Technology has changed the face of business across virtually every industry, and many professionals and academics view the new digital landscape and associated connected technologies as a sort-of Fourth Industrial Revolution.


Along with all of the benefits of today’s fast-paced connectivity come some challenges, including what to do with employees who were trained for a work environment that no longer exists.

These are often employees who have many years of experience in industries like manufacturing and other labor jobs, and most are able to perform their duties to high standards.

With technologies like automation, artificial intelligence, networking and machine learning taking over, many of these jobs and the professionals who perform them are facing fast changes and an uncertain future.

What is Upskilling?

One way to tackle these challenges is through upskilling meaning to take existing skills and apply them in new ways according to updated business trends and technologies. An employee who upskills is someone who relies on experience in an industry that lends itself to success moving forward when approaching changes from a new angle.

An example of upskilling may be where a worker knows how to operate a machine, but then that machine gets upgraded with automated components. This has the potential to put the worker out of a job, but instead, the employee could upskill to learn how to maintain, repair and even program the automated machine. The goal is to upgrade the existing skills the worker has so that they can be applied to new technology.

What is Reskilling?

Reskilling has a definition similar to retooling. When a factory retools, it simply fits existing machinery with new parts to do a different job. The original equipment remains intact, but the tool bits are traded out to accomplish new tasks. An employee who reskills is someone who laterally transitions their skills through the use of technology.

Credit: Karolina Fok

An example of reskilling may be where a manufacturing sales representative who normally works face-to-face with clients is retrained to use customer relationship management software and video chat applications for interfacing with clients online. The salesperson takes the skills they already possess and transitions into a different way of doing the same job using technology.

Upskilling And Reskilling Strategies

For business owners, there are a number of strategies that can be used to transition employees into the digital age. Which one works best for you will depend on several factors, including your workforce, your industry and the speed at which the transition must be made.

If you have the time and resources, developing specialized training courses to upskill or reskill employees is a great idea. During in-depth, individualized training sessions, your employees can evaluate their current skills and see in real-time how they can be applied to new ways of doing things.

If you don’t have a lot of time, your company may be better served by implementing changes in stages. Using this strategy, an employee who is currently being upskilled or reskilled can ease their way into a new way of doing things while still maintaining bits of the old way of doing things.

This process still takes time, but it generally doesn’t take as long as providing months-long training sessions that totally redefine methods.

How To Support Employees Who Want To Reskill and Upskill

Business owners can support upskill or reskill efforts by not only encouraging professional growth, but also by looking for ways to take advantage of the skills and experience employees already have. Once enhanced through upskill strategies or tweaked through reskilling, the skills these employees have to offer can be a huge benefit to the company as a whole as your industry moves fully into the digital age.

Credit: Tulane Public Relations

Employers are encouraged to be patient with employees during the upskill or reskill process. Changes in the workplace can be challenging, particularly if an employee has been with your company for many years and has grown accustomed to a certain way of doing things.

Reminding your employees of the benefits of upskilling or reskilling is important, and you can also consider rewarding employees who show initiative and put forth extra effort to benefit the company as a whole.

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