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Businesses must retrain at speed and scale

By ROBIN FISHER, senior area vice president of Salesforce Emerging Markets

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Skills gaps that existed long before the pandemic are widening further as digitalisation becomes central to the rebuilding of our economies. Whereas retraining the workforce has typically been regarded by business leaders as a challenging and lengthy process, the pandemic has taught us that reimagining how we educate, recruit and even reinvent teams through reskilling is vital to building business resilience. 

According to a PWC report, 72% of South African workers (compared to 60% of workers globally) are concerned about job loss due to automation. However, many respondents acknowledge that their digital skills have improved. 77% believe that they have adequate skills to cope in today’s workplace, and 94% of South African respondents say that they are constantly learning new skills to keep up with the changing technologies.

As the workplace continues to evolve, it is clear that employees in all industries will need to learn new skills that will allow them to think and work in new ways. With agility and speed, we should use this moment to completely reimagine the future of business and work entirely. 

Rapid reskilling can help respond to changing priorities

We’ve learned during the pandemic that people are willing to learn new skills when presented with the opportunity. Take Sophiahemmet University in Sweden for instance, which equipped hundreds of airline, hospitality and travel employees – industries hit hardest by the crisis – with new skillsets via short, tailored courses. From basic medical knowledge, infectious disease control and hygiene practices, within a week participants were prepared to support national healthcare efforts. Many of those who re-trained have since decided to permanently remain in the healthcare industry. Driven by purpose and implemented with urgency, similar initiatives can be spun up not only to bridge today’s digital skills gaps and also to tackle global challenges such as climate change.

Speeding up and scaling processes digitally

Companies leveraging cloud computing have shown us what it means to be resilient in a time of crisis – enabling scalability, availability and accessibility of information from any location. Increased automation, AI, as well as forecasting models have helped companies such as within the retail industry to better predict and prepare for impacts on workforce availability during the pandemic. To make the most of these technologies, data literacy skills must be foundational to every role at every level of an organisation.

For inspiration, we can look at how, for example, large supermarkets have managed to recruit and train huge numbers of people quickly to keep their stores and distribution centres running. This required drastic changes to their employment and training processes, facilitating digital and bite-size learning and condensing the typical timeframe needed to help employees to stay safe and serve customers effectively.

Leading in an all-digital, work from anywhere world

Embedding resilience across an organisation requires leadership; sharing the same goals and values will build a much stronger and united workforce. As the world of work continues to change, the need for leadership and collaboration will remain constant. Whilst investing in hard skills will help us do our jobs better and keep companies competitive, we will rely more on soft skills to thrive both in the physical and digital workplace. In this regard our journey to retrain and reskill is never-ending. In a post-pandemic world, reskilling at speed and scale and leading with empathy will make our workplaces more agile and resilient than before.

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