Peter Drucker, once aptly stated, “The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.” His words have become prophetic in the contemporary business scenario.
Businesses are dynamic in nature. Over time, consumers must evolve, and it is a continuous process for companies to meet those needs. The key to business success is the ability to fulfill customer expectations in the smoothest possible way. Since this is a perennial process, there is also a concurrent need to adapt existing skill sets to meet new demands continuously. Contemporary business organizations that encourage their employees to innovate, and provide them facilities to hone their skills further, have the best chances of becoming winning brands.
Reskilling and upskilling
A World Economic Forum report titled, The Future of Jobs, points out that by 2022, 54 percent of all employees will need significant reskilling and upskilling, which means that reskilling and upskilling are crucial to an organization’s success. Further, in a Deloitte 2019 study on human capital trends, the top HR trend identified is the need for organizations to change the way people learn and 86 percent of the respondents felt this was an essential issue. In a scenario where organizations are finding it tougher to hire people from outside, and where new work demands new skills, learning anew is indeed the most important trend and this could take either the form of upskilling or reskilling.
Reskilling and upskilling: What to focus on?
One of the first and the foremost things about updating the skill sets is that it is not need-based processes, but rather a permanent part of an organization’s journey. In the 21st century, skills and expertise become outdated and redundant every few years. Today’s workplaces are quite different from those that existed ten years ago, and in another decade from now, they will undergo further significant transformation. Hence, it is imperative that irrespective of an employee’s field of operation or the extent of technology usage in a role, he/she would need to undergo reskilling and upskilling periodically. This would ensure that the workforce remains relevant to their current roles and suitable to take up new positions when the existing profile becomes redundant, as has happened to the clerks of yesteryears.
At times, the emergence of new technologies and work-processes also necessitates an across-the-board up-skilling program, such as the adoption of a new technology to improve or expand the service offerings. In such scenarios, companies need to develop training modules for all employees. AI & Machine Learning are being applied across an array of fields; from healthcare to defense, transport, supply chain & logistics, manufacturing, and others. Knowledge of analytics and data science is of great value in today’s information-fed age. Similarly, knowledge of cloud and DevOps can help businesses help progress digitally, while maintaining data and information security. On the other hand, professionals must also prioritize learning and re-learning skills. With a plethora of options available today, learners can choose between different learning formats and invest time as per their commitment.
Managing the challenges of skilling
The challenges companies might face during their upskilling, or reskilling initiatives are skepticism and diffidence from employees. This is when perks, rewards, or even strategies like gamification come into place; gamification is the use of elements from games to bring in interactivity in learning. Yet another way to encourage workers to learn new skills or upgrade their skills is to empower them with a smart and intuitive interface, wherein they can get adequate feedback and make course corrections in real-time. This could be the business imperative that will not only indulge or empower employees but also boost productivity and performance.
The breaking down of silos and hierarchies within companies will also ensure greater employee engagement. As companies are increasingly global organizations, there is a need for mobility of talent within the enterprise. Firms can no longer hope to hire all kinds of skilled employees; instead, they would need to identify, move, and reorganize talent internally.
Thus, the secret sauce is a simple; move beyond imposing rules for maximizing productivity and performance. Let the desire come from the employees by giving them a sense of accomplishment and pride, so that they are self-motivated and driven. This can happen when organizations put experiences at the heart of talent management. Helping employees develop new-age skills will help them to survive and thrive in the workplace and give them the ability to continue getting reskilled through their personal experiences. Having a mindset of agile learning on the part of workers is also critical while they move into new and hitherto unimagined future roles. Eventually, to blossom, in this time of change, organizations and individuals need to participate in learning. The new life script is to learn, work, and repeat.