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What’s the Difference Between Reskilling and Upskilling?

CoAdvantage – Skills are an enormous concern for employers. The ability to reliably produce effective and successful work rests on having the necessary technical (hard) and soft skills. Right now, it’s harder than ever for employers to find skilled workers. As a result, concepts like “reskilling” and “upskilling” are a big focus for HR teams right now. We even named it as one of our top 5 trends for 2022 at the start of the year. But what do these concepts really mean – and what can they do for employers hurting a skilled workforce?


Reskilling adds to a worker’s baseline skillsets, so they can perform new and different tasks and potentially even more into new roles. Reskilling is all about flexibility. As employers face growing skill gaps, reskilling existing employees allows employers to address emerging needs by shifting existing people resources around. If Susan can perform either Role A or Role B, it means the employer can use her wherever the need is greatest. But if she was initially hired into Role A, that means she must be “reskilled” for Role B. Altogether, reskilling allows employers to:

  • More easily fill skill gaps with existing team members
  • Create new job growth pathways for employees
  • Develop important but often overlooked soft skills, such as creativity, self-management, and communication
  • Potentially broaden recruitment searches because you can just “reskill” new hires as needed


Upskilling builds expertise and makes workers even more knowledgeable and effective in their current roles. This is a somewhat new term for an age-old practice; historically, most ongoing training programs have been about upskilling. Today, upskilling is becoming particularly important in areas where the market sees rapid change, like technology. If reskilling is about making sure the workforce is adaptable, upskilling is about making sure it’s up-to-date and competitive. Upskilling allows employers to:

  • Foster career and leadership development among workers
  • Stay current with new trends, skills, and market demands
  • Facilitate improved performance from more skilled employees
  • Turn your workforce itself into a competitive differentiator

Both reskilling and upskilling benefit recruitment and retention

Notably, both upskilling and reskilling can strengthen an employer’s ability to recruit and retain employees. Eighty percent of employees say they consider professional development and training programs when they’re evaluating new job opportunities. Then, over half of employees say that development and learning opportunities remain a major reason why they stay at their jobs.

It makes sense. Just as employers want a stronger workforce, employees want to grow in their own roles and careers, and employers who offer them the resources and chance to do so will be favored in the employment marketplace. That means offering reskilling and upskilling opportunities benefits employers and employees alike.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.