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Glossary: HR & Recruiting Definitions

What is upskilling?

The term upskilling refers to the further development of existing qualifications—or the acquisition of additional qualifications—for employees in a company.

Upskilling meaning

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, upskilling is the "process of learning new skills" or "teaching workers new skills". Through training and education both hard skills and soft skills can be further developed.

Upskilling is an essential instrument in strategic personnel planning and development. It can also work as a succesful strategy for talent acquisition and can have a positive impact on numerous areas of your business, from employer branding to employee retention.

The goal of upskilling

One of the most important goals of upskilling is to help employees adapt to shifting work requirements, which will change significantly in the future due to digitalisation. But other goals can include moving them into a management role or helping the business expand into a new area.

Whatever the goal, the employee will follow a professional development plan that helps prepare them for changes in the industry or occupation.

This is intended to ensure both the success of employees within a position and the competitiveness of a company on an ongoing and long-term basis. As such, upskilling is an adequate support measure to prepare employees for taking on new, demanding tasks or a management position.

Upskilling vs. reskilling

Since upskilling and reskilling are often discussed simultaneously, here is a brief overview of the exact difference:

  • Upskilling is about receiving further training. Employees of a company learn new skills or qualifications or expand existing ones. The goal is to be successful in a further development of their original profession and to be able to take on more demanding tasks or leadership roles.
  • Reskilling is about completely retraining. In this case, employees acquire entirely new skills and qualifications in order to be able to take on a different job. For example, after their original job has fallen victim to the transformation of the labour market. Often, retraining is accompanied by a change of employer, although this doesn’t have to be the case.

However, both upskilling and retraining can be driven not only by the labour market situation but also, of course, by an employee's desire for professional development or change.

Why companies should utilise upskilling

On the one hand, it is obvious that companies should prepare not only their technical but also their human resources infrastructure for the challenges of labour market change in order to remain competitive.

But there is another existential reason: the expectations of employees. 

According to a study by IT giant IBM on labour market trends for 2021, opportunities for professional development/promotion (demanded by 43% of respondents) now rank directly after work-life balance (51%) as the second most important criterion for accepting a job - and thus also for choosing an employer.

Continuing education is more than just a benefit

Training opportunities have been considered a benefit for a long time. However, they shouldn’t be seen as a nice plus, but rather as a compulsory programme.

The reason why employees demand support for personal and professional development is that they not only want to feel recognised but also valued.

Investing in the future of your team members is seen as the epitome of appreciation, showing employees that they really matter to you and are not just interchangeable workers.

But speaking of benefits: Offering attractive employee benefits was actually the third most important criterion for applying for and accepting a job offer in the IBM study we mentioned above, at 41%.

For more appreciation ideas on any budget, check out our employee appreciation ideas blog article.

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