Reskilling in the Digital Era
During a recent visit to Paris, a colleague and I used a
translation app to communicate with a store clerk while shopping along the Champs-Élysées.
It was a surreal experience to communicate so effectively with virtually no
knowledge of each other’s language. While these apps are now commonplace, I was
still amazed at the wonders of technology. It called to mind the “Babel fish” from
the famous science fiction satire The
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, written in the 1980s by Douglas Adams. In
the book, the Babel fish is a small, bright yellow fish that — when placed
in someone's ear — enables them to hear and understand any language in the
universe as though it was their native tongue.
It goes to show how rapidly technology has changed our lives. Things that were once the realm of science fiction have become a reality, impacting everything and everyone around us.
This is the era of digitally connected world, which has
brought with it high expectations for the customer experience. Customers are
looking for an enhanced experience everywhere, and companies are competing to
retain and acquire more customers by providing an enhanced digital experience.
Tried and tested business models are being disrupted in
every industry by non-traditional players. As an IT services company, we see
our clients facing disruption through the advent of automation, AI and digital start-ups.
Unless companies transform themselves into digital
organizations, their survival is at stake. At the core of the digital revolution
are people — not just technology. Today, many organizations have embarked on a digital
transformation journey with interventions to retrain their workforce, bridge
the skills gap, and build new capabilities.
The biggest challenge for most organizations is to motivate employees
to move out of their comfort zones, undergo relevant learning interventions,
and stretch themselves to move into challenging new roles. Most struggle with
how to create a ‘pull’ factor (rather than a ‘push’ factor) to acquire new and
relevant skills for the future. This is a huge change management exercise that
requires a very different kind of leadership and mindset to bring about meaningful
- X.0 : At Atos Syntel, we anticipated this challenge and focused our attention on how to build a culture of learning — rather than just set of organization-wide training programs. Our efforts led to an advanced digital workforce transformation framework called ‘X.0.’ The X.0 framework was designed to get closer to our customers, make our organization more agile, and develop the skills and capabilities to constantly evolve and stay ahead of the market.
- CEO of your own career : The core philosophy of the X.0 framework focusses on empowering employees to become the ‘CEOs’ of their own careers, with managers playing the role of a coach. Employees are encouraged to choose training programs that build both core and aspirational skills, and then incentivized by better career opportunities like inter-career track movement and fast-track career growth. As CEOs, employees are empowered to choose what they want to learn based on their core and aspirational skills and how fast they want to learn it. The skill areas we emphasize are chosen based on their relevance to customers, how well they meet current and future business needs, and are directly linked to the roles emerging from it.
- Learning in every form : The X.0 framework has created a win-win situation, with more than 95% of our employees engaged in learning. However, it’s not a one-size-fits all situation. To stay relevant, we created various learning models to reach employees in the way most convenient for them. These range from a traditional classroom setting to online coursework from our web portal, to bite-sized on-the-go learning delivered via mobile device. The average number of person days per year invested in training has doubled since the expanded learning program was launched.
- Bottom-up approach : Another important aspect to creating a successful reskilling program is to have a bottom-up approach, as opposed to top-down. The X.0 framework has evolved through the collective efforts of hundreds of line leaders and employees. This has led to better acceptance and effective implementation of the framework, with our line managers championing the change management process.
- Aligned to business objectives : It is critical to align any reskilling program with the overall business and HR processes in order to drive a culture of continuous learning. By aligning current and future skill demands, productivity, promotions, resource movement and allocation, performance evaluation and management potential, we have been able to provide a roadmap for managers and employees to meet our business and people objectives.
Just as critical is the ability to define how success is measured — to evaluate the program’s impact on company growth and profitability, as well as utilization and productivity. At the employee level, tracking and communicating the impact through proficiency levels, movement into new and higher roles, and sharing success stories can lead to improved program adoption.
In conclusion, it is critical to keep investing in a dedicated
team and program at every step in the digital transformation journey. As
humans, we never stop learning, so any training initiative that remains static
will quickly fall behind.
By continually investing and evolving our training programs,
we can effectively reskill, redefine and redeploy employees in emerging roles, as
well as develop innovative ways to sustain a culture of continuous learning.
This article was originally published in The Times of PAMAC.
Sujay Puthran is the Head of Human Resources and Administration at Atos Syntel. He has more than 20 years of HR experience, and is a graduate of the University of Mumbai and the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS).