning how to think and adapt quickly to the dynamic changes of your industry.

“It is not possible to recruit enough already-skilled people to do them. The only option is to help members of the existing workforce, those currently excluded, those starting their working lives and those in the next generation gain the knowledge and skills they need — and that society needs them to have — in the digital age.”

What is cross-skilling or cross-training?

Cross-skilling, also known as cross-training, is building out skills that span a variety of roles, functions, or job roles. By increasing the number of employees who have operational knowledge and understand various tasks within their division, organizations are better prepared for unplanned absences, labor shortages, or attrition. This helps to mitigate risks associated with lapses in operations and productivity stalls by quickly closing the skills gaps with a trained and knowledgeable employee.

Skills management informs reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling

Understand the skill makeup of your workforce and how it aligns with business goals

Innovations with automation, new information regarding regulatory compliance, and shifts in what products and services should be offered will surface new needs for workforce skills. When planning organizational goals and initiatives around these changes, skills data informs how the workforce is positioned in meeting business needs. It’s critical that leaders consider what is missing in the skills landscape across employee populations that will either help or hinder current and future business goals.

Specify training and development initiatives to close skills gaps

Once you understand the skills makeup of your workforce, you can target training and development initiatives to close skills gaps. Out of these gaps, what are the critical skills needed to meet industry demands and business goals? Consider developing reskilling, upskilling, and/or cross-skilling programs centered around these specifically. This will not only help build a skilled workforce that can meet business goals but will help the organization retain talent by investing in employees and their career pathing objectives.

Listen to the full GP Strategies podcast with Jai Shah, Kahuna CEO and Co-founder.

Enable agility and a competitive advantage for the future of work

With consistent and updated skills data across the workforce, organizations have complete visibility into what their employees are capable of. When operations need to be scaled up or scaled back, leaders can place the correct resources in the needed roles or reallocate them to other teams where demands may be rising. A complete and validated skills profile gives managers confidence that each resource is capable of performing the job. And if gaps exist, reskilling, upskilling, or cross-skilling initiatives can be completed accordingly. Skills management programs make skills validation a routine part of the day-to-day operations within the business, helping organizations adjust to the changes in the industry or labor market, no matter what comes up in the future of work.

Build a resilient and capable workforce with skills management

Across Kahuna’s customer base, we’ve seen customers using modern skills management initiatives to reduce time to competence by as much as 235%. Having validated skills data to inform your reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling initiatives is truly game-changing when adapting to the dynamic world of work across all industries. When it’s time to deploy the right resources to the right jobs at the right time, using validated skills data will enable organizations to build agile, competitive teams that meet current and future demands. Talk with a skills advisor to learn more

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