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Preparing for digital future: Capacity building and upskilling employees during lockdown

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The occurrence of remote working culture, virtual social interactions, the essence of collaboration have profoundly changed work ethics and employment expectations in today's work environment.

Preparing for digital future: Capacity building and upskilling employees during lockdown
The pandemic-induced lockdown has permanently altered and re-defined the corporate space. COVID-19 has accelerated digital adoption and significantly impacted workplace dynamics, organisation structure, and employee competencies. With a drastic change in workplace conditions and re-assessment of talent skillset, the pandemic has brought an upsurge in the unemployment rate in India.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report, over 10 million Indians have lost their jobs due to the second wave of COVID-19. Around 97 percent of households' incomes have declined since the beginning of the global pandemic last year. India's urban unemployment rate has climbed to almost 18 percent, the highest in a year, as restricted economic activity continues to hit the job environment.
With people losing jobs, digital upskilling has become a priority for employment growth in the country. The occurrence of remote working culture, virtual social interactions, the essence of collaboration have profoundly changed work ethics and employment expectations in today's work environment. This is compelling businesses to reconsider their operational model, gradually introduce new technologies to their employees with the disruption of digitisation, and perhaps, invest in a workforce adaptable to the new-normal work environment.
Digital Upskilling: Defining the future workforce
The future of work and the evolution of technology will always be intertwined. The acceleration of digital adoption has increased digital transactions causing a boom in the e-commerce industry and businesses pivoting online.
With the increase in technology advancements for seamless functioning in the corporate world, the pandemic has created a wider skill gap. According to Gartner HR Research, 58 percent of the workforce will need new skill sets to do their jobs successfully. Employees will need to be well-versed with digital technologies to help protect their jobs. A person more skilled in IT will have a higher probability of getting hired than a computer novice.
The nature of work is progressing each day, and job roles are evolving with time. The youth that applies for a job in today's market likely already has a digital skillset and possible industry knowledge. However, it becomes vital for an organisation to train the existing set of employees to overcome redundancy and reduce the impact on revenue. The requirement to educate the employees and keep them relevant has become essential. Going forward, continuous rigor on employee skill development will be beneficial not only for the business but also for employee personal growth and satisfaction.
Believing in your company and the people behind your success is essential. Investing time in empowering the workforce can lead to an increase in productivity and add to employee's motivation. It can further create a pool of like-minded people aiming to achieve a common goal, rather than aiming to do a job just for monetary reasons. It can also help decrease recruitment costs and increase employer retention value by maximising their potential and growing skill sets. Additionally, by helping minimise the skill gap and empowering the existing workforce, businesses can help contribute towards overall economic recovery and growth.
With the long-term value that digital upskilling provides, leaders need to start looking into defining new protocols to remain afloat. Let's look at some of the ways to support employees and help prepare them for the ever-evolving digital world:
Identifying the employee challenges
It is essential to understand the existing skill set possessed by the employees and identify the skills they need to fulfill their job goals. This can l help the organisation identify its shortcomings and analyse which person is best suited for a particular role. Clearly identifying employee skill challenges the company faces, can help to play a significant role in providing the required training and ensure work continuity for the long term.
Short digital training programs
Remote working culture and virtual training can prove to be a more cost-effective and flexible upskilling strategy for the short term in the recovery phase and can be extended as a long-term mandatory process for the future. Organisations can consider offering weekly and monthly sessions with the workforce to keep them up to date on new technologies and software. Companies can also introduce business-specific training and host industry experts and external speakers to impart knowledge with their employees.
People engagement: Cross-training
In a more work-at-home isolated environment, it can be challenging to encourage employee engagement. Companies should diligently conduct virtual ice breaker sessions where colleagues can communicate with each other. It is vital to provide a healthy environment where creativity can strive, and qualities like collaboration and emotional intelligence can flourish. Employees need to work with one another, cross-train in the domain one excels at, and exchange ideas to help contribute to the recovery of their company and India as a whole. Engagement manifests confidence amongst employees and provides a stepping stone to excel in other jobs.
—The author, Nikhil Arora is Vice President & Managing Director, GoDaddy India. The views expressed are personal