Upskilling, Reskilling, and Cross-skilling: Which one does your IT team need?

Susan Asher | Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Upskilling, Reskilling, and Cross-skilling: Which one does your IT team need?

The IT space is constantly evolving. Employers and employees know that it is crucial to update their skills regularly to stay relevant. Employees are worried about their ability to perform their current job. According to the University of Phoenix’s 2022 Career Optimism Study, 52% of employees believe they will have to learn new skills to continue in their current roles. Employers agree that training is vital. In Monster’s 2023 Work Watch Report, 45% of employers named skills training as a top priority for 2023, and 34% believed the skills gap had increased since 2022.

There are three approaches employers can take when training employees: upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling. All three involve adding new skills to an employee’s toolbox with different eventual outcomes.

Upskilling equips employees with new skills. Reskilling helps employees learn new skills to perform their current role with updated technology. Cross-skilling gives them additional skills to work in a cross-functional way across job descriptions or departments.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling allows employees to augment their skills and improve their performance. When paired with enhanced performance metrics, upskilling helps employees grow in their current role, opening the door to career advancement within the organization. Upskilling is heavily focused on individual progression and growth. Though the new skills an individual learns might complement an existing skillset, the primary focus is raising the individual’s knowledge.

This type of training is helpful for companies focused on retention. There is a growing disconnect between the amount of training employers believe they are providing and the amount employees feel they are receiving, according to the University of Phoenix study. The study found that 89% of employers believed they were providing enough training opportunities, but only 61% of workers believed they were receiving enough opportunities to improve their skills.

What is reskilling?

Artificial intelligence and automation are driving big changes this year. A Deloitte study recently found that over 50% of organizations are planning on incorporating the use of AI and automation technologies in 2023. Reskilling prepares employees to react to these shifts. The reskilling process requires employees to learn skills to operate new technologies to stay relevant in their current roles. The process can also help employees progress within the company as new roles are created to respond to technological shifts. For employers, reskilling a workforce can be more cost-effective than hiring and training new employees. It also helps companies retain employees. According to The 2023 State of IT Training Report, 71.2% of respondents noticed a significant increase in staff productivity after receiving IT training, 62.9% said IT training increased job satisfaction, and 44.3% said it reduces employee turnover.

What is cross-skilling?

Companies know that organizational silos can stunt company growth and impact overall company culture. Cross-skilling can help IT companies reduce organizational silos because it prepares employees to work in multi-functional roles.

In many cases, cross-skilling helps employees learn to take on new responsibilities in their current roles. It also gives employees more flexibility to work across teams to solve problems, reducing time spent waiting on other parts of the organization to act on a problem. This makes the organization more agile and improves collaboration.

What are examples of upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling?

Upskilling can help employees make a career jump, like moving from an engineer to an IT architect. An employee looking to move into an architect role might need to learn infrastructures for different programs like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud.

Reskilling allows employees to adapt to new technology such as adopting microservices. Developers who are accustomed to developing monolithic applications would need to start learning about using containers and container orchestrators like Kubernetes. This would require a new set of skills.

DevOps is an excellent example of cross-skilling because it represents the type of collaborative culture many organizations desire. DevOps requires engineers to participate in most phases of a service or product’s lifecycle. Cross-skilling allows developers to learn aspects of operations and vice versa, making them a more collaborative and agile team.

Training options for upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling

Employers looking for ways to help employees upskill, reskill or cross-skill have several options and should consider multiple variables before choosing the best fit for their business, including group size, type of skill, and timetable. An IT training partner can help navigate these options.

Private group training can help bring technical teams attempting to reskill up to speed quickly and ensure that the entire session suits the group’s needs. Self-paced courses can help smaller teams or individuals work at their own pace.

Consider a training approach with an in-person component when trying to upskill, reskill or cross-skill technical groups. Having the ability to ask questions and complete hands-on labs with a certified instructor can help employees speed up the learning process.

On-demand training can help employees, particularly workers who want to upskill, learn fundamental skills as they try to expand their skills. E-learning can be a good fit for introducing basic concepts, but it is typically not the best fit for advanced training because students can’t ask questions and talk about concepts with an instructor. Whether a student understands a process or not, in a video-training environment, the instructor plows ahead, leaving students behind.

Building a training program for upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling

Building the correct training program starts with assessing your current workforce's skills and understanding how they align with the company’s goals. An IT training partner can help you with this. Managers can provide some insight into their team’s skills but should not be the only source you speak with or survey to understand the abilities employees have and lack. Employees performing daily tasks can offer a complete picture of the tools they use and the areas where they believe training will help. Once you identify skill gaps, you can select the correct training topics, instructors, and modalities. For example, if your goal is to reskill a group of mid-level or advanced technicians, a program with time for lab work led by an advanced instructor might be the best fit. It is also important to provide specific, uninterrupted time for training. Employees need time to focus on the provided materials to effectively upskill, reskill, or cross-skill. Providing work hours for training helps maximize the impact of the training program because employees need time to learn and retain the skills they need.


According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report, 46% of L&D leaders said upskilling or reskilling was a focus area in 2022, but retention was not. However, employees regularly identify training as a key factor in their desire to stay with a company. According to the 2022 Career Optimism Study, 68% of employees would be more likely to stay at the company throughout their career if the company focused more on training.

Upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling are vital to adapting to the ever-changing technological landscape and retaining employees. Whether your employees are hoping to upskill to grow in your organization, reskill on updated technology to stay in their current role, or cross-skill to work across teams or departments, ExitCertified can build a program to suit your needs. 

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