Time to up your game: Use digital learning to upskill your workforce


Today’s ‘new skills economy’ is placing a whole new set of demands on organisations, as far as talent management is concerned. With jobs increasingly becoming specialised, and automation and other disruptive technologies upending traditional roles, workflows and business models, constant upskilling is the need of the hour. Everyone, from the lowest-ranked employee up to the CEO, must keep acquiring newer competencies and aptitudes in tune with shifting business and functional objectives.

The ongoing struggle of organisations worldwide to fill open positions only further underlines this imperative. The percentage of companies unable to find qualified workers for vacant roles hit an all-time high of 45 per cent in 2018, according to Manpower Group’s latest annual Talent Shortage Survey. The situation in India is not much different, as many enterprises continue to face challenges in sourcing and retaining the right talent for their digital transformation initiatives.

The Digital India push

The good news, though, is that both the public and private sectors have started getting their act together. For instance, the Central government’s ‘Skill India Mission’ intends to train 400 million young people in industry-relevant, technical, digital and soft skills over a decade, with a view to enhancing their employability. Similarly, Nasscom, through its ‘Futureskills’ programme, aims to upskill one million IT professionals in eight emerging technologies, such as IoT, virtual reality, big data and robotic process automation, by 2022.

Upskilling makes business sense

All these large-scale initiatives are intended to train and prepare a workforce that is well-equipped to handle the transformative impact of automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and so on, in the coming years. For instance, employees will be able to acquire the relevant competencies to perform the non-automated part of their jobs, in addition to smoothly transitioning to new kinds of jobs.

And, upskilling will yield substantial business benefits too. A survey published in July 2018 by Capgemini revealed that enterprises with advanced upskilling programmes and high automation maturity will likely save $270m more than those having subscale upskilling and similar automation maturity.

Moreover, upgrading the skill sets of your employees will help you save significant time and costs incurred in recruiting talent from outside the organisation, apart from driving workforce productivity and loyalty higher.

Upskilling with digital learning

So, how should you design and implement upskilling programmes for your organisation? By leveraging the digital medium aggressively, to deliver targeted and customised learning content for each of your employees.

Why? Because, as compared to conventional, classroom-based learning courses, online learning programmes offer several advantages, including the flexibility to pace their learning, and personalised and interactive content. In fact, more than half of the organisations surveyed last year by Manpower Group said they have embraced digital learning platforms to develop their talent pipeline.

As the L&D community continues to idealise best practices for resource development and consumption, the industry still faces a lag from learner participation. Learn from the research report, how best-in-class companies are using consumer UX practices to increase engagement from their learners.

While preparing the modules, you must get authorised subject-matter experts and industry leaders on board, to validate the content and augment it with real-world case studies and other projects. For upskilling to be truly personalised, your learning management system (LMS) should facilitate adaptive learning, wherein individuals can tailor and reconfigure their modules as they deem fit. In tandem, LMS needs to offer ‘consumerised’ learning experiences so that each worker’s skill-building path is configured based on her/his engagement with different modules.

In order to track the progress of the upskilling programme, you can conduct instructor-driven live virtual classrooms, as well as pre- and post-course assessments and certifications, to incentivise employees.

Also, you could lay out various potential career paths for employees based on the upskilling programmes they opt for. As a case in point, AT&T has built an employee portal named ‘Career Intelligence’ that lets workers visualise open positions, requisite skills, prospective compensation, and the likely demand for such roles and skills in the future. Such a setup enables the US telecom giant’s staff to take informed decisions regarding which training to take up, and accordingly plan their transition to new assignments.

Don’t forget the ‘soft’ part

Effective upskilling entails a healthy combination of both functional and soft skills. Therefore, alongside technical and functional training, you need to inculcate skills including communication, collaboration and time management among your workers. Simultaneously, get them trained on aspects, such as problem solving, creativity, ideation, design thinking, and emotional intelligence.


Upskilling will not be a one-time affair. Rather, it will be an ongoing process in the digital era, as digital transformation gains momentum across industries and technology gets embedded in every aspect of business. The onus lies on you to harness the digital medium effectively to reskill and upskill your workforce, so that you can remain competitive and relevant in a dynamic marketplace.

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