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The difference between reskilling and upskilling: Curbing the skill gap.

It is quite common to confuse about the difference between reskilling and upskilling. This guide is here to help you understand what they mean.

With the growing skill gap in the market, the search for reskilling and upskilling strategies has also gone up. In hopes of curbing the issue, consultants and HR managers often mix up the terms, failing to realize the difference between reskilling and upskilling. Consequently, leading to a hodge-podge of irrelevant solutions that fail to do the job. This article will go over the subtleties surrounding the difference between reskilling and upskilling. Furthermore, giving tangible strategies to implement them effectively.

See also: How to become a corporate trainer in 2022?

Firstly, let's begin by understanding the meaning of a 'skill gap'. According to industry specialists, a 'skill gap' is the difference between the employees' skill set and the company's required skill need. This has become a grave concern for the sustenance of jobs and businesses as more than 80% of L&D professionals report a skill gap. As a result, it puts extra pressure on recruiters to find the "perfect fit" for the jobs. However, they fail to realize that there is no perfect fit. Such a mentality depicts that skill gaps are an individual's responsibility instead of the company's. This is where organizations make a fundamental mistake by failing to invest in human talent development.

Following are some major industry skill gaps:

  • Advanced data analysis and mathematical skills
  • Complex information processing and interpretation
  • Advanced IT skills and programming
  • Leadership and managing others
  • Critical thinking and decision making
  • Adaptability and continuous learning

According to the World Economic Forum's Future of the jobs report, reskilling and upskilling are crucial for the sustainability of jobs and industry. Interestingly, more and more companies have become responsive to this increasing crisis. Consequently, these companies are willing to invest in workforce skill development such as professional certifications and training workshops. However, such one-off efforts are not enough.

The difference between reskilling and upskilling:

What is reskilling?

Reskilling refers to skill diversification. Accordingly, employees receive training to learn new and different skills from what they previously possess. It comes in handy when workers have to take on different roles and responsibilities. Especially important for employees considered as assets and too valuable to let go of. Hence, companies combat employee turnover and minimize recruitment costs by investing in the existing workforce.

Moreover, reskilling is an absolute necessity for companies hoping to expand their ventures or improve technological progression. In such cases, it is easier to collaborate with people familiar with the company's goals and SOPs rather than getting new hires.

An example of reskilling that I am sure we are well familiar with is remote learning. As a consequence of COVID, companies had to reevaluate their operations. This, in turn, required additional training and readjustments i.e. reskilling of the entire workforce.

See also: Best workplace training strategies.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling refers to the improvement in the existing skill sets rather than acquiring new and different skills. This is the major difference between reskilling and upskilling. The primary aim is to better oneself to take on greater challenges at work such as additional work responsibilities and promotions.

Moreover, for companies, upskilling is a way of reducing employee loss or turnover by making them feel valued. It enables the workforce to develop themselves and get out of the existential work dread of being stuck in one position. As a result, both companies and employees can improve their capacities together.

Advantages of reskilling and upskilling

Now that we have established the primary difference between reskilling and upskilling, let's understand why your organization needs to invest in them.

Besides the reduction of employee turnover, skill development offers numerous benefits to companies. By enabling workers to skill up, it makes them suitable to take on new roles and hence helps in expanding the horizons of the company itself. At the same time, it improves employee satisfaction. In fact, recent statistics show that 32% of employees report being very satisfied whereas 43% of employees report being satisfied with the reskilling and upskilling workshops at their companies.

Skill development is also important for an individual's capacity of navigating their jobs. Since new hires lack the knowledge to understand an organization's lines of communication, it is cost-effective and time-saving to invest in older recruits.

Interestingly, skill development also boosts an organization's brand value, making them an employee and client favorite. Lastly, constant skill learning results in an improved ability of a company to react faster to market developments. Hence, improving its adaptability and making it a sustainable organization.

Issues with reskilling and upskilling

Well, the issues are not necessarily with reskilling and upskilling, rather, they have to do with the inept implementation. A lot of the time, when one thinks of skill development, hard skills come to mind such as coding, automation, etc. We too often neglect soft skills. This results in ill-designed training programs that do little to minimize the skill gap.

Moreover, companies often lack the vigilance to detect and determine the basic skill needs and hence, wait till the last minute to take any action. By that time, it is too late to yield any positive results. Often, companies expect employees to invest in skill development on their own without providing any help or incentives. This attitude is not only unfavorable but also makes employees feel abandoned.

There is also a greater need for regular skill monitoring within organizations to better adapt to the skill gap. These can include assessments of the existing skills,  insights from company leaders for additional needs, and evaluation of the results of the efforts made.

Implementation of reskilling and upskilling strategies

Begin by carrying out a thorough assessment of the existing skills in your organization. You may seek input from varying levels of your company's leadership for an all-rounded understanding. Then measure and analyze these skills; their strengths and weaknesses, how they can be improved, what more is required, etc. Once you have a clear idea of what you have and what you need, start by developing an action plan. This will function as a blueprint for designing and implementing the reskilling and upskilling strategies.

To be on the safe side and to reduce your workload, it is advisable to seek professional help i.e. get L&D experts and consultants on board. They will help with training the HR teams adequately and design your training modules. For this, you will also have to invest in quality LMS that supports these courses. Teachfloor offers a variety of key features that are necessary to run corporate training content. Finally, do will have to conduct periodic reassessments of the skill development efforts by seeking feedback from employees and managers. Simply putting in money is not enough, for optimal results, one has to engage in a constant struggle.

On a side note, a rather impressive skill development strategy that automotive companies such as Mazda and Toyota have picked up is the "Transfer VR". It incorporates automation and virtual reality to train employees. Such an immersive technology helps keep the costs and risks minimum and the learners' interest maximum.


The difference between reskilling and upskilling may not be that stark as they are both strategies for skill development, but they hint at a growing crisis of skill gap. Studies show that the expected skill gap will increase up to $8.452 trillion by 2030 if necessary action is not taken. Reskilling and upskilling strategies aim to bridge this gap by engaging in continuous employee learning to meet the growing market needs. They are less about employee development and more about a company's overall growth. While such investments may seem like added expenses, in the long run, they help with the company's survival.

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