You probably have heard reskilling and upskilling used interchangeably. You may even think that they are synonyms. The difference between them is that, in reskilling, an employee acquires a new set of skills while, in upskilling, an employee enhances her abilities within the same job profile. Reskilling and upskilling allow employees to remain productive members of the workforce. By investing in such initiatives companies
Let’s meet Linda.
Linda was a very experienced licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a major metropolitan teaching hospital. She handled all kinds of medical situations at a moment’s notice, provided emotional support to patients and their families, responded to instructions from the medical staff, and understood the intricacies of working with medical professionals without undermining their authority. Linda found her work at the hospital’s emergency room rewarding personally and professionally. She planned to work there until she decided to retire.
Over time, the hospital accelerated the pace of incorporating the latest technological advances into its departments. Digital medical records, robotic surgery, real-time ultrasound guidance for interventions, and telemedicine became commonplace. Gradually, the hospital’s nursing staff became more specialized.
One day, all LPNs were required to become registered nurses (RNs) in order to remain employed. Linda was not ready for retirement and wanted to stay at this hospital.
Linda’s only choice to keep her job was to obtain her RN credential. Her self-confidence dropped and her self-doubts increased because she had been away from traditional academic institutions for a long time. She could not even remember when was the last time that she had to write a paper for a class.
Linda was upskilling, because she was preparing for a more complex role within the nursing field. Both approaches allow employees to remain actively involved in the workforce; however, reskilling has been often associated with unskilled workers who otherwise would be forced to leave the workforce.
Much of the discussion about reskilling and upskilling has been centered on providing technological skills, data analysis processes, and domain knowledge, often overlooking those misnamed soft skills, such as communication, influence, and teamwork. Even though how these are applied in the workplace will undoubtedly change, their core characteristics remain the same.
L&D professionals are uniquely positioned to contribute to the success of reskilling and upskilling initiatives. Here are some specific suggestions for what you can do.
Illanes, P., Lund, S., Mourshed, M., Rutherford, S., Tyreman, M. (2018) Retraining and Reskilling Workers in the Age of Automation. McKinsey & Company.
PwC. (January 2018). Your Workforce Needs Reskilling.
King, D.W. (April 8, 2019). Now is the Time to Start Upskilling your Workforce. Human Resource Executive.
ATD and Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp). Morrison, C. and Lauber, R. (August 7, 2018). Upskilling and Reskilling: Turning Disruption and Change into New Capabilities. ATD Webcast.
Maurer, R. (February 28, 2019). Scaling Up Skills. SHRM.
Probst, L., and Scharff, C. (2019). The Lost Workforce: Upskilling for the Future. World Government Summit 2019 in Partnership with PwC.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links