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The 3 N’s: The New Normal Means New Skills and New Strategies

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that leadership matters. Today’s world needs well-rounded leaders armed and ready with solutions when businesses resume fully and seek out expensive ways to explore new opportunities. 

Written by: Sameer Chugh, Former Group General Counsel, Bharti Group

Up-Skilling and Re-Skilling

Sameer Chugh, Former Group General Counsel, Bharti Group

The increasing focus on workplace compliance, which has been compounded by the pandemic both from regulatory compliance and health and safety risk perspectives, will need the guidance and support of versatile leaders. 

Over the last 18 months, the world has been witness to a pandemic of the kind never seen before. Technological advancement, in certain areas, has seen a huge upsurge, and contrastingly some areas have remained stagnant. These are uncertain and unpredictable times—for the most part—yet everything around us continues to change and evolve, and as leaders, we are expected to keep up with an ever-changing world.

While over the last year we’ve heard a lot about “pivoting,” now the focus is on how legal professionals up-skill and re-skill to ensure relevance in a post-pandemic world. It is clear that companies play a crucial role in preparing employees for the future by providing opportunities to up-skill and re-skill for a talented and sustained workforce to be available. 

Up-skilling is a process to upgrade existing skills and capabilities by undergoing training and development on a continuous basis. On the other hand, re-skilling is learning or adding new skills to keep pace with the changing environment and market.

Given the recent technological advancements, the pace at which the same continues, and the new ways of working, while immense opportunities are opening up and will continue to open, they will also lead to a serious skill gap. That will hold true for all organisations, irrespective of the sector, scale, and size. However, any industry that employs highly skilled workers will have the maximum impact, such as manufacturing, construction, etc.

The re-skilling and up-skilling of the workforce must start now if the companies want to be back to their pre-pandemic levels and see growth going forward. The requirements will include having top-of-the-line training & development capabilities using technology—and that too in a remote environment. 

Up-Skilling and Re-Skilling Benefits  

  1. Hiring a new employee, even though they may possess better skills than the existing employee, is always going to be expensive because employee turnover is costly both from a time and money perspective. Adding the time taken for a new hire to make meaningful contributions, the overall cost to replace an employee could be even higher. Comparatively, re-skilling your current employees by way of training and development is going to be relatively cheaper and more beneficial in the long run. A re-skilled worker will be more valuable than a skilled new hire. Therefore, the HR department must, in addition to ensuring the wellbeing of the employee, also continue to focus on developing skill sets by organising workshops, learning sessions, leadership programs, etc. These programs should cover the possible requirements of the business in the future—an example being that a manufacturing industry must impart training in the use of machines that use more robotics and automation. This will also improve the retention of employees. We must remember that a current skill of one company could potentially be an up-skill for another company.
  2. Up-skilled and trained staff will have a higher morale and a more positive outlook for the future and therefore have higher productivity. A company that is investing in re-skilling its workforce is also seen as a company providing a career path and future for its employees. It creates a stronger culture, as there’s a renewed sense of purpose.
  3. A content and happy employee will always result in better customer satisfaction. Remember, employees, are a company’s biggest brand ambassadors. A satisfied employee will always give 100 percent and contribute to increased productivity by doing better work. These employees will be up to date on industry trends, issues, and concerns. Therefore, they will be more solution-centric. A satisfied customer will be willing to pay more, resulting in better revenues, and also be a stronger brand advocate. 
  4. Any organisation that provides proper talent management and opportunities to up-skill will be able to attract better and newer talent more easily. As a successful company that is looking to grow and also venture into newer areas, new talent is a key to success. This also results in employees referring and recommending the company to their contacts and friends.
  5. Up-skilling and re-skilling employees create a culture of innovation that can solve complex problems. It also improves agility in the organizations and allows for better prioritisation. 

Recommendations: Initiatives for Up-Skilling—What and How? 

  1. Planning 

To create a beneficial up-skilling programme, a company must undertake a skill gap exercise to essentially map the available skills and the skills required in the short term (over the next one to two years) and the long term (three to five years) and ascertain the focus areas and what already exists and what is needed. Once the skill gaps are determined, it will be clear to the company which skills are needed for their employees. The key here is to be ahead of the curve and anticipate well to acquire the desired and relevant skills. 

  1. Strategizing

Given the limited resources and the budget constraints, it is important to strategically plan the training sessions for the skills to be acquired. The sessions for the acquisition of the short-term skills should be commenced immediately, and the long-term skills should be staggered over the next 1-2 years so that employees obtain the most relevant knowledge. The intent here should aim to be proactive and stay relevant for the time and the need.

  1. Accessibility and Cost 

The training and development sessions must be made readily available and easily accessible. With the advent and enhancement of technology opportunities, the use of technology can allow for imparting training remotely—at least for the theoretical aspects. The costs also should be affordable and not result in a negative cost-benefit analysis. 

Individual Responsibility 

As leaders, it is critical that we continue to up-skill and re-skill, given the changes that we are currently experiencing. 

As companies adapt to the changing environment, several roles and requirements are bound to be outdated, leading to a situation of redundancy due to the skill gap. Therefore, even where companies may not provide opportunities for training and development due to any reason, it is important that every individual takes this opportunity to acquire new skills that make them relevant and marketable for the future. For example, lawyers with expertise in litigation in a certain field may want to develop additional areas of practise. As individuals, the onus will be on you to choose your path of development, and therefore identifying the skill gap is critical. In certain cases, the gap may be soft skills that may need attention and in some core subject knowledge or understanding. There are a plethora of online courses that give people the freedom and ability to up-skill and learn at their pace and as per their requirements. 

There are several ways for individuals to up-skill and re-skill in order to stay relevant and also ahead of the times, which include, among others: 

  1. In-house training: All individuals should voluntarily opt for the training sessions that are organised, including those which may not be relevant for their current job but could benefit a possible future role or area in which the person may be interested in. This allows for the acquisition of additional knowledge, and if the current role becomes redundant, there are other roles to be applied for. For example, in a service industry, an individual may be in the finance function but can certainly seek additional training to be able to fill a customer service role. 
  2. Online courses to up-skill: Given the advancements in personal technology, individuals can register for online courses that help acquire knowledge and information on the latest in your field and allied fields. In most cases, these courses or sessions are available without any charges and are an inexpensive way to acquire new skills. This also allows for convenience and can be undertaken from the comfort of your home. 
  3. Undertaking new projects individually or being a team member: It is recommended that individuals take up projects on issues that are not necessarily part of their current role and acquire practical knowledge in a different area. This can be done either as an individual or as a part of the larger team. For example, in companies where Six Sigma is followed, there are projects done for a different part of the company, and leading or being part of such projects helps to understand issues or that other part of the business. 
  4. Peer-to-peer and peer-to-leader conversations and mentoring: It is advisable that individuals continuously engage in peer-to-peer or peer-to-leader connections and conversations on a regular basis, as this allows them to learn how others are approaching or handling a situation. These conversations allow the individual to stay informed and relevant. Having a mentor allows for regular connect to identify gaps that exist and also to understand the possible ways and means to bridge them. 

Disclaimer: The article states my personal view and not the views of my organisation or state of compliance in any organization. 

About the Expert:

Sameer Chugh is currently a Partner with Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) in its Corporate practice, with a special focus on the technology, media, and telecommunication and regulatory spaces. Mr. Chugh was the former Group General Counsel for the Bharti Group and has recently moved into private practise. He has undertaken many cross-border M&A transactions and has over 30 billion dollars in transactions to his experience throughout his career. He also served as a General Counsel of NCR Corporation and helped the company in setting up their manufacturing plant in Pondicherry. Mr. Chugh studied law, majoring in company law and criminal law, from Symbiosis Society’s Law College, Pune. He also has a master’s degree in marketing management from Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, Pune, and a MSc in telecom business from University College of London, London, UK.

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