Rapid Reskilling And Upskilling At Scale

Rapid Reskilling And Upskilling At Scale

Adapting to the ever-changing needs of the industry can be a challenge for both employees and organisations; upskilling and reskilling are becoming increasingly important in the current day scenario.


“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.” – Peter Drucker


Upskilling or reskilling existing employees is becoming increasingly popular with organisations and is a much better bet than recruiting new talent altogether which can be both time consuming and an expensive process involving a drain on company resources. Upskilling requires bringing employees up-to-date by providing training while reskilling involves identifying their strengths and training them to undertake new roles in the workplace. Most organisations prefer to retain trained employees as far as possible instead of replacing them with new and more expensive resources. In a recent McKinsey Global Survey on reskilling, it was found that 69% of the organisations are engaged in more skill building now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis.


But does that essentially mean that organisations are succeeding in upgrading skills of employees inhouse, resulting in reduced hiring from outside? It is difficult to say. However, there is no doubt that the pandemic has highlighted the need for new skills in the swift advent of digitisation and the unconventional remote work environment that employees and organisations alike were thrown into without warning with the onset of the pandemic. In fact, the number of people acquiring new skills virtually in order to upskill themselves and meet job requirements has significantly shot up in the last couple of years.


With schools and colleges forced to either shut down or operate remotely, students and teachers were left with no choice but to adapt to the online mode of education. Similarly, with so many people losing their livelihood during the pandemic either due to restructuring or redundancies, people started to question concepts like stable jobs and careers. The need to be equipped with new skills was never felt so acutely as it was during the COVID-19 crisis. As we continue to work through the pandemic, the demands of an ever-changing work scenario require organisations to continue to upskill and reskill their workforce bearing in mind the fact that what works today may be obsolete tomorrow.


Online opportunities


With various online learning platforms in the market such as Emeritus, Upgrad, Udemy, Coursera, Lynda etc., getting trained and certified online, on diverse subjects at extremely affordable prices and flexible schedules has enabled many to acquire skills relevant to their chosen career or something completely offbeat- learning to play a musical instrument or speak a new language. Even some top universities, including Ivy League colleges, have seen merit in democratising learning by making their courses available on online learning platforms. This enabled students to continue to learn despite the pandemic without the need to put their education and futures on hold.


The increasing demand


According to statistics available for India, the most popular courses that people are taking online include machine learning/data science, python and other coding languages, UI/UX design and wellness related topics. The demand for online learning is gaining traction for many reasons. With new skills emerging every 3-4 years and old skills becoming redundant, people are not sure what they should be learning. Both the organisations and the individuals are gradually finding online training as an effective method of upskilling fast and at scale.


The other is the convenience of employees being able to take these courses at the time and pace of your choice. Due to hectic work schedules, time differences and other factors, most people struggle to participate in training programmes held by their organisations, who, in turn, despite their well-intended development programmes, find it difficult to make any serious impact through them. The pandemic has recently done away with geographical boundaries and organisations today are faced with the issue of getting everyone online at the same time. Hence, they have resorted to self-paced online learning that allows organisations, large and small, to rapidly upskill their employees in a cost-effective manner.


As the famous management consultant and author Peter Drucker said, “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.”


The ongoing challenge of skill gaps that organisations face and ways to bridge the gap is one of the top-most agendas of business leaders. According to a recent Gartner study, almost 58% of employees need new skills to do their jobs successfully. Thanks to the rapid evolution in technology and changes in business models, organisations find themselves ill-equipped to adapt swiftly because of the lack of relevant skills internally and the time and money involved in hiring externally. The needs of organisations have changed almost overnight, and many have not been able to cope with such a rapid change. Those who have survived have had to act swiftly and focus their attention to reskilling and upskilling within the organisation. Despite this, the fear of redundancy and failure looms upon the horizon during these times.


As per previous research insights from a McKinsey report, and I quote, “as many as 375 million workers globally might have to change occupations in the next decade to meet companies’ needs and that automation could free employees to spend as much as 30 percent of their time on new work.” And this is a trend that will continue in the coming years. The classic response of organisations to bridge the gap is to either, outsource, hire temporary workers, redefine roles, and in some cases, focus on skillbuilding.


The case for in-house skill-building is extremely strong. What used to be a massive project involving high costs in the past can now be achieved easily through integrating learning management systems and content from online learning platforms. The L&D industry has responded extremely well to this need of organisations by partnering with tech firms to create bite-sized courses and make them easily accessible to interested learners.


The Amazon approach


One of the most talked-about in-house upskilling programmes was launched by Amazon in 2019 called Upskilling 2025 – an ambitious programme aimed at creating learning opportunities for its 100k employees and helping them move into high-skilled career paths. Having identified the key skills needed by them in the next few years, they set about training their staff – technical and nontechnical preparing the organisation for the future.


Amazon achieved this herculean task by adopting a blended learning approach involving classroom and digital training, immersive learning and on-the-job training using hundreds of machine learning scientists combining instructorled, project-based learning with realworld application.


The truth is employers are experiencing complications in filling key positions essential for their sustained growth. Time taken to recruit involving huge expenses and the long learning curve for new joiners is a pain point for most organisations forcing them to consider other ways to ensure business continuity and future-proofing from slowing down due to lack of proper talent and skills. A Gallup survey found that 86% of employees say that job training is important for them and is a key factor when choosing an employer.


What if your best talent is within your organisation and you lost them because you did not invest in their learning and upskilling? In reality, small-sized organisations do a wonderful job in retaining their talent by providing them on-the-job learning opportunities. Bigger organisations, on the other hand, find themselves in a precarious situation due to the sheer size and number of people. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch pushed idea of continuous learning in organisations and said, “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage”.


Online modes of learning provide companies the opportunity to train and upskill their employees at scale, thereby ensuring employees who are in a position to perform their tasks efficiently and in keeping with organisational goals.


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