The importance of Up-skilling and Re-skilling
“If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” — Zig Ziglar
In this blog, I want to touch upon the importance of Up-skilling and Re-skilling in current scenario. The Covid-19 pandemic upended the economy, leading to huge job losses and a high rate of unemployment. The past year saw unprecedented scenarios emerge as companies switched to remote working conditions and virtual collaborations. In fact, according to McKinsey, “to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start re-skilling their workforces NOW.”
As technology gets integrated into nearly every facet of our lives, we are moving towards a brand-new digital landscape post-pandemic with technologies like Machine Learning, AI, Robotics, and IoT becoming a dominant part of our daily lives. And to quickly adapt to this new normal, companies are looking out for a digitally agile workforce. It is not important only for company's survival but for employees too as they move ahead in their careers, else they may face the risk of a job loss.
Up-skilling and Re-skilling are the new buzzwords today. Let’s begin the blog by first understanding the difference between these two words.
Up-skilling entails providing training that improves an employee’s present skill set, allowing them to advance in their current role and add more value to the organization’s work . Having an up-skilling program improves the confidence and morale of the employees.
Re-skilling is the process of re-training a person for a new job. This method is typically employed when an employee’s position has become obsolete and the firm wishes to retain the employees by training them in a new subject. The cost of a new hire is much higher than re-skilling the current workforce. Employees also go for it when they want to change their domain or altogether move into a new role as per their interest.
Now that we have understood the difference, let’s try to understand how the working landscape has changed in the last couple of years.
We are now living in a VUCA world. It is an acronym — first used in 1987, drawing on the leadership theories of Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus — to describe or to reflect on the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity of general conditions and situations. Increasing competition, evolving business requirements, rising employee needs, and innovation in technology, have made it essential to keep learning and growing.
Let’s take an example of employees who have 10-20 years of work experience. They would have completed their academic degree long back. Whatever they would learn in academia may not be relevant in the current time. So, the ones who have been persistently investing in themselves, learning and adapting to the changes can be seen growing by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, those who have not thought of learning new skills required in their domain, are impacted negatively in today’s times.
In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87% of executives were either experiencing skills gaps in their workforce or expected them within a few years. However, less than half of them were clear about what actions to take to overcome the problem. This is where re-skilling can play a significant role. Talent is hard and costly to find, but rather than looking to hire from outside the organization, more businesses can look to hiring from within and developing new skills within the existing workforce.
Now, we understand that up-skilling / re-skilling is the need of the hour. But what should be an organization's approach towards it? Let's see a 5-step approach.
1. Build a strong network
The awareness of the current situation, and future & current growth scenarios is crucial for employee's growth.
Try to connect/network employees with the leaders of your industry and understand where they can put their efforts and how can they move up the ladder.
Organize Meet-ups and Webinars. There are a lot of virtual events going on and one can watch the recordings also but it is better to attend Live, Interactive sessions. It also helps to build a strong network.
2. Identify priority areas
Company and team leaders should prioritize the skills most likely to move the needle. They should focus on up-skilling employees whose roles will require those skills in the future. If the company is transitioning to Cloud Platform, it is better to train their employees in Cloud Technologies like AWS, Azure, GCP, etc. If the company wants to automate their process, they can pay more focus on Automation Tools like Selenium, Appium, Soap UI, etc. Some of the examples of how companies are spending on this are as below:
Amazon: The world’s largest online retailer has committed $700 million to ready 100,000 of their workers for jobs that will be in demand in 2025. Employees will have access to six different training programs that expand their current skill sets or prepare them for new roles.
PwC: PwC has invested $3 billion in skills training for 275,000 employees, including digital up-skilling training for all 50,000 of its U.S. employees.
AT&T: AT&T has invested $1 billion in online courses, a career center, and other skills training.
3. Combine re-skilling programs with Employee Performance
Attaining certain skills might be added to an employee’s annual goals(aka KRA) or tied to a future promotion. It requires a lot of dedication and effort on the part of the employee to achieve it. A career path is personal to each individual employee and helps them to break down the steps needed to achieve their long-term career goals and progress their career either laterally or through promotion. A clear career path definitely motivates employees to move forward. Adding it to KRA(Key Responsibility Area) will remove ambiguity around it.
4. Organize Training and Certification Courses
Companies should organize the training courses for the gap they have identified or they may also give the employees freedom to identify the right training for them. They should be encouraged to go for certifications that would add value. For many domains like IT, the certifications are defined in a proper way from an entry-level to senior level. Let’s take the example of a fresher who has recently joined a company and working in XYZ technology.
Level 1: Developer Certifications- The fresher should go for this certification when their fundamentals are clear and have some working knowledge about the technology. Normally for a resource having experience in 0–3 years.
Level 2: Senior Developer Certifications- If the candidate is at mid-level and has good development exposure then they can try for these certifications. Normally for a resource having experience in 4–6 years.
Level 3: Architect Certificate- If the resource is a senior developer who is good in programming and leading/guiding junior developers, they should go for an Architect Certificate. It will help them to transition from development to designing and suggesting solutions to the customers. Normally for a resource having experience in 8- 12 years.
Level 4: Senior Architect Certificate- If the candidate is experienced and wants to move to enterprise/principal architect level where they can design the solution at enterprise level they should go for this. Normally for a resource having experience in 12- 16 years.
Please note that the years range given is not a hard and fast rule and it varies as per tech stack and it depends on the individual. Also, candidates are expected to be polyglot and able to work on multiple technologies.
For those who want to move higher in management roles PMP, CSM, PMI-ACP, etc are there to enhance their skillset. They are many online courses/workshops/certifications provided by top universities like Harvard, Stanford, IIMs, etc which an individual can choose as per their needs.
A lot of thought should go into doing the right certification and doing it in the right way. I can tell from my personal experience it has helped me a lot to have different certifications at different phases of my career. It opens new opportunities and gives you a new perspective.
5. Train in Soft skills
Soft skills refer to a person’s communication and people skills. They are intangible and hence difficult to measure. But soft skills are just as important in the workplace as hard skills. Emotional intelligence, time management, adaptability, creativity are all examples of soft skills. Hard skills, on the other hand, are job-specific skills, such as data analysis, UX design, marketing skills, etc. Soft skills help employees fully utilize their hard skills. Employees with soft skills make for good team players and efficient managers.
Like all good things, up-skilling and re-skilling takes time. If executed with strategic accuracy, they can deliver huge benefits to the organization and individuals. For all ecosystems, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, so rely on trial and error and include your employees in the decision-making process. But one thing is sure not investing in this would be too costly for Organizations and Employees. So enjoy the process of learning as change is the only constant.
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