The Need to Re-Skill

This crisis forced employees to change the way they work almost overnight. Workers needed to figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions. COVID-19 has changed not only how people work but also how they shop and eat, as well as basic patterns of movement and travel. In this way, the pandemic is setting up what could be lasting employment-landscape shifts that will require the large-scale reskilling of workers.This is all much more than just a change to remote working. It’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era.

To meet this challenge, companies should craft a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience. Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.

On the other hand, the learning landscape has changed in ways that will foster teaching new skills to employees, wherever they may be. COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of fully digitised approaches to re-create the best of in-person learning through live video and social sharing. This transformation makes it possible to scale learning efforts in a more cost-effective way and permits greater personalisation for learners—and in turn greater effectiveness.

Please consider the following six steps, leaders can take to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills critical to their recovery business models.

  1. Rapidly identify the skills your recovery business model depends on
    As companies decide on strategies that will shore up the future of the business, they need to map out which skill pools will disproportionately affect it and drive it forward. To do this, they should quickly identify crucial value drivers and employee groups. Specify the exact contributions of these roles to value creation and re-imagine how their day-to-day work will change as a result of value shifts. Identify which shifts in activities, behaviour, and skills are needed. Specify the quantity and type of people you need. For example, if you are moving from in-store sales to predominately home deliveries, your tech team and logistics coordinators will have a greater impact on the new strategy than they did on the old one. They may also need a different skill set to facilitate the increase in demand and customer expectations.
  1. Build employee skills critical to your new business model
    Start upskilling the critical workforce pools that will drive a disproportionate amount of value in your adjusted business model. The first step is to build a no-regrets skill set—a tool kit that will be useful no matter how an employee’s specific role may evolve. All the research is showing that you should focus your investments on four kinds of skills: digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience

3. The need for tailored learning journeys to close critical skill gaps
As companies prepare to reimagine and ramp up their business models, it is important to go deeper on strategic workforce planning. Leaders need a detailed view not only of the core activities that employees will begin undertaking in the next 12 to 18 months but also of which skills each of these employees will need.

As the operating model evolves quickly to accommodate a rapidly changing environment, the key is to iterate strategic workforce planning to determine the right skills to develop in a “just in time” manner. These learning journeys need to be tailored to each specific role, but companies can increase their scale and cost effectiveness by delivering the majority of the training digitally.

Such journeys can be supplemented by digital tools that re-create the best of in-person learning—for instance, social-sharing tools and live video sessions that create a deepened sense of cohesion in cohorts and help build skills, such as empathy, that usually depend on in-person learning.

  1. Start now!
    All the research being done is indicating that those 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. And 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. The lesson here is that simply getting started on reskilling programs makes organisations better prepared for potential future role disruption—and is preferable to waiting or doing nothing. Having said so organisations shouldn’t launch reskilling initiatives and then disband them after the crisis passes; whatever talent reskilling or redeployment you do now should also be used to expand your reskilling capabilities going forward. By building your own institutional learning, and capturing what works and what doesn’t now, you put yourself in a position to apply those lessons during disruptive events in the future.
  1. Act like a small company to have a big impact
    The reskilling programs at small organisations are often more successful than those at large ones, the global survey showed. This may surprise some, since larger companies generally have access to more resources. But smaller companies are often more successful at following agile principles—making bold moves more quickly because they don’t have to shift around large groups of people to try something new. They also may be more willing to fail, because they have fewer layers of approval to go through. At the same time, smaller companies tend to have a clearer view of their skill deficiencies, so they’re better at prioritizing the gaps they need to address and at selecting the right candidates for reskilling. That’s not to say larger organisations can’t be agile when it comes to reskilling, just that it can be harder for them.
  1. Protect learning budgets (or regret it later)
    Companies should not cut their employee-training budgets. Use your training budget to make skill building a key strategic lever for adapting to the next normal. Don’t waste two to three years and forego the efficiency and resilience you could develop now. What you can and should do is focus on the resilience of your learning ecosystem: make it both more digital and more accessible to your employees. Finally, leverage the learning journeys and objects of external learning providers.

Companies can’t be resilient if their people aren’t. Building your reskilling muscle now is the first step to ensuring that your organisation’s recovery business model is a success.

At EMCS we specialise in providing adhoc and tailor made training, using also various digital and technological platforms to increase the efficiency in delivering such training. Feel free to contact me on to learn how we can service your training needs. The cost of this training can be covered by the Malta Enterprise Skills Development Scheme whereby the budget for this Skills Development Scheme has been increased further through latest economic regeneration initiatives

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