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Upskilling, reskilling, cross-skilling: understanding the difference

Some neologisms quickly take hold in day-to-day professional life because they accurately capture a notion that was previously poorly defined. Human resources are no exception to the rule. In recent years, training and skills management professionals have adopted the concepts of “reskilling”, “upskilling” and “cross-skilling”. But what do they refer to exactly and how do they concern companies and employees?



What’s upskilling?


Upskilling is the practice of continuous learning to acquire new skills and increase the overall level of competence. It enables learners to:


  • boost their performance while continuing to work in the same job
  • maintain their employabiliy in the short, medium and long term
  • explore new job opportunities as their career progresses.


Upskilling is particularly relevant in a context of change, where it is essential to anticipate the obsolescence of skills.


Upskilling also helps employers retain talent. Indeed, it is often noted that employees who are offered the possibility of training regularly and thereby of growing professionally are more inclined to remain within their organisations.


Related: What’s skills obsolescence?



What’s reskilling?


In practice, reskilling is mainly observed in industries affected by shortages of talent. Reskilling is a crucial tool for companies to fill this gap and recruit applicants even if they don’t have the skills required for the positions to be filled. Their new employers will help them acquire these skills.


Companies that adopt reskilling reap two key benefits. First, by combining recruitment and training, they can adapt the new skills acquired by their recruits to their specific needs. Second, reskilling companies can recruit applicants with more varied backgrounds. This diversity introduces a broader understanding of business issues and opens up new perspectives.


During recruitment, a company that reskills its employees is more likely to focus on applicants’ soft skills. Since the technical skills will be acquired through training, the applicants’ personality and motivations play a key role.


Related: What are the various types of skills?



What’s cross-skilling ?


Cross-skilling is training employees to perform tasks in areas outside their usual scope of responsibility. This brings several benefits. It:


  • increases the flexibility and versatility of your profiles
  • reduces the monotony of employees’ day-to-day work thanks to more varied tasks
  • enables employees to gain a better understanding of the company and its strategy
  • encourages interaction between employees from different divisions.


Whichever path you take, having a workforce comprising adaptable profiles, able to navigate a variety of contexts, is definitely an asset for a company in any line of work.


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Illustration credits: https://www.istockphoto.com/fr/portfolio/alisarut