How upskilling and reskilling can change your life and workplace

The COVID-19 pandemic has left no stone unturned when it comes to disrupting the human experience. According to the Pew Research Centre, over 15 percent of the world’s working population have been affected by the economic and health disruptions through layoffs, furloughs and wage freezes. Hearing about the millions of people who have lost their primary source of income begs the question, “What does it take to come out on top in a world where only the ‘fittest’ individuals and organisations survive?”

Two ideas that come out on top are upskilling and reskilling. You can think of reskilling as the development of additional skills and new capabilities to help one move to a new role or increase the scope of their current role. On the other hand, Upskilling is training and development that enables one to become better at a job they already perform by increasing their rate or quality of work. Basically, reskilling involves mastering new skillsets, while upskilling aims at performing your current role more efficiently and effectively.

Individual and Organisational Advantages

Upskilling and reskilling hold a number of individual and organisational benefits.

  1. Successfully navigate emerging challenges – Running a business in the 21st century has been the ultimate test of resilience and adaptability. This begun with the dot-com burst at the turn of the millennium and there was the global financial crisis that ensued less than a decade later. Currently we’re contending with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought even more economic turmoil. Thus, having a workforce that is constantly upskilling and reskilling may allow your organisation to successfully navigate the local and global challenges that constantly emerge. At an individual level, upskilling and reskilling may allow you to shift your professional focus within a changing organisation or quickly pivot your career by taking on a new role externally.
  • Adapt to market changes – Juxtaposed against a constantly shifting economic landscape, human social and behavioural habits are also constantly changing. This requires organisations to constantly re-think their market offerings. Upskilling and reskilling allows employees to not only have a greater wealth of knowledge but to also implement it efficiently. Thus, you can leverage your new and improved skills to guide your organisation through murky waters and satisfy your dynamic customer base.
  • Attract Talent and Nurture Potential – No one wants to work for an employer that does not support professional growth and invest in career advancement. Equally, no organisation wants to hire an employee that does not invest in personal development and self-improvement. Thus, upskilling and reskilling at both the individual and organisational level acts as a sign post for success for people on both sides of the job market.
  • Competitive Edge and Confidence – Upskilling and reskilling not only gives organisations a competitive edge, but it also gives individuals the self-confidence needed to work in a disruptive world. This is especially important in today’s knowledge age where an organisations competitive advantage is derived from its employees’ ability to critically think about complex problems and advance innovative solutions.

How to upskill and reskill

Following the above benefits, here are a few practical ways you can start your individual or organisational upskilling and reskilling journey.

  1. Lifelong learning – Lately, it feels like there is a new normal every week! Thus, adopting a perpetual growth mindset, be it individually or as an organisation, allows you to accept changes faster and pivot towards the next profitable venture. Being a lifelong learner is now easier than at any other time in human history given the various online and remote services that exist.
  3. Use all resources available to you – Upskilling and reskilling may sometimes seem like huge financial investment. However, both individuals and organisations have numerous options depending on their budget. Organisations can utilise both internal and external training resources to facilitate this. Additionally, simple methods such as sharing links to free online seminars, job shadowing and employee swaps can also help in upskilling and reskilling your human capital. At an individual level, you may engage in free or paid professional courses, find a mentor or a coach within your network. Even something as simple as watching relevant YouTube videos can help you keep you abreast of the developments in your field.
  • Let go of your inhibitions – Don’t be afraid to take on new job opportunities or client projects that are outside your current scope of expertise. If there has ever been a time to expand your professional horizons and seize new opportunities, it’s now! One way to obtain seniority or job security at a company is to keep an eye out for opportunities that add value to the organisation and their clients.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that “unlike in the past when workers did not seem prepared for certain transitions in work, there is a chance today that future changes can be anticipated and well prepared for.” Improving your skills allows you to not only safeguard your income, but grow your organisation and contribute to the global economy at large. I hope you take up the challenge and invest in yourself!

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