One big lesson India has learned in 2020 is that the automation revolution which got accelerated in the pandemic year is here to stay and we need to adapt to it faster than other countries. Companies are working hard on trying to figure out different business models. For instance, manufacturing companies are relooking into their supply chain and production floors. Service industry is strongly pushing on creating digital journeys and contactless processes. These new technology driven strategies and business models have a strong need for a workforce with very different sets of skills which in turn is leading to a serious shortage of right talent. Most companies believe that COVID has widened India’s skills gap. The pandemic boomed and created demand for some industries that traditional schools don't even know how to skill people up for.
Most companies believe that they know how to bridge the soft skills gap and it's the hard skills that they need to look into. This assumption in itself would be a fallacy because the work from home model has changed the very definition of soft skills this year.
Creativity, collaboration, adaptability, emotional intelligence have become the need of the hour but the know-how and the technique to utilize these skills has changed too. How does one collaborate while working through google meet and zoom meeting rooms? What creativity should one embody while thinking of digital solutions in non-native digital companies? How more or how little do you push a teammate who is under tremendous personal pressure due to COVID situation at their home? These unique questions were never really a worry till a year back because we were sitting at our desks talking to our colleagues to solve business problems in person. We all knew even then, automation is the right solution to scale, but still most companies went slowly in those investments and idea generations which has now emphatically widened the skills gap for hard skills. Companies see hard skills gaps largely scattered in the technology arena - cloud computing, analytical reasoning, digital marketing, artificial intelligence, end to end product management, deep learning, systems thinking. The growing disconnect between what are people equipped or skilled with what is the need of the hour is calling for a relook of our talent ecosystem
The future of the workforce in all companies requires upskilling and reskilling. Upskilling is done for current roles where new skills are added to the existing skill set of the organization's skills and reskilling is done when a complete transition of skills is required for the job- generally such roles are operationally intensive such as seen in manufacturing, FMCG/CD, Retail, Telecom, Logistics and BFSI industries. The one strong emerging trend seen in the staffing industry during the pandemic year is that companies are investing heavily in training their workforce. And this trend will continue with 86% of the organizations investing in learning solutions to upskill or reskill their talent in 2021.
Different industries have invested in different kinds of customized learning solutions for their workforce i.e Manufacturing industries invested in training modules that address product quality, production and employee health safety related, where they are also taught how to use the operations heavy digital processes in their day to day jobs. These modules have a blended approach: a combination of VILT (virtual instructor led training) and online platform self-learning. Some of the other training modules employed to upskill blue collared workforce are technical training that are digital processes, production, quality related- generally it's a 60:40 mix of hard and soft skills. In the BFSI and Telecom sector the most prominent training module that companies invest in is the HTD model. Hire, Train, Deploy model is one of the most asked training programs these days. Hired candidates are first rigorously trained on, post evaluation they are deployed at a client site for better productivity. In the FMCG/CD and retail sector - the types of training modules employed are soft skills training which teach them how to sell and service online, stress management and so on. Logistics companies have started investing in training modules like etiquette training, employee health safety, tech training where they learn how to manoeuvre gadgets and apps that create five star customer journeys.
Here are some steps organizations can follow to fix their skills gap
1. Identify the skill that your new business model will run on as well as where does your talent stand currently in terms of these skills both hard and soft
2. Start investing in customized learning solutions like HTD and/or OJT:, Both Hire Train Deploy (train first deploy later) and On the job training are hybrid (online and offline classes) learning models that drive those skills into every level of your workforce
3. Just start anywhere, test and redo the learning modules as you receive feedback from your workforce.
4. Increase your organization's learning budget - it will be a good investment for it will help you bridge the ever evolving skills gap.
5. And most importantly, train your top talent through digitalization programs. They will become your future leaders with a strong tech mindset to solve crises. They will learn to stay frugal and scale even through such pandemics.
Peter Drucker once famously said “The best way to predict the future is to create it” therefore, companies should build, invest in and co-create programs that can engineer these missing soft and hard skills into their work force in 2021 which can withstand any such unforeseen crisis.