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Piecing together the talent puzzle: When to redeploy, upskill, or reskill

As organizations look to the future of work, redeploying, reskilling, and upskilling employees will be key to success.
Matt Fenton

Advises organizations on talent, operating model, and culture topics, helping build strategies to accelerate impact and drive sustained business performance

Emily Field

Shapes organizational strategies to establish talent management as a distinctive advantage, preparing leaders to manage the workforce of tomorrow and create business value

Marino Mugayar-Baldocchi

Partners with organizations to provide research-backed expertise on leadership, talent management, learning and development, and future of work topics

As organizations approach the rapidly changing, post-pandemic future, one key will be their ability to use existing talent in new and innovative ways and ensure that employees have the necessary skills to be successful. Within the next five years, up to 50 percent of all employees will require some level of reskilling to perform effectively in role, while nearly 100 million new roles are likely to emerge, according to the World Economic Forum.

To build an enduring organization—one with the right people possessing the right capabilities in the right roles at the right time—three talent management strategies are necessary: redeployment, reskilling, and upskilling.

Differentiating the three levers

Though these three terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are distinct and serve different purposes. While exact definitions may vary, we think of each as follows:

  • Redeployment. When a person’s current role is going away and they are moving to a different role, for which they already have the requisite skills.
  • Reskilling. When a person is building a different skill or set of skills to be able to perform in a different or significantly evolving role.
  • Upskilling. When a person is building a higher level of competency in a skill or set of skills to better perform in the current role.

When should companies deploy these strategies? While there are optimal circumstances for using each lever, they are not mutually exclusive and, in certain situations, more than one may be required to set an employee up for success. Often, the most effective approach entails a thoughtful combination of all three.

Demonstrating the three levers

Recently, two companies both underwent transformations in which existing roles were evolving while new roles were being added. A successful transition for each company required thoughtful use of the three levers, at times simultaneously and at times individually.

  • Redeployment. During one insurance company’s transformation, a number of roles—including many located in call centers—were being automated. Many individuals in these roles possessed important skills and invaluable institutional knowledge.

    The decision to redeploy should be inspired by a combination of an employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences (KSAEs) and a perceived fit with the future vision for the role. To avoid losing this talent, impacted employees were entered into a “transition hub” that matched their individual skill profiles to other open opportunities within the organization. Many of the displaced call center employees were redeployed to new roles requiring similar skills (e.g., customer ambassador).

  • Reskilling. In cases where a skills gap was notable and employees needed to learn an entirely new set of skills, reskilling was required. When this lever is pulled, employees are provided with training to ensure they can succeed in their new roles.

    For the insurance company, the opportunity to reskill existing talent to fill the gaps was greatly preferred to hiring externally, and it provided a boost to both organizational health and the financial performance of the company.

  • Upskilling. At a large healthcare company, the goal was to transform the underwriting team’s strategy to help position the company to achieve its ambitious growth goals. To successfully prepare the underwriting team for the transformation, its members were assigned learning journeys based on their future role requirements, capabilities, and career aspirations.

    Team members whose skills and interests aligned with the reimagined role requirements were upskilled. They were put on near- and long-term learning trajectories to ensure the development of additional expertise and skills to succeed in that role.

As organizations look to the future of work, redeploying, reskilling, and upskilling employees will be key to success. Organizations will need to use these levers strategically and, at times, in conjunction with one another. A future post will make the case for why each of these levers matters and how to bring them to life in an organization.

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