Learning and Development: An investment or an expense?
In today’s flat world where working environments span 24/7, digital technologies have allowed the local business environment to be impacted by global trends. It is vital for employers to rethink and redesign their business models and focus on refining their business and keep their workforce relevant.
The emergence of new age technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Sensors, Smart Networking, Cognitive Computing and Cyber Security have made it an open talent economy. The workforce culture is now transforming from being limited to the balance sheet, to the evolution of the gig economy.
This wave, considered the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), is influencing the work environment significantly and has had a major impact on business values, business models, services and work allocations. Employees are hence, required to upskill or re-skill to cope with the transformed work processes, the new business models and technologies.
A Randstad Workmonitor survey for Q3, 2017 had found 90 percent of employees worldwide regularly update their skills and competencies, which were essential to enhancing their employability, and 91 percent of them considered it to be their responsibility.
Changing job roles and Need for Upskilling
Many jobs have gone extinct as a natural process of technological and scientific evolution. A typist is no longer required. Some industry giants in their respective industries, like Nokia, Blackberry and Hindustan Motors went out of business, having failed to adapt to change or evolve.
Not just the job type, but also job profiles are changing. Earlier, writers were the most important element of any project, but with evolution and changing the preference, video content is today more important and people are upskilling by learning cinematography and video editing, besides fine-tuning their writing skills.
Also, with the advent of technology, automation and AI have made inroads into jobs roles like software testing, banking and journalism. This trend is evident in sports and business journalism, and reporters have to simply feed the data and bots draft the article.
The data-driven world is transforming a mile a minute and it is important to equip oneself with relevant skills to keep pace with the industry changes.
The process of upskilling and reskilling is a continuous journey as job security is a legacy of the past. What matters is employee value generation. Demands are changing rapidly and so are other dynamics. If an individual is unable to cope with the changing times, he/she will ‘perish’. A holistic competency development approach is required.
Continuous learning and upskilling are required not only in fundamentals but also in interdisciplinary themes like global awareness, economy and business, entrepreneurship, civic, health and environmental literacy. The four ways to adapt to these interdisciplinary themes are:
● Creativity and Innovation,
● Critical Thinking and Problem Solving,
● Communication, and
Employers need to focus on investing money and time into equipping employees with the current skill sets. Upskilling the workforce and improving their employability will be a solution to this skills revolution. The changing dynamics in the skilling space is leading the industry to a renewed focus on human development in companies. So, to develop the right blend of technical and soft skills, people will have to complement technology.
Skill enhancement programs
Many companies opt for assessments to evaluate their employees’ fit in a certain job role. These programs will assess them on their aptitude, attitude, behaviour and personality traits. Through an assessment, employers often see employees being unable to handle responsibilities. This is when employers realize the quantum of reskilling required for their employees.
As important as it is to train entry-level employees to meet the organization’s needs and market trends, it is important to reskill the mid-level and top brass for them to be relevant and be able to adapt to the evolving dynamics. These programmes are a value-add to the employee’s profile while it enhances the reputation of the organization since these programmes help the organization obtain maximum productivity from their existing workforce.
A long-term investment or an expense
Employers consider these skill-enhancement programmes expensive and in most cases, companies avoid reskilling employees and onboard a fresh batch. But, in the long-run, they are more expensive. Employers have to consider this holistically perspective wherein the expenditure on these programmes are a long-term investment for the future when it comes to outcome and productivity.
Firms today have many cost-effective means of upskilling their employees. They sponsor online courses for their employees or tie up with MOOCs or Massive Online Open Courses. MOOCs are the new trend with many of the top universities in the world offering their courses on MOOC platforms like Manipal ProLearn, Coursera and edX. edX, for instance, offers courses of MIT, Harvard University, University of Berkley, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and even IIMB as IIMBX.
Some of the training models being adopted by firms today include:
The forms of training with technology are unlimited. Among the common methods of learning via technology include training modules that use a technology simulated environment to upskill employees. Through this method, a trainer is able to get the complete attention of the trainee because of his involvement.
Jumping right into the thick of work can sometimes be the most-effective training. This could include a combination of observation, explanation and practice. Hands on experience during working hours improves employee retention and can help increase the rate of upskilling.
Coaching or mentoring of employees enhance the experience for employees. A seasoned professional who knows the ropes of the jobs imparts their experience and knowledge to employees.
Group Discussions & Tutorials
Group discussions are most likely to take place in a classroom where a group of people discuss issues. Tutorials are a better form of training than lectures as it allows trainees to discuss issues concerning the new program. These techniques allow for an interactive session between the employer and employee. It also establishes the requirements of a job and helps employers tailor the learning according to the employees level of understanding since the line of communication is two way.
Role-playing allows employees to act out issues that could occur in the workplace. Key skills often touched upon are negotiation and teamwork. This skill enhancement technique helps employees to place themselves in the position of higher authorities upskilling their level of thinking. Role-playing also ensures that employees understand the job description and responsibilities that every job role comes with.
Management games simulate real-life issues in the workplace. They attract trainees, including active, practical and reflective employees. These games improve team dynamics and help each employee assess their value in the team as well as their potential. It helps bring out the strengths and weakness of the team as a single entity.
A break from the regular classroom or computer-based training, the usual purpose of outdoor training is to develop teamwork skills. This kind of training is seen as refreshing to most employees as it is a chance for them to break out of their routine work and build their skills.
Films & Videos
Films and videos can be used on their own or in conjunction with other training methods. To be truly effective, training films and videos should be geared towards a specific objective.
Case studies provide trainees with a chance to analyze and discuss real workplace issues. They are able to develop analytical and problem-solving skills, thus access practical illustrations of principle or theory.
Planned reading provides employees with better ideas of what the issues are, giving them a chance to think of any questions beforehand.
Learning is a lifelong process. It’s the same case with skilling and upskilling too. It happens all through one’s career given the pace of transformations and technological developments. But, both individuals and organizations have an equally important role to play here. Organizations that enhance and upskill their employees definitely make an investment. They see their employees as part of the company and not an external entity. This culture imbibes strong loyalty towards a brand and the work culture.