Upping Our Game: Building Skills That Matter

Here are the takeaways from the panel discussion featuring NASSCOM HR Summit 2017 Vishpala Reddy, American Express; DP Singh, IBM; Richard Lobo, Infosys and Chair: Melissa Ries, Skillsoft Ireland Ltd.


  • Re-skill and develop skills on a regular basis. Else, perish! What is now being touted as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, discontentment will be much more as the rate of change will be very high – much higher than what we have experienced earlier.


  • Old rules will not be applicable any more as the “Millennial Mindset” permeates across organisations.


  • The concept of work sphere both from a social and physical standpoint is undergoing a huge change which in turn is disrupting the delivery model. This means, the speed at which organization learning is happening right now, will have to increase quite significantly.


  • Agility is now being seen from various angles – re-skilling, changing direction, execution speed, of letting go and agility of the mind. Summation of all this is really the agile way of working, which orgs will have to adapt to.


  • The spirit of innovation must be ignited at the bottom layers as well, in orgs.


  • Automation will lead to job losses across levels and that percentage is very high. So the challenge before leaders is about re-skilling the workforce for future. While it may not be a robotic apocalypse as popularly shown in sci-fi but there are three things massive changes unfolding. One, data availability is going up exponentially; two, so is the case with processing power of machines; and finally, investments in AI is increasing very quickly. This will impact routine jobs that can be done by machines including those which don’t even exist today.


  • Tech disruptions even in past have led to job losses. Though, jobs have also been created subsequently, but not necessarily in the same place. That is, the jobs which went away were not always replaced in equal terms and skillset requirements. New jobs came about, in turn.


  • In a lifetime, humans are expected to undergo re-skilling through cycles – three or four times. This would include college education and the re-skilling that would be required in their careers spanning 35 – 40 years. Focus on any one line of education is expected to come down. There’s a need for a much broader horizon. Among the skills, adapting to a new environment would be most important.


  • Power and hierarchies that define leadership styles are likely to change and give way to a more participative approach but it isn’t as if these changes will happen overnight. This is the transitioning phase. Some industries will of course change faster than others. Also, it’s important to ask – those at the top, do they really get it? Do they really understand that it is no more about “giving permissions”? In this aspect, leaders too need to be up-skilled. Also, the thinking process will have to be transformational and not merely incremental.


  • Consumerization and high rate of tech adoption is leading to convergence across industries. At the same time, specific use of tech and associated talent is leading to a divergence of sorts.


  • According to an HBR article, in 2016, the US spent about 160 billion USD on re-skilling while Rest of the World accounted for 356 billion USD, so this gap has to be bridged. RoW will have to invest a lot more. Also, interlinkages between technologies like AI, IoT, Machine Learning etc will have to be firmly established with defined standards. Education institutions have a massive role to play – ensure that new age skills are imparted effectively. Failing is okay but one has to learn very quickly and have the mindset to grow.


  • Many organisations now have their own Leadership Academy. A repository of new-age learning that enables leaders to pick up new skills based on the job requirements. Also, there’s an enhanced need for subject matter experts who are able to understand specific technologies and domains to a very high degree.


  • The future is about the alignment of man and machine in the same work environment. In 1930s, the average life expectancy of organisations was about 90 years whereas today it’s about 18. There’s a lot more that HR can do – embrace technology to a much higher degree in their functions, step up the engagement of corporates with educational institutions, to create future ready leaders.          

This blog is about the author’s session at NASSCOM HR Summit. You can see blogs from other session using this tag: hr summit 2017 

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