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Differences Between Reskilling and Upskilling
Talent Development

Differences Between Reskilling and Upskilling

8 mins read

by Pete Ford

Updated On Sep 08, 2023

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The days of learning a skill and applying it for an entire career are long gone. Continuous learning is not just an advantage but a necessity. This brings us to two critical terms: Reskilling vs Upskilling. Understanding the distinctions between them is vital for organizations keen on leveraging talent for business growth. 

In this blog, we'll explore 10 key differences between reskilling and upskilling, with an emphasis on why upskilling is a strategic move for companies aiming for success.

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Reskilling vs Upskilling: What's the Difference?

Reskilling vs Upskilling: What's the Difference?
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Definition of Reskilling

Reskilling refers to the process of learning new skills to perform a completely different job. It refers to the comprehensive process of acquiring new skills or competencies, enabling an individual to perform a different job or function. This often arises from the need for workforce adaptability, especially where some job roles may become obsolete or less relevant. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, says, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 as adoption of technology increases.

According to the study by world economic forum, 48% of companies identify improving talent progression and promotion processes as a key business practice that can increase the availability of talent to their organization.

Examples:

  • A factory worker learning software development
  • A retail employee transitioning to digital marketing

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Definition of Upskilling

focuses on enhancing current skills to perform better in the same job role. This could involve taking advanced courses, workshops, or on-the-job training. Unlike learning a new field, upskilling focuses on building upon your current skill set to enhance your performance in your existing role. Upskilling is particularly relevant in the business sector, where technological advancements and market demands often outpace traditional skill sets. 

Examples:

  • A marketer learning data analytics
  • A developer learning advanced programming languages

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Reskilling vs Upskilling: 10 Key Differences

Reskilling vs Upskilling: 10 Key Differences
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1. Different Objectives

The primary objective of reskilling is usually career change or survival in an evolving job market. Reskilling can serve as a lifeline for those in industries affected by automation, globalization, or other disruptive factors.

In contrast, upskilling focuses on career progression and business growth. By upgrading current skills, employees can stay competitive within their roles, making them more valuable to the company and better positioned for career advancement.

2. Skill Level Differences

Reskilling often involves starting from a beginner level in a new domain. It's like hitting the 'reset' button on one's skill set to pivot into a new career path.

Upskilling typically targets an advanced level in the existing domain. Employees build upon their current skills to meet more complex job requirements, enhancing their professional expertise.

3. Job Role

Generally, the aim of reskilling is to prepare an individual for a different job role. It often necessitates a broader overhaul of one's skill set and understanding.

The objective of upskilling is to enhance performance in the existing job role. Upskilling allows employees to perform their current duties more efficiently or take on more complex tasks within the same role.

4. Industry Relevance

Sometimes, reskilling might mean adapting to an entirely new industry. For example, someone in the print media sector might need to reskill to enter the digital marketing world.

Upskilling usually focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of the same industry. It helps organizations and individuals keep pace with industry advancements and best practices.

5. Time Commitment

Given the scope of change, reskilling usually requires a longer time commitment. Courses can take several months or even years to complete.

Upskilling programs are generally shorter and more specific, taking the form of workshops, online courses, or short-term training programs. These can often be completed alongside regular work responsibilities.

6. Cost and Resource Investment

Reskilling typically requires a more significant investment in both time and resources. Transitioning to a new field often requires intensive training and potentially even formal education.

In contrast, upskilling is often more cost-effective for individuals and organizations. The training is typically more targeted, thus requiring fewer resources to achieve proficiency.

7. Employer and Employee Initiatives

Reskilling initiatives are often government or community-led programs aimed at mass workforce transformations. However, forward-thinking companies are also starting to invest in reskilling.

Upskilling is primarily led by organizations for the benefit of their current employees. Upskilling is a proactive approach by companies to retain their talent and enhance their skill sets for future projects.

8. Impact On Career Trajectory

Reskilling can lead to an entirely new career pathway. Employees who reskill may start from scratch in a new field but with more job security and growth potential.

Upskilling provides career advancement within the current trajectory. Employees who upskill are more likely to be promoted and take on leadership roles, contributing to business growth.

9. Different Learning Approaches

The learning approach in reskilling is often more intensive. It may involve full-fledged courses, boot camps, or immersive learning experiences that aim to provide a broad understanding of a new field.

Upskilling generally utilizes workshops, webinars, and micro-learning modules to provide specific skill sets. The aim is to be quick, efficient, and directly relevant to the current job role.

10. Differences in the Emotional and Psychological Factors

Regarding reskilling, a professional entering a new career or industry often involves significant emotional and psychological adjustments. There may be stress and anxiety associated with this major life change.

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The focused nature of upskilling provides immediate rewards, boosting confidence and motivation in the workplace. This usually brings about feelings of accomplishment and increased job satisfaction.

Conclusion

When evaluating reskilling vs upskilling, the latter serves multiple objectives for companies:

  • Competitive Advantage: Stay ahead of industry trends and competitors
  • Employee Retention: Talent prefers growth-oriented workplaces
  • Operational Excellence: Skilled employees are more efficient and contribute to better results
  • Business Growth: Advanced skill sets open new revenue streams and market opportunities

While reskilling and upskilling are essential for the modern workforce, upskilling holds special relevance for organizations aiming for competitive advantage and business growth. Companies can build a robust, future-ready workforce through strategic upskilling initiatives, contributing directly to business scalability and success.

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