• Learning and Development

Reskilling, Upskilling, and Cross-skilling Your Hybrid Workforce

10 million open job positions. 

55% of workers seeking new employment. 

The highest quit rate in recorded history. 

Businesses across the U.S. are feeling the pressure of the “Great Resignation” as they struggle to retain and acquire top talent. Fueled by a stabilizing economy, desire for more flexibility, and restlessness with the ongoing pandemic, employees are re-evaluating their careers in record numbers. 

Where does this leave learning and development (L&D) teams working to close an ever-growing skills gap, reduce staff turnover, and improve productivity in a workforce stretched thin?

Start by looking within. Reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling existing employees is a fundamental part of a successful hybrid training strategy. Some 72% of global executives rank employee ability “to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles,” as the most or second-most important factor to future business resilience, with 41% noting that developing their workforce through upskilling, reskilling, and mobility is one of their most important priorities. 

The pandemic has demonstrated that employees are capable of adapting to and tackling dramatically changing business conditions. With the very definition of knowledge work continuing to evolve, it’s not only a strategic time for L&D leaders to develop employee potential – it’s also a business imperative for remaining competitive.

What do reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling mean?

Reskilling is the process of learning net-new skills to do a completely different job, either within the same organization or across companies. For example, someone transitioning out of the military into a civilian role might reskill into a new industry.

Upskilling is the process of strengthening existing skills or learning complementary skills, often to close an organizational talent gap. For example, a corporate executive might complete an MBA to bring a more strategic outlook to their organization.

Cross-skilling (also known as cross-training) is the process of developing new skills that apply across different functions. For example, a user experience designer might learn software development fundamentals to improve cross-functional collaboration and productivity.

Why reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling are a crucial part of your hybrid training strategy


1. Contribute to competitive advantage by improving productivity 

New technologies and pandemic-inspired innovation are transforming industries faster than ever, exacerbating a skills gap that’s already impacting productivity and bottom line. Some 53% of executives anticipate that between half and all of their workforce will need to reskill over the next three years to effectively contribute to their businesses.

For organizations to remain competitive, reskilling is no longer optional. From Amazon to Microsoft to JPMorgan Chase, companies are investing millions of dollars in developing their existing employees – and it’s working. An overwhelming 91% of companies and 81% of employees believe reskilling and upskilling has improved productivity at work. 

As many businesses adopt a hybrid work model where staff split their time between in-person and remote work, scaling consistent reskilling and upskilling experiences across functions and geographies will be critical to productivity. 

2. Retain top talent in a competitive hiring landscape 

Some 70% of employers globally struggle to find workers with the right balance of hard and soft skills. In such a competitive landscape, retaining top talent is crucial to sustaining productivity and growth – and often more cost-effective than hiring new employees.

Career development and continuous learning are some of the primary drivers of job satisfaction, and employees are eager to learn. According to a June 2020 report, 42% of employees have pursued training of their own since the onset of the pandemic. Reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling initiatives boost retention by helping employees grow in their careers while signaling that your organization values their continued contribution. 

How your workforce develops their skills is as important as what they learn. In this new hybrid era, employees expect flexibility, choice, and efficiency in how they engage with professional development. Training managers know that the most effective learning happens in the flow of work – in other words, through experience. Leverage both synchronous and asynchronous training models to deliver on-demand reskilling and upskilling experiences that add value to employees when and where they need it. 

3. Support a culture of innovation and continuous learning

Your company is only as innovative as its people. With industries, markets, and everyday business practices evolving, employee skills and knowledge remain the bedrock of organizational innovation.

In what Deloitte calls a shift from “an age of production to an age of imagination,” a future-proof reskilling and upskilling strategy must focus on soft skills like agility, creativity, and emotional intelligence. Consider the early days of the pandemic: it was employee adaptability – not existing knowledge of tools or technology – that helped companies navigate changing business conditions. A culture of continuous learning encourages employees to reimagine their value and how they might better contribute to the business.

Employees seek purpose and impact, and innovation thrives when corporate goals align with employee career goals. Communicate business challenges with transparency and empower your workforce to problem solve in creative ways, directing their own reskilling and upskilling to meet organizational needs. 

The business case is clear: investing in long-term reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling programs is a critical step toward closing the corporate skills gap, reducing turnover, and improving employee engagement and productivity. Let’s roll. 

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