Upskilling today's workforce for tomorrow...

Upskilling today's workforce for tomorrow...

The availability of key skills have been a major concern for business leaders over the past few years and it has become a business imperative to address this skill gap, now more than ever. In PwC’s 23rd Global CEO survey, 74% of the CEOs expressed concern over the availability of key skills. Though businesses have become more serious about it and are making concerted efforts to tackle this pressing issue, they must take the right initiatives to tackle the challenge.


As people were bracing themselves for the future of work and trying hard to estimate and understand what changes it will bring in the workplace,  appreciate the full stack of skills that they would need, the unprecedented ‘black swan’ challenge of COVID-19 happened. As businesses continue to adapt to the new normal, most organisations and economies have to address  the following critical issues: How can they reinvent their businesses to succeed in this new world of work, what skill set will become critical for survival and which ones will become redundant, which capabilities will set it apart in the new world of work, should it focus only on digital skills and core capabilities or also look at creating mindsets, behaviours and relationships for tomorrow, how to develop effective learning modules as the world moves towards a virtual, contactless world.


Though most organisations appreciate the need to upskill its people, the challenge associated with the need to continuously redefine the ‘lights - on’, ‘table stakes’, ‘differentiating’ capabilities and making the learning autonomous has been some of the biggest hurdles to cross in their upskilling journey.

Yet, those who have managed to make ‘capability’ a way of life are the ones who have been able to beat competitors and remain ahead of others. Our CEO Survey, which interviewed 1581 business leaders from across geographies, finds out that there is a clear correlation between the progress they’ve made in upskilling their employees and how optimistic they are about the global economic prospects.38% of the CEOs who have made significant progress in upskilling are confident about their growth prospects. So, how can organisations make upskilling a priority?


◆ Capabilities should be linked to the organisation’s business strategy. Strategy without the right capabilities to deliver them is not an effective one. Hence it’s critical that organisations focus on capabilities as a critical component of strategy. Most importantly, choosing a strategy that can be linked and enabled by the capabilities of the organisation will be a critical consideration.


Building a learning focused organisation : Organisations who have been successful over a long term have one element in common : they always maintain the right balance between  strategy and the capability required to deliver on that strategy. Capability should be the fuel of the engine that makes the motion happen. Thus, the choice of the capabilities and the focus on those capabilities becomes critical for setting the right pace. If strategy is the direction, capability is the pace that enables the movement in the right direction.


◆ Hiring for learning intelligence: There are some shifts and capabilities that are difficult to build. One of them is the ‘ability to learn’. Hence it’s important that organisations hire talent for their ‘learning intelligence’ to be ready for tomorrow. An agile workforce will be very critical to meet the requirements of tomorrow’s workplace and build a resilient future.


So how can organisations focus on their DNA to make it ‘learning focused’?


Though most organisations walk the path of making themselves learning focused, not all of them are able to build a sustainable learning module. Here’re some thumb rules which are followed by most learning focused organisations:


◆ Leaders should lead from the front: Learning can’t be the learning function or HR function’s agenda. It has to be run by the business leaders from the front. A leader’s contribution to upskill his/her employees has to be an important consideration for measuring leadership potential and contribution to business. Any leader who can’t make time to upskill themselves or others, surely won’t be taken seriously in the organisation.


Yet, it has to be on everyone’s agenda and prioritised across all levels in the organisation.


◆ Create a culture of learning: The culture of being learning focused can’t be driven through incentives and recognition. It could only be a way to provide an impetus. However, the focus of building a learning focused organisation should be through a combination of focus on priorities and culture


The upskilling agenda has to be focused on making employees future ready. It has to focus on a combination of critical technical and functional skills that the organisation needs.


◆ The learning has to be enabled through the right learning experience-it has to be intuitive, easy to access and has to deliver a seamless experience


Upskilling designed for the job and the individual’s purpose: Perhaps one of the most important requirements of making the upskilling agenda successful would be to make it fit for purpose (for the role) and align to the individual’s purpose. One needs to think through the job role and its impact, understand the individual and his/her goals and align the learning to ensure that both their purposes are fulfilled. Considering the upskilling needs to align to individual and organisation goals, it has to focus on the following:


◆ The technical and functional skills required for the job


The digital skills of the employee, which is aligned to the organisation’s digital purpose


Behavioral capabilities that will make the employee future ready


The mindset that’s critical for the employee  to succeed in the job and required to achieve his/her career goals


The relationships and the network that will enable the leader to deliver and succeed in her job


As they say, if there is one thing that can’t be brought back, it’s time. Time is finite and hence the most prized possession. In our journey of making ourselves ready for the future, time will continue to be the most difficult to manage priority. Upskilling will be our biggest asset to get the optimum results. However, what’s most important for any organisation now is to align the learning across the organisation to meet the business’s purpose in the new normal.   There’s going to be adequate focus on playful thinking and focusing on the right needs, so that the organisation and its people get the desired value.


Organisations need to plan their modules well before they embark on their upskilling journey. Employees too must understand their own goals, use the most of their learning time, and align it to the organisation's overall purpose. In the virtual workplace, there’s bound to be distractions which might seem like learning. But, one must keep the larger purpose in mind.


As companies continue to navigate this new normal, it’s evident that organisations which are investing in future proofing their employees have seen higher productivity, better business outcomes, enjoy a strong work culture and reap benefits of hiring and retaining top talent - all the key things that will set it apart in the new world.



Chaitali Mukherjee is the leader - people and organisation at PwC India.


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