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Upskilling Talent in the COVID -19 Era

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

At a time when dwindling sales are causing businesses to shut across various sectors, should HR managers be thinking about reskilling and upskilling their talent? While it may seem that the obvious answer is to just focus on getting all hands on deck to keep the lights on, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

Covid-19 is unlike any other crisis that companies have faced in recent times. It forced them to change how they do business overnight, fast-tracking digitization in a way not imagined before. It also pushed them to adopt flexibility in the workplace and remote working strategies. As the world slowly returns to normalcy, now is the perfect time to prepare for the post-pandemic ways of working, and reskilling employees is imperative. Not only will it build a future-ready workforce, but it will also help businesses emerge stronger.

The need to upskill

According to LinkedIn’s ‘Future of Talent’ report, upskilling will become a key component of HR’s talent strategy during 2021 and beyond. Strong trends dictate this need. First and foremost is the requirement to maintain social distancing. As physical interactions become limited due to more and more organizations moving towards a hybrid working model, businesses will have to reinvent processes and further leverage technology. This would require new skills to conduct business.

As remote working becomes the norm and the needs of employees undergo changes, there will be a shortage of top talent. Work from home culture will remove geographical boundaries, which means an MNC in London can hire a techie in Hubli. What this means is that talent available easily earlier will be hard to find and the cost of acquiring the right talent will shoot up. As a result, businesses will farewell to upskill their current talent and retain them instead. 

4 steps to upskilling

To ensure people and companies thrive after the crisis is over, HR managers and business leaders need to follow these four steps to upskilling.

  1. Identify skills your business will need in the future: You need to begin with a clear roadmap by identifying skill-sets and value drivers that will enable business growth. Additionally, you will also have to identify the type of people you need. To state a simple example, if your company plans to stick to remote working culture even after the pandemic is over, you will need tech-savvy and self-motivated individuals. 

  2. Create upskilling modules: Once you know what is it that you seek, you have to create learning modules. According to McKinsey, there are four areas in which organizations will have to build skills – digital (to help operate in a fully digital environment), higher cognitive (to create critical players who can lead innovation), social and emotional (to enable collaboration), and resilience (to adapt to evolving business needs). 

  3. Design customized learning journeys: There cannot be a one size fits all solution. You will have to identify people to upskill, roles they fulfill, skills they need, and personalize their learning. For example, if a customer-facing business plans to move to remote selling permanently, it will have to train and upskill its sales personnel accordingly. 

  4. Be willing to fail: Just as any other project or technology deployment, you need to start small and test your approach and methods. As you employ newer strategies to address skill gaps, be willing to fail. If something does not work out, learn from it and pivot to drive success. Once you find your sweet spot, scale it to benefit employees across the board.

The time is now. Start your upskilling efforts immediately. It will help you retain your top talent in these tough times and create an agile workforce that is ready to take on any challenge that comes your way in the post-pandemic world. 

Author – Mandeep Kaur, Vice President – Human Resources at LOTS Wholesale Solutions India (A Siam Makro Enterprise)

Ms. Mandeep Kaur has over 17 years of experience in Retail, Logistics, and Transportation in leading organizations. Currently, she is associated with LOTS Wholesale Solutions as Head of HR. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources and is a versatile, results-driven leader with solid business acumen who focuses on translating business vision into HR initiatives that improve performance, profitability, growth, and employee engagement. A business partner and strategic advisor with large-scale domestic and international operational restructuring, talent management, and merger/acquisition experience.

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