How to implement a reskilling policy?

The benefits of reskilling

In a fast-moving and competitive job market, companies are more frequently looking to address talent gaps through upskilling and reskilling existing employees rather than recruiting new staff. This is a creative response by HR leaders to the challenge of the skills gap. Harvard Business Review reports that 83% of industry association economists say that employers in their sectors find it more difficult to fill jobs than five years ago.

It’s important to identify the key difference between upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling exists to teach employees new skills to improve performance; reskilling is more of a revolutionary tool, training employees to move to a different post within the company. There is wide adoption of this trend across the tech sector and in Europe, to the extent that the European Commission recently launched the ‘Pact for Skills’ initiative, designed to give incentives to companies that committed to upskilling and reskilling talent. But how does a company begin to implement a reskilling policy?

Your reskilling strategy

As with most policies that your company will look to implement, it is first about identifying the scale of the challenge you want to address. Building a ‘skills inventory’ can tell you what your employees currently have to offer, and further analysis can find out if there are any specific skills your employees are lacking.

There is always potential for flexibility in skills, with many roles that are skills-adjacent to another one. For example, an employee with demonstrable customer service experience in one role could transition well into sales, with both roles requiring similar skillsets.

While you make training opportunities accessible for your employees, the incentives attached to reskilling should also be communicated. Make sure there is a clear pathway for advancement for employees who choose the reskilling option. It undermines the purpose of a reskilling strategy – and the morale of your employees – if there are no clear promotion or employment opportunities as the final goal.

What are the most effective reskilling methods?

Once you have identified certain skills gaps and any adjacent skills, full engagement with your employees will begin. There are various methods involved in reskilling which will have to be tailored to fit the needs of the company and the employee.

For example, on-the-job training allows for greater access to ‘real-world’ experience. Then there is online learning; the advantage here is its accessibility, especially considering the increasing shift to remote or hybrid working styles. Blended learning takes the advantages of online learning and combines that with classroom education, with the added opportunity of interacting with an instructor and peer learners.

Job shadowing gives a learner an accurate portrayal of the day-to-day requirements of a role, and can work well for companies with greater financial restrictions. Within tech, in-house ‘bootcamps’ that teach specific skills are also increasingly common.

An industry leader’s perspective

Joe Peters, the founder of iSearch, a recruiting and executive search firm in Japan and member of Continental Search Alliance, offers his perspective on reskilling.

Speaking from a Japan centric viewpoint, upskilling has been the preferred method for years for new grads entering the job market. Japanese companies prefer to hire unskilled new grads and mold them into the person they want for the job by providing training and mentoring for the first few years of the new employee’s career.

Reskilling in the Japan sense of the word has mainly involved transferring employees to other sections or departments in the company or even to other cities around Japan. These inter-city transfers often meant that the spouse (usually the male spouse) would be sent to the new city alone for two to three years, leaving the wife and children at home, while the transferred spouse lived in a small company paid apartment in the new city. Trips home to see the family are permitted, but usually with time and budgetary limitations.

With the pandemic now well into its third year Japan is seeing some changes in both areas. Younger employees are less open to long-term training before they are allowed to advance. Some companies have learned that there is no great advantage in transferring employees to other cities and the biggest change has been the reskilling of employees to use technology to be able to work remotely. As recruiters we are now regularly asked about the ability to work from home at least a few days per week and in some cases, only from home.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that, whichever bespoke approach your company takes towards reskilling, it is a long-term, perpetual process that fits specific needs. It may be that recruitment is the way forward to fill skills gaps in your company, but reskilling remains a viable option.

Either way it is ideal that your company is always working to identify and solve skills gaps. As Lisa Lewin, CEO at General Assembly states, ‘(reskilling) is as much about instilling a digital-first perspective, developing growth mindset’ as it is about solving short-term skills gaps. The increasing automation of the workplace, along with the development of hybrid working in a post-pandemic world, has created a golden opportunity for companies to implement a strong reskilling policy.

Joe Peters / Tom Boughen for Continental Search Alliance.

Continental Search Alliance recruits for mid-level to C-suite executive positions from scalable startups to the world’s largest tech firms, combining tech and digital expertise with extensive reach across EMEA and APAC.