The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report from 2018 reveals that half of India’s workforce needs to be reskilled to cope with the talent demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This year, COVID-19 could have accelerated that process with full force. Dependency on technology to complete HR tasks is here to stay. In fact, it is only going to get more intensive and inclusive in various HR processes. That also brings to the fore an evolving workforce, which will need certain skills to function in this techno age. There has always been talk of how the skill gap — between what an employer wants and what an employee possesses — is not reducing. Now, a candidate will need added digital preparedness to crack interviews, which have gone virtual as well.
Human resource experts believe it all depends on how organisations have risen to the occasion. Today, everything has gone virtual — from hiring, onboarding, training, employee engagement to performance assessment. It is true that the talent pool has increased, more so because of large-scale layoffs. However, more number of candidates don’t necessarily mean there are skills in abundance. Being digital-savvy is a pre-requisite now. Therefore, like everything else, has COVID-19 impacted the skills gap as well? Has the pandemic widened it further?
“Rather than skill gap, there is a requirement for new skills, such as IT security experts to secure data from remote locations or check cyber frauds or data leaks.”
Any syntax that delivered to the physical needs will now be done digitally. Virtual reality (VR) will come into to practise as well, which means the candidates need to possess sound digital intelligence. This will of course put a lot of emphasis on how the hires are trained. Many companies saw a shift in training or hiring processes, thanks to the dependency on technology this year. Matrimony.com has turned its recruitment process to a problem-solving exercise, rather than staying put with the traditional methods. Rajesh Balaji, CHRO, Matrimony.com, reveals, “Our hiring strategies are changing significantly. The way we used to run our tests to select talent has changed. We have moved to more solution-oriented testing. Now, we give practical problems and ask people to solve. We can apply these to real-life situations while handling a customer, and this has worked.”
“The HR does not have to fight any more with leaders who were reluctant to spend too much money on training.”
The shift can be attributed to the change in its subscriber base. Balaji informs that they have seen significant mobile app-based registrations to the tune of 40-50 per cent. This led the company to focus on more app-based solutions, and therefore, the training for new hires is based on their problem-solving abilities, working on what the customers know and what they don’t know.
A Mckinsey report about UK reads that the country may see a shortage of skills over the next decade, if it doesn’t reskill or upskill its existing workforce. However, only reskilling will not be enough in a technologically-advanced reality of today, when there is a huge threat of data getting leaked. Processes of large companies have moved to the remote mode, which also means a large amount of data has been made available at other locations apart from the company. Sunil Ranjan, SVP HR, Maruti Suzuki, feels, “Rather than skill gap, there is a requirement for new skills, which were not in focus earlier. For instance, now IT security experts are needed to secure data from remote locations or check cyber frauds or data leaks. Therefore, a new skillset has emerged in the data- security segment. Skills that were earlier confined to the realms of the organisation have now moved outside. Then there are networking experts, remote hardware engineers, and so on. Secondly, one now needs people with digital preparedness, and the ability to effectively manage remote teams. Many such opportunities have emerged recently.”
The hire and fire culture is obviously not going to last for long and in the present scenario, it doesn’t sound wise or responsible to lay off people. Therefore, Unmesh Pawar, partner and head, people, performance and culture, KPMG India, suggests that there is a need for organisations to relentlessly focus on reskilling people. “Digital has widened the gap. Thanks to the pandemic, the HR does not have to fight any more with leaders who were reluctant to spend too much money on training. Leadership in the post COVID-19 era will be different from what it was as most of it will happen in a distributed manner,” explains Pawar.
“The way we used to run our tests, to select talent, has changed. We have moved to more solution-oriented testing”.
According to him, COVID-19 has accelerated the need for the organisation to be digital ready. “It has proved to the world once again that reskilling and constant learning agility are differentiators for organisations. Even premiere B-schools have started something called ‘life-long learning’; a person does an MBA and few years later, goes for a refresher course. Similarly, organisations need to realise that their people will not be relevant to the constantly-changing context, unless they keep updating themselves,” Pawar points out.
COVID-19 has definitely impacted the skill sets if not the skills gap. Different talents are emerging and organisations are upping their knowledge to accommodate a much diverse and technologically- sound workforce.