Upskilling and reskilling are two distinct approaches to employee learning & development initiatives, each serving unique purposes within the ever-evolving landscape of professional growth. While upskilling revolves around refining and enhancing existing skills within the same occupational realm, reskilling takes a more transformative route by equipping individuals with the expertise required for an entirely new role. The distinction lies in the depth of change and the scope of skill acquisition.

Upskilling is akin to a targeted expansion, enabling individuals to become more proficient and versatile within their current field, fostering incremental progress. In contrast, reskilling involves a broader shift, preparing employees for a potential lateral move, redefining their career trajectory in response to evolving market demands.

Now, why does all this matter? The significance lies in catering to employees’ needs and aspirations.

Upskilling and Reskilling: Employee Aspirations and Employer Investments

As per the Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, high skill gaps persist as sought-after skills evolve across various jobs in the coming five years. Employers anticipate increased prominence in critical thinking, analysis, problem-solving, and self-management skills such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility leading to 2025. Additionally, 94% of business leaders estimate and report that they expect employees to acquire new skills while on the job.

Furthermore, as outlined in a Gallup report, 48% of American workers express a willingness to change their current jobs should they be presented with opportunities for skills training.

These statistics are paramount as they underscore a genuine desire among people to acquire new skills. These indicate a recognition of the need for reskilling, and notably, a significant majority of the employees would opt to remain in their current roles if provided with opportunities to invest in their professional growth and development.

Now, from the employer’s perspective—those investing the resources—there are compelling reasons to care. According to Dell’s Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future survey, 85% of the jobs anticipated in the next 8 years do not currently exist.

Additionally, as per a Harvard Business Review study, the typical half-life of skills is now under five years, with certain technology fields experiencing a mere two and a half years. For numerous employees, relying solely on upskilling may prove insufficient. The dynamic nature of this changing environment highlights the crucial significance of upskilling and reskilling. The rapid pace of change necessitates a focus on educating and advancing the skills of individuals, making it one of the most substantial investments an organization can undertake.

Beyond Semantics: Exploring Upskilling and Reskilling Dynamics

The fundamental question revolves around whether upskilling and reskilling are essentially synonymous or if the distinction is merely a choice of terminology. To a considerable extent, the two concepts share similarities. As we evaluate the L&D leader’s roles within organizations, the common objective is to uplift employees, progressively enhance their skills, and elevate their proficiency levels.

However, there has been a limited emphasis on reskilling within the learning and development and HR domains. The focus has primarily been on upskilling—improving existing skills—rather than extensively exploring the potential of reskilling individuals. This involves recognizing that someone may not be optimally suited for their current role but could excel in a different capacity with proper education and training.

Taking a higher-level perspective and emphasizing the importance of upskilling and reskilling signifies an advancement in learning and development. It doesn’t entail a drastic departure from existing practices in upskilling interviews; instead, it strategically situates learning and development as the primary competitive advantage for any company. It is more critical than ever to reconsider our approach to business, recognizing learning and development as a pivotal element.

The diminishing half-life of skills prompts many individuals to seek new jobs or acquire new skills. This highlights the pressing need for businesses to reassess their perspectives and understand their roles in the evolving talent ecosystem, which is increasingly becoming the cornerstone of success for any company.

Skill Dynamics: Mapping the Present, Shaping the Future

What is the present state of the employee’s skills, and how can we address it? What could be the potential benefits of pursuing this? Learning leaders can follow innovative, straightforward approaches, ensuring relevance for their diverse audience.

Process, Technology and People

It’s important first to understand and define the existing skills, beginning with an overview of the business processes. While detailed knowledge of every role isn’t necessary, a comprehensive understanding of the overarching processes is crucial. Identify the critical processes that significantly impact the business, considering the 80/20 rule.

Moving on to technology, familiarity with the tech within the domains is common, but it’s equally important to comprehend technologies used by other departments and stay informed about their rapid changes.

Considering your workforce is also vital. What skills do your employees possess, and how transferable or specialized are they? A high-level understanding of the current processes, technologies, and workforce sets the foundation. Following this, learning leaders can identify areas for improvement based on current needs.

Speed, Value and Cost

The common refrain is the triad of doing things faster, better, or cheaper. However, it’s often acknowledged that one can typically only choose two out of the three. It is essential to comprehend the objectives of your business, whether it adheres to a proven model with a historical emphasis on cost and value, a similar focus on cost and speed, or places priority on value as the central driver.

Gaining insights into your business’s objectives is not just about understanding its culture but also involves communication with other business managers and delving into your CEO’s 10-K reports. The first page or summary of these reports, typically authored by the CEO, provides a valuable indicator of where your business seeks improvement.

Planning for the Next Five Years

Now armed with a clear understanding of the skills and their application in alignment with the company’s objectives, the next imperative is envisioning where you need to be in the next five years. This isn’t about predicting new inventions, as organizational shifts typically take longer than five years. Instead, it involves observing current innovations and projecting their impact.

In embarking on the journey of upskilling and reskilling, it’s essential to have a clear internal direction and destination. Without a mapped-out plan, learning leaders risk meandering without purpose. Therefore, having a well-defined map is crucial as they navigate the skill development landscape and organizational evolution.


The changing skills landscape demands a shift in business approach. Investing in upskilling and reskilling employees isn’t just crucial – it’s a competitive advantage. Recognizing and fostering skill development is advantageous for both employees and employers. Organizations can chart a course for success through continuous learning and development by mapping current skills and envisioning future needs.

We conducted a webinar titled “Innovative (and easy!) Ways to Transform Your People with Upskilling and Reskilling.” During the session, Nolan Hout, Senior Vice President at Infopro Learning, delved into key aspects of talent development innovation.

The conversation covered fundamental elements conducive to innovation in talent development, providing insights through straightforward and refined examples of innovative upskilling programs. Furthermore, Nolan delved into the technological factors influencing or impeding innovation in this context.

Access the recorded webinar via the provided link to gain valuable insights.

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