Debate - Who should be responsible for re-skilling of employees?

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Re-skilling efforts need to be taken by both

Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan

Designation : -   Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Organization : -  LabourNet Services India Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore


Re-skilling efforts need to be taken by both

While employers have understandably awakened to the idea of up-skilling, due to the changing market dynamics, it is imperative that employees understand the need for continuous up-gradation of skill sets. This also raises an important question - who will invest in up-skilling and re-skilling of employees - employer or the employees themselves?

Re-skilling for handling job - specific tasks
Needless to say, in order to advance in business, every organisation must have skilled workforce that has embraced latest technology and skills befitting any given trade or industry. As a result, most employers conduct workshops and on - the - job - training modules from time to time to help the workforce perform job - specific tasks with dexterity. For instance, in sectors like ITeS, BFSI, manufacturing, the employers take care of staff training on need - basis to ensure workforce agility.

However, the informal sector has very complex employer - employee linkages. 80% of such relationships are not direct. This makes the issue of re-skilling of employees far more complicated than the formal sector. For instance, the construction sector is witnessing a revolutionary change in the methods and techniques used for construction of new age infrastructure, from highways to commercial complexes and facilities. While builders need skilled labour to meet the demands, the burden is upon the contractors to skill their labour force to meet market specifications and ensure proper safety measures. Consider a scenario where a building contractor refuses to up-skill its existing workers. How will the contractor adhere to modern quality and safety standards mandated by the authority and demanded by clients? Although cost is always a factor in making any decision to up-skill the workforce, it is by far outweighed by long - term benefits brought in the business output. Similarly, for paint manufacturers, it has become essential to train independent painters and improve their skills and knowledge of latest products and techniques in order to ensure consistent sales of new products. Therefore, in such cases, re-skilling investments are in fact borne by the product companies.

However, there is also the flip - side of this practice. At times, the best re-skilling efforts might fail to bring about the desired result in the organisation or in the supply chain. Since training is a costly affair, failure of such an effort can amount to huge losses for the stakeholder. Furthermore, with retraining of current workers, employers cut back on fresh hires. As new talent introduces new ideas and innovation, lack of such a resource may be detrimental to overall growth. Therefore, up-skilling decisions must take such variables into consideration.

Up-skilling and re-skilling - Employee Perspective
Shift from a problem - focused mindset to a solution focused and action oriented one, otherwise known as design thinking, has necessitated the introduction of 'foundational skills' like creativity, social skills, problem - solving mindset, empathy, besides a few others. While job - specific skill set helps an employee perform a given task efficiently, for a person to climb the career ladder or gain self - sustenance, possessing foundational skills has become equally important, if not more crucial. Employers, these days, are inclined to hire self - motivated people with 'the right kind of attitude', besides having domain expertise. Consequently, it is very important that every employee takes the onus to re-skill in order to stay abreast of current market trends and remain job - worthy.

Automation in various sectors is making job roles redundant at a steady pace these days. An employee on the right career track may suddenly find himself jobless tomorrow, thanks to technology innovations. This is rampant in sectors like manufacturing, construction, healthcare, IT, logistics and pharmaceuticals, besides many others. Depending solely on employer's up-skilling initiatives will be futile for the employee in such a scenario. Therefore, the only way to stay on track is to train oneself in alternative skill sets. An employee, if laid off suddenly, should be able to bounce back with the help of an alternate career option. Similar to organisational ambidexterity, employees too need to stay ambidextrous through lifelong learning in order to 'stay in the race'.

In a highly volatile market that is going through phenomenal transformation, both in the formal and informal sectors, it is evident that re-skilling efforts need to be taken seriously by both the employer as well as the employee to ensure organisational and individual growth and productivity. Instead of putting the onus on either party, each one's effort should be complementary and symbiotic to drive long - term viability. While the employer's training initiatives are focused on the organisation, aiming at its sustainability, the employee should inculcate the habit of upgrading oneself with time and changing market dynamics to stay agile and remain 'in-demand'. Professional complacency must be avoided at all costs to succeed in the present market. Needless to say, in the current scenario, the ability to keep learning will keep an employee on a progressive path while the right skilling decisions by employers or stakeholders in the supply chain will ensure sales and market penetration.