Management · May 27, 2021

How to Close the Skills Gap by Reskilling Employees

As the marketplace changes, so do the skills you need from your team. In fact, a survey from PwC (PDF) found that 74% of company leaders are worried about a lack of essential skills among employees. In some cases, you may need to bring in new people to fill gaps—but reskilling employees may be an even better and more cost-effective approach.

Reskilling means to train current team members for the new skills your business needs. You may need to reskill employees if your business shifts strategies, undergoes economic pressures, eliminates jobs due to automation or experiences a large-scale disruption like COVID-19.

Reskilling also supports business continuity efforts by ensuring that other staff members can handle tasks outside their normal scope if an employee isn't available due to sickness, vacation or leaving the company without notice. Plus, reskilling is often less costly than recruiting, hiring and onboarding new employees.


How to start reskilling employees

The first step in the process is to identify your skills gap. Look at the changes happening in your industry and the requirements your future workforce will need to master. Create a new job description for the role, as if you were hiring a new employee. Identify any of your current employees who already possess some or all of these skills. Then, determine where other employees' current skills fall short, so you can begin to design a program to close the gaps.

Implement a training program

Reskilling the workforce will require putting a training program in place. Depending on the job, you may be able to find a third-party industry course that can fit your needs. You can find training online or through local schools. Many businesses use learning management systems that automate the training process, making it easy to deliver.

On-the-job training is another way to reskill employees. If any of your current employees have the correct skills, pair them with a colleague. The employee can act as a coach, helping their peer build new skills. The team member who's learning the new skill can shadow their coach, observing at first, then doing the new skill themselves with oversight.

Another approach is to combine training programs with coaching. Set up the foundational knowledge by having employees attend formal classes, then provide a coach who can answer questions and help build confidence.

Whatever type of training you implement, be sure to measure the success of your reskilling program, so you know if an employee is ready to take on the new role and if the training is effective. Learning management systems, for example, often include quizzes that measure the employee's comprehension and progress. You can also create a rubric for a coach to complete as they work with each of their fellow employees.

Choose the right candidates

Some employees may be more suited for reskilling than others. Select the right candidates by choosing employees who already go above and beyond their roles and are true team players. They'll be more likely to embrace the challenges of learning a new role.

Once other team members see the benefits colleagues experience from learning new skills, they may be more open to the idea. However, not every employee may embrace the idea. If their job is at risk of being phased out, be sure to make that clear. But forcing an employee who doesn't want to participate may backfire.

Reskilling benefits employees by providing greater job security, opportunities for professional development and a new career path. When you create a company culture that embraces learning and growing, you'll be more likely to attract employees who will embrace reskilling. If you're ready to implement a reskilling program in your business, talk to your business banker about the best strategy for investing in one of the available solutions.

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