We keep hearing that artificial intelligence, bots, and other components of technology will force employers to rethink skills in the workplace. But what do the data say? In a new study, Disruption Drives Reskilling and Upskilling, our team found that 81 percent of learning professionals believe that the current pace of change, automation, and disruption will drive a need for reskilling and upskilling employees.

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reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Note: the Disruption Drives Reskilling and Upskilling research study was developed by surveying nearly 1,000 learning professionals and learners to understand their challenges, beliefs, and other facets surrounding the need for a tighter focus on employee skills. This is unsponsored, unbiased research aimed at helping today’s business leaders make better decisions about how they approach skills acquisition, development, and management. 

While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, reskilling and upskilling actually have distinctly different meanings:

  • Upskilling is the development of additional skills to help make someone more valuable in their current role. For example, a software developer learning an additional coding language.
  • Reskilling is the development of significantly different skills to make someone suitable for a different role. For example, retraining a former cashier to work as a personal shopper instead, as Wal-Mart and other retailers have done.

These two components are critical for employers facing a skills gap, defined as the difference between the skills mix that workers currently have and the skills mix the employer needs to accomplish its goals. In a recent research study, my team found that the number one driver of learning content demand for employers was to close skills gaps.

A Key Weakness: Measuring and Tracking Employee Skills

In the Disruption Drives Reskilling and Upskilling study, only 60 percent of employers in the study said they methodically track the skills of every employee, which obviously puts them at a disadvantage. How can you know how big the skills gap is if you don’t know what skills you currently have? Whether you currently do or don’t, perhaps this will give you some ideas on how to do it more comprehensively.

In the study, we asked employers and learners about the most common ways the business identifies worker skills. Note that aggregate responses may be over 100 percent because participants could select more than one method of skills identification.

Method Learning Professionals Learners
Manager Observations 63% 58%
Assessments 51% 37%
Peer Feedback/360s 34% 29%
Self-Reported 26% 19%
Not Sure 5% 18%

Source: Lighthouse Research & Advisory

Key Insights in the Research Report

Please download the free report to learn more, including:

  • The best learning methods for hard and soft skills
  • The average price of reskilling a worker (and how it compares to hiring new staff)
  • What soft skills learning professionals think the workforce needs MOST
  • How technology plays a role in reskilling and upskilling