As organizations prepare to move from a cost-arbitrage model to one of digital transformation, it is imperative that they rethink their hiring as well as learning and development strategies to build a digital workforce that can ensure a seamless transition. To understand the strategies organizations are using to build a digital workforce and the measures they are taking to build a culture of continuous learning, the National Association of Software & Service Companies (NASSCOM) partnered with Simplilearn to host a roundtable discussion.
The participants in the roundtable discussion were decision makers from human resource, learning and development, and technology delivery domains from Global In-house Centers (GICs) and IT/ITes companies in India.
The discussion resulted in five key takeaways related to the effect digital transformation should have on an organization’s people strategy. They are summarized below.
1. Job Descriptions Must Include Terms Relevant to Digital Transformation
There are three phases of digital transformation: pre, during and post, each different in terms of talent required. In the pre-phase, you need employees with risk-taking and entrepreneurial abilities, while the post-phase requires people with project management skills. The challenge is to identify the new skills necessary to manage a digitally transformed organization. For example, in the pre-phase, all processes are human-driven. In the post-phase, humans might run 50 percent of the operation while technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) runs the other 50 percent. A supervisor must have the skills required to lead a team of humans and bots to be effective post-phase.
As a result, the roundtable suggested organizations modify job descriptions to include terms such as digital awareness, AI and Machine Learning to enable the talent acquisition team to shortlist the right types of candidates. The panel also suggested upskilling existing employees by identifying the top 10 new competencies that will be needed, and then building an internal intervention program to develop those competencies.
2. Make Continuous Learning a Part of the Corporate Culture
Organizations today are challenged to ensure that employees are constantly learning new skills. They can encourage employees to do so on their own time, but it often does not happen because employees don’t see how they benefit personally from it. This is a challenge, particularly for small organizations that don’t have the budget for corporate training and development, yet also struggle to hire quality candidates who prefer to work for big brands.
The roundtable panelists suggested a possible solution: hiring the right candidates who are willing to learn and then reskill them for new technologies such as AI and robotic process automation (RPA). To overcome the reluctance to learn new skills, the panelists unanimously agreed that organizations must look for ways to overcome that stickiness. Suggestions included tying learning to rewards and recognition, making the learning platform more interesting by sending e-cards, and making customer data public on the app to send a message of trust. They also agreed that creating informal communities dedicated to certain skills such as AI, testing or development would encourage employees to exchange ideas and grow. Everyone agreed that the ultimate goal is to engage people to promote learning.
3. Think of New and Innovative Solutions to Engage Employees
In continuation of the topic on how companies can overcome the stickiness problem, panelists shared the approaches they’ve used. For example, one of the panelists did not force her employees to learn a particular skill but instead let them choose two of the four groups for reskilling. That encouraged them to learn and upskill themselves. Another panelist shared that they hired interns for a particular project which piqued the curiosity of the employees who collaborated with the interns to work on the project. A third engagement approach involved social selling within the organization. It entailed building an internal LinkedIn-like platform with a view, search and match algorithm that determined the social selling of the individual. People see value in such platforms and engage with them to learn and receive guidance from other employees. The panelists also agreed that gamification, group thinking, design thinking, and ownership could play a crucial role in engaging and reskilling employees.
4. Change the Training Approach for New Hires
While discussing three ways to skill people—upskilling people fresh out of college, reskilling internal employees, and putting freelancers who learn from various online sources on payroll based on their experience—the discussion led to the skills that new hires lack and the approaches organizations use to upskill them. For example, with new models such as Agile and DevOps where collaboration is essential, the focus has now shifted from skills training (where the recruits are trained to use software and also shadow someone) to behavioral skills such as communication and analytics. This can be done by using external finishing schools to train new hires before or during the time they join the company. One of the participants also spoke about how his organization has changed their entire hiring strategy by hiring interns instead of hiring someone straight from campus. Under the six-month to a one-year internship program, the organization analyzes the interns using parameters such as learnability, self-learning, and soft skills and then chooses which ones to hire.
5. Realize that Psychometrics is Just a Slice of Recruitment Strategy
Contrary to popular belief, the participants said that psychometrics—the science of measuring mental capacities and processes--is just one slice of the broader recruitment strategy that should be used to know more about job candidates. Organizations should also assess candidates on parameters such as keenness to learn, passion, and the willingness to adapt to changes and execute them.
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Although digital transformation is driven by technology, it also depends on people, concluded the panelists. Yes, organizations need processes such as DevOps and Agile, and technology such as cloud computing, but it’s the people skills—and the ability to learn, change, and innovate—that are the most important ingredients for a successful digital transformation.
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