5 successful examples of reskilling and upskilling programs

Learn how Mastercard, HSBC, and others put skills at the center of every initiative

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By Austen Gregerson, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

Automation, AI, and HR software are transforming the way employees interact with Learning and Development (L&D) opportunities. Static lists of offerings, designed with an employee’s current role and linear career progression in mind, have wilted in favor of more dynamic options—namely, the options provided by talent marketplaces.

As skills build prominence across companies looking for an advantage in the future of work, understanding how to best leverage the capabilities of a workforce is becoming just as valuable as locating them.

Talent leaders across some of the world’s largest companies already have shifted L&D efforts to prioritize building skills—through upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling efforts—but in designing their skills programs, they’ve also unlocked core truths about their companies as a whole. The evolution toward purpose-led skills development is reshaping the way businesses train their employees, and to get the most out of it, leaders need to rethink the way they build skills programs.

What is the difference between upskilling and reskilling?

Though the terms are mistakenly used interchangeably, their roles in larger L&D efforts impact different aspects of any plan.

Upskilling is any process or development program that helps employees pursue linear, vertical career paths by strengthening skills relevant to their current role or department. For example, a software engineer looking to further her understanding of artificial intelligence could take courses on advanced machine-learning techniques to make herself a better candidate for a promotion.

Reskilling is training that equips workers with skills not directly tied to their current role, but still valuable to both the company’s business priorities and the employee’s personal ambitions. Using the same software engineer as an example, if she was looking to leverage her expertise in software engineering and apply to marketing roles, opportunities to train in copywriting and editing skills would be made available to her despite it not having a direct relationship to her current position.

With that distinction in mind, the next step for HR leaders is understanding how the needs of their company will be best addressed in their skills program—by prioritizing the continued development of their workforce’s current skills or making strategic repositioning the centerpiece. The future of work requires a combination of both; top-performing talent will need to continue developing their skills to meet technological and market advancements, while other employees may need to reallocate their skills to high-growth areas.

Understanding those needs can be tricky without the right tools. Workforce intelligence platforms are adept at centralizing information, giving talent managers insights into their workforce’s skills in real-time, how they measure against industry trends, and identifying future skill gaps so businesses can proactively address them.

What to look for when designing upskilling and reskilling programs

Designing a future-fit skills program can be daunting when so much is left to be determined: what skills will become valuable, how many workers it will take to accomplish business priorities, and what solutions will be able to fill in the gaps. However, what’s already certain is the need to transform the ways companies currently address L&D initiatives to reflect this change.

According to the World Economic Forum, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025 due to the adoption of new technologies. The cornerstone of the next decade and beyond will be transition; by starting preparations today, organizations can better position themselves to be at the top of the curve as the next evolution comes.

When envisioning what the skills program at your company will look like, consider the following aspects:

How do skills fit into my company’s future business objectives?

Employee agency is crucial to the successful adoption of any training program, but making sure those efforts align with the needs of the organization as a whole is the only way to get the most out of L&D efforts. While not limiting the scope of projects, mentorships, or training made available to your people, emphasizing opportunities that help bridge skill gaps can create organizational value while engaging employees at a personal level.

What do my employees think about our L&D programs?

Ultimately, their feedback is the roadmap to your program’s success. Keeping workers engaged in upskilling and reskilling efforts requires not only an appeal to their career ambitions but evidence that their opinions on what opportunities are available are being heard. The risk of ignoring their feedback is more damaging than a poor exit review; Gartner analysis shows that employee turnover due to a lack of future career opportunities costs even an average-sized organization $49 million per year.

Where will reskilling and upskilling programs take my employees?

The beginning of any journey can seem daunting—especially for employees who may not be able to envision the larger picture. Help give context to how these skills programs can be applied through career pathing, or the process of aligning opportunities for career growth with organizational talent priorities. Once a framework has been laid out, encourage workers to pursue career development opportunities that are relevant to their interests while also addressing business priorities.

How 5 organizations transformed their skills programs


As organizational agility became one of the company’s top priorities, Unilever’s focus shifted to providing more opportunities to its employees through training, mentorships, and projects that aligned with their personal ambitions. By utilizing an AI-enabled talent marketplace, which they call FLEX Experiences, to automatically connect workers with these options, the company created a network of mobile talent ready to address company needs.

FLEX Experience flourished during COVID-19’s onset, and the platform continues to make a lasting impact to this day. Already, the company has seen a 41% improvement in productivity since its implementation, 70% of their assignments are now filled with cross-functional teams, and more than 700,000 hours of work unlocked.

As noted by their EVP of HR, Jeroen Wels, “We wanted to bring agility to placing the right people, in the right place, at the right time. This project was about augmenting AI-enabled technology to disrupt the way we develop our talent and how we staff our teams.”


While nearly all industries have been affected by upheavals, the financial industry’s pivot towards the future of work—and industry—involves some of the most drastic changes to standard operating procedures. With a highly-skilled global workforce, the company wanted to make sure all of its 24,000 workers were connected and ready to pivot as needed.

“Now that disruption is the new norm, we really need employees to be on top of their game,” notes Lucrecia Borgonovo, Chief Talent and Organizational Effectiveness Officer. “They need to stay current, stay relevant, learn new skills, and become agile.”

With more than 75% of their workforce registered on their platform, the company unlocked more than $21 million in value through increased productivity, and 100,000 hours of capacity gained, and helped spur the creation of a cryptocurrency and NFT group to address the growth of the emerging technology.


The financial leader has thrived in its 157-year history by continuing to adapt its practices to better address customer needs. To continue that commitment in the next century, leaders wanted to make sure the company’s workforce was equipped with the skills and tools to enable an environment of continuous learning.

To do that, they first needed to know what skills currently existed within the company. With the help of a workforce intelligence solution, HSBC was able to better understand where they needed to strengthen their institution for a future-fit agenda—resulting in 60,000 of productivity unlocked and nearly half of projects assigned to cross-functional teams.

Hamish Nesbit, Group Head of Resourcing, notes that “…we now know with greater certainty, what skills sit where and what aims people have gives us a much stronger platform to think about increasing our internal mobility, which in turn retains our global corporate knowledge and builds employee engagement as they start to understand that more and more of their goals and ambitions can be realized within HSBC.”


A juggernaut in the data storage solutions space, Seagate wanted to make sure its employees could not only be trained in emerging technologies but also wanted to make redeploying talent both simpler and scalable for its global workforce. Even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, company leadership decided against instituting mass layoffs in favor of strategic internal redeployments, putting workers in places to contribute with their full set of skills and strengthening the skills needed for the future of work.

“We realized we needed to lift and shift our resources to a new area of business to grow,” says Patricia Frost, Chief Human Resources Officer. “We weren’t going to lay anyone off or reduce the workforce. Instead, we decided to grow new operations from within.”

That commitment paid off: The company created $13 million in savings from reduced external hiring costs, $20 million in savings from minimized termination costs, and 30% of their full-time roles are being filled internally. In the future, the company plans on using the platform to engage employees in increased mentorship opportunities, dynamic sourcing, succession planningdynamic career planning, and more.

Schneider Electric

After an internal survey showed that nearly 50% of exiting employees cited a lack of internal growth opportunities as their primary reason for leaving, leadership at Schneider Electric decided to stop the growing trend. By instituting a talent marketplace, the organization was better able to serve its workers by connecting them with relevant training, projects, and mentorship opportunities.

“What I am learning is that it’s a complete rewrite of HR,” says Jean Pelletier, VP of Digital Talent Transformation. “You need to think differently about speed and how you go deep and broad in an organization using AI. Gloat’s talent marketplace is an absolute game-changer.”

Ultimately, their efforts created $15 million in savings through enhanced productivity and reduced recruiting expenses, more than 360,000 hours of work, all while more than 80% of the workforce reports that they would recommend the talent marketplace.

Determining your company’s best path forward for skills

Better upskilling and reskilling programs start with the foundational knowledge of where your company’s skills currently stand, where your industry is headed, and which people within your organization are capable of making the jump. Though external hiring will always be a part of adding critical competencies to your organization, finding ways to bring your workforce forward with the changing needs of the future of work is an inevitability—and one of the strongest ways to create engagement within your workforce.

To get started, see how you can turn skills into your company’s secret weapon.

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