Wed | Jan 27, 2021

ADVERTORIAL | COVID-19 pandemic fast-tracks upskilling and retraining of workforce

Published:Wednesday | July 29, 2020 | 12:22 AM
Paulette Sterling, senior manager, learning and development, The Jamaica National Group.
Paulette Sterling, senior manager, learning and development, The Jamaica National Group.

In 2017, the US-based McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers, or 14 per cent of the global workforce, would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030, as more entities automate processes and implement artificial intelligence to manage operations.

In a more recent McKinsey Global Survey, 87 per cent of executives said they were in fact experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked the need for upskilling and retraining of the workforce, as some companies change their business model to adapt to the environment. Paulette Sterling, senior manager, learning and development at The Jamaica National Group says the pandemic has presented a perfect opportunity for organisations to rethink talent development, reskill their workforce, and employ targeted programmes to retain their most talented team members.

“On an individual level, this is the perfect time for persons to do a personal inventory of their current skills, identify any personal and professional capability gaps and commit to learning something new,” she said.

Expounding on rethinking talent development, Ms Sterling said organisations are now taking another look at their budgets and the strategy required to make up for the loss of revenue and productivity that resulted from the pandemic.

“This time of recasting could be best served by including the rethinking of how we support and empower team members to improve their critical thinking and business acumen, which are both needed to achieve organisational success. As the pandemic escalates the transition to a digital economy, so must the learning landscape follow suit,” she noted.

The JN Group senior manager said that building capabilities in teams to achieve both their professional goals as well as those of the organisation requires training to be continuous, convenient, accessible, and take full advantage of the various technologies that aid collaboration, knowledge sharing and practice.

Turning to reskilling the workforce, she said there is now a more intense focus on what knowledge and skills are needed to maximise individual performance and positively drive organisational productivity as well as operational results, as many companies have experienced a reduced market share and/or activity due to the slowdown of the economy.

“Carefully designed reskilling programmes have offer an opportunity to achieve strategic and financial goals, as well as allow employees to master the key competencies necessary to be successful at their jobs”.

Ms Sterling also posits that the pandemic has forced some companies to examine their succession programmes so that they can be better prepared to address extended absences of persons in key roles.

“This is an opportunity for companies to examine their approach to succession planning as a function of good business sense and practice. A continuous programme of upskilling and retraining staff to maximise their performance, as well their ability to step up to the next level, is needed now more than ever,” she added.

Retooling for digital transformation

Professor Sean Thorpe, associate professor and head of School of Computing and Information Technology at the University of Technology, Jamaica, said business leaders must recognise that in adapting to the ‘new normal’, they will have to embrace the education that will be required to sustain and grow the business.

He pointed out that many organisations that were forced to work from home had to digitally transform in order to facilitate remote working.

“You need to ensure that you have the right talent pool with the right digital skills, which is either you are going to recruit them or train them,” he said. “Skills will have to be re-examined to determine if persons have the right skill set to embrace digital transformation.

“So you may have to reprioritise, redeploy, and you may have to take those who are not at the top end and retool them,” he said.

Speaking to how The JN Group has responded to the pandemic, Ms Sterling said the organisation has deepened its commitment to continuous learning from the top down. "Our mission speaks to using innovative solutions to unleash the potential of our people. We have employed technology, resulting in increased reach and access to learning resources and opportunities to increase staff competence and knowledge.

“There have been deliberate steps to provide innovation and uniformity in the content and delivery of training, closely collaborated with our business leaders and subject matter experts to ensure learning interventions, are relevant and timely to solve the organisation’s challenges.

“We have provided micro/bite-sized training, especially for front-line staff; boost staff enrolment in curricula and courses, in keeping with their job duties and responsibilities, as well as lifelong learning for self-empowerment; provided capacity-building resources (curated and bespoke) for coping with the pandemic as well as remote working and virtual management,” she said.

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