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Why companies will have to fill digital skill gaps soon: Wipro's Saurabh Govil

As technology influences the way we work, companies will have to work to upskill employees to succeed in this decade

Published: Jan 13, 2020 04:17:55 PM IST
Updated: Jan 13, 2020 04:27:42 PM IST

Why companies will have to fill digital skill gaps soon: Wipro's Saurabh GovilIllustration: Chaitanya Dinesh Surpur

Digital transformation is reinventing the way we work. From cloud computing to artificial intelligence (AI), new innovations are disrupting businesses in every sector and providing huge opportunities. AI and robotics will lead to a significant rise in automation, which will inevitably have an impact on jobs. In fact, some 30 percent of jobs are at potential risk of automation by the mid-2030s, according to research from PwC.

Why companies will have to fill digital skill gaps soon: Wipro's Saurabh Govil
However, despite some losses, smart automation will also create new jobs and PwC predicts that it will result in a potential boost of $15 trillion to the global GDP by 2030. New technologies, including AI, will continue to create new jobs just as the Industrial Revolution, followed by the rise of mass production, and later, the birth of computing, changed the work landscape forever.

To unlock the potential of this new era of innovation, businesses must ensure that the workforce of the next decade has the required skills. It is crucial to identify, recruit and retain the right talent for the job. Recruiting a workforce with the necessary technical skills is vital for driving digital transformation. Currently, this is a major challenge as the demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) skills is significantly outpacing the supply of experienced and trained talent.

Devising a strategy to help close this digital skills gap should be a key focus for all businesses during the next decade and beyond. Without the right employees, organisations will find it hard to grow or innovate. There are several approaches that will enable the skilling and re-skilling required to thrive in the digital world.

The first is to focus on education reforms. Evolving the education experience to better reflect the constantly changing digital landscape is key. To ensure that students and graduates are given the necessary real-world skills, educational institutions must have a more practical approach. This involves a shift away from the traditional education model of lectures and textbooks to more hands-on experiences.

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Collaboration will be the key to success. The industry must work with universities to develop a curriculum that will be directly relevant for the workforce of the future. Ensuring that the most suitable learning strategy is in place means that future workers can develop the skills that will enable them to build a successful career. This is an approach that Wipro is embracing.

The ever-changing nature of technology means that the skills required by the workforce will also continue to change. Tech workers of the next decade will need a solid educational grounding in Stem skills, combined with hands-on technical skills. The ability to embrace continuous learning will become the norm. Therefore, it’s important for employers to provide the infrastructure to support lifelong learning, so that employees can be continually re-skilled as needed. Having a growth and learning-focussed mindset will be essential for workers of the next decade.

Many businesses are already offering in-house digital training schemes and apprenticeships, and we’ll continue to see more of these programmes in the coming years. At Wipro, we offer an Apprentice Programme called ‘Ascent’ which trains university graduates in digital skills. 

As companies implement schemes and partnerships like these, along with a greater focus on Stem skills at schools and colleges, the digital skills gap will narrow gradually. Offering continuous training for employees will help organisations retain talented workers. Both the industry and the education sector have a shared responsibility to ensure that the workforce of the future is equipped with the necessary skills for Stem careers.

As companies strive to bridge the skills gap, they need to be equally aware of bridging the multigenerational workforce gap. At any given point, companies will have a disproportionate workforce comprising five generations from the traditionalists, boomers, millennials to the Generations Y and Z who have different aspirations, expectations and ideas of working. New generation workers, for example, look for a sense of purpose at work and value the social impact of their organisation more than the bottomline.

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While typically we tend to label the characteristics of each generation, it’s important to respect the differences. It is through such collaboration that leaders will get to know that the new generation prefers less hierarchy, where leadership and promotion are not based on seniority; they believe in transparency, flexibility—both in terms of job and time—and won’t take “I don’t understand technology” for an answer. It is therefore necessary to make sure their voice is heard in the decision-making process.

Leaders should also be open to reverse mentoring programmes. Studies show that cross generational mentoring makes learning on the job easier than any formal training, creates a better work culture, improves productivity and drives better business results.

The growing gig economy will also play a major role in the evolution of jobs in the next decade. Crowdsourcing expertise, both within an organisation and from outside, will increasingly become the norm. Wipro is already tapping into the eclectic talent pool opened up by the gig economy with Topcoder, a crowdsourcing platform that enables companies to recruit developers and data scientists for short-term tasks and projects. 

Applying a similar approach within the company, our TopGear crowdsourcing platform doubles as a collaborative learning tool. Available to our employees to use anytime and anywhere, it enables them to learn more than 170 skills through case studies and assignments, making use of more than 80 cloud-based development environments. The platform offers employees structured learning paths so that they can develop skills suited to specific business requirements. What’s more, employees can work on crowdsourced projects from within the organisation, earning monetary rewards while testing out their newly acquired skills on real-world tasks.

As the gig economy and crowdsourcing become more prevalent, workers won’t necessarily stick to set roles, but will take on projects across departments, rather than working in silos. They must, therefore, be incentivised and motivated, based on the needs of their generation. In the 2020s, closing the digital skills gap will be a top priority alongside creating a workplace that fosters a sense of belonging. After all, digital transformation is not just about technology; it’s also about people.

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(This story appears in the 17 January, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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