Redefining skilling for the post pandemic world
ET HRWorld, June 11, 2020
The unfolding of COVID-19 pandemic is a human crisis of historic scale and complexity. Today, the world finds itself amidst a pandemic that has brought about a tectonic shift in our daily lives. Along with an unprecedented human toll, COVID-19 has triggered a deep economic crisis. This has had a severe impact on the Indian economy and specifically the manufacturing sector. India’s GDP growth tumbled to 3.1% in the March quarter, the slowest pace since the global financial crisis more than a decade back.
India’s manufacturing sector forms the backbone of the country’s economy and contributes significantly to the nation’s growth. The sector needs to rapidly transform in order to adapt to a post-pandemic world and reboot the economy.
There is no dispute on the fact that the pandemic has and will continue to impact the way in which businesses are carried out for a long period of time. The road to recovery is a long and arduous one that requires careful planning and foresight to get through.
India’s manufacturing prowess and the skilling conundrum
COVID-19 has provided the country with both challenges and opportunities to strengthen its position as a preferred destination for manufacturing. With OEMs expected to lean towards South-East Asian countries such as India, businesses are working towards realigning their strategies to meet the demands of this changing landscape.
However, skill gap continues to remain a critical challenge for manufacturers. The pandemic has increased the urgency to further bridge this gap, as future jobs will require redefined skillsets and competencies from the workforce. India will not be able to scale its manufacturing vision in the post-pandemic world if this gap is not addressed effectively.
Additionally, the digital and technological landscape is constantly evolving and demands disruption in the workforce.
Reshaping skill development
The post-pandemic world is going to herald an era of leaner business models. Leaders must focus on upskilling and reskilling existing workforce on the basis of the skills required to successfully execute these new models and minimize existing redundancies.
In this new world order, employees will also have to wear multiple hats at work. Companies need to foster this culture of knowledge sharing and cross-functional skill sets.
As a first step, companies must create well thought-out talent strategies that make skill development a key priority. With the right investment, skill development initiatives can help improve the technical knowledge, adaptability and resilience of the workforce.
Skill development cannot be approached with a ‘one-size fits all’ outlook. The COVID-19 disruption has introduced the need for different kinds of skilling. For example, in the manufacturing industry, one part of the workforce - such as marketing and sales - can be connected remotely while a majority of the employees are currently working on the floor. A unified skilling approach will not benefit both parties.
Employees working remotely must focus on developing their virtual communication skills and improve their efficiency. On the other hand, skilling programmes for workers on the shop floor would focus on the technical knowledge and efficiencies to improve their presence across the supply chain.
These programmes must be tested and evaluated at various levels to understand its efficiency and outcome on the shop floor. In the long run, such skill-based interventions will equip employees with the right tools to combat similar crisis in the future without any impact on the business.
There is also a strong need to improve the curriculum in engineering colleges. This is particularly significant in niche sectors such as aerospace manufacturing. The demand for a highly specific skill set is expected to further increase the need for on-the-job training and in-house knowledge centres.
Additionally, skilling sessions with academia and subject matter experts should also be encouraged. While the pandemic has temporarily negated the existence of traditional tools such as summits, seminars and on-ground workshops, virtual events and demonstrations are slowly becoming the preferred tool for skilling in organisations.
Opportunities in the ‘new normal’
COVID-19 and its implications have introduced an increasing demand for localized manufacturing in this new decade. Companies are ramping productions to first stabilize themselves and then optimize existing opportunities through planned growth strategies, investments and digital transformations.
In proportion to this demand, the world is going to witness the need for a strong workforce with the right skillset. The Indian government has also been proactively advocating its skilling initiatives in order to benefit from this window of opportunity and unlock the country’s true potential.
It has become abundantly clear that skilling is the need of the hour. An agile workforce with the right technical skills and digital knowledge is going to help manufacturing companies to stay relevant as they navigate the new world order.
By Rajeev Kaul
This article first appeared on Economic Times HR World