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Leading the re-skilling revolution

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A revolution is a transformative event and it's fascinating that we're now in the midst of a particularly inspiring one. With technology playing an outsized role in our lives, business environments getting disrupted, and new skills becoming a necessity — there is a strong push for organizations to foster a culture of continuous learning. Learning that helps employees build future-proof careers and also helps organizations remain competitive.

This ability to re-skill will thrive on three key pillars.

1. Harnessing collective intelligence: The new world of work works on a basic rule of thumb — teams win, individuals don't. Think of the workplace as a sport field and understand the critical role each individual plays in the team's overall performance. As business challenges and organizational structures become more and more complex, the solution lies in a 'team of teams' work ethos, riding on individual strengths to deliver one solution.

Broad-based re-skilling needs to become a company strategy. A 'master/apprentice' model is a great way to initiate people into learning. People learn the best from other people and it's important organizations leverage experts that exist within the system and identify “knowledge gurus" and “knowledge brokers".

2. Contextualizing and customizing new knowledge: Organizations need to make sure people engage with content that is relevant to them. It might sound rather basic but it is indeed difficult. Thousands of people at different levels of their careers with multiple skill sets — how do organizations make sure individuals find skills and learning opportunities that are most relevant for them!

Let's look at an Accounts Payable specialist in the finance function. What will motivate this specialist to learn natural language processing (NLP) or artificial intelligence? The fact that by learning and then applying NLP, he or she will reduce manual effort for invoice capture and validation, and deliver more efficiently.

The other important thing is to avoid portraying learning as “mandatory" and highlight how success hinges on an employee's mastery of new and innovative ways to solve business problems. Periodic “nudges" can be a good strategy.

3. This is about people taking the lead: This brings us to the last and most important re-skilling pillar. Organizations can bring in the best-curated learning content, give it the context that makes it relatable and ride on collective intelligence, but unless people become the custodians of their own learning, doing what they are supposed to do in the flow of their daily work, the needle just won't move. People need to map learning opportunities to their daily calendars. For instance, imagine a client engagement executive has an upcoming meeting with an aero-engineering manufacturer. A short video on how analytics and data from flight records help inventory optimization is going to ensure the conversation at that meeting is far more outcome-driven.

Ralph Waldo Emerson might have liked us to believe a man is what he thinks about all day long. In today's world of tomorrow, we need to change it. A man or woman is what they learn and apply all day long.

This article was authored by Genpact Chief Human Resources Officer Piyush Mehta and was first published in Hindustan Times, an Indian English-language daily newspaper.