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Upskilling is Not Reskilling: Why the Difference Matters

We often hear about the ominous “workplace skills gap.” If you work in HR or training you encounter skills gap daily. But for many workers, these gaps represent whether or not you have a job.

What is the workplace skills gap? It’s the gap between what skills employers seek and the skills of employees.

While educational systems and policy makers struggle to wrap their heads around reshaping a workforce for the 21st century, we already have the tools we need to help close that gap. With the right upskilling, we can transform our moderately qualified employees into a high-power team.

Often, though, upskilling gets confused with reskilling. They’re crucially different. Here’s why it matters.

What is Reskilling?

Reskilling involves teaching people an entirely new skillset. For about the last decade reskilling has been touted as the Holy Grail of the workplace skills gap. Can we really give new, eternal career life to anyone who studies?

The truth is, we all like a good story. Tales of factory workers turned nurses made headlines. As industries disappear, the tall tale goes, we can all learn technical skills like computer programming.

It makes a heartwarming story. But reskilling ignores one central fact: if technical jobs were so easy to learn on-demand, wouldn’t more do them in the first place? After all, these tend to be  high-paying jobs?

Of course, there are woefully underemployed people with technical-skills potential. Such people never received educational opportunity in technical fields. But for many more people in the workforce, upskilling is more realistic.

What is Upskilling?

Upskilling a workforce can occur at a much higher volume. Upskilling means expanding our skillset, or building on existing skills.

Yes, tools such as machine learning are reshaping the business needs of the future. But with upskilling, training can focus on the skills which make humans invaluable, even in our highly technological world.

Upskilling existing team members can grow them into invaluable contributors in the long-run. Human capital has never been more important. Upskilling lets your organization reap the dividends.

What Kinds of Skills are in Demand?

When it comes to investing in employee training, a good strategy requires foresight. What kind of skills will we need for success in two, five or ten years?

Research at McKinsey & Company has identified four categories of skills needed for future success: cognitive, interpersonal, self-leadership, and yes, digital skills.

Many of these can be upskilled, including:

  • Learning to seek and vet information resources
  • Time management and prioritization skills
  • Negotiating and learning to collaborate
  • Coping with uncertainty
  • Welcoming diversity and practicing inclusion
  • Digital ethics
  • Cybersecurity literacy
  • And so much more

These skills are in demand at forward-thinking companies. Most likely you recognize some of these traits as part of your own organizational training objectives.

How Can You Rapidly Upskill?

Okay, so to close the skills gap we need to upskill the workforce. Preferably, upskilling occurs rapidly, afterall, the gap already exists. So how do you upskill, effectively and for entire teams of people at once?

The answer is in your hands (or your pocket, or your purse): your smartphone.

At Arist we have pioneered rapid upskilling technology through our proprietary text-based learning system. Take a course to see how it works.


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