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Reskilling teaches employees new skills as a way to either broaden their current roles in your business or move into entirely new roles. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Nearly every industry and business in the United States is currently facing a labor shortage, causing many businesses to struggle to find top talent. Rather than hiring new workers, business owners can — and should — leverage their current staff by investing in reskilling initiatives.

A recent Deloitte survey found that 73% of business and HR leaders believe that organizations are responsible for developing their workforce. Here’s what reskilling entails and why your business should consider investing in it.

What is reskilling?

Reskilling is the process of teaching existing employees new skills so they can perform new tasks and, in some cases, new jobs. Reskilling helps organizations meet their staffing needs by leveraging current employees without having to secure outside talent.

Not only does reskilling benefit employers, but it also gives workers new skills that will help them excel and advance in their careers. Reskilling can lead to role changes, promotions, and other professional opportunities.

[Read more: Preparing for the Future: 7 Steps to Building a More Resilient Business]

Reskilling vs. upskilling

Upskilling is another popular strategy being used in the current worker shortage crisis. Both reskilling and upskilling can help organizations address their skill gaps and meet their staffing needs. However, unlike reskilling, upskilling involves advancing an individual's existing talents rather than teaching them entirely new skills. This helps workers to become better at their current jobs but doesn’t necessarily equip them for new positions or roles.

How to approach reskilling your staff

Identify skill gaps

Understanding which skills your business requires and which skills your current employees lack is the first step to reskilling your team. For instance, if your business needs a manager but no one on your staff has leadership experience, consider teaching them the skills necessary to be a good leader so they can advance into managerial positions.

“Like with any business strategy, leaders must begin with accurately diagnosing the problem before jumping to conclusions or solutions,” said Jaimie Francis, Vice President of Policy and Programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Identify core workers who are willing and able to grow with your company, and focus your reskilling efforts on them.

Some common, high-demand skills in the current workforce include analytical and critical thinking, active learning, emotional intelligence, resilience, stress tolerance, flexibility, leadership, and social influence. However, skill gaps might differ depending on the organization, industry, and your existing staff.

“The key is to use your own data — as opposed to [data] from other sources like state agencies — to determine which approach will truly meet your needs,” Francis said.

[Read more: Are There Skills Gaps On Your Team? How to Identify and Address Them]

Be flexible

Being flexible while reskilling your staff will help you get the most out of your initiatives without breeding resentment among workers.

“To realize success in these initiatives, you must be flexible enough to address unanticipated barriers and be willing to make changes if something is not working,” Francis said. “New obstacles may surface, so continue to listen to what the data tells you and react.”

Continually evaluate how your reskilling strategies are working. Are you able to promote employees to new roles after teaching them new skills, or are you noticing a lack of growth among your team? Ask employees how they learn best to make sure they — and your business — get the most of reskilling efforts.

Additionally, don’t force any employee to progress to a position they aren’t interested in. Identify core workers who are willing and able to grow with your company, and focus your reskilling efforts on them.

Create your reskilling program

Discuss with your employees why and how you will begin reskilling them and be open to their suggestions. For instance, will you hold the training in person or create an online program for remote workers?

From there, develop your training materials, gather your resources, and create a general timeline for your reskilling program that works for you, your business, and your employees.

Here are some more specific tips for developing a reskilling program:

  • Identify skills gaps and segment employees accordingly.
  • Choose a training style that best suits your employees.
  • Create learning tools for the skills you’re looking to teach.
  • Deliver the training in person or online, depending on your business model.
  • Track and measure the progress of the employees involved.

A reskilling program might serve its purpose for a finite period, but you can implement reskilling strategies on an ongoing basis, too. Keep an eye on your top performers and continuously rethink how you might help them advance in their careers at your company. Employees should benefit from reskilling just as much as the business does.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 24, 2023