By Errol van Staden

COVID-19 has impacted organisations in several ways. In many cases, the pandemic has altered, or even completely upended how an organization does business, eliminating the need for an entire array of roles and creating new ones that might have been unthinkable previously. Forward-thinking companies recognize that it is no longer ‘business as usual’ as they are facing new opportunities and challenges. Given the context of digital disruption and health risks, there is a need to interrogate the status quo with a view to the future.

Questions Executives and HR-Leaders Must Ask

  • How will our industry change?
  • How will these changes impact our business?
  • Given a revised or new strategy, what skill sets, or capabilities will be required?
  • What does our talent bench (key roles specifically) look like?
  • How do we close the gap (between what is required and what we have)?
  • How do we retrain, reskill, or upskill employees who are at risk of becoming obsolete?
  • How do we make the transition successful?
  • How do we measure (metrics) the impact of the transition?

What We Know

  • Attracting external talent with the skills you will require may come at a premium
  • It is more cost-effective and fiscally responsible to retrain your existing workforce to adapt to new demands than undertaking large scale retrenchments and rehiring
  • Existing employees are already familiar with the company culture and its customers.

Benefits of Retraining | Reskilling | Upskilling

  • It enhances the skillsets employees already have
  • It presents an opportunity to learn the most in-demand competencies within an industry, which sets them up for easier career progression and future employment opportunities
  • It can help make people feel more valued and can give them a new sense of purpose
  • It strengthens your employer brand
  • It saves you money.

Important Employee Attributes

Employees with a ‘growth mindset’ are most suitable to retraining. Typically, they are curious, have a learning orientation, can adapt to change, think outside-of-the-box, have energy, and work well in teams. Some employees may be able to shift to new roles and adjust their skill sets accordingly. Others may not. A systematic analysis will help to determine if there is a good fit.

Five-Pronged Approach to Workforce Transformation

  • Determine the capability requirements of a new or revised strategy
  • Measure the capability gap (between what you have and what is required)
  • Reimagine learning and development
  • Deploy and track the impact of solutions
  • Mitigate possible derailment risk (i.e. stretching a person beyond his or her level of capability).

The profound impact Covid-19 has had and will have on individuals, organisations, society, and the global economy cannot be underestimated. Whilst the impact is severe, the fall-out of the pandemic presents an opportunity to rethink strategies, structures, business processes, operating models, and talent management practice.