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Pandemic disrupts India Inc’s strategy for corporate learning and staff upskilling

The future of work is here -- digitisation, remote work, AI, cloud-based systems are no longer “good-to-have” mechanisms -- instead, they have assumed centre stage in a race to survive, says talent assessment and acquisition firm Mercer|Mettl.

March 29, 2022 / 02:42 PM IST
Representational image.

Representational image.

Corporate learning and development (L&D) and upskilling initiatives, a must-have for revenue growth and career growth, got a severe beating during the past two years due to the pandemic and has spelt uncertainty even now, talent assessment and acquisition firm Mercer|Mettl said on March 29.

Almost 64 percent of corporate respondents believe that COVID-19 has had the most impact on strategies for reskilling and upskilling employees, indicating a lack of clarity on the skills of the future, Mercer|Mettl said following an annual survey.

Also, the pandemic has caused considerable uncertainty on how the business may pan out in the coming months and years, which has impeded L&D planners’ attempts to chart out a definitive learning curve.

The future of work is here -- digitisation, remote work, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based systems and Learning Management Systems are no longer vanities, “good-to-have” mechanisms. Instead, they have assumed centre stage in a race to survive.

“Anything less may simply not suffice; now, ‘status quo’ is a death knell,” the survey said. It has collected information from 650 companies and corporate leaders across sectors.

Almost seven out of ten respondents (close to 68 percent) believe that the pandemic has profoundly impacted organisational abilities to engage with employees in a remote work setting.

"Employee engagement is hit, the findings indicate. Companies, perhaps, have, thus far, not devised strategies and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) for engagement in the remote work and hybrid setup. This lack of foresight and the current predicament indicates a preference for established protocols. Moreover, it underlines the need for an urgent pivot toward new ways of work that look well poised to assume more prominence as organisations rush to insulate themselves from the current and unforeseen disruptions to ensure L&D continuity,” the survey said.

Siddhartha Gupta, chief executive of Mercer|Mettl said the past two years have altered the dynamics and the landscape of workplaces. Today, companies can only survive if they remain hinged to their employees’ growth and development through reskilling and upskilling.

However, “nearly 55 percent of respondents reported a hike in their organisational L&D budgets, indicating that companies continue to stick to L&D interventions despite facing challenges. Organisations believe that such programmes are crucial for them to become future-ready enterprises,” Gupta said.

Talking about employee wellness, the firm said that nearly 60 percent respondents believe that COVID-19 has severely dented L&D initiatives centred on employee wellness, motivation and productivity. It means that organisations, moving forward, will need to focus more on employee wellness vis-à-vis their L&D interventions and that employee wellness may acquire completely newer dimensions in the backdrop of the remote work setup.

Flexibility in choice and mode:

Most organisations are taking a blended approach to understanding the skills requirements, meaning they prefer to map them at a department and skills level. However, employees are free to acquire them as they like.

This mode of approaching skilling initiatives ensures that employees have a say in the kinds and types of skills they wish to develop, ensuring that their unique needs are addressed, the report underlined.

As a result, they can carve a more personalised development plan for themselves. Such an approach also works well in stifling attrition as employees feel more valued and taken care of, which ensures more extended association with their companies.

Moreover, it may be linked to the fallouts of COVID-19, where rampant attrition has caused serious concerns for HR leaders. Perhaps, this indicates that organisational decision-making is becoming more democratised, allowing more elbow room for employees instead of adopting a top-down approach, with an eye on stymieing a frantic and sustained loss in the workforce.

While less than 20 percent of all respondents suggest employing a fully decentralised approach where employees can decide on the skills they require, and the company facilitates with tools and monetary support, it is an important development.

Prashant K Nanda
Prashant K Nanda is an Associate Editor at Moneycontrol .
first published: Mar 29, 2022 02:42 pm