The Reskilling Imperative: Retraining Workers for the Age of Automation
By Arijit Banerjee
Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), deep learning, cloud computing and data science are dramatically changing the world of work by simplifying complex decision-making and boosting efficiencies. So much so that a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations look set to change by 2020. The new digital reality poses numerous challenges to organizations in terms of reskilling their workforce in order to outperform in the future world of work. In fact, 38% of global CEOs in PwC’s recent survey said they’re extremely concerned about the availability of key skills as a threat to future business growth.
In India, the picture is particularly grave. A recent Gartner report revealed that while nearly 60% of Indian companies are gearing up to boost their data and analytics capabilities, most are facing a severe challenge with non-availability of talent. The recent NITI Aayog National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence concurs that the country will have a demand-supply gap of almost 200,000 data analysts in a couple of years. The surge of new technologies requires both employers and employees alike to focus on reskilling in order to stay relevant and competitive. While the Fourth Industrial Revolution will make 75 million jobs obsolete by the year 2022, it will also create 133 million new jobs — a net gain of 58 million, according to a new World Economic Forum (WEF) report titled ‘The Future of Jobs 2018.
This paper explores how technologies such as cloud computing, RPA, AI, ML, cyber security, data science and others are changing the game for organizations. It further delves into how companies and can leverage workforce reskilling programs to future-proof their business.
Five top technologies of today and their impact on jobs
Here are five key technologies that are disrupting jobs in both product and service organizations and will continue to do so in the near future:
#1 Artificial Intelligence (AI): Businesses are increasingly deploying AI-based solutions to capture deep insights and efficiencies, and boost innovation and decision-making, leading to revenue growth. The growing AI-driven automation has the potential to eliminate over 73 million jobs by 2030. What is less known is that automation will also create 23 million new jobs by 2020. These new roles will be created in development, programming, testing, support and maintenance domains. AI architect will emerge as one of the hottest new jobs in future, and robotics architects, AR/VR engineers who will help design and develop systems that control AI systems will also be high in demand. Other roles such as cybersecurity engineers, business analysts and financial analysts will also expand as a result of widespread AI adoption and will require reskilling. RPA is also creating new jobs and 78% of tech professionals are opting to reskill in RPA technology to remain relevant. AI-based roles are growing so rapidly that, in near future, AI is expected to surpass data science in terms of demand for skilled professionals. While AI is expected to add USD 957 billion to India’s GDP by 2035, the country will face a demand-supply gap of more than two lakh data science and analytics professionals by 2020.
#2 Machine Learning: Embedding ML processes into operational business environments helps drive value by enabling more effective, predictive and precise decision making – in real time. The The ML market is expected to grow to USD 8.8 billion by 2022, growing at an impressive CAGR of over 44% from 2017 to 2022. A subset of AI, ML includes other subsets of its own - such as Deep Learning (DL), Natural Language Processing (NLP), neural networks, and others - each with full-fledged and promising career propositions. ML jobs such as engineers, developers, researchers, and data scientists rank among the top emerging jobs today and pay extremely well. This is why, AI and ML are the most widely chosen domains for reskilling among working tech professionals in India.
#3 Data science and analytics: As companies increasingly turn to data to drive their business functions – from strategy to supply chain, sales, marketing and everything in between, there has been a 45% increase in analytics and data science jobs in recent years. But the supply of skilled resources has failed to keep up – nearly 97,000 data science and analytics positions are currently vacant across India due to a dearth of qualified talent. Majority of these vacant job openings are for junior level roles with less than five years of experience, with 31% being for mid-senior level professionals with over five years of experience. Clearly, reskilling is the need of the hour for professionals as well as organizations.
#4 Cloud computing: While retraining for the age of cloud computing has been an imperative for some years now, the demand for skilled professionals in cloud technologies still outnumbers supply. 60% of companies today have their mission-critical IT services either built/run using cloud-native architectures. Yet, their workforce skills and organizational cultures have not kept pace – a fact that is proving expensive over the long run. Studies have shown that the lack of cloud computing expertise can cost enterprises as much as USD 258 million a year in lost revenues and slower innovation. As the mandate to transform legacy IT operations to cloud-native technologies amplifies, the demand for the right talent will only sky-rocket. What organizations viewed as a cloud skills gap a few years ago has snowballed into a full-blown talent crisis today.
#5 Cybersecurity: Cybercrime is estimated to cost the world USD 6 trillion annually by 2021, as data breaches and thefts become more and more commonplace. Yet, organizations have been slow to bolster their security postures. In PwC’s 2018 Global State of Information Security Survey (GSISS), 48% of companies revealed that they did not have an overall information security policy and 44% lack an employee security awareness training program. Alarmingly, 54% of organizations don’t even have an incident response mechanism in place. The reason: lack of cybersecurity talent to drive these initiatives. Globally, the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals will touch 2 million by 2019, even as the rate of job growth multiplies by a factor of three. 84% of organizations say the applicants they evaluate for cyber security roles are not qualified enough to address today’s challenges. New roles in this space include security specialists, ethical hackers, database and system administrators, security analysts, etc.
Why Reskilling Must Complement Hiring
Hiring employees skilled in new-age digital technologies may seem like the best way to fill up vacancies quickly. While hiring new talent may be inevitable in certain cases, the value proposition of focusing only on hiring can quickly evaporate given the very high price companies have to pay for it. Add to it the cost of training the new hire in the company’s work practices and culture and it becomes clear that reskilling employees is a more cost-effective and practical alternative to all out hiring. Reskilling the existing workforce not only helps organizations build a robust internal talent pipeline but also improve employee stickiness, productivity, and efficiency – all of which positively impact the bottom line.
Rather than reskilling employees in a single skill, savvy corporates are looking at ‘multi-skilling’ employees in a cluster of technologies such as AI, ML, RPA, Blockchain, data science, and more. This helps employees shift gears with ease whenever required, making them relevant for a longer period of time. In the IT sector, India’s 1.4 million strong workforce of mid-level managers finds itself at the center of reskilling and restructuring programs across organizations. Notable examples of companies taking reskilling seriously include:
#1 Wipro: The company’s School of Decision Sciences is a data science transformation and tech-stack enabled program that imparts employees training on a variety of technical and soft skills. The 6-months long course essentially comprises lessons on how to handle data, algorithms, modeling, visualization, storytelling and industry use cases.
#2 Tech Mahindra: Tech Mahindra has been relentlessly investing in reskilling 112,000 members of its IT workforce in digital and future skills such as blockchain, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and automation, and 5G. The company’s CEO, C.P Gurnani recently picked up a Gold in CEO World Awards 2018 for his focus on reskilling initiatives in his company.
#3 Cognizant: The company has taken an incentivization approach to boosting employee morale through training in new technologies. A ‘skills premium’ allowance has been introduced for employees wishing to reskill in the AI and ML domain. Offered to 40,000 employees so far, the initiative also aims to reduce attrition.
Implementing reskilling initiatives: Best practices
Here are three best practices for organizations embarking on reskilling initiatives that can help drive rapid ROI on their reskilling investments:
#1 Assess current and targeted states: Take stock of your workforce’s current skill sets using scientifically designed technology-based assessments, map them to those they will need in say the next three or five years, and analyze the gap areas. Then prioritize reskilling programs by zeroing in on the ones they need right away and those that can come down the line.
#2 Co-create value by partnering with an experienced edtech provider: While organizations can set up their own internal training programs, partnering with an experienced edtech company can help supplement and accelerate training and skilling outcomes. An industry-proven edtech firm that provides targeted courses in AI, ML, RPA, IoT, blockchain, data science and other emerging technologies can help steer the organization’s transformation journey in the right direction at an optimal cost. From handpicking the right candidates for reskilling through automated assessments to leveraging the right techniques (microlearning, gamification, assessment, etc.) for skill development and progress measurement, the right L&D partner can prove to be a significant value enabler.
#3 Partner with academia: Reskilling workers requires organizations to work collaboratively with educational institutions and influence the curriculum to keep it in sync with future workforce requirements. 18% of CEOs globally feel that industry-academia partnerships can help develop internship opportunities to foster employee reskilling through real-life experiences. Philips, for instance, has partnered with Manipal University to produce job ready candidates from day one. Leading IT organizations such as Microsoft, Oracle, Bosch and others are also partnering with startups to infuse new skills into their ecosystem.
Continuous re-skilling: The new mandate
On average, modern working professionals need to invest in learning new skills 15-20 times over their career span to retain relevance and achieve growth. Thanks to the fast pace of technological disruption and volatile market conditions, reskilling isn’t an option anymore – for organizations as well as individuals. While the need for reskilling is primarily driven by the IT software sector, other industries such as banking, finance, insurance, and retail are not immune to the phenomenon and are following suit. However, organizations as well as individuals must first evaluate the longevity of the skills they are honing, before they rush to future-proof their skillsets. The best way forward is to opt for a combination of skills that can further be augmented through periodic upgrades, as and when required. The upside is, as many as 83% of modern workers are happy to reskill in order to work alongside the expanding digital workforce. The age of human-tech partnership is here and those that move quickly with their reskilling agendas will garner clear competitive advantage.
Manipal ProLearn has been a training partner for industries across verticals and a go to reskilling destination for professionals. From the best courses in Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Cyber Security designed as per the need of businesses, we look to bridge the talent gap.
[i] PwC, Your Workforce Needs Reskilling, https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/hr-management/library/workforce-reskilling.html
[ii] PwC, Your Workforce Needs Reskilling, https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/hr-management/library/workforce-reskilling.html
[iii] IndiaToday, The Widening Skills Divide, https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/nation/story/20180813-the-widening-skill-divide-1303343-2018-08-03