Remote working and the need for virtual upskilling of professionals

September 23, 2021 5:22 PM

Companies have a steep learning curve, as they must constantly innovate to manage their employees virtually and maintain cohesion without physically socialising.

The statistics are alarming, and job insecurity has presented socio-economic implications for employees as well as employers.The statistics are alarming, and job insecurity has presented socio-economic implications for employees as well as employers.

By Siddhartha Gupta

Only a year-and-half ago, the world came to a standstill because of the global health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The consequential global lockdowns of varying degrees and physical distancing norms mandated adopting mediums such as virtual conferencing, remote workspaces and online learning, resulting in a significant boost in the implementation of technological developments. People have accepted remote work at face value now. Thus, they ought to learn new skills to make the most of this opportunity and keep pace with the ongoing digital transformation. Workforce unable to cope up with this transformation risk becoming irrelevant.

According to a report by ILO, “In 2020, 8.8 percent of global working hours were lost relative to the fourth quarter of 2019, equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. Working-hour losses in 2020 were approximately four times greater than during the global financial crisis in 2009. Globally, the decline in working hours in 2020 due to the onset of COVID and the consequential digital conversion, translated into both employment losses and a reduction in working hours for those who remained employed. Global labour income in 2020 is estimated to have declined by 8.3 percent, which amounts to US$ 3.7 trillion, or 4.4 percent of global GDP.”

Skilling for professionals at an individual level:

The statistics are alarming, and job insecurity has presented socio-economic implications for employees as well as employers. Therefore, stakeholders need to evolve to meet the demands of digital transformation and stay relevant. This new dynamic is more than remote working, automation or Artificial Intelligence- it is about how to reskill and upskill the workforce to remain in sync with emerging business models in a post-pandemic era.

Professionals need to learn new skills to acclimatise to the cultural shift and remain competitive in the digital age. Online tools are fulfilling this need for upskilling for learning, with tools such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), e-learning platforms, webinars, executive and distance learning courses from institutions like IIMs, XLRI, Symbiosis, Coursera, UpGrad, Udemy and edX. They offer courses ranging from Business and Management to Computer Science to Data Analysis to Data Visualisation to Coding to Artificial Intelligence to Strategy. Thus, offering professionals a gamut of options.

Skilling for professionals at an organisational level:

Corporates are using modern training and assessment tools for leadership and development initiatives (L&D). These are as follows:

  • Skills gap analysis to gauge the difference between the current and desired skills levels at an individual as well as an organisational level.
  • Learning agility analysis to identify agile employees who can learn quickly and effectively. It also helps understand a candidate’s drive and orientation to learn new things at work.
  • Skills proximity analysis to categorise employees who are closest to the futuristic skill sets.

Assessment tools mentioned above, among others, enable an organisation to create customised and effective training models to enhance the knowledge base of employees required to function proficiently, factoring in changing job roles and responsibilities.

What individuals and organisations can achieve together:

Companies have a steep learning curve, as they must constantly innovate to manage their employees virtually and maintain cohesion without physically socialising. This new workplace requires new skill sets. Businesses are even discussing if pay-for skills or a skills economy is the next model to which they would switch.

Holistic training and evaluations offered by industry leaders in workforce assessment enable organisations to train and upskill their workforce for the future of work through various multi-faceted tools. Virtual tools such as case studies, live simulators and Virtual Assessment and Development Centers (VADCs) are designed to assess an organisation’s skills, relevance and leadership development needs. Events such as hackathons foster new ideas, promote employee engagement, recruit excellent talent and accelerate innovation and problem-solving.

Organisations can go a step further and offer certifications to distinguish their workforce from the competition. The present-day training models also measure training efficacy through continuous assessments such as training effectiveness analysis, work performance and regular surveys to check for on-the-job skill upgrades.

An effective training program using targeted evaluation helps an organisation measure and analyse the results of its skilling initiatives. Employees, too, benefit in the process as they get reskilled and upskilled in trending digital and tech skills. This mechanism not only bridges the skills gap in the workforce caused by technological disruptions, new business models, or strategies but also secures them against redundancies. Agility in learning and capacity building are the only ways to meet the demands of the disruptions caused by workforce transformation.

(The author is Chief Executive Officer at Mercer | Mettl. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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