How to Foster Workforce Skilling, Reskilling & Upskilling

It is interesting to note that people who are in the tech industry or are working on digital platforms (76%) show higher commitment to upskill and reskill by investing more in learning (Financial & time resources).

Businesses in current times operative in a very volatile environment. Changing the technology landscape, competition from new industry segments, regulatory changes & political events impact businesses in more than one way. These changes place their own unique demands not only on leadership but also on the entire workforce. 

These changes are not only impacting the way work is done but also the worker and the actual content of the work. To stay relevant in these changing times it is absolutely important for an organization and an employee to be constantly aware of how changes are impacting them. The importance of Skilling, reskilling, and upskilling assumes a special significance in the current times especially now when the world is witnessing a long haul of uncertain times. It is important that we put the concept of skilling, reskilling and upskilling in right perspective especially  

“Organizations take a holistic view of investments in skills through the strategic process of workforce planning or talent planning. This process gives a good segmented view of where an organization needs to focus on skilling, reskilling, or upskilling and thus defining its learning/talent capability strategy. From the context of current times, organizations need to step back to understand not only their critical few priority areas but also their impact on the business.” 

Skilling has been an important agenda for the organization’s talent development strategy. At an organization level focus is on enhancing skills which makes a person more effective and productive. This is very industry-specific. Most of the programs undertaken to focus on core functional capability. With learners preferring learning on the go and bite-sized learning, a lot of organizations are focusing on e-learning platforms. With the current prevailing situation of lockdown in India, there is a sudden upsurge in not only the acceptability of online programs but also the richness of content from the supply side too. 

At a macro level, with only 46% of youth being employable in India, skilling becomes an important agenda across the industry spectrum. In times when technology is impacting the business models of companies, it is important to focus on skilling on evolving technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Machine Learning and Big Data. These technologies have already found applications across household utilities in the form of smart screen devices, virtual assistants, intelligent sensors and wearable fitness equipment and also various aspects of industrial processes. It is important to highlight the specific aspect of skilling women. With almost equal employability of 47%, participation at work is merely 29%. This is a very stark contrast we as a country are facing. It is important that from a skilling perspective organizations don’t miss out on extending necessary skilling opportunities to women. 

In a survey by global consulting from BCG (Boston Consulting Group), about 61% of respondents feel that global megatrends will greatly affect their jobs. Global megatrends are defined as technology changes and globalization. These insights come from one of the largest ever global surveys of work preferences covering 366,000 people in 197 countries. Such a high percentage of respondents clears leads to a shift in people’s willingness to not only adopt new skills for their current positions (what we call as upskilling) but also pick up new skills for a completely different job (known as reskilling). Ofcourse these preferences vary basis demographic and regional differences. 

To meet the requirements of the future, people believe they should master not only cognitive but also interpersonal skills so that they can think analytically and can communicate & collaborate with supervisors and coworkers. When it comes to reskilling people prefer to learn on the job, on-demand, on the go, and would prefer online platforms than traditional options of classroom training.

It is interesting to note that people who are in the tech industry or are working on digital platforms (76%) show higher commitment to upskill and reskill by investing more in learning (Financial & time resources). Another reason is that in the tech industry there is greater portability of skills in comparison to traditional industries like manufacturing. People with jobs in finance and legal fields prefer to upskill in hard skills such as analytics and complex problem-solving. People employed in nonprofits, social sectors, service sectors, and manufacturing feel that interpersonal skills such as communication, leadership, and adaptability will be key to their future job success.

It is very clear that only an individual’s push won’t be enough to foster upskilling and reskilling efforts. It would require organizational commitment, leadership sponsorship, and the belief that investment in skill is a key investment. Organizational need to consider the following factors in its skill journey: 

  • Focus on workforce planning and talent assessment – Through holistic workforce approach organizations can plan ahead in advance on what skills they need to buy, build, or borrow. This coupled with midterm and long term needs assessment will help organizations in clearly identifying reskill, upskill, and skilling decisions.
  • Building a learning culture – Any investment by an organization won’t sustain in the long run unless there is a conducive culture that not only encourages but also celebrates learning. Performance management system & Rewards and recognition framework should facilitate the upskilling efforts of an employee.  Starting afresh & failures during the learning should not be taken against the employee. At the same time, leadership should promote a learning culture to sustain skill investment.
  • Experiment with new modes of learning – The organization should experiment with modes of learning like gamified based learning and e-learning models like learning apps, microlearning. This is an interesting and continuous evolving space.
  • Communicate…Communicate…Communicate – Organization should continuously strive to communicate with employees about the need to learn and relearn. While organizations can provide various learning platforms to employees it is important that employees should also understand the need for continuous learning. 

References: 1- India skills report 2020, 2- BCG Decoding Global Mega Trends Study 2019


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