Re-skilling Workforce For Post COVID World

As organizations invest in automation drives, a parallel investment and focus is also needed on re-skilling their workforce.


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In the last few months the world as we knew it has changed. Perhaps, forever! The blanket lockdowns, social distancing requirements, restricted movement and remote working has necessitated businesses to change their operating models and strategies. The crisis has accelerated digital transformation across industries including small businesses that were traditionally resistant to this change. In fact, years of digital evolution have taken place within a span of these few months. 

While the shift has been brought about by the coronavirus shock, a lot of this change is likely to stay even when the pandemic subsides. Take remote working, for example, organizations have realized that allowing a part of their workforce to work remotely saves time, money while increasing productivity. IT major TCS has announced that a whopping 75% of its workforce will work remotely by 2025. Similarly, organizations are also likely to cut down the number of physical meetings with clients and online conferences will become the new normal. 

Such a cultural and operational shift in the working environment also necessitates the re-skilling of the workforce. Even before this crisis unfolded, technology and automation were disrupting jobs and creating a need for new skills for employees. The McKinsey Global Institute predicted in 2017 that an estimated 14 per cent of the global workforce might have to shift occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. Coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated this shift. Unless industries undertake immediate measures to re-skill their workforce, a huge skill gap is likely to rise over the next few years. 

Acceleration of digitization and automation  

Even before the COVID 19 outbreak, the need for increasing productivity and efficiency was driving automation and digitization across sectors. However, the outbreak has furthered this need, particularly in the manufacturing sector. As robotic manufacturing increases to ensure social distancing requirements and reduce the impact of this crisis on production lines in the future, the demand for experts to create automation designs, programs and to simulate and test automated machinery and processes is already rising. Change in the nature of manufacturing and increasing human-machine interaction also requires a different operation and supervisory skills. Be it automotive manufacturing or food processing plants, wherever robots or machines are being installed to perform specific functions, employees need to be re-skilled to handle the new operations. So, even as organizations invest in automation drives, a parallel investment and focus is also needed on re-skilling their workforce.

Digital marketing becomes mainstream 

With the lockdown and the subsequent social distancing requirements inhibiting social mobility, the traditional marketing strategies are facing a challenge. Digital marketing that was already a rising trend even before the crisis has now become central to the marketing strategies of all organizations. This will create a further need for people with digital and social media marketing skills. As people spend more time on the Internet and social media, the strategy to grab consumer attention and draw them towards your brand has shifted dramatically to the digital medium. With the shift from outbound marketing to inbound marketing, it becomes essential to engage consumers in subjects they might find interesting. Organizations must, therefore, build their skills and capabilities on content marketing, blogging, social media, SEO and PPC strategies. Organizations must also invest in training their marketing teams in these skills. There are plenty of online learning modules available to train people in digital and social media marketing skills.  

Evolution of remote working tools 

Remote working tools and technology such as video conferencing, zoom calls, webinars and virtual meetings which were under-utilized till a few months back have suddenly become mainstream. Even as most organizations have been driven to adopt them because of the pandemic, do they have the skill wherewithal to utilize these tools to their full potential? Perhaps not! Due to lack of comprehensive training, employees often end up using virtual meeting tools as mere conference call mechanisms overlooking the possibilities to share documents, images, videos and make the interaction more viable by utilizing the full potential of the tools. This up-skilling of the workforce in competently using remote working tools as an essential element which cannot be overlooked. Technology training must be made a part of all employee onboarding plans while workshops must be conducted to train the existing workforce, including non-frequent users of technology, into fully utilizing the inherent capabilities of these tools.  

Re-skilling workforce for a post COVID world must be a priority 

Much like organizations are prioritizing digitization, automation, redesigning of supply chain management to suit the changing needs of the time, re-skilling the workforce must also be given equal priority. An equipped workforce ready to take on the new normal will ensure minimum disruption and seamless service to clients.  

In fact, organizations must clearly chart out the course of their business over the next 2-3 years, take a comprehensive view of the hanging strategic and technology needs and then plan a re-skilling programme accordingly. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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