3 reasons Companies are Rushing to Upskill Employees

technology innovation upskill training

As companies around the world push through one disruption after another, employee development is more important than ever. Efforts to upskill your teams is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

Upskilling is the process of providing employees with new, more advanced, or enhanced skills and knowledge. And, as it turns out, it may hold the key to overcoming all sorts of industry disruption and economic turbulence.

Economic disruption – whether it’s driven by technology, a global pandemic, or a supply chain crisis – tends to exacerbate the need for new skills.

Think about it: business disruption, by definition, involves some sort of unforeseen event or development. If the event is truly unforeseen and unprecedented, employers and educators would have had no reason to equip their employees with the skills to respond to said development.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a perfect example of a disruptive event that worsened the gap between employees’ skills and employers’ needs.

Most organizations had not prepared for an event that would force them to transfer nearly all operations and services to the digital sphere.

As a result, many businesses found that their employees simply did not have the skills to keep the business thriving in a remote setting.

But if disruption is unprecedented by definition, is there any way for companies to prepare for or grapple with it? The answer is yes – if they focus on upskilling their teams.

In this article, we explain why forward-thinking companies are rushing to upskill their employees – and why you should too. Specifically, we cover these three reasons why businesses should upskill their employees:

    1. Employees and employers are concerned about the skills gap
    2. It is more cost effective to upskill (and reskill) than to hire a new employee
    3. Upskilling and reskilling helps businesses keep up with technological innovations

But, before we jump in, let’s cover some basics on what upskilling is.


To understand what it means to upskill an employee, it’s helpful to understand what upskilling is not.

Reskilling, cross skilling, and upskilling are three related strategies in employee training. However, they represent different ideas and serve different purposes in a training plan.

A successful organization must understand how to do all three.


Reskilling involves training employees to move into a new role with significantly different responsibilities. In a reskill strategy, employees are equipped with a new set of skills.

For example, if a company moved an employee from customer service into a sales role, they would have to be reskilled. This means they would have to be equipped with all of the skills and knowledge needed to perform in a sales role.


Cross-skilling, also known as cross-training, involves diversifying an employee’s skillset. In a cross-skilling strategy, new skills are intended to complement existing skills, not necessarily replace them.

Cross-skilling is useful when an employee is taking on new responsibilities but remaining, for the most part, in their current role. You can cross skill employees within and across departments.

For instance, within an accounting department, you might cross train your accounts payable specialist on payroll duties. This way, the department would have another employee capable of processing payroll.


Upskilling involves enhancing employees’ skills in order to improve performance in their current role.  In other words, to upskill an employee, you train them to do their current job more efficiently and effectively.

For example, suppose a company introduces a new CRM in order to increase sales. Training the sales team on the CRM platform would constitute upskilling.

Now that we’ve covered exactly what upskilling is – and what it’s not – we can move on to why it’s so important.

Here are the three reasons why you need to upskill your employees:

1. Employees and employers are concerned about the skills gap

upskill employee development

America’s skills gap is real – and it worries employers and employees alike. Just check out these statistics:

  • Only 27% of small businesses (and 29% of large companies) believe they have the digital talent they need
  • One poll found that 45% of employees would be more likely to stay with their current employer If they offered skills training
  • The same poll found that more than 50% of employees were concerned about their career’s future due to the skills gap

On one hand, the skills gap negatively impacts employers because it means their workforce is struggling to meet business needs. On the other hand, employees are concerned about the skills gap because it casts doubts on the future of their career and job security.

Because upskilling updates and enhances employees’ skillsets, it is a clear strategy to address growing concerns about the skills gap.

Empowering employees with cutting-edge skills and knowledge is a win-win. From a business’ perspective, it improves performance and reduces the likelihood of turnover. From an employee’s perspective, it increases their transferable skills and can improve job satisfaction.

2. It is more cost effective to upskill (and reskill) than to hire a new employee

employee helping other

Hiring a new employee costs time and money. To be exact, it costs $4,129 and takes 42 days to hire a new employee, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

With that kind of price tag, it should come as no surprise that 72% of companies would rather reskill an existing employee than hire a new one.

But the benefits of upskilling and reskilling are not just in the short-term cost savings.

Investing in employee development also increases engagement and reduces the likelihood of turnover (which is also costly).

This means that upskilling and reskilling is not just a way to secure quick savings. It’s also a smart, long-term strategy to improve employee performance and longevity.

It’s impossible to understate the benefits of employee development – click here to learn more! 

3. Upskilling helps businesses keep up with technological innovations

new technology employee upskill

Technological disruption can topple even the most successful organizations. Businesses must constantly incorporate new technology into their workflows. If not, they are guaranteed to fade into obsolescence.

While there is mounting pressure to embrace business technology, there is growing concern over workers’ ability to adapt to digital innovation.

For this reason, the technology skills gap poses a challenge for businesses. In fact, 80% of executives state they are highly concerned about the digital skills gap.

As technology continues to reshape the way we live and work, it is crucial for businesses to build digital capabilities and foster agility.

Upskilling employees with a focus on digital capabilities ensures employees can keep up with industry innovations and compete in rapidly evolving marketplaces.

In short: upskilling will give employees the skills to keep your business relevant, competitive, and innovative.

To learn more about the benefits of upskilling and reskilling, check out our recent article: Bridge the Talent Divide: Develop an Upskill & Reskill Strategy


If you want an upskilling strategy that yields results, it’s going to take more than a PowerPoint presentation.

To foster agility and develop a workforce that thrives in disruptive climates, your organization will have to think big – and long-term.

Rather than viewing upskilling and reskilling as a one-time training activity, focus on cultivating a large-scale shift in your company culture. In particular, work towards building a culture of continuous learning and continuous improvement at your organization.

A culture of continuous learning is a type of company culture where upskilling, reskilling, development, and continuous improvement are actively encouraged. In businesses with cultures of continuous learning, employee development is readily available, plentiful, and rewarded.

Continuous learning is not a new-age, feel-good philosophy. It is a results-driven corporate strategy that works.

A culture of continuous learning will empower your employees to:

  • Improve everyday performance through upskilling
  • Detect – and prevent – possible problems before they arise
  • Solve problems quickly and effectively
  • Streamline business processes
  • Feel engaged in their role within the organization
  • Embrace industry changes
  • Adopt new technologies and strategies
  • Pivot successfully in times of disruption
  • Identify industry trends early on

Continuous learning cultures are achieved by providing development options that are personalized, diverse, plentiful, accessible, and consistently available.

This makes learning, training, and development a part of everyday life at your organization.

What gives continuous learning culture an edge when it comes to upskilling is the fact that it keeps your employees on their toes and with an eye towards the future.

It harnesses employees’ passion for self-improvement, builds capabilities, and embeds learning into the everyday workflow. Thus, it approaches upskilling proactively, rather than reactively, giving your business a head-start on the competition.

For a deep-dive on how to cultivate a culture of continuous learning at your organization, check out our article: What’s All The Buzz About A Continuous Learning Culture?


At RTG Solutions Group, we often say change is the only constant. In an age where industry disruptions are more frequent and damaging than ever, businesses must develop agile workforces.

To reduce vulnerability to disruptions, organizations should look to their most valuable resource: their employees.

More and more, companies are focused on upskilling and reskilling in order to mend the skills gap, save money, and keep up with tech innovations.

But to maximize results, a company’s upskilling strategy be part of a larger shift to a continuous learning culture.

Does your business need help executing an upskill and reskill strategy? Contact RTG Solutions Group today to transform your workforce!

“A vision cannot be realized without the ability to execute.”

Khris K. Bhattan
President, RTG Solutions Group
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