A future-ready workforce will ensure the relevance of industries, companies and individuals
The NASSCOM has estimated that, to be future-ready, about 40% of the IT/ITeS and BPO workforce in India will need to reskill over five years. For a sector that employs nearly 4 million, this translates to 1.6 million who need to be reskilled.
While reimagining reskilling through new mechanisms is a step to strengthen the learning ecosystem, organisations need to establish a clear strategy to facilitate this learning. To create this future-ready workforce, corporates will have to focus their strategies on four distinct areas—what I call the four pillars of creating a future-ready workforce.
Reskilling will have to be digitally-driven
Technology is a key tool to leverage due to two important aspects—the distributed nature of any given workforce, and the way in which technology-led learning is becoming more prevalent with individuals. Teams no longer work in a single office, nor are they tied to a specific geographical location. Thus, the traditional method of using classrooms and getting people to gather at one place for learning is increasingly getting difficult. Further, classroom-based learning will not be able to support either the scale or the nature of the learning that needs to occur. Since the learning required for the future workforce is a combination of various technologies, it needs the expertise of multiple domain experts, increasing the affordability factor of the reskilling process. Secondly, the current workforce is comfortable with the idea of learning when they want to learn, at their desired pace, and with a device of their choice. Effectively, technology then becomes the media through which the proliferation for reskilling can happen.
Reskilling must be leadership-led
This is a vital pillar of reskilling that cannot be ignored by organisations seeking to make their workforce future-ready. With the shelf life of the knowledge base shrinking by the minute, it is imperative that reskilling has to be embraced by everyone, starting from the top. If a rule similar to Moore’s law could be formulated for learning, it would be observed that skills become obsolete every 18 months. In the current environment, a company’s survival depends on the competence of the workforce. Ensuring that a leadership-led approach is the centrepiece of the reskilling strategy will make a difference.
Reskilling requires metrics for managers
Reskilling is as much a corporate requirement as it is an individual necessity. Managers handling teams have two options to deal with equipping their teams for future competencies—to source from outside or reskill the current workforce. The option of sourcing outside talent comes with its drawbacks, since there is a severe lack of adequately skilled people to keep up with the pace at which technology is heading. Reskilling is clearly the better alternative. Managers will have to be measured by how they are creating a future-ready workforce through metrics that indicate how they have encouraged their teams to reskill themselves.
Reskilling should establish an impact for individuals
As with everything, learning too raises the ‘what is in it for me’ question. Creating impact is a must in any system, more so in the paradigm of learning, for it facilitates the flow-through of the organisational strategy to reach on-ground action. Apart from the proliferation of a paranoia for people and organisations to understand that constant learning is vital for survival, sustained impact can be addressed by creating a tie-in with tangible risks and rewards for the individual. For instance, a positive impact could be in the form of an increment, a recognition, or a promotion for a deserving employee, while the downside of someone passive to reskilling would be missing such rewards.
The relevance of the organisation depends on how relevant the organisation is to its clientèle, which, in today’s environment, is best exhibited by the ability to leverage the latest technologies. Thus, the organisation’s very existence, and by extension, the industry’s presence, depends on initiating the right reskilling ecosystem, which has to include all four pillars, along with the right framework for effective reskilling.
Srikantan Moorthy is executive vice-president, Infosys