Interview: Talk around re-skilling and up-skilling has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic as businesses adapt to new economic realities, ways of working and developing new work cultures. Several organisations have adopted digitisation and enabled remote working, but is that enough for the future of work? Rajiv Kumar, vice president and country leader, SumTotal Systems India, which offers a learning and talent development suite, tells Shubhra Tandon organisations need to re-skill and up-skill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era. Edited excerpts:
- When we talk about re-skilling, which sector and what skills are you referring to?
Most industries were severely impacted by the global economic slowdown due to the pandemic. However, a few industries like telecom and pharmaceuticals really flourished. While IT and IT Services organisations are focusing on enhancing technology and developer skills, we are witnessing a spike in interest on leadership development, workplace safety and compliance across industries. Organisations in the post-pandemic era are also considering investing in digital dexterity, productivity and collaboration skills to be able to build a resilient, agile and adaptable workforce.
- Are there sectors apart from IT where skill gaps are emerging, and if so, what are these skills?
The business models and go-to-market may vary from industry to industry, but many of the skills and competencies required to perform and deliver the requisite outcome may have a significant overlap across businesses and across industry segments. While we are witnessing focused skill development in specific areas like technology, there is an increased focus on leadership development, digital transformation & innovation, productivity & collaboration, and business skills like communication, critical thinking, teamwork, negotiation and time management.
- What are the traditional ways of skilling and why are they becoming outdated?
The traditional ways of learning like classroom training and online content-led learning and development had a critical role in success pre-pandemic. However, the new models of virtual learning for skills and competency development are emerging to support the new digital workplace. Some of the critical reasons of this evolution are that more core processes are going digital, existing talent pipelines have been failing for some time and the rise of the new-collar worker that reflects the need to emphasise skills and ability versus someone’s academic pedigree.
- What are the new ways in which employees need to be re-skilled?
The value proposition of humans in the workforce is shifting to essentially ‘human capabilities’, such as curiosity and empathy. In this scenario, employers also need to consider not only how to attract top talent, but also potentially rethink learning and development and better cultivate the social and emotional skills that their workforce needs to add value in the future.
- What are the challenges that companies face while looking to re-skill their employees?
Most organisations are not prepared to address the critical issue of gap in skills and competencies. To be able to succeed in the current economic slowdown, organisations need to not only address the skills gap in the workforce, but also have a clear sense of how to address the problem. One critical path for success is to have the necessary resources to re-skill the employee pool, as it isn’t just a matter of changing processes so HR and learning and development can keep up. It’s a matter of equipping employees to ensure their companies’ futures. This dynamic is about more than remote working … It’s about how leaders can re-skill and up-skill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era.
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