Upskilling and Reskilling in Tech: Investing in Employee Development for Success

by AEG on June 26, 2024 in Engineering, Hiring

If you’ve been following the tech industry over the last few years, you’ve probably seen the headlines. Reports of large layoffs among tech companies and concern from Silicon Valley stalwarts might make you think tech jobs are hard to come by.


In reality, however, organizations are struggling to find tech talent and demand for qualified IT professionals continues to exceed supply. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM occupations are projected to grow over two times faster than all occupations in the next decade with computer occupations alone expected to grow 11.5 percent. That means more than half a million new computer jobs by 2029. Similar growth in engineering occupations is likely to result in nearly 200,000 positions that will open each year.


The upshot of all this growth is a huge talent gap and a supply and demand problem of unprecedented proportions. As a result, many HR and technology leaders are searching for new ways to fill open tech roles, and they’re turning to proven strategies such as upskilling and reskilling. In addition to filling open positions, upskilling and reskilling increase employee loyalty and retention, helping businesses stay competitive.


Let’s explore the differences between upskilling and reskilling, the benefits of each, and how to implement these practices to solve the tech talent shortage for your business.


The Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling

While upskilling and reskilling both have the potential to help you hire and retain tech talent, there are some key differences between these two talent strategies. Some organizations will be best served using one or the other but, depending on the size of your organization and your hiring needs, implementing both may be an appropriate strategy.


Let’s start with upskilling. At its most basic, upskilling helps employees advance their careers by gaining additional tech skills. These skills might be connected to their current area of expertise or could be in a related IT specialization. For example, maybe a computer programmer learns a new coding language, or a data analyst is trained in new AI tools that assist with data processing. In both cases, upskilling helps employees enhance their skills and adapt to new technologies or changes in their role.


Reskilling, on the other hand, involves training an employee or job candidate in an entirely new set of skills and job functions outside their current role to help them transition to a new area of work. Reskilling can be more common in organizations undergoing digital transformation or adopting new technologies like generative AI. Instead of hiring new talent, reskilling allows a business to train and retain high-potential employees, supporting them while they take on new roles and responsibilities in an evolving organization.


Considering the rapid technological changes already taking place and the transformational potential of many new technologies like AI, upskilling and reskilling will be crucial to solving the workforce challenges of the present and future. In fact, according to recent data from The Linux Foundation, there’s been a clear shift in organizational priorities toward additional skills training, with 48% of organizations reporting they would prioritize upskilling and reskilling over hiring new employees.


The Benefits of Skilling Your Tech Talent

For many technology professionals, learning and development opportunities are among their top-valued attributes in an employer. That’s why investing in employee development through upskilling and reskilling programs is key. In addition to retaining top talent and keeping your business competitive, skills training offers companies several important benefits.


1. A Future-Focused Workforce

Technology changes fast and new tools are constantly shifting the way we work. Instead of simply reacting to these changes, what if you could create a workforce that was future-focused and ready for whatever comes next? With upskilling and reskilling programs, you can. Begin by examining your business plan with a focus on pain points and opportunities, then consider what skills your employees currently possess and what they’ll need to be successful in the future. Using this information, you can create a skills framework and talent inventory that helps workers connect their personal development goals to the organization’s overall strategy, ensuring they develop the skills necessary to succeed in a changing industry.


2. Increased Workplace Diversity

In addition to aligning organizational needs with employee development, a detailed skills framework should emphasize transferable skills that apply to tech and non-tech roles. As we’ve seen, contemporary careers no longer follow a linear path, so why should conventional employment distinctions and rigid job descriptions limit talent acquisition and hiring? With upskilling and reskilling programs, you can help your employees build a broad set of skills that prepares them for any role while creating an internal talent marketplace that encourages innovation and expands your talent pool. Instead of emphasizing degrees and certifications, a skills focus allows you to consider employees’ prior work experience, providing greater access to opportunities and promoting workplace diversity in the process.


3. Reduced Hiring Costs

This one may seem obvious, but lower costs are a major benefit of upskilling and reskilling programs. Hiring a new employee can be a huge investment of time and resources and replacing an employee who has left can cost even more. Upskilling and reskilling programs on the other hand require much less upfront investment. Sure, some employee training programs do cost money and will require time that employees might otherwise spend working, but the cost pales in comparison.


There are also less tangible costs to consider. When an employee leaves due to a lack of career development or growth opportunities (an increasingly common reason people change jobs), critical company knowledge leaves with them. By focusing instead on upskilling and reskilling programs that help employees move into new roles or functions, employees are less likely to leave. As a result, your business retains important institutional knowledge that can be used to respond and adapt to new challenges.


Creating an Adaptable Workforce

Now that the business case for upskilling and reskilling are clear, you might be wondering where to start with your own training program for tech talent.


First, decide what type of skills training program you need. Are you trying to enhance data skills and capabilities across your workforce? Upskilling is probably the way to go. Does your organization need non-traditional tech talent to increase innovation and test out new technologies?


Reskilling your team and reallocating existing talent will help your company pursue new ideas while retaining great employees. Is your organization undergoing a digital transformation? Both upskilling and reskilling programs will help your company be more resilient and fill any gaps that arise in the transition.


Next, you’ll want to establish the business and educational aims of your program. Define the skills that your training program will build and set measurable goals to determine if the program was a success. You’ll also need to think about details like training content, duration, location, schedule, and mode of instruction to ensure the program aligns with expectations while not overburdening employees.


Finally, consider working with a staffing and recruiting company like AEG. As a woman-owned IT and engineering staffing firm, we understand the unique challenges of hiring and retaining top talent. With our deep tech knowledge and vast talent network, we can help you find and hire adaptable professionals with the in-demand tech skills you’re looking for.


Ready to build a robust, innovative workforce? Contact us to learn how we can help you tackle today’s hiring challenges.