Six steps leaders can take to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills critical to their recovery business models.
Imagine a crisis that forces your company’s employees to change the way they work almost over-night. Despite initial fears that the pressure would be too great, you discover that this new way of working could be a blueprint for the long term. That’s what leaders of many companies around the globe are finding as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis by reskilling their workforce.
Reskilling workforce: the response of one company
Consider the experience of one pharma company with more than 10,000 sales reps. In February, it switched from an offline model to a 100 percent remote-working one. As the containment phase of the crisis gradually recedes, you might expect remote working to fade as well. However, the company now plans to make a 30 percent-online–70 percent-offline working model permanent, thus leveraging the freshly developed skills of its sales reps.
Even before the current crisis, changing technologies and new ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees need to do them.
Reskilling workforce not that new
In 2017, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. 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. But less than half of respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem.
The coronavirus pandemic has made this question more urgent. Workers across industries must figure out how they can adapt to rapidly changing conditions, and companies have to learn how to match those workers to new roles and activities. This dynamic is about more than remote working— or the role of automation and AI.
It’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era. To meet this challenge, companies should craft a talent strategy that develops employees’ critical digital and cognitive capabilities, their social and emotional skills, and their adaptability and resilience.
Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling. Developing this muscle will also strengthen companies for future disruptions.
This article offers six steps leaders can take to ensure that their employees are equipped with the skills critical to their recovery business models.
Current trends are accelerating the need to reskill the workforce
Remote working was gaining currency before the crisis, but the pandemic has shown that telecom-muting is here to stay. A recent Gartner CFO survey revealed that almost three in four CFOs plan to “shift at least 5 percent of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.” Although many employees “learned by doing” during the first phase of the crisis or received “quick and dirty” training, continued remote working will probably keep posing an upskilling challenge. For example, sales forces will have to shift from setting up video meetings to managing customer relationships effectively in remote settings.Companies also face a learning curve as managers figure out how to lead their teams virtually as they build social capital and how to maintain cohesion without the benefit of informal coffee, lunch, or corridor chats.
As companies contemplate returning to the workplace, a new set of skills is also likely to emerge for the transition.During the Ebola crisis, for example, a company operating in West Africa set a goal of rapidly improving its post-crisis performance. It executed a large-scale skill strategy that made the return
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