How upskilling and reskilling can drive your startup forward

We live in a time of transitions. Green and digital developments in Europe are reshaping many aspects of our lives, from the way we get around, produce and consume services, and power our cities and transports. 

The EU’s move to a resource-efficient, circular, digitalised and climate neutral economy, alongside the deployment of new technologies in the workplace, are expected to create new jobs while other jobs may disappear. 

This expected shift in skill sets calls for greater attention from everyone in society. If companies want to stay competitive, they will need to engage in this transformative journey, with their employees.

What are upskilling and reskilling? And how can these activities support the growth startups?

Learning processes throughout our lives

The difference between these two concepts lies in the purpose of the training. Whereas upskilling aims to teach employees new skills to optimise their performance, reskilling (also known as retraining) aims to train employees to adapt to another position within the company.

An estimated 96% of workers could find similar or better work with adequate training. Fast changes in technology, automation and artificial intelligence continue to shape the economy and the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these changes. According to a McKinsey study, we’ve moved five years forward in the adoption of digital technology by consumers and businesses in about eight weeks. Moreover, the study shows that businesses and industries that invest in digitalisation are getting better results.

Rapid adaptation to technological change and digitalisation is therefore relevant and beneficial for businesses in all sectors.

Startups have greatly contributed to accelerating the adoption of new technologies in the workplace. Through their innovations and products, taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies, they are constantly pushing the limits of what is possible, and disrupting entire industries.

New technology-based professions in areas such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence are flourishing at a pace that the labour market cannot keep up with. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives are having positive impacts on companies competitiveness while addressing the current skills gap.

A flourishing market 

With such a large scale challenge comes opportunities for European startups. Indeed, we have seen many startups entering the upskilling and reskilling market. From corporate training solutions, skills management software for HR teams, online courses, to innovative startups using nudging, there are plenty of startups looking to get a piece of the pie.

Do you know what nudging is? Alexia Cordier (CEO) and Clément Lavollé (CTO) created Fifty in 2018, with the aim of improving employee skills through a SaaS platform that combines artificial intelligence with ‘nudge behavioural theory’. This theory, developed by Richard Thaler in 2017, believes that it is possible to influence motivations and incite decision making through indirect suggestions. Their platform recommends personalised actions, helps to carry them out in real life and measures change. 

Moreover, the French startup Skillup launched a SaaS platform in 2016 to foster better HR management of teams through a portal that allows engaging employees with an individual training passport, a personalised employee portal, a customised selection of training courses and dematerialised and historical interviews.  

The changing workplaces require new skills with startups focusing on candidates with strong analytical and problem-solving skills. On top of that creativity, continuous learning communication and strong social skills as well as digital skills are becoming a must and complementary to evolve in a digital era.

Tech skills are highly sought-after 

Coupled with strong interpersonal skills, tech skills have become highly valuable for tech startups looking to scale up. Indeed, skills like programming or coding are essential in a digital environment where services and products are being developed.

Skills such as TensorFlow, Python, Java, R and Natural Language Processing are skills that one should acquire today to improve one’s chances of being hired for an AI or ML job, as these skills are the most in demand today.

Reaping the benefits of upskilling in your startup

Startups are highly innovative companies and are much more agile than traditional bigger companies. So what’s the deal with upskilling your employees? Unlocking the power of your people can bring many benefits:

  • Empowering your team members to develop more skills in new areas of business could lead them to wear ‘more hats’ and be flexible in times of crisis, which eventually also allow the team to develop a growth mindset.
  • Your startup will be more competitive as teams will tap into their existing strengths to further develop both their professional and the organisation paths.
  • A creative team ready and eager to learn, and keep learning, as work changes.

The future is about continuous learning 

The pace of change in the workplace has been accelerating in the few last years, and we’re seeing new trends emerge because of technology deployment, having wide implications across industries.

People need to adapt and grow their resilience as the future becomes more and more uncertain. For instance, 30 years ago, an employee could start a job in a company and expect to finish their career in the same place. Nowadays, people are changing their job more often. Adaptability and flexibility have become very important. The same applies to continuous training and learning.

This is why upskilling and reskilling must be acknowledged and accepted as part of our lives to move better between changing positions and job requirements.