In a world reshaped by the impact of a global pandemic, people with the right set of skills safeguard companies against future uncertainties. For many, this has meant that learning has taken the center stage. Market disruptions aren’t new for businesses. Even before the pandemic struck, companies had been facing technological disruption in the form of increased use of digital platforms. Additionally, increased business application of technologies like AI, big data analytics, etc. has left a mark on how business processes are executed. For business leaders, this puts a renewed focus on learning and development as a key cornerstone of building a future proof organization.
For employees, the pandemic accelerated an already growing demand for digital skills. According to the World Economic Forum report published in October of last year, the rapid acceleration of automation and economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will shift the division of labor between humans and machines, causing 85 million jobs to be displaced and 97 million new ones to be created by 2025. Much of these new jobs will require new, more relevant skills.
The need to develop hard, technical skills have not been the only priority among L&D professionals. With work shifting from offices to homes, companies have had to invest into diversifying their skills development programs to include soft skills. Skills such as communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving have taken a completely new dimension in this new definition of work; one in recent months has become increasingly hybrid.
Skilling trends in SEA:
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Southeast Asia. In such market conditions, companies are more reliant on reskilling to be their engine of growth. These include both a mix of hard technical skills and soft skills. Moving into 2022, having the right mix would prove crucial.
“With the pandemic not showing signs of abating, I believe the new world will be characterised by hybrid work environments, gig & passion workers and increased digitalisation of business models. This means digital skills specific to a function, meta skills around collaborating in a virtual-first world and people skills like creating high performing remote teams will be paramount.
L&D needs to be increasingly decentralised and integrated with business functions - only central elements like onboarding / values / culture training will be managed by a central L&D team under HR. The core business skills will need to be taught by digital-first functional academies, where people will be picked from line jobs on rotation. So upskilling these folks with the basics of learning and cognitive sciences is also essential,” says Subramanian Viswanathan, Co-Founder & CEO, Disprz.
The pandemic’s disruptive effect has led to companies adopting a more digitalized way of working, leading to a widened digital skills and knowledge gap. It revealed existing skill gaps within the region, and companies were quick to make it a priority to build digital skills among their employees. With the hybrid work culture extending into 2022, many predict that the need to have digitally fluent employees, trained with the right technical skills would be imperative. A recent LinkedIn report rates digital skills as one of the most important technical skills L&D professionals are focusing on to build in the coming year. As the world is moving closer to a digital future, a concerted effort from all key stakeholders of the region is urgently needed to come up with solutions to prevent the gap from ever widening. Learning platforms like Disprz offer intuitive and AI-backed solutions that make upskilling easy and impactful.
While the focus on new age digital skills has remained unwavering, companies are looking at building soft skills with a renewed focus. “We are living in a world of disruptive innovations where communication, collaboration and radical thinking is vital to survive and succeed,” explains Norita Hamid, Head of Learning & Talent Development at MIDF Group.
Its relevance was brought to the forefront during the pandemic, and with its impacts continuing well into the new year, we are sure to see soft skills growing even more important.
Building resilience: According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning report, building resilience among employees to handle change and disruptions is on the agenda of L&D leaders worldwide. Even for a diverse labor market, such as that of Southeast Asia, the need for skills that make employees resilient to change is to be a key area of upskilling in 2022. The report notes that in 2021, the ability to build resilience and adaptability among employees was one of the top concerns among L&D professionals in Southeast Asia. This trend would continue as more companies invest in future-proofing their business processes.
New age leadership skills: A recent IMD World Talent Ranking report noted that the prevalent trend within Southeast Asia to develop domestic talent shifted to attracting foreign professionals by 2020. One reason for this has been the dissolution of the ‘physical boundary’ of a company. Many companies have leveraged technology to reach foreign talent pools to meet their talent demands. While this has helped companies create an employee base, leaders and managers require more dynamic skills to ensure their teams remain engaged and productive. In a digitalized world, leaders need skills that improve their ability to lead through change. Change management has therefore become a key skill of leaders among many others like improved judgment, effective decision-making, facilitating collaboration and encouraging teams to remain motivated in hybrid work culture.
Social and emotional skills: Perhaps the most difficult collection of soft skills to develop in a corporate setting, social and emotional skills have become one of the most important skills today. As teams become hybrid and business processes evolve, emotional intelligence, social and behavioral understanding, the ability to communicate across remote or distributed teams, cross-functional collaboration, dealing with stress and burnout, and creativity all become important skills that L&D professionals need to address in 2022.
The role of L&D professionals:
Reports from ADB and other think tanks like World Economic Forum have long highlighted skill gaps across different Southeast Asian countries. In the wake of pandemic and the rising digitalization, more concerted efforts need to be taken by companies to have skilled employees leading the right processes. A robust learning program can play an essential role to ensure sufficient opportunities for up-and reskilling employees. L&D professionals play a key role in ensuring this. In most Southeast Asian countries, learning systems often lack focused attention and resources, putting in doubt their readiness to address future skill challenges. “L&D leaders have to learn, unlearn and relearn how to design or curate personalized learning journeys of their employees as ‘one size does not fit all’ and build trust within the organization to nurture a culture that breeds innovation,” notes Norita.
Therefore, it is more crucial than ever to ensure sufficient reskilling and upskilling opportunities supported with the prudent use of digital learning platforms like Disprz are used to ensure companies can address their talent needs.