From a business perspective, upskilling essentially concerns itself with “improving the skills of employees, so that they will be faster and better at their jobs”.
Ranganath Hayagriva Vadavi
11 May 1997 is an important date in the human-machine relationship timeline as this was the day when IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue defeated reigning world champion Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. The realization that machines are here to stay dawned upon many that day.
Humans also collectively felt the need for upskilling in order to keep up. But it was not the first time that such an awareness was felt.
Upskilling, has in fact, existed for ages. From Industrial revolution, internet, e-commerce era to the current automation age, upskilling has always focused on enhancing the existing skillset of a group to stay on top of the competitive business world.
From a business perspective however, upskilling essentially concerns itself with “improving the skills of employees, so that they will be faster and better at their jobs”.
In the present scenario of disruptive technologies and operational transformations, the need for agile upskilling of the workforce has risen again.
Before we discuss upskilling in the current backdrop, it is necessary to identify its overarching merits from a business point of view-Increased Productivity:
With new skills, employees are enabled to explore and complete their jobs with a faster turnaround time. Moreover, it opens up more avenues for employees to invest in higher order thinking as they can easily employ futuristic technologies to tackle the routine functions.
For instance, last year, Morgan Stanley equipped more than 16,000 of its financial advisers with machine learning algorithms that catalogued every interaction and recorded trades, thus freeing the advisers to attend to individual clients and generate better business.Improved employee retention
Train to retain is the mantra that needs to be followed by companies looking to smoothly make the transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution brought about by AI, Machine-learning etc.
Talented and high-potential employees always like challenges and an environment that gives continuous learning opportunities.Enhanced customer satisfaction
Organizations need to identify the key individuals in different operation cycles to compulsorily upskill them.
These employees influence other employees and undertake an informal training of sorts, empowering their subordinates as well as seniors without the organization separately spending on training.
It optimizes the entire process, leading to faster delivery and enhanced customer satisfaction.Enriched learning culture
A continual learning culture is one of the key ingredients for a successful organization and every company has its own up-skilling strategy to meet their upskilling requirements.
At Mindtree, for instance up-skilling is also driven by Yorbit- a homegrown virtual learning platform imparting learning in more than 500 future-relevant skills from over 2500 academic material sourced from all over the world.How is upskilling different in the automation age?
The last decade has witnessed a sea-change in the world of information technology in Social Media, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud etc. A vast set of behavioral data, digital transactions, and easy and faster access to information has led to the evolution of IoT, block chain, AI, the possibilities seem endless.
To embrace it, organizations need to shift gears and upskill their workforce with relevant skills to get on board this adventurous automation journey that promises to shape an unimaginable digital future.
With many customers demanding for automation, it is no longer a choice. But it raises a fundamental question-What happens to those professionals whose jobs are lost to automation?
Instead of assumptions, let us look at data. According to Garter predictions, automation will create at least half a million more jobs than what it does today, in the next 2-3 years.
Certainly with automation, there will be a decrease in repetitive jobs at regular intervals, but there will be a simultaneous creation of new types of jobs.However, the new jobs revolve around new technologies, tools, roles and
processes. This is precisely where, upskilling becomes more significant than ever before.Strategies for upskilling in automation age
Automation cuts across industries, tools, technologies, processes, domains and almost everything else.
Be it, business or IT process, automation is, and will be present everywhere.Thus, there is a need to define a clear automation strategy at the organizational level. With varieties of automation tools, technologies and platforms available through both licensed and open-sources in the
market, it becomes very essential to strategize the ideal usage of these to achieve higher ROI.
Hence it is very crucial to plan employee skill ramp-up plans in order to optimize their utilization and finally achieve the ultimate organizational goal.
The employee upskilling blueprint should cover every employee right from senior management to the young developer and assign clear roles in how they participate in the automation journey effectively, without impacting their current assignment.
A suggested draft blueprint incorporates the following elements-Upskilling plan for Transformative automation: Where automation fundamentally changes or in some cases eliminates certain processes.
o Typically, high involvement from dedicated Centre of Excellence
o Limited number of highly technical persons or functional SMEs
o In-depth knowledge in specific areas of automation
o Key considerations for architectural aspects
o Build organization level best-fit automation platforms to be re-usedUpskilling plan for Explorative automation: Where automation reduces repetitive manual-work without fundamental changes to process.
- Conduct various internal workshops on automation awareness, ideation workshops to explore automation opportunities
- Typically, teams involved in a project’s day-to-day work
- Plan to gain elevated level knowledge on specific areas of automations like few scripting, RPA, automation platforms with minimal support and training
- Self-sufficient to develop and manage the projects specific automation
- Work alongside digital workforce comprising of scripts/RPA, machine learning/AI in entirely new model of functioning, to extract maximum output from the latter.
‘Change is the only constant’ is an oft-quoted phrase, the value of which never diminished. However, in the present scenario of unpredictability and enhanced competition, organizations need to be agile, adaptive and flexible in their skill-set, mindset and culture.
Upskilling is a continuous journey, and every organization should integrate it in its core operational principles to always be a step ahead of the future, rather than be intimidated by it.(The author is Automation Consultant, Mindtree. Views are personal)