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Why HR should spearhead upskilling for the next industrial revolution

July 16, 2020

Ina Bajwa   

Senior Director, HR, Tata Communications

The age of automation is drawing ever closer and the pace of innovation continues to speed up, with disruptive technology taking on a bigger role in our work lives. Following World Youth Skills Day, Tata Communications’ Ina Bajwa, Head – Learning & Development, explores why HR officers need to start spearheading reskilling and upskilling initiatives.

The fourth industrial revolution is coming, and it will see disruptive technologies and trends change the world of work, and our place within it. And with some predictions estimating automation will replace up to 40% of jobs over the next 15 years, the fundamental nature of what a career is will have to change.

HR departments are on the front lines of this shift. And through thoughtful, people-focused initiatives, they can start to transform this disruption into a positive for workers and their organisations – but only if they act quickly.

Be proactive about the future of work

An estimated 140 million people will need to be retained in just the next three years due to AI enabled automation, according to a recently-released report by IBM. The future of work is no longer some blurry, shifting mirage down the road – it’s real and it’s here.

This is why digital transformation is the top of every business’ agenda. They’re all finding new ways to actively optimise their business processes, improve their user experiences, and become more agile.

However, fewer companies realise reskilling initiatives are an equally important part of their digital transformation journey. Because just as automation is replacing jobs, it’s also widening the digital skills gap.

For instance, the world is in pretty dire need of cybersecurity experts. We have seen a global spike in the number of cyberattacks, phishing attempts in India alone have gone up by 667 percent.

In just nine months, Hong Kong lost more than HKD$2.2 billion (€255 million) to 9,000 cyber-attacks. And it’s a similar story around the world.

At the moment, enterprises generally deal with these kinds of concerns by hiring new, skilled staff. But the demand for these professionals will only continue to grow, so finding ways to retrain existing staff will eventually become the norm.

“Your staff is and will always be your most valuable asset. Helping them grow and evolve with the times will not only save you money and resources in the long run, but forge organisational loyalty at a time when that’s hard to come by.”

Tata Communications Learning Academy

We considered all of this when we decided to take our learning and development journey to the next stage by introducing Tata Communications Learning Academy (TCLA).

As part of our new strategy, we wanted to make sure we provided our employees with the same consumer grade experience we do to our customers. We wanted the new platform to become the primary learning interface for all our employees – a one-stop-shop for all learning and skill development – reskilling, upskilling and cross-skilling needs.

We had to keep in mind that everyone has different ways and styles of learning. While we already clocked 87,000 learning days at the end of March this year, with 90% of the learning taking place via digital modes, we enriched this further by offering 100+ customised pathways to our employees on themes that were topical in our company. The custom-curated learning content was compiled from multiple sources and followed different learning formats – digital courses, articles, videos, podcasts, and books – available on-the-go via web and mobile versions.

“So, when the lockdown was announced, for instance, we were able to leverage TCLA to encourage our staff to further boost their skills while they worked from the comfort of their homes. In addition, we could easily reach out to them with learning nuggets they needed to know about dealing with working from home during the pandemic.”

It took the right tools, technology and environment, along with the consideration of all the different cultural and regional nuances. But in the end, we were able to make the platform intuitive enough to provide an enhanced learner experience, foster a culture of continuous learning and ensure employees always felt updated.

So, whenever an employee wants to dedicate their time to developing themselves with a certain skill, the TCLA is always there to support their individual requirements.

Building a workforce fit for the future

Since the Covid-19 pandemic shook up the world, we’ve seen numerous news stories of organisations announcing pay cuts and layoffs. Similarly, many businesses have had to accelerate their digital transformation projects in order to survive.

“We believe including the learning and development strategy in the overall digital transformation efforts will give employees their best chance at surviving this changing world.”

Because we all know how quickly things can change. Employees now know that not only can their job disappear overnight, but so can their place of work, and even their entire industry.

Having learning and development opportunities available means employees gain flexibility in terms of the value they can provide. This in turn gives employers greater flexibility as to where they can assign workers within the business. For example, it may make it possible to move an employee to a different, understaffed department instead of laying them off.

The series of lockdowns also gave people time to think about what future they want. Industrious HR functions should be actively promoting upskilling or reskilling with employees, not only for their current job, but for their next role – in the same function or a completely new one.

Make the continuous quest to learn, train and develop part of your organisation’s DNA. Not only will it make you more attractive to new talent, but it will put you in the driver’s seat as you can align learning solutions with overall business strategy.

It takes a willingness to understand learning requirements at an individual and team level. It will require constant feedback on existing and future content and continuous dialogue to improve the entire learning experience and outcomes.

The future we thought of is already here. If you start today, you’ll be ready for the future that lies ahead.

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