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Reskilling in Digital Age
Jitin Joglekar AGM - Learning and Development, Digital Process Operations (DPO) | July 6, 2020

In the age of machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), analytics, natural language processing (NLP), chatbots and continuously evolving technologies, ‘reskilling’ isn’t a choice anymore.

In earlier days reskilling was considered more of a fancy term than a requirement. Enter COVID-19 crisis, it has pushed the need of digital presence multifold by creating a huge requirement and void at the same time which can only be filled in by reskilling of existing workforce.

Why reskill

There is a huge seismic shift in the way we are carrying out our jobs, employees are not just expected to work on their tasks but also ideate and come up with new ways to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of what they do. There are multiple levers which are utilized such as RPA, ML, Analytics, NLP, and the list goes on but that also means people will need to acquire newer skills to keep up with the pace.

While we move from labor intensive to more automated tasks, we are also moving up the value chain which demands people to reskill in order to stay relevant in the business. There is more and more influx of millennials in the ecosystem who are much more tech savvy and cannot relate to archaic ways of operating, they need to see value in what and how we do things. This can only be achieved by providing opportunities for continuous learning and adapting to newer ways of working.

Passing the baton

With evolving technologies such as ML, RPA, and NLP and changing job patterns we see many rudimentary to complex level tasks getting automated leaving behind redundant employees and increased bench count. It’s very important for an individual to continuously focus on reskilling to suit the newer technology trends, but it also makes lot of sense for an organization to invest in training and creating opportunities for reskilling of existing workforce. It is imperative for the organizations to provide reskilling opportunities while there is aggressive push for automation. This cohesive approach will motivate lot of employees not only to get reskilled but also continuously look for automation opportunities as the fear of redundancy with be replaced by strength of continuous learning, reskilling and upskilling.

Changing the learning structure

Reskilling workforce should not be a separate track; it must be at the core of the framework. The learning and development framework needs to be much more flexible and agile based on a blended learning approach as people must engage in everyday learning either through core learning via classroom sessions or virtual learnings via videos, webinars, and e-learnings. A blended learning approach is very critical as learning opportunities boost motivation and keep employees effectively engaged, such mechanism will create a robust ecosystem where reskilling becomes part of culture and not a one-time activity which is pushed top-down.

Reskilling workforce should not be a separate track; it must be at the core of the framework.

Joining hands

While so much can be achieved through different levers of automation there are aspects which can be better leveraged by collaborating between humans and machine. The biggest challenge today in the industry is attrition or the manpower turnover rates and continuous induction of new people in the system. This in and out cycle keeps the average tenure rate low and increases the learning curve. This is right time to introduce digital capabilities to assist humans with the information required for day-to-day activities at a click of a button, like a digital buddy. Why should business depend only on a few SMEs in the team for answers and why can’t machines be upskilled with same information to replicate this knowledge at each desk to assist the human talent. These measures can drastically change the way we look at the training framework in the organizations and lead to shorter learning curves. This also pushes the case for redefining roles, creating infrastructure to support this technology, and making coexistence more logical. This calls for focus on existing employees to be reskilled appropriately to take up newer roles in the organization, at the same time it is cost effective as well.

Firing on all cylinders

The four main aspects of the learning journey that is skilling, upskilling, deskilling, and reskilling are very important. While the first two are followed by everyone more seamlessly, in the current times the last two are much more important as people need to move out of their comfort zones, clean their slates, and learn new skills or technologies. This becomes so important when everyday there is a new technology evolving and the older one becoming obsolete, one cannot bet only on one track and has to maintain a flexible approach towards everchanging digital trends and that can only be achieved through reskilling.  

 I think the quote from Alvin Toffler says it all: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”