We are at the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution marked by exponential digitalization and profound disruption in systems, production, and management. The “War for Talent” has also gone digital, with emerging technologies demanding new-age skills such as social, media, analytics, cloud, machine learning etc. The very nature of work is changing, new models are evolving. This upheaval in the labor market calls for visionary leadership and an entirely new skill set. Yet, very few organizations are building these digital skills at the pace they are required, leading to a stark Digital Skill Gap. Organizations must overrule this gap by undertaking goal-oriented reskilling of available talent pools.
On one hand, technological advancement and automation are happening at an unprecedented pace, people are fearing that machines will take over much of human work. Parallely, the business environment is undulating and customer expectations are ever-increasing. Also, talent pools are becoming more diverse by the day in terms of behaviors and expectations, Millennials are forming a major chunk of the workforce. It is important to engage these various groups to set them up for their best productivity levels. Thus medley of changes makes sustaining an ongoing challenge, but sustain, we must. The organizational skillset must align with these changes to deliver business value. Reskilling, upskilling and cross-skilling are essential to extract the maximum potential from talent.
WEF predicts that the next five years will see a net loss of over 5 million jobs across 15 major developed and emerging economies.
What are the skills of the future?
A two-pronged approach is a necessity for today and tomorrow- a technical expertise in new-age technologies such as robotic process automation, cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, cloud, analytics etc. Technical skills are no more a prerogative of the IT organizations, every sector needs these skills. This is because technology is not a standalone function. Today it is intrinsically tied with business. These techno-digital skills must be complemented with human cognitive skills such as business acumen, collaboration, innovation, self-direction and problem-solving. This blend of man and machine can work wonders for riding over choppy waters.
How to start reskilling
The first step to a reskilling exercise is to conduct a Skill Gap Analysis. Assess the current digital demands of the business from a transformational perspective, and analyze the current as-is state. Correlate these findings with the overall talent landscape- this will help you create a workforce roadmap for acquired, developed and managed on an ongoing basis. It is important to view this reskilling roadmap from various lenses- employee, organization growth, ROI, customer and so on. Accordingly, lay out the talent management elements such as recruitment, employee engagement, training and development, career progression etc. A great reskilling program meets both the internal focus (organizational needs) and external focus (changing talent environment). More importantly, it proactively adapts to both of these.
Here are some of the concrete steps you can take to reskill your organization:
- Training through Employee Exchange Programs: A Malaysian multinational, Sime Darby found an innovative solution to build a digital talent pool - placing its high potential employees in a talent exchange program with other companies. Such a collaborative approach can give you a robust external view of market realities from a skills perspective.
- Tap into new talent pools: Modern work methods make available a new lot of talent pool- freelancers, consultants, flexy workers and so on. For example, many millennials who are adept at digital skills prefer Flexi work arrangements. Consider tapping into these pools for plugging in skill-gaps on short notice. Be willing to tweak your work arrangements to be able to harness this passive pool.
- Training through partnerships with Online Skill Platforms / Educational institutions: The advent of massive-open-online courses (MOOC) and e-classrooms affiliated with renowned Universities are making physical classroom training a thing of the past. Employees must feel an urge to learn and reskill themselves, this is possible only if they get access to Flexi-learning, allowing them to learn at their own pace alongside their busy work commitments. Authentic and usable learning content such as Coursera or edX creates a huge pull for learning. These are cost-effective training channels, a must for reskilling programs.
- New digital career paths and roles: It is important to show employees positive growth prospects to encourage them to be re-skilled. Companies must devise attractive career progressions that extend across the business, digital and technical competencies. For example, a role called “service design strategist” will act as the catalyst who converts traditional and legacy approaches to futuristic and digital ones.
- Building an innovation culture by incubating start-ups: Incubating a start-up can help gain access to a highly innovative digital talent pool. Many companies fund innovation labs, inviting startups to pool in ideas, deploy funds or strike a partnership.
- Talent acquisition: If digital skills need to be built fast and in large numbers, inorganic growth is the way to go. This is a good option for traditional large players, which may be resistant to change. A ready pool of digital-savvy skills is then made available by acquiring a niche player with the right people. A digital recruitment process is more likely to attract a digital-savvy talent pool. Social recruiting, mobile recruiting and crowdsourced recruiting are the latest in hiring and selection. Devise your recruitment strategy to suit the skills you seek, for example, assess a candidate for “trainability” to ensure he or she can be reskilled for any future needs.
Reskilling is only the first step towards becoming a digitally skilled organization. A necessary add-on is to rewire the culture to make employees yearn for digital and tech-savviness. To make this happen, get into the shoes of the employee and think “What’s in it for me?”. Consider reskilling and employee engagement as two sides of the same coin- that should be a practical approach to reskilling. It cannot be a one-time activity. Once re-skilled, continuous monitoring of the workforce is critical to keep pace with the rapid pace of change. After all, sustained business growth is an outcome of market-relevant skills that delight the customer.