What Are The Must-Haves For An Employee-first Approach to Upskilling

Opinion

What Are The Must-Haves For An Employee-first Approach to Upskilling

Reskilling the workforce is essential, but the learning culture as we know it will not suffice. Organisations need to reimagine their L&D culture that connects the dots between individual interests, operational goals, and shared organisational vision. 

Learning
Arti Aggarwal, Head HR, TATA Asset Management

According to consulting firm Mckinsey, 75 percent of executives think they will be able to fulfil more than half the skills required in the future through internal upskilling rather than new hires. But despite this data in support of reskilling, many companies have yet to make an effort to develop a learning culture. 

One reason is that company leaders believe they have more pressing issues on their minds or rather they don’t see the point of L&D and think it is not related to their ‘real’ business concerns. 

A closer look at this skills gap phenomenon reveals that it takes different forms and impacts the workforce across their career cycle. In some cases, it is a matter of the entry-level employees struggling to register their first success and subsequent growth; in others, it is a mid-career personnel who is trying hard to adapt to these jet-speed changes and putting survival efforts in this new normal. Whatever the circumstances are, when people are not adequately armed with the necessary skillsets to fight their professional battles, they often disconnect from their workplace. 

Also read: The Impact of “Great Resignation” in 2022

Recognising the importance of this subject, McKinsey, USA has come up with a five-principle framework in 2017 to lay down the foundation of workforce development programs for effective skill transfers.  

Learning

As the upskilling efforts of an organisation are at the centre of its workforce readiness initiatives, the primary question arising for the HR leaders is: What is the optimal way to identify the skillsets required for being future-ready and how the same can be implemented for the employee base of the organisation? The starting point could be recognising and appreciating the fact that skills are vastly heterogeneous and spread over the horizon of functional, technical, behavioural, and so on. At the same time, the depth of a skill (commonly referred to as proficiency levels) is also fairly complex having multiple stages ranging from beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, and master

Having discussed the depth and breadth of “skill” as a concept, the obvious question that falls next in the lap of HR leaders is: What will be the intent and impact of an organisation’s upskilling program? In order to have a precise answer to this question, one has to evaluate and derive the underlying organisational need to commission an upskilling program, whether it is being conceptualised to strengthen the functional and/or technical know-how of the organisation’s offered products and services or it is being considered to improve the service quality of the support personnel there. This, along with an additional evaluation on what will be the level of the skill(s) being imparted, cumulatively become the guiding force for designing an upskilling program with the right intent and impact.    

One must be clear on the fact that an upskilling program is not an engagement initiative to invoke an employee’s feel-good factor but a source of gaining competitive advantage by proactively staying ahead of the industry’s current and future demand. Thus, the discovery phase to figure out what skills are needed for the employee base in both the short and long run plays a pivotal role in determining the success of the program. In this context, it is worth mentioning that none other than your employees are your best source to tap this market intelligence and you should sincerely consider giving due weightage to employee feedback while discovering the bouquet of skills for your current and future business needs.

“One must be clear on the fact that an upskilling program is not an engagement initiative to invoke an employee’s feel-good factor but a source of gaining competitive advantage by proactively staying ahead of the industry’s current and future demand.”

Moreover, crafting an ambitious yet realistic roadmap of an upskilling program is equally important as identification of the organisational needs, to warrant the outcome of that program as per business expectations. The program design has to be so deliberate that it not only takes into account the “what” part of the learning but also embraces the “how” part by considering aspects like accommodation of different learning styles, empowering the employees to choose their paths for attaining the desired level of competency, rewarding them in achieving considerable milestones throughout the learning journey, and most importantly, holding employees accountable for their own career development. This employee-first approach to upskilling is perhaps the magic wand that connects the dots between individual interests, operational goals, and shared organisational vision.

“The program design has to be so deliberate that it not only takes into account the “what” part of the learning but also embraces the “how” part by considering aspects like accommodation of different learning styles, empowering the employees to choose their paths for attaining the desired level of competency, rewarding them in achieving considerable milestones throughout the learning journey, and most importantly, holding employees accountable for their own career development.”

Whilst strategically investing in upskilling programs and overall employee development has a far-reaching impact on the organisations as well as industries that grow with it. Apart from the benefits of improved engagement levels, retention, and positive customer satisfaction scores, it goes a long way in paving the path for strengthening the talent attraction quotient for emerging workforce entrants, resilience index of the existing talent, and strong risk mitigant measure of the ever-changing business challenges. 

Also read: Side Gigs, Upskilling, Recreational Offices: Zoho’s Tech Director Believes it’s Time to Accept the Change

As HR professionals, we must know systems theory about learning to understand cause and effect. We think we all understand that, but most people have a very linear approach to thinking: A causes B causes C. Systems thinking teaches us that cause and effect are in fact circular and influence each other in cyclical feedback loops. 

If creating a learning organisation is your critical task, bear in mind that systems thinking is vital. It enables sophisticated analysis both within the organisation and across broader industries. It also broadly anchors the story behind what drives people’s behaviour at the workplace. Thereafter, it gives managers the tools they need to apply across disciplines of learning in a holistic manner.  

Year of Incorporation: 1994
The current headcount: 450. The HC has been stable for the last three years. The pipeline for hiring is mostly in the Sales function with an intent to grow our presence in B30 & T30.
Workforce pie: 70% Sales workforce with an average age of 37 years; a minimum tenure of 10 years with the organization on the Non-sales functions.
Business Line: Tata Asset Management Ltd is the investment manager for Tata Mutual. Fund. It is one of the oldest mutual funds in India from one of India’s most trusted business houses, with an investor base of over 25,00,000.
HR Metric: Our gender diversity ratio is 1 percent better than the industry. We are at 23% and the industry at 22

 

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