The Importance Of Upskilling And Reskilling In Covid-19 And Beyond

Who could have expected the COVID-19 crisis? It has upended everything, especially for business operations. The recent pandemic has impacted both the economy and the job market, and employers have been forced to change the way they work. The keyword over these last 12 months has been “survivability,” and for many organizations, this has meant adapting their way of doing things to cope in rapidly changing conditions. 

The future is still unknown, but as a safeguarding measure, there is much that businesses can do to protect themselves and their employees. This includes developing a talent strategy to develop the abilities of their workforce. By doing so, they will give their employees greater job security, allow individuals and teams to maximize their potential, and have the ability to fill new and emerging job roles without having to go through the hiring process. 

As part of the talent strategy, training is vital, and this leads us on to the importance of upskilling and reskilling. 

Reskilling and upskilling programs are a critical component for overall corporate strategy success. Learn how to position L&D as a driver of strategic value in this free eBook:
Learning Advisory Committees: How to Make L&D a Strategic Pillar in Your Organization

Upskilling vs Reskilling

Training might not seem like a priority for those businesses trying to manage their budgets in this current climate, but the opposite is true. Those companies that spend time and resources investing in training will safeguard themselves during COVID and beyond. Upskilling and reskilling are both important, but they don’t quite represent the same thing.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines each term as follows:

Reskilling: the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job

Upskilling: the process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills

Let’s take a look at these facets of training. 


Upskilling is about teaching an employee additional skills. This will enhance their job performance in their current role, and it can add to their job satisfaction.  For this reason, the organization can save on employee turnover costs because the current employee will have less need to look elsewhere for a more fulfilling job. 

It also negates the need to hire a new employee to manage any of the employee’s skill gaps too as, through upskilling, the employee should be able to manage current and future changes in their job role. 

And as we all know at this stage, many employees have had to change their way of working because of the demands that COVID has placed on them. For some, this has meant having to get to grips with new technologies after being forced to work from home. Through upskilling, such challenges can be met, which is good news, as productivity won’t have to take a hit. The organization can continue as normal and remain competitive in business, and the employee can keep their position. 


Reskilling can be defined as training for employees who want or need to take on a brand new job role within their organisation. This has been especially important over the last year, as many companies have had to reshuffle their workforces. Some roles have become obsolete thanks to COVID and others have emerged. When employees have the skills to move into other job roles, they won’t have to join the unemployment line, and business leaders won’t need to hire new staff and spend time working through job applications.  

When relating reskilling to the changes enforced by COVID, we can consider the world of high street retail. This is one industry that has taken a hit, but many store owners have adapted. Some have created roles that didn’t exist before, including online customer service agents to handle customer queries and orders. Many employees have had to take on these new job roles, which won’t have been easy for those without the relevant skills. But if they have been through the process of reskilling, they will have been better able to manage the new positions that have been created for them.

How To Approach Upskilling And Reskilling With Employees

Upskilling and reskilling will take up some of the employee’s time, and this can be worrying for both employers and employees alike. However, it will be time well spent for the reasons we outlined earlier, so strategies need to be put in place. These can include the following.

Ask employees to build their own Personal Development Plan

Not every employee will be happy to have new training thrust upon them, but the seeds can be sown early on in their employment. By encouraging them to identify the skills and competencies they want to learn, they will be less resistant when the relevant training is offered. The employer will also have an idea of the roles their employees could one day fill.

Free up the employees’ time during the week

Time is often at a premium but it’s possible to create time for training by eliminating the admin tasks employees have to do. If these tasks can be automated, using the various software programmes and apps that are available, employees will have more time to focus on their personal development

Make training readily available

Consider this in two ways.

1. An employer could focus on collaborative learning, allowing their employees to interact and teach one other. This is one way to save time and money as there would be less need to bring in an external training provider. Training could happen naturally within the working day, boosting both job satisfaction and skill levels across the company. 

2. Employees might be more inclined to take an active interest in upskilling and reskilling if the training programs they need are readily accessible to them. The employer could arrange for online courses, for example, giving their employees the login information they need at the outset to quickly get started.

3. Make the need for training a two-way conversation with business partners. You can set your training team up for success by creating a training request form template to capture all the vital information you need right from the start.

Provide Incentives For Employees To Upskill/Reskill

Some employees will always need a little incentive to work on their development. This might include a pay rise for new job roles or time off in the week to work on their training programme at home. Such incentives can work wonders, although the gentle reminder that their jobs can be saved can also be incentive enough. 

The Impact Of Covid-19 On The Job Market

When looking at the importance of reskilling and upskilling, the impact of COVID-19 on the job market has to be taken into consideration. 

The pandemic has changed how many businesses operate, and it has changed how their employees work. The change from office working to working from home is one notable change that has affected many.

Many businesses have suffered, such as those within the travel, hospitality, transport and restaurant industries, and many have been forced to close for good because of the pandemic. 

And in many places, unemployment is higher than it has been in quite some time. 

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) reflected on labour market conditions for the week of December 6 to 12, and came up with some startling figures. According to their report, employment in Canada fell by 63,000 (-0.3%) in December—the first decline since April 2020. 

In reference to April, the month when many businesses hit crisis point as the effects of COVID took hold on businesses, the unemployment rate peaked at an unprecedented level in the United States. The report by the Congressional Research Service compares the overall unemployment rate during this current recession with the unemployment rate experienced during the Great Recession.

What can we take away from this? The need to upskill and reskill employees of course.  Not every industry will be able to adapt in this way, but for those that can, jobs can be salvaged and businesses can be saved if training is placed as a priority. 

Why Is Further Learning Important In Uncertain Times?

The need for further learning is nothing new. Every time new technologies and market opportunities emerge, there is a need for employees to train their employees in new ways of working to stay competitive. However, it can be said that the need for further learning is more important now than it has ever been. 

In these uncertain times, job security is under question for many people, and according to the McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives have recently experienced skill gaps in the workforces they employ. 

This is why future learning is important. With a program of reskilling and upskilling, many more employees will have added job security, and employees will have less need to worry about skill gaps should changes need to be made. 

Uncertainty is set to become embedded permanently in the way we create and deploy learning experiences. Hear what senior learning leaders had to say on the subject in this free on-demand webinar recording:
The New L&D Gameplan: How to Safeguard Against Uncertainty in Uncertain Times


We are living in uncertain times, and many industries have suffered. However, now is not the time to retreat and ignore the problem. It is time to reskill and upskill employees to ensure their job security and to keep businesses open and fully operational. Investing in a reskilling and upskilling program can ensure that your employees feel more secure in their roles and that the business can continue to adapt to the ongoing changes the world is facing. 

About the Author:
Rebecca DiCioccio is the marketing manager at Paperform. Outside of work, Rebecca can be found exploring the outdoors, or with a book in hand. Rebecca’s background in copywriting and keen interest in SEO and digital marketing mean she understands the importance of staying up to date with the latest trends in a dynamic and ever changing industry. 

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The Importance Of Upskilling And Reskilling In Covid-19 And Beyond