Rethinking L&D to Upskill in the Post Pandemic World Companies have been experimenting with various modes of training including physical classroom training, e-learning or a mix of the two

By Krishna Kumar

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Last year, a World Economic Forum report predicted that close to 54 per cent of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling by 2022 in order to stay relevant. With the rapid strides in technology that are shaping our world and forcing us to evolve constantly, organizations, too, realize the need to invest in their workforce to stay current. Today, across most organizations, skilling programmes for employees are a key focus area for learning and development (L&D) teams.

Companies have been experimenting with various modes of training including physical classroom training, e-learning or a mix of the two. With the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to move to a remote working model, quite suddenly. In turn, this has resulted in a move towards more training online. According to a recent Simplilearn survey on how COVID-19 has affected employee skills training, 86 per cent of respondents whose organizations offered physical classroom training earlier have moved to live online learning platforms since the start of the pandemic.

The same survey also shows greater willingness from employees to embrace online learning. As per the survey report, 82 per cent of respondents found that live online learning programmes were as effective as or more effective than physical classroom sessions. In fact, 40 per cent of respondents said their organizations are likely to move permanently to online training models.

Therefore, the dependence on technology and digital solutions has gone up significantly. This, in turn, has further intensified the need for a digitally skilled workforce. Employees not only need to be capable of meeting the digital skill demands thrown up by the new reality, they also need to constantly upskill themselves to keep pace with a digitally evolving ecosystem.

The pandemic has been a clarion call for all L&D leaders across the globe to reimagine their approach towards training employees. In a post-pandemic world, new age digital tools are set to become even more central to the seamless working of organizations. The survey indicated that artificial intelligence and machine learning skilling programmes are in the highest demand.

Hiring or upskilling

The pandemic has deeply impacted economic growth across the globe. A June 2020 Global Economic Prospects report from the World Bank has put out a baseline forecast predicting that the global GDP will see a contraction of 5.2 per cent in 2020. Unfortunately, businesses across the globe are expected to bear the brunt of this downturn which will result in lower spending, lower investments, and huge erosion in human capital.

In response to this, companies have also had to undertake extensive cost cutting across the board, including training. According to the Simplilearn survey quoted earlier, only 8 per cent of respondents indicated that their employee skills training budgets had increased. However, a huge chunk of respondents (34 per cent) said their budgets had decreased during the pandemic, and 58 per cent said they had stayed the same.

Typically for an organization to upskill, there are usually two primary routes. The first is to strategically hire new employees that have the required skillsets. The second is to train existing employees and build their skills to meet the new requirements. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. However, hiring new employees with specialised skills is generally a more expensive option, especially when they are in great demand. In such a scenario, it makes far better business sense to upskill and reskill existing employees to meet the business demands rather than trying to hire new recruits with the required skillsets.

This isn't necessarily an easy task. An ad-hoc approach where employees need to undertake a set of random courses isn't likely to be effective. Instead, a customized, tailored programme that considers the users' requirements as well as the overall organizational requirements, most inevitable skills that professionals require to succeed and organisations to grow is the way to go.

We're in the middle of unprecedented and uncertain times. However, more than anything this pandemic has exposed the need for adaptability in response to changing requirements. As organizations emerge out of these trying times, they need to ensure that their workforce is geared up to take on the new challenges.

Krishna Kumar

Founder & CEO, Simplilearn

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