upskilling vs reskilling definitions training

Training & Development Topic: Upskilling (Life Sciences Industry).

Why it pays to upskill and reskill employees rather than lose them to a competitor.

Upskilling vs reskilling your employees — is there a difference? And why do these training concepts matter so much to employers, currently struggling to retain experienced talent in the current job market?


Definitions of upskilling and reskilling

In simple terms, the definition of upskilling is to proactively improve the skill set and performance of an existing employee (or new hire) using blended training modalities, to enable them to take on increased responsibilities or increase their output. The definition of reskilling is to train an existing employee to perform an entirely new role.


Personnel appreciate upskilling training

Personnel generally appreciate opportunities to attend training sessions; to ‘upskill’ at their employer’s expense. It’s a benefit that at least 44% of employees report they value. As long as you have a positive culture and the job role is a good fit for the team member, upskilling opportunities are likely to increase (not decrease) their loyalty.

Offering internal AND external training courses — upskilling opportunities — often leads to a ‘WIN WIN’ scenario in terms of employee retention statistics.

Training should, of course, be relevant to the individual, their job role, and/or their future goals — within your company.

  • In the life-science industry, most employees view ‘upskilling’ opportunities as a company-delivered benefit (training has a ‘bonus’ vibe).
  • Life science professionals are generally well-educated; and well accustomed to investing in their own education (and many carry University debts for a portion of their working lives).
  • Upskilling for these individuals increases their sense of feeling VALUED (and belonging), e.g. when their employers Sponsor them to attend a pharmaceutical industry conference, like the GMP Forum, other quality-management training sessions, and self-selected workshops.

Feeling valued and a ‘sense of belonging’ contribute to higher retention rates.

  • But training alone is not the answer to attrition; it’s the comprehensive nature of the culture, the role-fit, and compensation.
  • Of all of the factors that influence retention, ‘belonging’ and ‘value’ speak the loudest — and providing upskilling training is an excellent way to communicate that you care — while benefiting from a higher-skilled employee!

Providing upskilling opportunities is linked with increased company loyalty and higher retention rates. It’s not only wise in relation to personnel retainment, it’s an excellent way to ensure the team’s compliance knowledge is up-to-date.

Source: Gallop

Consider training costs compared to the high costs of turnover and recruitment
  • Providing 10 years of ongoing training is far cheaper, in the longer run, than the actual cost of recruiting a new employee.
  • Recruiting & onboarding experienced, qualified, industry-savvy employees — if you can find them in today’s market — can cost upwards of 3 to 5 times the salary rate of the individual.
  • Not to mention the time commitments, production-line downtimes, and potential for quality-related oversights that can lead to audit findings.

And for Pharmaceutical industry professionals, who need documented evidence of ongoing GMP compliance training? A company’s lack of providing upskilling opportunities (GMP Forum attendance and refresher courses) can become very costly, in terms of audit findings and recall risks.

cost of recrutiment pharmaceutical industry

Training session quality and delivery modes

Training quality counts

The quality of training sessions you offer during upskilling sessions, however, is important. Ensure you know what type of training you’re getting, and who’s at the helm. For example, Maria Mylonas, our GMP compliance expert, is regularly rated as “the world’s greatest GMP compliance trainer“. (You can look this up on Google).

Your employees will appreciate the quality of the upskilling courses you provide. For example, PharmOut Pty Ltd offers its employees regular education sessions, covering the latest pharmaceutical industry topics, and innovations, on at least a monthly basis. They also regularly offer their team members top-rated courses on industry compliance topics, including a “Mindset 4.0 Mastercourse” co-facilitated by Jason Clarke.

These top-rated, industry-specific GMP compliance courses are open to the public, with an option for onsite small-group training sessions or upskilling sessions delivered via Zoom). If you want to work for PharmOut, FOLLOW them on LinkedIn and keep an eye out for their job ads on the SEEK site.

Flexible delivery options are best for upskilling courses
Offer onsite training, virtual (live-streamed) learning sessions, or self-paced (online) courses

Flexibility in terms of training schedules, where feasible, is also helpful, particularly in the life-sciences and pharmaceutical manufacturing sectors.

  • Travelling for a training session or a conference, even if that’s just across town, may not be suitable for all employees.
  • This is another reason that GMP compliance education courses via Zoom (or in small-group sessions, onsite), led by an external compliance expert, are often best.
  • An alternative is online GMP compliance training, which is a great start for both upskilling and reskilling (not to mention a way to improve your ‘ongoing training delivery’ compliance measures.

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Upskilling is worthwhile, but planning in essential

Dedicating personnel time to attend training sessions, free from their normal production duties and/or quality management responsibilities for a day, is generally a challenge.

  • Yet training sessions that remain uninterrupted by day-to-day demands, including phone calls, will generally work best.
  • For employees who cannot travel or attend a ZOOM session at a specific time, online GMP training courses (self-paced Certificate GMP courses) may be a suitable alternative (and a good solution for blended-learning solutions).

Planning a GMP training session (Pharmaceutical personnel training programs)

For facilitator-led upskilling sessions, such as PIC/S GMP Compliance Training, Quality Risk Management, CAPA management training, or SOP writing, the following planning tips may help.

  • Reviewing equipment maintenance schedules, calibration times, and other ‘quiet’ periods — and planning far in advance — can help.
  • Be sure to avoid holiday periods, teacher-only school days, and days in your organisation discovered to incur the highest rates of ‘absenteeism’.
  • Have a back-up plan (an alternative training date) for specific employees likely to require a ‘sudden absence’ or unavoidable production line demand.
  • Include online GMP training options for important GMP education topics.
Costs and benefits of your training program decisions

Compare and consider the costs and benefits of mixing up ZOOM-based GMP training sessions, online GMP courses such as deviations management or CAPA training, and onsite training days.

Not only is providing a ‘mixed training program’ beneficial in terms of flexibility, but online GMP courses are less costly as well. Providing self-paced learning sessions can also be easier to manage than in-person training sessions (although small-group sessions of 10 or more employees are economical options to consider).

Offering ‘upskilling training’ opportunities generally improves employee retention rates. Upskilling can lower recruitment costs and reduce the risks of production-line down time, as well as the number of ‘new hire’ mistakes.


The key for establishing an effective and practical training program is, of course:
  • Performing the gap analysis
  • Using a combined training approach to suit a variety of learning styles and capacities
  • Proper scheduling (thoughtful planning)
  • Sending attendance reminders at appropriate intervals
  • Offering flexible arrangements, when feasible (have a back up plan for employees with sudden absences)
  • Good recordkeeping (keep your training records in order/current)
  • Post-training follow-ups
  • Refresher training courses

Reskilling, on the other hand, can lead to mixed sentiments amongst employees.

Reskilling for new roles or facility locations (redeployment) needs to be managed carefully to:

  • Avoid damaging employee morale
  • Prevent a further increase in turnover rates and recruitment and onboarding costs
reskilling employees new roles

Does reskilling an employee work?

Redeployment training (reskilling) is best when the person changing roles is ‘onboard’ about the redeployment – technically and figuratively speaking.

Sentiments about “reskilling” often depend on:

  • Whether or not the employee participated in the role change discussions and decision-making processes (were they kept informed or intentionally excluded?).
  • How the person is feeling about the role at the centre of their ‘reskilling’ training sessions, compared to their previous role (or roles).

Reskilling, while often necessary, should be handled tactfully and with as much employee participation in the decision-making as possible.


Upskillings vs Reskilling – Training & Development

To clarify, the key difference between offering upskilling vs reskilling training options is generally the intent of the training program.

  • Are you wanting to ADD to the existing skillset of a new hire or longer-term employee?
  • Are you seeking to reduce confusion or eliminate errors?
  • Are you aiming to improve productivity and accuracy (and/or enhance skills transferability within the organisation)?
  • Is your employee wanting to expand their career path options or take on additional responsibilities and tasks?

This type of productivity & role expansion training is generally known as ‘upskilling’.

Upskilling enhances the capacity of the employee, in terms of applicable knowledge and skills, and can help improve compliance and performance. In turn, it generally improves your business capacity and/or customer satisfaction rates.

Alternatively:

  • Is your training designed to fulfil the requirements of a specific role in which the individual has had limited prior experience?
  • Is the previous role of an employee suddenly defunct, due to a change in manufacturing rules, product types, production demands, or technological advances?
  • Did their previous job role becoming obsolete? E.g. due to automation changes, cost-cutting efficiencies, or relocation of your business operations?

When you need to redeploy the employee to another production line or other area of business, that’s known as ‘reskilling’. Reskilling may lead to an entirely different skillset and role than the employee was previously performing.


lifescience chemists reskilling upskilling

Reskilling may involve higher stress levels, and steeper learning curves, than upskilling training sessions. This can vary greatly, however, between different individuals and role types.


  • Reskilling training opportunities, in one sense, inherently have an ‘upskilling’ component to them.
  • But the impact of reskilling on your employee(s) will depend on the circumstances, the employee’s mindset, existing role preferences and skill sets, and how well the transition to the new role is managed by Senior Management, Quality Teams, and Training Department personnel.
  • The process of ‘reskilling’ and ‘redeployment’ should be handled with care, including directly involving the employee during the planning phases, when feasible.

Very often, employees benefit from both types of training while they remain at your business (upskilling and reskilling, especially in small companies where employees need to wear several hats at different stages of development or production).

The reason upskilling and/or reskilling your existing employees is important — especially in the life-sciences/GMP sectors — is that the market is changing.

Experienced employees have always been in demand, and sometimes workers get restless. But according to Gallup Polls, approximately HALF of all employees are considering a job change (company change) at any given time.

Not all individuals will leap. But providing upskilling training is worth the investment in your life-sciences sector employees; as approximately 94% of employees reported they “feel greater loyalty to a company” that provides them with upskilling opportunities and other training courses (internal and external training courses and life-science GMP conferences, for example) than when this training is not provided.

Source: Gallop News


Read more about the 2022 GMP Forum for life-sciences and pharmaceutical industry professionals.


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