Upskilling and Reskilling to Advance DEI at Work

By Jes­si­ca Mitsch ● June 23, 2022

In any company, the potential to grow and develop as an individual is an appealing recruitment and retention tool. Employees want to feel valued, respected, and worthy – and when companies take time to invest in their employees, they demonstrate a commitment to that growth and development.

One way that companies can do this is through upskilling and reskilling. Employee upskilling and reskilling is the process of advancing existing skills as well as teaching new skills necessary for employee growth and opportunity. This is a particularly important initiative for companies looking to establish a more equitable workforce.

Ongoing training in any role is critical for individual development – but even more so for companies with a diverse workforce. Upskilling and reskilling can allow employees' talent to grow and develop alongside the company and improve overall equity among the organization.

The World Economic Forum predicts that half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025, as the adoption of technology increases. As businesses move towards a hybrid work environment, an opportunity arises for improvement in equity and inclusion. This means investment in upskilling and reskilling employees to create substantial growth in productivity and DE&I.

What To Expect in Training

With a transforming digital business world, there will be different effects across demographics. Studies have shown that the rise of automation will have a disproportionate impact on women and employees of color, meaning reskilling and upskilling will be necessary to maintain equity and opportunity within company roles.

However, upskilling and reskilling is not a uniform process, especially with a diverse workforce. Companies should expect a variety of socioeconomic conditions, home lives, and learning gaps within age, gender, and race. Training should consider these variables because of its impacts on facilitating learning. Intersectionality will generate an individualized set of challenges for each employee, highlighting strengths and weaknesses within technological experience.

For example, age is often an obstacle when implementing and teaching innovative technologies. MIT Technology Review says, “The young have a huge advantage... older technology workers are experts in building and maintaining systems in old computer languages and architectures.” Upskilling and reskilling will be a unique learning process for each employee and demographic. However, by putting employees on a level playing field, with technological knowledge and skill, businesses will yield growth in equity and inclusion.

What Upskilling and Reskilling Can Provide

Upskilling and reskilling will support and promote equity along with overall companywide goals. Training employees, while considering current and historical disadvantages, will allow an individualized learning process. Upskilling and reskilling employees provides an opportunity for advancement for those that might not get it elsewhere. Without it, businesses are potentially putting diverse individuals at an initial disadvantage.

Additionally, support for technology upskilling and reskilling has become increasingly necessary as an effective talent retention strategy. It is proven that outside hires can take three years to perform as well as internal hires in the same job. Meaning, financially, it is smarter to improve the skills of your own employees rather than look elsewhere. Promoting from within can also serve as a motivation tool for employees, increasing productivity and overall morale.

Upskilling and Reskilling into DEI Strategy

While we do not typically see learning and development skills coupled with DE&I strategy, now is the time to make organizational changes. Connecting these two initiatives will allow impactful equitable outcomes.

For a business with a diverse group of workers with different preferences for what career growth looks like, DE&I initiatives tied with training can provide a competitive advantage, and upskilling and reskilling employees can lead to an equitable future in skills, opportunity, and leadership.

Conclusion

Upskilling and reskilling employees will advance racial equity, recruitment and retention strategy, and company culture. To meet the demand of our ever-changing automated economy, upskilling or reskilling employees will become necessary to maintain a competitive edge and promote a more equitable work environment. Investing in concrete methods of growth will ensure companies are not just going through the motions but actually improving their DE&I initiatives.