How companies can upskill employees during the pandemic

The pandemic has had some positive fall-outs, too. It has prompted organisations to redesign job roles, helped employees to upskill and shifted focus to revenue-generation and build competitive advantage.

Adapt, Learn and Evolve -- these fundamentals have been acknowledged now, more than ever, as the base for growth and sustenance of businesses and working professionals as well. The working dynamics have changed due to the pandemic and the market is more competitive than it has ever been.

The work-from-home policy, which was once seen as a privilege, is now the norm. It used to be mostly associated with the workplace culture at start-ups, and now many traditional organisations are obligated to function in a work-from-home set-up.

There is a lot more to the changing landscape of business operations than just accepting WFH, with the focus moving largely to upskilling.

The efficiency debate

Let's take into consideration the fact that some roles were never imagined to survive a WFH arrangement. For instance, the IT/Tech department, which generally has a huge set-up and requires high-speed internet. They are working from home too, which reinstates that traditional workplace approach is archaic and the new norms of business operations are going to be something completely different.

These professionals can acquire new skills such as project management, communication skills, and many more, which will further help them adapt to newer work dynamics.

We now see businesses and business leaders stating that WFH is not as inefficient as they assumed it to be, and achieving near-close productivity as compared to the regular set-up. This has led to many established companies introducing more WFH, remote-working opportunities even in a post-pandemic situation.

Redesigning job roles

While some of the companies continue to hire, the other affected workplaces have been trying their best to retain workforce and business levels through temporary salary cuts and other measures. But some roles are proving to be redundant due to the economic slowdown and business remodelling.

This calls for upskilling to facilitate internal restructuring, as well as adapting to new modes of operations. The jobs are now being crafted differently to ensure they generate higher value as organisations pivot or focus on their core.

Companies are building competitive advantages through automation, efficiency, effectiveness, and reducing process wastage, to drive focus on core revenue activity. This has brought focus on skills to the forefront like never before.

From a performance-driven approach to a skill-driven approach, it took quite a turnaround; and thanks to the pandemic, it has advanced the progression by a few years.

Self-driven learning -- Time out to upskill

Self-driven learning has the best returns, with employees perceiving it as highly attractive, highly satisfying, and the transfer of skills to the real job is high. Understanding their top strengths and focusing on them can make them even sharper in every situation. Employers should look at providing dedicated time-out to work on self-skilling, allowing them to engage through autonomy.

Gamification of learning, quizzes on things important to the business, could be some ongoing activities. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) could work best in the current scenario with Coursera, Udemy, Lynda, Degreed, UpGrad offering all kinds of courses -- where you could choose from a wide range of courses, duration, university affiliations, price range, etc. They have got everything covered digitally, which was not the case a few years ago.

The external influence

Invite external experts for a company-wide webinar to talk on interesting subjects that address the business problems as well as increase employee efficiency. It could also be vertical/function focused on ensuring it stays relatable to the target audience.

Another way to do so is to opt for company collaborative learning, where companies come together to share learning resources--- data science courses, customer and product innovation, design thinking courses/expertise.

It allows interactions and discussions with like-minded people, making it more fun while learning. With everything executed virtually now, we are saved from the time constraints and logistical nightmare for such collaborations.

Personality development / Support skills

While the above are fantastic for technical courses, there are other avenues to upskill such as communication, online presentation, leadership, creativity, amongst others.

Make employees hold online training for their team and subordinates to inculcate leadership qualities and more team affinity, which is crucial when there isn’t much face-time among the team.

The employees could further explore offering their expertise and skills for community projects that the employer is undertaking during or post-COVID. For instance, volunteering for COVID relief initiatives, right from coordinating supply chains for essentials to animal rescue/welfare during the lockdown and monsoon. It improves managerial skills and 1:1 coaching with internal leaders, builds stronger networks internally and a sense of belonging, along with culture transfer.

The companies and leaders should see the pandemic as an opportunity to redesign jobs, spend more time on existing activities of high value, and lead through their learning and re-learning and set an example for their team to follow.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)