In today's rapidly changing business landscape, it is important for companies to prepare their workforce in order to stay competitive and meet the challenges of the future. Upskilling and reskilling can help current employees to adapt to new technologies or changing job markets, and can lead to increased productivity and employee retention. 

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With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum projects that approximately 1 billion jobs are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade. At the same time, economic and demographic shifts are putting additional pressure on future-proofing the workforce for the jobs of the future.

So what can your business do to stay afloat in this era of rapid change? One possible approach is to focus on upskilling and reskilling. This allows you to transform your workforce without having to hire anybody new, which puts you in a better position to meet the challenges of modern-day business.

what is upskilling?

Improving the skills of each worker to complement new aspects of their current job is a relatively straightforward upskilling definition. This involves training people up but keeping them in the same roles. 

While this seems like a simple description, upskilling must be tailored to the company’s future needs, and it typically requires additional time and money. To be successful, an upskilling program must consider the following dynamics:

  • high-priority areas of the business
  • identification of skills gaps in the above areas
  • setting measurable goals for the program
  • budgetary allowance
  • ways to empower and engage employees and ensure management’s cooperation

Keep in mind that your business model must support the new skills. Therefore, managers and CEOs must be able to predict where the business will be in 5 years and which advancements will require upskilling. When done correctly, upskilling your employees provides several advantages to the employer and the employee.

benefits of upskilling to the employee

  • properly trained employees will have more confidence in and satisfaction with their jobs.
  • employees who feel that the company is working with them to keep them employable will experience less stress and have fewer reasons to look for another position.
  • there will be more opportunities for advancement within the company, a goal of 40% of employees surveyed in the Randstad Workmonitor 2023 report.

benefits of upskilling to the employer

  • investing in employees promotes a company culture that encourages employee retention and entices worthy applicants.
  • upskilling enables businesses to follow new directions and take on new projects while simultaneously reducing recruitment costs.
  • productivity increases thanks to the improved skills and new-found confidence of employees.

what is reskilling?

Teaching a new skill to a current employee whose job has become obsolete is a prime example of reskilling. As technology and digital landscapes change, some jobs become less relevant while others suddenly become crucial. For instance, according to U.S. employment trends tracked by the World Economic Forum, the demand for employees in the following roles has diminished over the past decade: 

  • computer operators
  • administrative assistants
  • filing clerks
  • data entry workers
  • switchboard operators
  • telemarketers

Conversely, the technologies that will see the highest level of business adoption and need for skilled workers by 2025 include:

  • cloud computing
  • big data analytics
  • internet of things and connected devices
  • encryption and cybersecurity
  • artificial intelligence

Hiring highly skilled talent to fill these emerging roles can prove quite challenging. This is especially true considering the ongoing talent shortages and gaps in necessary skills.

One way around this is to implement a reskilling policy. You don’t have to wait for your current employees’ skills to become obsolete. Instead, you can retrain existing employees now and put their talents to use elsewhere. This step can improve retention and avoid the need to acquire these skills later. 

For example, if you have IT staff working with outdated systems that will soon be obsolete, reskilling could be an effective option. Providing training in emerging fields, such as cloud computing and cybersecurity, can prepare your company for the future while also supporting your employees’ career development.

A robust reskilling policy also ensures that an employee with a great work ethic or incredible interpersonal skills remains with the company. The responsibility for identifying possible reskill candidates to provide the best outcome for your company falls within the combined efforts of HR and management.

reskilling from an employee viewpoint

  • There's less mental stress when workers aren't afraid of layoffs due to redundancy.
  • The job provides fresh engagement and less boredom, which is especially relevant to long-term employees.
  • The offer of new opportunities within the company brings with it more confidence and sometimes higher pay.

reskilling from an employer viewpoint

  • You gain improved talent management by retaining good employees and luring qualified new applicants.
  • Your applicant pool will have greater potential thanks to a dynamic HR environment.
  • In most cases, you will save money by reskilling rather than replacing an established hire.

upskilling vs reskilling

If you review the upskilling and reskilling definitions above, you'll notice the difference between the two terms lies in whether the current job is changing or becoming obsolete. So, for example, an employee who needs to upgrade their digital skills to more effectively use software in their day-to-day work is different from an employee who is learning a completely new job and the skills to accomplish it.

Therefore, in most instances, it's beneficial for leadership to create separate pathways for employee growth. However, there are times when skills building overlaps. Consider the following scenarios.

  • Company A is switching to an all-digital format for document management. As a result, all employees will need upskilling on how to use the system.
  • Company B is adding a new division to its manufacturing facility. Several long-term employees will be transferred to the new division and reskilled on the new product and related equipment.
  • Company C is opening a new facility in another area. By upskilling personnel on virtual ways to interface and relocating and reskilling employees with management potential, the company can begin the project with a base staff of reliable workers.

Upskilling and reskilling development programs offer employers ways to future-proof their workforce for decades to come. Find out how to invest in your talent with our mini-guide.

winning programs: upskilling and reskilling examples

You'll find plenty of examples in the real world of companies that are embracing the upskilling and reskilling phenomena. And while each business model is different, they all have some commonalities.

  • Employees must be given the proper tools to succeed at the new endeavor, be it an upskill or reskill. You can't put the entire burden on the employee; it must be a shared success.
  • There must be open communication between management and employees to help avoid the anxiousness and loss of control workers often feel when forced to change.
  • In the end, for the reskill or upskill training to be successful, employees should feel confident about performing their new duties and not feel like the whole process brought more work.


American-based cellular network provider, Verizon, recognizes the demand for soft and tech skills. To meet this increasing demand, it initiated the Verizon Skill Forward program, with a goal of training a half-million workers by 2030. It’s a completely online program developed in partnership with Generation USA.

The unique thing about Verizon’s program is that it’s not restricted to Verizon employees only. Instead, anyone who meets the eligibility requirements can sign up. While the company may not benefit from every graduate of the program, it does help the company build a solid pipeline of skilled prospects.

The Skill Forward program offers several career path options, including cybersecurity, digital marketing analyst and IT support specialist. These programs are designed to provide workers with the skills needed for the future of work. 

Volkswagen Group

The German company participated in an 18-month study to determine how upcoming changes in the automobile manufacturing industry will affect employment rates. Although the movement toward electromobility by 2030 is forecast to reduce jobs in certain sectors, the company expects that other areas of production will grow.

Volkswagen is dedicating resources to upskilling and reskilling employees to reduce job loss and create a cost-effective production method for new technologies. One such area is battery cell manufacturing, which may replace some previous production elements, providing new opportunities (reskilling) for workers in research and development and assembly. In addition, digital upskilling will be necessary as the company moves toward a computer-centered storage process.


As BP began a wholesale company-wide transformation toward integrated energy and the development of new energy solutions, the company realized that a digital transformation was also necessary, creating an enormous need for upskilled and reskilled workers across various sectors. For example, rather than hire new software engineers, current employees were trained on cloud-based data storage to achieve AWS certification.

Fortunately, the company's leadership was prepared to support the effort and was able to ensure that processes and funds were in place to keep workers engaged during the training process. 


One of the ways Nestle keeps its spot as a Fortune Global 500 company is through its tremendous respect for and support of employees. The company provides training and mentoring to workers through in-house and external courses, and as a result of COVID-19, the training catalog was digitalized for virtual access.

Nestle partners with several organizations to help ensure the needs of young workers and those at risk of unemployment are met and that talent can be realized to its fullest potential.

  • Reskilling 4 Employment is a think tank made up of CEOs from a cross-section of Europe's techno and industrial companies aimed at promoting reskilling and upskilling to meet the demand of today's employers.
  • The Nestle Needs YOUth program helps young people through training, apprentices, internships and access to knowledge. 

Additionally, the forward-thinking company is stepping out with VR training, ensuring valuable safety skills and scenario training are accessible to all its employees regardless of location or literacy abilities.


AXA, a leading insurer and asset management group, is championing environmental responsibility, and to further that mission, it has requested full employee support. AXA's challenge is to upskill its employees in understanding, promoting and living a climate-awareness lifestyle. The company's ESG and Climate Academy trains employees on making investment decisions that positively impact environmental, social and governance principles.

As AXA employees are trained, they pass along their knowledge to clients, which further cements the company's aim of responsible investing for the future. Furthermore, by upskilling employees in climate awareness, the company is ensuring the continued success of its goal of expanding green investments.

Campari Group

The Italian spirit company, Campari, offers employees multiple avenues for upskilling and reskilling. Its Academies provide training geared to specific roles within the company or can reskill a current employee to a new role. In addition, the Campari Group’s Development Center is an upskilling training program where employees can pursue leadership and management responsibilities.

Today's businesses must be ready for unforeseen challenges as the world seems to be changing more rapidly than ever. Preserving our workforce through upskilling and reskilling may be part of the solution to the worldwide labor shortage and skills gap. As the above examples show, taking what we have and making it better is an axiom that still holds true today

This is an updated version of an article originally published on 29 May 2020.

about the author

sofie maervoet

vp global concepts staffing

Sofie is one of the staffing leaders in Randstad with a track record in process optimization, training and coaching. She started her career as a staffing consultant in Randstad Belgium in 2002. Later, she joined the team in Randstad Switzerland as concept manager until she joined the global concept development team in 2018.

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