Upskilling and reskilling employees is becoming more and more important for startups that want to scale growth. By upskilling or reskilling employees, startups can stay ahead of the curve and ensure their employees are equipped with the latest skills and knowledge.

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What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of teaching or training employees in new or additional skills so that they can fill skill gaps within an organization that are limiting growth, productivity, or profits.

Upskilling is a vertical form of training and development—employees are upskilled so that they can take on more responsibilities within their current role or advance along their career track.

Example: A sales representative at a startup shows interest in taking on more responsibilities. The company pays for them to take a management course, so that they’ll have the skills to eventually lead a sales team.

What Is Reskilling?

Reskilling and upskilling are similar concepts, but they differ in a few key areas. For starters, reskilling is a horizontal form of training and development. That means employees are reskilled with the goal of shifting them to another role within the organization.

Secondly, reskilling is often done in response to changes in technology or the marketplace, whereas upskilling can be done at any time and is not necessarily driven by external factors.

Finally, reskilling generally requires less extensive training than upskilling because it identifies employees with adjacent skills (i.e., existing skills tangentially related to desired skills) and uses their existing understanding to quickly bring them up to speed.

Example: A content writer at your startup loves using social media and shows interest in managing your socials, which are a bit neglected. The company books the employee sessions with a social media marketing mentor through GrowthMentor so that they can excel in this new role.

What Are the Benefits of Upskilling and Reskilling?

There are many benefits of upskilling and reskilling employees, but some of the most significant benefits include:

  1. Increased startup productivity and profitability
  2. Improved employee engagement and retention
  3. Improved collaboration across teams
  4. A competitive edge in the war for talent
  5. Greater flexibility in the face of change
  6. Improved employee morale
  7. Lower recruitment costs

Let’s break down these benefits in a bit more depth!

Related: Learning & Development Stipends: What Startups Are Spending Them On

1) Increased Productivity and Profitability

While most people understand the value of training in an abstract sense, it’s rare that you see this value quantified. Make no mistake, though—upskilling and reskilling employees generates an amazing ROI. This can be a lifesaver for budget-constrained startups that need excellent generalists to survive and scale growth to the next level.

One study from the MIT Sloan School of Management found that a 12-week employee training course in soft-skills alone led to a 250% ROI within 8 weeks of completion. And that’s just one example.

Generally speaking, you can expect an increase in productivity of 18% and an increase in work quality of 41% after upskilling or reskilling employees. This increase comes from a variety of places—newfound efficiency, increased motivation, and improved collaboration.

2) Improved Employee Engagement and Retention

Employee engagement and retention are two issues that startups need to be wary of. According to recent Gallup surveys, only about 34-36% of employees reporting feeling fully engaged at work. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that companies with lots of disengaged employees experience 18% more turnover than those who don’t.

One of the leading causes of workplace disengagement is employees feeling stagnant in their current roles. By upskilling or reskilling employees, you can provide both meaningful challenges and an upward trajectory to motivated employees. That means more engaged teams, less budget spent on hiring, and an improved employee retention rate.

3) Improved Collaboration Across Teams

If you’ve ever worked in a large company, you know that collaboration is key to success. But what you might not realize is that a lack of collaboration is costing companies big time—almost $400 billion every year, in fact.

One of the benefits of upskilling and reskilling is that it can help to break down the silos that often form between teams and allow your efforts to be coordinated. By providing employees with the skills they need to succeed in other areas, you can encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and collaborate with team members they might not have otherwise interacted with.

4) A Competitive Edge In The War for Talent

The war for talent is real, and it’s only getting more competitive. In order to attract and retain the best employees, startups need to offer more than just a competitive salary. They need to offer an opportunity for growth.

Upskilling and reskilling employees is one way to do that. By investing in your employees’ development, you’re sending a strong signal that you’re committed to their growth—which is something that top talent is looking for.

In addition, increasing employee engagement at your startup through upskilling and reskilling is a great way to transform employees into brand advocates. That often leads to online and word of mouth recommendations that can help bring top talent to you.

5) Greater Flexibility In The Face of Change

Change is the only constant in business—that’s why it’s so important for startups to be able to pivot quickly. But being able to pivot quickly isn’t just about having the right strategy—it’s also about having the right people in place.

That’s where upskilling and reskilling come in. By equipping employees with the skills they need to succeed in a variety of roles, or by updating the skills they have to keep up with the pace of technology, you’re making your team more flexible and adaptable.

According to the World Economic Forum, around 40% of workers will require upskilling or reskilling by 2023. Getting a jump-start now will allow your startup to remain flexible in the face of change.

6) Improved Employee Morale

Employee morale is essential to success, but it’s often overlooked. A study by the University of Oxford found that happy employees are 13% more productive than their unhappy peers.

This relates to upskilling and reskilling because it’s one of the best ways to show employees that you’re committed to their growth. When employees feel like they’re stuck in a dead-end job with no opportunity for advancement, it’s only natural that morale will suffer.

What’s more, employee morale is contagious—so improving the morale of one team member often has a positive impact on the whole team.

7) Lower Recruitment Costs

Recruiting is expensive—the average cost-per-hire in the US is $4,129. Upskilling and reskilling employees can help to lower those costs.


By making it possible for employees to move into new roles within the company, you can avoid the need to recruit from outside, which can save you a lot of money and extend your runway to survive during the downturns.

In addition, upskilling and reskilling can help to improve employee retention—which is another big cost-saving benefit. The cost of turnover can be as much as 213% of an employee’s salary, so anything you can do to reduce it will have a big impact on your bottom line.

How Startups Can Upskill and Reskill Employees (7 Steps)

Now that we’ve defined upskilling and reskilling employees, and discussed the benefits of each, let’s look at how startups can implement these programs.

Here are seven steps you can follow:

1) Identify Skills Gaps

If no one in an organization understands the basics of SEO, that organization is likely going to struggle in the realm of online visibility. The same is true at an organization where the employees with SEO skills are unable to meet the organization’s demand for scaling SEO growth. In both cases, SEO is a skill gap that’s limiting growth.

The capabilities of an organization are always limited by the skills of the people who make it up (among other things). Skill gaps are present in all organizations, and they’re always harmful. Identifying them is the first step towards addressing them with employee upskilling and reskilling.

But how do you identify skill gaps within your organization?

Start by taking a close look at your business goals. What skills will employees need to help you achieve those goals effectively and efficiently? Additionally, ask yourself what’s preventing you from achieving those goals. The answer to these questions will likely point to one or more skill gaps.

2) Conduct Training Needs Assessments

Once you’ve identified some potential skill gaps, it’s time to start gathering data. The best way to do this is by conducting training needs assessments (TNAs). TNAs involve surveying employees and managers to gather information about their current skills, desired skills, and opinions on the organization’s training needs.

TNAs can be conducted in-person, online, or through a combination of both methods. Whichever method you choose, be sure to ask both employees and managers about their training needs. These “boots on the ground” perspectives will give you a practical view of the skills your organization needs to develop.

3) Create a Learning Plan

Once you’ve gathered data from your TNAs, it’s time to start putting together a learning plan. A learning plan is a document that outlines the skills your organization needs to develop and the best way to develop those skills.

When creating a learning plan, be sure to consider the following:

  • the business goals you want to achieve
  • the skill gaps you want to close
  • the methods you’ll use to close these skill gaps
  • the resources you have available
  • the timeline for achieving your goals

All of these factors will influence the learning plan you create.

4) Source Trainers

Once you have a learning plan in place, it’s time to start sourcing trainers—either internally or externally:

Internal Trainers

If some members of your organization have the skills you’re trying to teach, you may be able to have them train their colleagues. This can be a cost-effective way to provide training, but it’s important to make sure the person you select is both willing and able to train others effectively.

External Trainers

If you don’t have anyone internally who can provide training, you’ll need to look for trainers outside of your startup. When sourcing external trainers, it’s important to consider their:

  • expertise in the subject matter
  • ability to train others effectively
  • cost

At GrowthMentor, we connect founders, owners, and executives with expert growth marketers in niches like content marketing, sales, and idea validation. With a GrowthMentor membership, your startup gets unlimited training calls with hundreds of mentors with the skills and experience needed to close those organizational skill gaps.

5) Implement the Training

Once you have your trainers and training materials lined up, it’s time to implement the training. Training can be delivered in a variety of ways, including:

The method(s) you choose will depend on many of the factors you considered during your planning (e.g., available resources, goals, etc.).

6) Evaluate and Benchmark the Results

After the training has been delivered, it’s important to evaluate the results. This will help you determine whether or not the training was successful in achieving its goals and, if not, what can be done to improve things for future training programs.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the results of your training program. One common method is to survey employees before and after the training to gauge their opinions and experiences. You can also track changes in employee behavior, such as increased sales or improved customer satisfaction scores.

7) Make Adjustments

Once you’ve evaluated the results of your training program, it’s time to make any necessary adjustments. This may involve making changes to the way the training is delivered, sourcing different trainers, or changing the focus of the training altogether. The important thing is that you constantly strive to improve the effectiveness of your organization’s training program.

Upskill Your Startup Team Today

Upskilling and reskilling employees is critical for startups looking to find success. The benefits of upskilling employees include improved performance, increased retention, and the ability to attract top talent.

If you’re looking for expert trainers to help upskill and reskill your employees, GrowthMentor can help. We connect startup founders with hundreds of experts from companies like Typeform, IBM, and Pexels who can arm your startup with the skills it needs to grow.

Sign up for a membership and book unlimited one-on-one training calls for you and your team!