It’s Time to Re-skill. Here’s What Companies Can Do

Global Employability

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions.

We’re thick in the middle a pandemic and it’s turned everything on its head. At a time like this, it’s important to stop and think, and recalibrate our lives according to the new normal.

Take office centricity, for instance. For a huge segment of the workforce, work has become location agnostic. Remote-work, it is now more than evident, is here to stay.

It’s been coming..

Even before the crisis disrupted our lives, the advent of advanced technologies and evolving styles of working, brought forth the need to acquire new skills for employees. Research by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2017 predicted that as many as 375 million workers, or 14 percent of the global workforce, will have to learn new skills by 2030, or even change their profession, due to automation and growth of artificial intelligence. Another recent survey by McKinsey highlighted the need to bridge the skill gaps experienced by employees. A staggering 87% of the executives said they were facing issues with regard to their skills, but only less than half of the participants knew how to address the problem. Besides, 78% of the participants were all set to reskill themselves.

Moreover, a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 50% of jobs were at the risk of changing drastically, or becoming obsolete after a few years.

This has further accelerated the need to re-skill, especially post the occurrence of Covid-19.

The case for reskilling

Remote learning was gradually gaining popularity even before the crisis, but the pandemic has fast-forwarded its pace. According to a CFO survey by Gartner, three out of four CFOs plan to

“shift at least 5 percent of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.” Although employees learnt to navigate through remote learning within days, or received some training, what really matters is how they’re going to stay afloat in the times to come. This also highlights the need for upskilling even more in these times. The path is full of challenges, of course.

For instance, managers are struggling to lead in times of remote working. They want to ensure productivity, and at the same time, want fruitful ways to continue office banter and water-cooler conversations, albeit virtually.

If there’s one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it is the fact that we need to embrace technology head on. It is about creating the most conducive environment through live video and social sharing. This will not just help to scale learning efforts in a more cost-effective manner, but at the end of the day, ensure effective learning for employees through personalisation.

Even as some companies are looking to get back to the physical workplace, the skills needed will not be any different in this transitional phase.

What employers need in the post-Covid workforce

Digital transformation is the buzzword during the Covid-19 crisis, and will continue beyond. The UK healthcare system is a case in point. It has fast-forwarded years of digital transformation within a few weeks. In 2019, barely 1% of the appointments took place online, via video. Today, 100% of the patients are being consulted by one online medium or the other – through phone calls or videos. Only a fraction of the population is suggested face-to-face consultations.

The need to acquire a new set of skills is driving organizations to define the qualities that are needed in the post-Covid workforce. They are increasingly looking to invest in up-skilling programs, or re-skilling them to make them fit for existing jobs.The 2020 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that 51 percent of companies globally plan to implement an upskilling program within their organizations; 47 percent will do the same for reskilling.  For instance, companies are looking to upskill employees who are in finance or technology, so that they do not lose their jobs.

There are several more examples. For instance, in the US, retail, hospitality and food service make up for 42 percent of the most vulnerable jobs, while there are some sectors, including food, that are in the need for 2-3 million more workers.

To take cognisance of the situation and rising number of gig economy workers, Uber launched Work Hub for its drivers, both internally as well as other companies, including Domino’s or Shipt.

How companies can re-skill employees

Companies need to define the right skills to ensure that leaders and their teams can be adept at what they do, post the crisis  — whether they work from home, or return to the physical workspace.

Identify skills that are needed in the ‘new normal’

To begin with, it is important to identify what’s important for your company to grow in this new world. Remember, you can’t follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach, every company has different requirements, so you need to identify your company’s key skills.

“Companies should quickly identify crucial value drivers and employee groups. Specify the exact contributions of these roles to value creation and reimagine how their day-to-day work will change as a result of value shifts. Identify which shifts in activities, behavior, and skills are needed. Specify the quantity and type of people you need,” says a McKinsey study.

Build employee skills that are important for your new model

Start with reskilling those employees, who are part of the critical workforce, and contribute to generation of maximum revenue. There will be some skills that will be important for everyone, no matter what their role is.

It is important to focus your investments on four kinds of skills: digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience. The skill building in these four areas should be predominately digital and self-paced but not tailored to the individual in most cases,” as quoted by a McKinsey study.

Have tailored learning programs for employees

Employees are in transformation mode, which is great, but they need to go deeper on strategic workforce planning. Leaders don’t just need to know the critical skills that the employees must be trained in, but how these skills will differ for each group in terms of application.

For instance, there are several companies that have completely changed the way they work. A Chinese conglomerate started to work remotely in the beginning, then they began to work on their revised three-year plans that included ‘more aggressive omnichannel targets, and more agility’.

Begin immediately, test and improve your actions

A McKinsey survey found that “most companies that had launched successful reskilling programs said they were better able to address skill gaps caused by technological disruptions or to implement new business models or strategies. On the other hand, companies that viewed their reskilling programs as unsuccessful were still glad they had gone through the process, with a majority saying they were prepared to take on future skill gaps.

All in all, as the work landscape changes more and more in the times to come, it will be important for companies to implement strategies that will help employees embark on a new trajectory!

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Global Employability


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