The Great Resignation: Upskilling, Reskilling and Formal Education


What can we learn from the ‘Great Resignation’ that is now driving millions of workers and billions of dollars to Upskilling Startups? Finding, attracting and retaining talent with requisite skills has been increasingly difficult for businesses. Employees who feel stuck in jobs that are not satisfying or lucrative have created a change-in-the-workplace movement. Woven inside these macro trends are upskilling and reskilling, as well as new questions about learning inside and outside of school.

What is Upskilling?

The verb “upskill” first appeared in the Oxford Learning Dictionaries in 2010. Simply put, upskilling is the process of learning new skills or improving existing ones to meet the demands of a changing marketplace. With technological advances and automation, many jobs that have existed for decades are disappearing. In their place are new types of jobs that require different skill sets.

The upskilling process begins with an assessment of one’s current skills and the gaps in one’s knowledge. Once a worker has identified the skills that need bridging or improvement, that person can focus on acquiring the relevant skills.

There are many ways to upskill, including online courses, peer-to-peer learning, workshops, immersive bootcamps and one-on-one coaching, to name a few.

In the early months of the pandemic shut down, to prove demand, Office Divvy piloted a series of events named “Upskill in 20.” A live instructor conducted a short online session with the goal of delivering actionable learnings in 20 minutes. Nearly 100 participants attended these live classes from the comfort of their computer screens in April, May and June 2020.

What is Reskilling?

While upskilling provides skills to grow one’s current career, reskilling involves training for an entirely new one. There are a burgeoning number of companies already doing this, such as Articulate, Degreed, Udacity, Udemy and General Assembly, with many still emerging.

Formal Education vs. Upskilling and Reskilling in Business 

In light of the great resignation, re-examining the relevance of traditional higher education may be necessary, especially in some fields of study, based on the changing realities and needs of employers and employees alike.

Tesla, Google, Facebook and other major companies have lifted their college degree requirements for new hires signaling significant changes are already here — especially for certain types of jobs.

If hiring norms in the workplace change, how will that impact the future of education? If the benefit of a college degree in terms of landing a job goes away, what will that mean in the long term for colleges?

Best-selling author, famous for his widely popular business books, the Tipping Point and the Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell, once said, “The amount of money that’s wasted on meaningless education never ceases to amaze me.”

The shortcomings of high school and college education in terms of delivering workforce-ready young adults have been a known issue. High schools and colleges have an obligation to ask themselves this important question: Are we shaping young adults to be ready for work — and life — after they graduate?

Can new ways of learning life and work skills, and upskilling, supplement or replace formal education in business? Will remote or hybrid work culture further impact “formal education” versus “practical education” through upskilling and reskilling? 

Perhaps a new approach centered on lifelong learning will not replace formal education provided by high schools or colleges right away, but it’s clear that without upskilling, there will be deficits in the workforce.

Education trends are changing and will continue to change. At Office Divvy, helping teams and clients to upskill, to better approach new ways of working, is part of the culture and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

How are you doing when it comes to upskilling? Are you behind? Are you ahead? Office Divvy would love to hear from you. Email any feedback or questions to

Upskill 20: Office Divvy has been offering classes and delivering events for entrepreneurs and area businesses since 2008. Upskill 20 is a series of upskilling classes that are 20 minutes in length that deliver actionable learnings and related resources. Topics include Hybrid Ways of Working, Collaboration Tools for Teams and Workflow Automations.