The Importance Of Upskilling and Reskilling (It’s Not What You Think)

January 10, 2023
June 26, 2023
Upskilling And Reskilling

Want to know what most articles on this topic get wrong?

They act as if the reason they’re presenting for upskilling and reskilling’s importance is fixed.

We’re moving towards a hybrid workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic. A digital skills shortage. A looming crisis with the number of vacancies…

And in doing so, they show us the point and miss it all at once.

Upskilling and reskilling are important because they make us more adaptable and able to keep pace with ever-quickening change. They don’t solve a single challenge and suddenly stop being relevant!

There will always be another skills statistic…

👉 Post-pandemic, 69% of organizations did more skill building than before COVID.

👉 In 2021, 48% of businesses were recruiting for roles with hard data skills but almost the same percentage (46%) struggled to hire for those in the past two years.

👉 By 2025, the World Economic Forum believed that half of all employees would need new skills driven by automation and technology.

👉 By 2030, there will be 85 million global vacancies due to a lack of skilled people.

The thing all of these have in common is that they’re created by changes in our external environment.

But what are your business-specific contexts, challenges and environments?

You’re better off figuring out why it’s important to you and responding.

Understanding the role of upskilling and reskilling in solving your current challenges

Getting too caught up in the numbers above leads you down the path of trend following and worrying more about the macro problems.

When the more useful route is figuring out what’s happening at the business level. What’s the direction of travel in your industry? Do you lack the skills to seize opportunities? And are your current skill levels holding back performance?

Here’s a process you can use to build something tailored to your business.

1. Spotting your current problems and skills gaps

We already discussed it, but there’s often too much attention on what’s happening at a global level and too little focus on the local level.

Understanding the external environment is absolutely essential too, and we’ll get to that…

But if you’re in the business of driving performance and impact, your first port of call needs to be internal data and challenges.

Performance data can highlight areas where skills are lacking. Maybe the sales team isn’t creating enough pipeline or the reach of your marketing materials is below where it needs to be, these numbers can help you spot knowledge and skills gaps.

So can a good understanding of current challenges. When individual people are doing their day-to-day roles, which problems are they commonly encountering, and what stops them solving those? When departments take on a new project, where are they light on skills?

2. Fostering the relationships needed to truly understand missing skills internally

A quick detour but none of this is possible over a long period without good relationships.

People will often explain symptoms as problems, and that’ll require you to dig deeper! There’ll be times when you need absolute honesty, strong buy-in, or access to insights that others are the gatekeepers for.

Ensuring you have positive relationships makes your upskilling and reskilling job easier.

3. Building a profile of current skills and proficiency levels.

Remember, we’re talking about solving problems and plugging gaps at speed.

And one thing that’s guaranteed to help us do that is a record or database of the skills in your company and how proficient people are in them.

You can’t identify or close skill gaps based on assumptions, so you need that data to guide you.

At HowNow, we use a five-point scale to help companies build a skill profile and understand proficiency. Using 360 feedback and assessing these at regular intervals, they’re able to build a skills profile that evolves over time.

Skills Competent

Let’s go through a quick example of where this might be useful. We’re in a marketing team and have a new product launch coming up – it’s time for a press release!

A skills profile could help us understand whether we have that skill in the marketing team. Someone might have it at a low level that needs improvement before they can deliver what we need for this project.

Maybe we don’t have that talent in the marketing team but someone in sales has a PR background and we can borrow their skills for the length of the project.

Without a skills profile, you’ll end up best guessing, getting delayed or simply not knowing.

4. Building the knowledge and talent internally

Once we’ve done all these other steps, it’s essentially a case of understanding the knowledge, information, and skills needed to build the required talents.

Whether it’s following that data or measuring the skills profile, we have an exact understanding of the challenge or gap, and we can build learning experiences to solve or close them.

5. Predicting change and future skills you might need

We’ve done it! Right at the end, we’ve reached the point most people start with…

But we can still approach it slightly differently! And that’s essentially by starting with a smaller external environment – what are the trends pointing towards in your industry? Where’s the local/industry-specific data you can apply in the context of your business?

One more example?

There’s a global digital skills gap, we need to build more digital skills.


Our industry is seeing more people buying online than in any previous year. The research is pointing to the fact that chat support is going to increase and telephone support will head the other way.

Therefore, it is likely our staff will need to be proficient in applying customer service principles digitally.

The second option is obviously more useful. It provides something contextual that we can act on, and if we’ve done the first four steps correctly, we can also understand how pressing this is for us. Whether that’s through the skills profile or using performance data.

Read Upskilling Employees: Everything A Fast-Growing Company Should Know

Upskilling: Everything A Fast-Growing Company Should Know

Check out our other upskilling resources