Upskilling Workforce For The Digital Age

Upskilling the workforce to be digitally literate is crucial for organizations to keep pace with new technologies disrupting businesses across industries

By: Soma Tah

In this fast-changing world of technology, a massive onrush towards artificial intelligence, automation, as well as multiple digital transformation initiatives is bringing a big shift to the world of work, with considerable implications for workforce skills.

Reports suggest that about half of all work activities globally have the technical potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. While some skills are likely to become redundant faster than you would have probably thought, and some new skills will rise in demand. Dealing with such transitions are certainly not going to be a cakewalk for businesses. They need to invest heavily in either hiring new talents or upskilling the workforce.

TECH SKILLS IN DEMAND

Utilizing cutting-edge technology to drive productivity, increase efficiency, and spur innovation is the number one business imperative for corporations around the world.

As a result, the organizations are not only seeing an emergence of new job roles, subject matter experts as well as a set of hybrid professionals around cybersecurity, mobile app development, UI/UX, Big Data analytics, cloud, Internet of Things, automation, robotics process automation, Artificial intelligence/machine learning/Natural Language Processing, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, etc.

Upskilling in machine learning and AI is a great opportunity to be ready for growth that the AI wave will bring. Upskilling in areas like Big Data, Data Analytics, Data Mining, Data Science, Platform Engineering, Cloud, Distributed Computing, Agile, DevOps, Cybersecurity, Testing Automation is also in demand.

UPSKILLING VS. HIRING TALENTS

Hiring new talents is often the first thought when companies think of acquiring new technology skills for their teams. Individuals also want to work for organizations who are leaders in the digital space, and they expect their organization to prepare them for the new roles.

Now the question is between hiring talents and upskilling- what is more economical and viable in the long run?

A research by Society for Human Resources Management says that companies spend almost 6-9 months of an employee’s salary trying to hire skills from outside of the company. This comes with separate talent onboarding costs, requires additional time,  cultural impact among others. Besides, the demand for digitally savvy talent is quite high and hence can be tough to find.

In that scenario, upskilling the existing workforce makes sense and is also the economically efficient option in the long run and it contributes to employee retention and improving productivity.

“The skill gap has made professionals and enterprises highly vulnerable. Upskilling is the only way out and Indian companies are in fact acting very fast on ensuring their employees are being skilled across newer technologies. Companies are partnering with training companies like us to develop and deliver online training for their employees,” said Krishna Kumar, founder and CEO of Simplilearn.

But it should also be kept in mind that all employees are not equally comfortable with reskilling and upskilling programs. Organizations, therefore also need to identify which employees it should invest time and money on.

Sundar Subramanian, President – Global Delivery, Mphasis, however, feels organizations need to maintain a fine balance between hiring and upskilling. Multi-skilling the employees at different levels also go a long way.

“Hiring fresh talent and training them is easier as they pick up new skills very quickly. while, experienced professionals and employees, on the other hand, have the domain knowledge and have a fair understanding of the customers’ needs. There are often a lot of unstated requirements from customers in terms of delivery and meeting SLAs, which new talents might not even know. They are more solution-oriented as well, ” said he.

Digital upskilling

“Effective upskilling requires a balance of technical and soft skills for organizations to nurture the talent they need for open jobs,” said VinayPradhan, Country Manager-India, Skillsoft.

“There was a time when online courses were considered inferior to traditional learning programs. But in today’s world of changing business dynamics and technology evolutions, digital upskilling has indeed taken the front seat.  As companies expect their employees to be more aligned to the latest skills, the demand for online training has shot up to a great extent. Flexibility, blended mode of delivery, interactivity, and ability to apply the skills on the job have led online learning take over regular training with ease,” said Kumar.

The learning content needs to be designed and updated by subject matter experts and industry leaders and also needs to be supplemented with applied learning projects and real-world case studies, with hands-on practice.

The delivery must combine self-paced online content as well as instructor-led live virtual classrooms.

The progress of upskilling initiatives can be ensured with pre- and post-course assessments and certifications.

“I do believe the adoption of new technologies in the Indian IT sector is not fast enough, given that India is one of the largest job creators in the global technology industry. There are so many career specializations for which we don’t have the necessary educational infrastructure in India, and Online Learning courses fill the gap. There are people who enormously benefit from speciality technologies such as Blockchain, and whose lives and career paths change because of them. On the whole, the technology ecosystem needs to push for a more holistic approach to workforce upskilling to keep up with the market,” said RuchiBhalla, Vice President, Human Resources, Pitney Bowes Inc.

UPSKILLING: AN ONGOING PROCESS

“Digital Transformation initiatives integrate technology into all areas of the business to effectively keep
up in today’s ever-changing digital economy. Hence, it’s important for organizations as well as employees
to understand that upskilling is not a one time
process- but rather an ongoing commitment and requirement in today’s rapidly evolving digital world,” said Pradhan.

And it’s not just the individuals in the IT function in the organization who have to be digital-ready; in fact, it’s even more critical the leaders at all levels to possess the competencies needed to harness and drive digital agenda.

There is a tremendous opportunity for digital transformation in a country like India, and that is possible only if the workforce can be upskilled to live up to the challenge. Hence, organizations need to increase their investments in employee training and upskilling at all levels of the organization.

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