The pandemic taught business owners many unexpected things. Chief among them was the ability to adapt and change quickly. Businesses that preferred old-school, in-person commerce before 2020 were forced into a sudden shift during the first lockdown, adopting dozens of types of software for e-commerce and remote productivity practically overnight. And it worked out for most companies; concerns about productivity were largely unfounded. Now, as we emerge from various additional restrictions and lockdowns, attention is shifting to how and when to bring people back to the office.
The good news is that people are mostly optimistic about resuming normal activities, but there are concerns. Now is the time to address them.
Ironically, the ease with which companies transitioned to using technology is now cause for anxiety. According to a recent survey:
- 60% of employees are worried that automation will take away jobs.
- 39% think their jobs will be obsolete within five years.
- 48% believe business will shift away from a traditional employment model to a skills-based contract model.
- 56% think few people will have stable, long-term employment.
- 50% believe they’ve missed out on career opportunities or training due to discrimination.
These statistics are eye-opening and companies need to find ways to address the issues as they develop their strategic plans.
Upskilling is the process of learning new competencies that are relevant now and likely to remain relevant. An upskilling program must reflect the company’s learning and development strategy, but these modules represent a range of digital competencies: data, analytics, artificial intelligence and automation, blockchain, and design thinking.
Upskilling programs generally have one or more of the following components:
- Job rotation. Having employees perform different jobs in different departments gives them a hands-on view of how the company operates. It also provides the company with a clearer picture of the employee’s skills and aptitudes, which can be helpful when it comes to promotions or moving someone to a position that maximizes their potential.
- Job enlargement or enrichment. Enlarging or enriching someone’s job entails training them to perform additional tasks while at their current job.
- Peer training. There are two types of peer training. Peer coaching occurs when two or more people with different skills work together to solve problems. In the process, they learn from each other. Peer mentoring is a more formal program where an experienced employee teaches knowledge and skills to a less experienced employee.
Reskilling involves training employees on an entirely new set of skills to prepare them because their old role is becoming obsolete. For example, customer service representatives may be reskilled so they can respond to customer questions in a chat forum. At times, reskilling may involve obtaining a new degree or certification.
Firm leaders need to be mindful of whom they are selecting for training programs, especially programs that are geared toward preparing employees for leadership roles. The first person you think of for training might be someone who attended your alma mater or someone you know personally because your children play together, but it’s important to extend the opportunity to everyone.
The pandemic has made people anxious about the future. Perhaps at some point in the future, Americans will be able to stop worrying about the next pandemic spike, losing sleep over their loved ones’ safety, or wondering when they will be able to find childcare or elder care. For now, it is enough to be mindful of employees’ wants and needs and to provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs today and for the near future.