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World Youth Skills Day: Preparing tomorrow's workforce to work from anywhere

On World Youth Skills day, a look at the skills that today's youth need, to be a valuable, productive resource as a part of future remote workforce.
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In December 2014, The UN General Assembly passed a resolution to observe 15th July as World Youth Skills Day every year. The UN aims to reduce unemployment by creating awareness and action to enhance the capabilities of youth all across the globe. By training and imparting them with skills needed in the job market. The mismatch between what employers need and what job seekers possess in terms of skills can be reduced. This, in turn, would lead to sustainable social growth and can prove to be beneficial for the global economy as well.

World Youth Skills Day 2020 is taking place amidst a global Covid-19 crisis, for which hardly anybody was prepared. Unemployment levels are hitting new peaks in developing as well as developed countries, with companies laying off people in large numbers to reduce their financial burden in this downturn. The numbers are only expected to increase over the next few months, at least.

The current workforce is exploring all means of upskilling themselves and staying relevant in these trying times, whereas the future workforce is trying to equip themselves with new skills to enter a job market which is going to be more competitive than before.

The educational institutions are responsible for identifying the emerging trends in terms of skill sets in the market and imparting the same to their students. They are not only accountable for providing with hard and technical skills but also equipping the youth with the right mindset, and soft skills needed to sustain and contribute in the work environment.

With remote work being the latest evolution that all organizations across the globe are going through, it is important that the youth is trained with the soft skills needed to be a productive future remote worker. Some of the soft skills that would make one a better remote worker, are listed below:

Discipline and Focus:

Working from Home can have a different flavor of distractions in terms of ambient noise from the street, noise from maintenance work of building or neighbors, kids playing whilst at work, family and friends seeking attention, quiet room, neighbors and service providers can ring the bell at most inopportune times, etc. WFH may also involve a peculiar concern of never being able to switch off the mind from work, and give it the space needed to rest and be fresh for the next challenge coming your way. All this needs discipline and focus to balance all aspects of home and work, to be at your productive best and give all of it the importance that it requires/deserves.

Self-motivation:

A conventional office environment offers the scope for managers to continuously monitor and mentor their workforce. Entry level employees are often closely watched, guided and directed by their seniors. But in a remote work environment, providing such close monitoring is not feasible and the employees are required to be highly self-motivated and proactive to be a productive remote worker. Employees should understand the expectations on them and should exhibit professionalism in meeting those expectations even when not being monitored. Doing what is expected of one, with utmost sincerity even when nobody is looking, also lays the foundations of accountability. Today’s youth must be encouraged to be build this self-motivation and accountability.

Clear, precise communication:

A significant percentage of human communication occurs through non-verbal means. Several studies have confirmed that words contribute only to 7% of communication, while 38% is through the tone of voice, and 55% of communication is done through body language. So, in remote work situations, where many important communications happen through voice calls and virtual meetings, it is imperative to be a sharp verbal communicator and the communication needs to be precise, to the point, crisp and clear. Conventionally, education systems focus on improving face-to-face and written communication, and this might need a revamp. The current and future generation employees will need sharper verbal and vocal communication skills compared to the past generations, to be an effective communicator.

Cross-cultural literacy:

Organizations are getting rid of their physical workspaces and are trying to operate through a completely remote workspace. This trend can only go upwards in the future because of the benefits that an employer can reap from sustained remote work. When the organizations are completely remote, they also enjoy the luxury of having the option to hire from anywhere. So, the future remote workforces would certainly be culturally more diverse when compared to the present. Thus, today’s youth will need to have exposure to multiple cultures and should reach a stage where they are completely confident and comfortable when working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.

Balancing work and life:

Conventionally, a typical person’s work day was over once he steps out of his office. Working outside of office hours was not expected of everybody and was done only to satisfy some urgent requirements if the job profile needed it. With remote work situation, we have all realized that drawing a line between work and life is not as easy it used to be. Balancing this blurred line between work and life is a new skill which plays an important role in a person’s mental and physical well-being. The current workforce has learnt that the flexibility that work from home offers comes along with a cost - the expectation of being available 24x7. It is of high essence that employees have space and time for recreational activities and are not burned out. The future workforce, if trained properly will possibly be able to better handle themselves and their work-life balance during sustained remote work scenarios, compared to the existing workforce.

Although all of the above-mentioned skills were very relevant even when working from conventional offices, the magnitude of their relevance will go up significantly during sustained remote work situations.

It is imperative that the youth of today, who are equipping themselves to enter the workforce in the future are aware of the requirements that remote work will have of them, to be a productive and successful part of the remote workforce.

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