How skilled is your workforce? The answer will determine if you’ll still have a competitive edge 10 years later


Do you have an automation ethicist or an interactive chatbot designer in your company?

If not, chances are that you will be looking out for one sooner than you think.

Today, every business is a tech business, irrespective of the core offering. Updated Technology is no longer a competitive advantage but a must-have. That’s why businesses need to have a workforce which is skilled in these new disciplines. But, on the ground, the story is different with a marked gap in the supply and demand of skilled people.

Companies are finding it hard to find talent with the right tech skills. This is true for India, as much as it is for the rest of the world. According to a recent study by online edtech company Great Learning, today there are 97,000 data science and analytics positions currently vacant across India due to dearth of qualified talent. That number is estimated to grow in a couple of years. In fact, NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence concurs that the country will have a demand-supply gap of almost 200,000 data analysts in the next few years.

And this has led to a dilemma for companies – should they look at skill acquisition or talent acquisition?

A tech talent war that is costing companies dearly

HR recruiters share that the race to find tech talent is so competitive that most companies have no choice but to pay a premium to hire candidates. In addition, the hiring process itself involves costs – recruitment, advertising and other intermediary costs. And, once a hire is finalised, then there’s the cost of induction and administrative training to help the new hire align with the company’s work practices and culture. In fact, according to WorkplaceInfo, companies are bearing recruitment expenses amounting to nearly 50 percent of a person’s first-year salary.

The dearth of skills extends beyond the company to the existing talent pool in the market. This means that there’s a long gestation period to find and hire talent with the right skill sets, leading to loss of productivity and estimated revenue.

The other two key disadvantages of hiring as a solution to plug the skill gap is the possibility of making a wrong hire, leading to early resignations or dismissals and new hires becoming obsolete over time.

This is not to dismiss the fact that hiring people with the latest technology skills in some cases might be inevitable. But it isn’t sustainable in the long run. At best, hiring is a short-term solution to enable companies to address the immediate skill gap.

This is why, many say, the answer lies in reskilling.

Why companies prioritise reskilling of home-grown talent

It would be safe to say that reskilling is the best way to bolster the workforce sustainably, irrespective of the hiring pipeline or requirement.

Today, a company’s workforce is its biggest differentiator. This workforce should be capable of constantly adapting to changes in the market so that the company can execute digital strategies that are in tune with advancements. The reality, however, is that unless it is championed by the organisation or a top leader, most employees hardly keep pace with the rapidly transforming digital advancements. That’s why businesses must reshape their talent strategy by leveraging skilling to improve employees’ performance and technology.

That said, upskilling and reskilling a company’s internal talent pool is not only a need but also the most practical talent strategy for businesses, considering the skill gap in the talent pool outside the organisation. For one, employees are already in tune with the company culture, its vision and goals, there is absolutely zero onboarding time and zero recruitment and induction training costs. Second, it helps to build a skilled workforce at scale, who are ready for deployment in a short period of time.

A case in point is a leading Operations Management and Analytics company offering insurance, banking, financial services, utilities, healthcare, travel, transportation and logistics services. In 2019, the company realised that they needed over 400 qualified members in their workforce who could take the company towards the next phase of growth. They also realised that they needed to hire people who could hit the ground running immediately after they joined, otherwise they would not be able to hit their targets within agreed timelines. The company saw reskilling and upskilling its current talent pool as the most practical and viable option.

The company teamed up with Great Learning, and its employees underwent a personalised learning experience that helped them learn concepts customised to the company’s needs and build skills that were holistic and relevant to their profiles. At the end of the training period of nine weeks, the company not only cut down on three months of job-training time, but also saved approximately Rs 12 crore which would have otherwise been spent on traditional training. The company also observed that the employees who underwent training were much better skilled, enabling the company to command higher billing rates for their services and thereby increase potential revenues by 2X.

This is just one example that shows why organisations are seeing reskilling as a smart and cost-effective strategy to plug the skill gap and as a growth driver.

A multi-fold advantage

Let’s talk about some of the other significant benefits of upskilling and reskilling the workforce – employee retention, employee engagement, a robust internal talent pipeline, enhanced employee productivity and efficiency.

Employees share that when organisations provide opportunities for upskilling, they feel there’s an increased level of job satisfaction, a sense of job security and a clear career progression in the company. In fact, it is said that training is one of the most effective ways of employee retention after salary and incentives.

But, employee retention is not only about saving costs. Happy employees are also more confident and inclined towards taking on new projects that can bring value to the organisation. In fact, introducing new technical concepts and skills helps them embrace innovative thinking, master data-driven decision-making and do their jobs better and faster, regardless of their role or function in the company.

Organisations that have reskilled their workforce have observed that the reskilled employees received promotions, while also reduced product development life cycle, accelerated time to revenue and significantly brought down the time for development and project roll-out.

Also, given that technology is ingrained in every aspect of the business today, tech literacy is no longer just for the tech workforce. When the non-tech workforce also gets tech skills, it paves the way for effective communication and stronger teamwork, leading to a more competitive and productive organisation.

How to future-proof your workforce

Today, everyone understands that the traditional training doesn’t cut it nor do courses that are solely video-based. They focus too much on theory and do not provide a clear pathway to learners on to how to leverage the new skills that they have acquired.

That’s why companies are opting for a mix of rigorous training with learning aids that reinforce what the employees have learnt. They are looking at specialised skilling and online ed-tech partners who can tailor programmes that help to build skills which are both holistic and at the same time relevant to the employees’ job profiles. For instance, one of the reasons why a platform like Great Learning is sought after by global companies is that its learning content is not only comprehensive but is also customised to the company’s needs. In addition, the learning experience consists of self-paced content along with mentored learning sessions. For instance, in the case of an Operations Management and Analytics company, Great Learning included quizzes, assignments, projects, and hackathons to encourage a company’s employees to come up with novel solutions through the application of the concepts that they’ve learnt.

In another instance, a subsidiary of a global insurance and reinsurance company was looking to upskill its analytics and quality team to enable them to make accurate predictions of policy renewals and ensure that the revenue stream remained unaffected. The challenge was that the group was a mix of technical and non-technical professionals spread across different locations. Great Learning teamed up with the company to design and execute a programme that was customised to the unique needs of the company. The programme included contemporary analytics trends that were being used by top companies, and was also modified so that employees without technical experience were able to follow the curriculum, while still being engaging and valuable to the technical professionals. In addition, a blended approach of an immersive classroom-based methodology, along with live-streamed online programme delivery for different locations was adopted. Participating in the programme enabled the employees to predict future insurance policy renewals with greater accuracy, and in turn the possibility of increasing the revenues substantially, while also reducing the human resource cost of having to hire specialists. 

In short, today ed-tech startups like Great Learning make it possible to not just personalise skilling programmes, but also execute them at scale, making it easy for organisations to become digitally skilled.

It’s time

According to a recent NASSCOM report, nearly 40 percent of the estimated four million workforce in India across every major industry will need reskilling over the next five years to keep up with technology trends like automation, cloud computing, Big Data, analytics, and Machine Learning.

To put it simply, if you are a business, it’s time to upgrade your workforce.



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