Advances in artificial intelligence, automation and digitization are disrupting how businesses carry out work today. This is causing a continuous change in skill requirement for companies and having a profound effect on the workforce. Available data suggests that as much as 50 percent of current work activities are technically automatable by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. Six out of ten current occupations have more than 30 percent of activities that are technically automatable. As companies embrace automation, hundreds of professionals need to be re-skilled and up-skilled. This would lead to significant changes in the workplace. Up-skilling workers is therefore emerging as one of the top priority areas for companies with an increasing number of them taking steps to address potential gaps related to automation and digitization within their workforces. One degree isn't enough anymore; continuous learning, relearning and up-skilling throughout one's career is fast becoming a necessity.
Average is dead; one has to continuously re-skill to remain relevant. Fierce competition combined with technological disruptions are causing new skill requirements to emerge at a rapid pace and leaving workers with no other choice but to skill themselves, multiple times over, to survive in their field. Inability to keep up means potentially falling behind the learning curve. Some technologies that would dominate in the coming years include artificial intelligence, big data, analytics and robotics. The benefits of these technologies in terms of productivity are compelling. The gap can only be bridged with the help of training and competency building. Available data suggests that total jobs are falling at 7.5 percent in the IT/BPO sector. As many as 35 percent of low skilled IT/BPO jobs have 50 percent likelihood of being automated in the next 4 years. 15 percent of medium skill jobs in the sector also have 50 percent likelihood of being automated in the next 5 years while only 5 percent of High skilled jobs have 40 percent likelihood of being automated in the next 5 years. This would result in low skilled jobs falling by 31 percent, medium skilled jobs increasing by 13 percent and high skilled jobs increasing by 57 percent. The bigger picture here is not what is going away but rather what is emerging.
India accounts for around 3.5 million out of the 15 million or so global IT workforce. From a corporate perspective, this would mean a looming necessity for the need to up-skill close to one million employees so that they remain relevant. Therefore, providing employees with job retraining and enabling employees to carry out their tasks with new skills throughout their career could be critical to the success of a business. It is important to keep in mind however, that automation will not lead to a drastic decline in employment but would rather lead to workers taking on new tasks. Automation will have minimal effect on jobs that relate to people management and relationship management, areas where machines are unable to replace human intervention.
"A radically different approach to talent pool management is fundamental if companies are to achieve their business objectives"
A radically different approach to talent pool management is fundamental if companies are to achieve their business objectives. They need to understand that up-skilling the work-force is a much smaller investment for a company than training a new hire. It helps to create a cross-trained workforce and increases team effec-tiveness. Up-skilling has an abundance of advantages from improving employee retention levels, to boosting employee morale, to customer satisfaction. Several corporate companies today leverage online learning platforms to train their workforce in current technologies. One of the reasons that corporate companies are taking this route include the fact that these courses are accessible to the workforce at any time and this makes it possible to learn at convenient times, at their own pace and in comfortable environments. Instant connectivity to subject matter experts is another advantage that online learning provides. More importantly, companies that promote continuous learning enjoy employee loyalty since these workers have a greater sense of accomplishment at the workplace. Companies are increasingly focusing on certifications for implementation of new technologies at the workplace. Lack of time, ineffective teaching and mundane classes are a few reasons why traditional learning programs have few takers among employees.
This is where online learning plays a major role. Some of the hottest online courses that are being sought after thanks to rapid digital disruption include data sciences, machine learning, big data, AI, data transformation, digital productivity, IT security and design thinking. Some platforms allow learners to connect with experts on a real time basis for a perspective on tech topics. Online learning also caters to the personalized learning needs of every individual while addressing the underlying need of on-demand learning. Online learning scores over offline options due to two main factors, which is the convenience factor and shorter duration of courses. Students have access to material at any time. Learning therefore happens at his own pace. Content can be custom made to suit the industry need. It also promotes peer to peer learning. With regard to cost, online learning platforms are a much more viable option to traditional learning as it requires much lower infrastructure and has a larger student base. In fact, online skill enhancement courses work out to half the cost when compared to offline options. The penetration of online learning is significantly higher in Tier II cities largely because of low availability of offline courses in those cities. The online channel makes relevant courses available to learners in these cities. Age is no constraint for online learning. It gives people across age groups the opportunity to enhance their skills and provides for continuous learning.
Employers today look for more than basic skill sets in their employees. Often, appraisals and promotions are awarded on the basis of re-skilling. On an average an employee signs up for at least five courses during his career. Online learning will play a key role in helping reduce the skills gap not only in the IT industry but others as well. The need for transition into more secure jobs in areas of machine learning, AI and data analytics is being witnessed in industries such as manufacturing, ecommerce and banking. As the world of work embraces automation and digitization, going forward there will be a huge demand for talent and one of the tools that companies can use to their advantage would be to provide for efficient and interesting ways of developing learning pathways. With rapid growth in technology, customized re-skilling courses in an engaging format would be the future of work, which could well be the future of continuous learning.
Karthik Kadampully is the founder and CEO of AEON Learning, a fast-growing Education Technology company delivering high quality online technology skills & education through its platforms avagmah.com and acadgild.com. He is also founder & trustee of a NGO tveshafoundation.org which is working on a mission to stop Child labour and educate the marginalised section of the society.