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Corporate Strategies

Bridging Tech Talent Shortages: How Upskilling and Reskilling Can Help

General Assembly
November 16, 2022

When it comes to tech talent, we’re facing a supply and demand problem of unprecedented proportions. In the U.S. there are five jobs for every one software developer. In 2020, 4% of emerging technologies could not be implemented due to a tech executive shortage; today, that percentage has increased to 64%, according to Gartner—highlighting the impasse global enterprises face when it comes to accelerating innovation. The trend is set to continue—one report indicates 85 million tech jobs may go unfulfilled by 2030 due to lack of skilled talent. 

As a result, HR and technology leaders are increasingly searching for new ways to fill their open technology roles. Depending on organizational goals, businesses have started to leverage reskilling and upskilling to ramp up the tech skills they need. 

These strategies have not only proven effective, but they’re also helped increase employee retention and loyalty. Today’s top talent wants to work for businesses that invest in them. In fact, 74% of employees say they’re eager to learn new skills outside of work hours to improve their job performance.  

Upskilling and reskilling are often lumped together, but the two terms have very different meanings and different business use cases. Let’s take a look at what distinguishes the two—and how each applies to your organization.

The Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling 

Upskilling and reskilling both have the potential to drive your talent strategy forward. Some organizations may need one or the other, while others are best served by both. 

What is upskilling?

To define upskilling in simple terms: Upskilling helps learners advance their careers by gaining additional skills in their current domain of expertise. Upskilling examples might include training a computer programmer in a new coding language or helping a data analyst learn data science skills. 

Benefits of upskilling include: 

  • The ability to optimize current workforce skills
  • Improved of employee satisfaction and retention
  • The opportunity to attract new, diverse talent 

Upskilling has become increasingly popular—with 52% of the overall workforce participating in this type of training within the past year. This percentage goes up to 75% for workers in computer-related occupations. Employees’ upskilling interest level increases to 71% if the training is free or paid, and 3 in 4 workers “agree” or “strongly agree” that the upskilling program they’ve taken increased their job satisfaction.

What is reskilling?

Reskilling involves an employee or job candidate learning an entirely new set of skills to transition into a completely new line of work. An example might be a customer service representative who reskills to become a UX designer. Or a barista with a passion for tech whom a company hires and reskills to become a data analyst. Reskilling might also occur within an organization to facilitate digital transformation, such as a warehouse quality assurance specialist reskilling to become a compliance analyst who oversees automation technology. 

Benefits of reskilling include:

  • Lower turnover for reskilled internal staff compared to new hires
  • Potential savings per person from reskilling instead of laying off and hiring
  • The ability to fill open tech roles with a diverse, inclusive pool of existing talent 

An estimated one billion workers worldwide—one-third of the global workforce—will need to be reskilled by 2030 to keep pace with changing technologies, priorities, and restructuring. As job requirements evolve, a “reskilling revolution” is necessary to ensure people do not get left behind the economic prosperity advanced technology creates.  

Quiz: Which is Best for my Business: Upskilling or Reskilling? 

Take the following quiz to determine which upskilling and reskilling business cases apply:

1. Does your business need more data skills across all teams?

  • Solution: Upskilling 
  • Why: Data literacy is applicable to nearly every position in the modern workforce. Over the past decade, companies have collected a tremendous amount of business data, but now need help extracting actionable insights. Every existing employee can contribute this sort of value to the organization, relative to the projects they’re working on.  

2. Does your marketing team need to transition to digital-first marketing?

  • Solution: Upskilling
  • Why: While successful marketers will still be running billboards, TV ads, radio, and print campaigns, the reality is that every marketer must also understand how to reach consumers digitally. Increasingly, consumers are online, in social channels, and on mobile devices. Every modern marketing professional must understand this shift and find ways to connect with people where they are.

3. Does your business need nontraditional talent to fill junior technical roles?

  • Solution: Reskilling 
  • Why: Diversity and inclusion has become a priority for most businesses. Business leaders looking for ways to include diverse voices within their organization can provide reskilling programs that empower candidates to seek a lateral move into a junior tech role. Reallocating existing talent where it is most needed not only preserves institutional knowledge, but also opens up pathways to career mobility and creates an atmosphere of positivity and good will. 

4. Does your business need to downsize antiquated jobs, while finding a way to retain and transition existing talent into new roles?

  • Solution: Reskilling 
  • Why: While robots will never fully replace human workers, the reality is that many manual positions are being replaced by efficiency-enhancing technology. For instance, automated contract review is now performing the job of a junior legal associate—reducing weeks’ worth of work into five minutes. Instead of laying off these employees, companies can reskill the workforce to oversee this technology, analyze contract data, and develop strategic negotiating positions. Maintaining staff saves on long-term costs around recruitment, training, and hiring, while boosting general morale and engaging employees with more value-driven workloads.

5. Is your business undergoing a digital transformation requiring existing teams to get on board and fill tech roles?

  • Solution: Both!  
  • Why: What industry isn’t undergoing a digital transformation post-pandemic? The only guarantee in business—and life!—is that we can expect more change to come our way. These changes are not always expected, as we saw during the global pandemic, but putting upskilling and reskilling programs into place can make an organization change-resilient and help proactively fill any skills gaps that arise. 

Workforce Upskilling and Reskilling Made Easy 

Given CEOs’ concerns about an impending recession, there’s never been a better time to consider upskilling or reskilling the workforce. Once HR and tech leaders understand the difference between reskilling and upskilling to identify their organizational needs, the next step involves determining how to bridge tech gaps—quickly and effectively. 

Our surveys show that while 74% of organizations agree that digital upskilling and reskilling will be “important” or “very important” to their success over the next 12 months, only 10% of businesses say they feel “very ready” to address this trend. With the right partner, turbocharging your existing talent can be your next bold, empowering step forward. 

General Assembly has helped hundreds of businesses like SageAI, Disney, and BNP Paribas Cardif upskill and reskill their teams of the future. Whether you need roles related to data and AI, engineering and development, or UX and product, General Assembly’s programs make the transition to upskilling and reskilling the workforce seamless. 

If you’re interested in working with us on your workforce strategy, get in touch.

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