By Mohith Mohan
While organisations had long recognised that wellbeing is essential, the pandemic brought home its significance. The aspiration, values, and purpose of organisations serve as a guiding force during these challenging times. Without much preparation, many people abruptly had to adjust to new ways of operating, leading, and connecting. Organisations needed to adapt to these changing dynamics and reinvent how they engage with their associates (employees), teams, clients, and communities. As the fully vaccinated population against COVID-19 grows, more organisations have started planning and executing their Return to Office strategies. But while some associates (employees) may welcome the return to the on-site work model, some would find this transition harder
Employers who recognise and prioritise psychological safety alongside physical safety in their post-pandemic operations can help associates’ mental health and further their efforts to cultivate inclusive workplaces. This support includes associate wellbeing, satisfaction, productivity, and reducing absenteeism.
Remote work has been a conversation that has been explored in-depth, practiced over time, and embraced by each individual of an organisation. Many organisations are now working towards a new combination of remote and on-site working, a hybrid work model. This new model promises greater access to talent, increased productivity for both individuals and teams, lower costs, more individual flexibility, and elevated associate experiences. It’s important to note that while there is a significant shift to virtual-working arrangements, there is a risk of disintegration of overall trust, cohesion, and shared culture, an integral aspect for remote working to come together in the long run.
Avoiding these pitfalls of remote working requires careful strategisation for leadership and management in a hybrid virtual world. Interlinkage and interactions between leaders and teams provide an essential locus for creating the social cohesion, and the unified mixed virtual culture organisations need in the next normal.
In a recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 percent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. However, a minority of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem. Given this skill gap, the ongoing buzz around upskilling or reskilling makes all the more sense. Learning new and relevant skills is undoubtedly the need of the hour. However, any approach to learning needs to be well-thought-through, practiced and sustained.
Organisations will always require people with the right skills to develop, manage, and grow their knowledge to do the jobs that machines cannot. The development of existing talent is among the most crucial investments organisations can make. Employers are now actively investing in upskilling and reskilling associates to accommodate shifting needs, where constant learning is the core of expectations from the associates.
To create a robust upskilling program, organisations are devising a thought-out strategic plan, building a long-term view of skill requirements, mapping out the current workforce’s strengths & gaps, and identifying areas that need attention. The overall goal is to be proactive and stay ahead of future demands to add a competitive edge.
As disruption becomes consistent and change is the only constant, organisations are taking on the onus on constant reskilling and upskilling of associates. Organisations will need to stress continuous training and learning to ensure that workforces emerge more competent and relevant in the coming years. Concentrating on deploying reskilling and upskilling strategies will help address skill gaps, boost associate retention and morale, and build operational resilience to help workforces cope with work stress and increased workloads. Introducing workplace education is assisting businesses to cope with the challenges and ensures seamless continuance and innovation in their operations. In contrast to the general assumption that attractive salaries can lure top talent, people seek growth opportunities at their jobs or with a potential employer. Learning and development are the critical link in associate retention. It signals that the employer values its people and is invested in their success. So, an employer who doesn’t focus on upskilling is undoubtedly going to lose out.
Developing innovative remote reskilling programs and igniting associate spirit to reskill is pertinent for organisations to become future-ready. Employers are devising sector-specific solutions that enable associates to perform better. Implementing performance-enhancing technologies will help to develop a versatile workforce. Versatility is key to learning new practices that will help companies and employees to surge ahead in a digital world. Identifying and using precise tools for project management and communication will also make a significant difference. Another differentiator is to empower the individual associate with flexibility of choosing ‘when’ and ‘what’ they choose to upskill by offering tools like certification/tuition assistance and time carved out every week to make sure learning is priority.
This movement is equally associate-led to prioritise upskilling in their jobs/preparing for their new ones, as much as it is company-led, as companies focus on mass reskilling as their business models/strategies. The development plan has a seat on the table like never before. It opens a communication tunnel for constant feedback on existing and future content and continuous dialogue to enhance associates’ learning experience and outcomes and improve the business impact. Workplace learning and training is here to stay for the coming years, with learning technologies evolving and adding to associates’ overall experience proposition.
The author is the
Head of Human Resources, Lowe’s India.