With the newer innovations in technologies and increase in investments demanded by the market, there arises an issue in the skill gap. This further widened during the pandemic, when the dependence on the digital rose. Kamal Dutta, Managing Director, Skillsoft India, in an exclusive interview with CMR, speaks on Skill development in India. Skillsoft, a Dublin headquartered, a global leader offering innovative, cloud-based e-learning and enterprise-wide knowledge and skill enhancement resources to organizations
What is your view on the skill level of India?
The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption considerably. However, it has also led to the widening of prevailing skill gaps. Today’s market demands an advanced and relevant skill-set with specializations across various roles. Businesses are increasing investment in areas like automation, big data and AI and many employees are anxious about their ability to reshape their careers, or their relevance in the industry where every business is becoming a technology-driven business. Hybrid workplaces will put further pressure on employees to build newer skills and competencies. For the new generation in India, universities specifically struggle to align and curate courses as per dynamically changing industry needs, which is further accelerating the skill gap. This entire scenario is further complicated as organizations want to hire talent from outside and that only adds to creating artificial increase in wages by creating a talent wars. So, reskilling and upskilling existing employees and new college recruits by way of democratizing learning across the enterprise is the only way organization will be able to accelerate innovation and growth, while maintaining cost structures and reap benefit of experience of existing employees.
What should organisations need to do so they can prepare now for the ‘jobs of tomorrow’? Could you also enlighten us on Jobs of tomorrow?
We know that many of the current job roles will be obsolete in the next five years. With that been said, another fact remains that organizations will go on to cut and optimize as they automate and increase digital adoption. A massive seventy-five million jobs will be replaced by automation, robotics, and Ai according to World Economic Forum’s annual Future of Job’s report. What organizations need to do is make their workforce future ready by developing their skill sets for the new world. This new world will also require new ways of thinking and organizations need to provide a platform for creative thinking, promoting innovation among their work force. Despite technological advancements in the near future, the jobs of tomorrow will still have significant machine to human interaction. Some of the job roles where we will see growth and demand include data analysts, data scientists, AI and ML specialists, process automation specialists, digital transformation specialists, marketing and sales professions, leadership and information security specialists. I will also say that soft skills will become more important as we move forward e.g coding is being automated for last 10 years, testing is automated, so the skills required will shift and focus will be on soft skills which are hard to automate. Will we still need developers & testers, ofcourse but the jobs they perform will be different than what they are preparing for in colleges today.
Why are India’s educated not finding good jobs?
That is because of the mismatch between industry needs and what skills they are equipped with. Organizations need a good mix of hard skills and soft skills in order to succeed. Tech universities have an overwhelming focus on hard skills. Something that they should consider is that hard skills are easy to learn and keep changing. Soft skills, on the other hand, are live long competencies.
Universities are not doing enough to provide mentoring, coaching and guidance to handle real-world complexities and is uni-dimensional in its approach. The real world is based on context and complex problem solving. Skill is important but unless applied and used is mostly lost. Some of the problems that industries are facing today are something which could not have been taught and hence my argument again on soft skills.
How can organizations build flexible learning culture to narrow skills gap?
Organizations need to focus on developing a continuous learning culture that is modern and personalized to the individual style of learning with immersive content. There is still a significant need for a high amount of curation to drive business alignment and building the right journey platform for learner’s role and aspirations. Part of this is executing and building a learner experience platform. For instance, Skillsoft’s Percipio platform is the best starting point for most organizations looking to transform their learner’s experience. Secondly, they should look at baselining current capabilities at individual levels and corporate levels, and then develop an organizational learning blueprint. We have done this for some organizations in India and they have got tremendous value from the same.
What is your view on GiG economy?
It creates unique value for everyone. I think jobs that require specialized skills are well-suited for the gig workers. The organization should create a framework for adopting and even skilling gig workers as a part of their on-boarding for ensuring culture-fit gig workers. However, not all roles can be performed well or will drive the necessary business goals. Therefore, I think it will be a mix with more task oriented and non strategic front roles moving to Gig and management being fulltime workers. I also think that industry will need to find a way for gig workers to also upskill and reskill, the issue is to remain relevant even for them while building their portfolio for future growth.
How to upskill personnel as technologies like AI, robotics and big data continue to impact job roles and established work practices.
Tech space is ever evolving and with recent global pandemic, organizations have accelerated the adoption of new technology and digital tools. Organizations need digitally enabled workforce that is equipped not only with tech but also business skill competencies. This can be done by constantly training, re-training their talent pool, creating a culture of continual learning and providing all the support needed for their skill development in the flow of work within the organizations. With on-demand, continual, and ever-evolving personalized learning programs, employees can upskill according to their specific roles and task as well as prepare themselves to be future ready.
What is the top L&D priorities for organizations in 2021?
Emerging from a challenging year, L&D teams in 2021 need to think about the different ways they can support their organization’s goals, while measuring progress and providing alternatives to support their workforce to continue build their skill sets. Some of the top priorities include:
- Building skills & capabilities required for the future
- Defining the ROI of learning interventions
- Improving employee productivity & performance
- Aligning L&D strategy to business
- Developing leadership
What skills will leaders need to lead in the new hybrid workplace?
We have witnessed leadership changing over the past couple of years, especially in the most challenging year for everyone. Being part of a larger global mechanism that is rapidly changing, leadership will also continue to evolve. Some of the key skills, leaders need to be equipped with in such times are:
- Awareness: self-assess, seek feedback, reflect, and adopt new behaviours consistently
- Agility: determine when to pivot and when to persevere
- Authenticity: inspire inclusively with emotional intelligence and strategic transparency
- Accountability: become role models and provide a healthy sense of ownership
- Acute focus: motivate, engage, and inspire individuals and teams
- Emotional intelligence: relate well with those around and navigate relationships more effectively
- Resilience: get back up after you have been knocked down
- Lead virtual teams: provide connections and happiness, tools/resources, and ensure successful and positive outcomes with a distributed team.
- Coaching: show their people that they care about their future
How can companies drive employee engagement in the age of hybrid workplace?
Organizations need to first connect the learning plans on their learner’s short and long-term career goals. The number one factor for today’s talent pool is to deliver results while preparing for their next career move becomes a secondary motivation. If organizations can provide a clear connection between what they are learning for their current job role and provide the tools/resources for their next role then it will motivate them to spend purposeful time in their own development.
They also need to offer recognition for individual accomplishments. Digital badges can play a significant role in this aspect, as they have become a proven method to motivate and engage learners. They can easily display their on their social media profiles while also offering a digital history of skills that the company can reference as well.
If the learner spends more time in searching the right content, then they will most likely have less time to work on their skills. Organizations need to look into offering personalized learning which can help immensely in reducing information overload. Think about how Amazon recommends consumer’s products. In the same way to promote continuous learning, your platform should be able to offer additional suggestions that are based on learner’s activities.
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