Noted American futurist Alvin Toffler wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. At no point in history has this adage been more relevant than in today’s volatile times. Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc on economies, disrupt global trade and industry on an unprecedented scale and adversely impact lives. In a rapidly transforming global ecosystem where change is emerging as the new constant, businesses will need to reexamine existing work models and reassess current workforce capabilities.

As governments impose strict social distancing norms to mitigate Covid-19 associated risks, work from home (WFH) has emerged as the new normal. In order to ensure that work continuity is not impacted and communication between remotely working teams remains seamless, a large number of companies are accelerating digital transformation initiatives. Companies are realising that working from unsecure remote environments puts operations at a greater risk of cyber-attacks.

IT departments of companies will need to place priority focus on the digital upskilling of employees and plugging their cyber skill gaps as workforces transition to working from distributed locations. The emphasis should be on conducting virtual learning programmes to boost employee awareness about cyber-threat issues and improve their digital competencies. Employees should have primary knowledge in computer safety to ensure that there is no data beach, system security is not compromised and day-to-day work is carried out in a seamless and hassle-free manner.

Even before the onset of the pandemic, modern workplace managements had realised the importance of cognitive skills in navigating a complex business landscape. The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Jobs Report 2018 has clearly recognised the need to bolster the cognitive and social-emotional skills of employees.

Crucial skill areas which need constant improvement and attention include problem-solving abilities, decision-making, idea evaluation, people management skills and forecasting. Apart from having specialisation in a specific domain, employees will also need to develop crucial skill-sets across diverse functional areas.

In order to maintain pace with a rapidly changing competitive environment and tackle its challenges, creating a robust and resilient workforce will assume paramount importance for organisations. A resilient work-force is personally aligned to the values and mission of an organisation, builds strong connections with key stakeholders and is future-ready.

Maintaining a positive outlook towards life and work, resilient employees are result-oriented and have the capacity to work under pressure and achieve results in a high-pressure environment. They view setbacks as an opportunity rather than as a challenge and can swiftly adapt to changes.

As workforces adjust to newer ways of working, restrictions on travel and social life can trigger feelings of stress and depression. Not interacting with colleagues for days can lead to isolation and disconnect. The balance between personal life and work begins to blur, taking a toll on the employee’s mental health.

Company management can help employees maintain perfect work-life balance by clearly defining work hours. Employees can be encouraged to hold informal online meets with their colleagues at periodic intervals. Companies can also take the initiative to host virtual family get-togethers to help workforces de-stress and thereby maintain their operational resilience and productivity.

As disruption becomes the new normal and change emerges the only constant, organisations will need to place an onus on constant reskilling and upskilling of employees. Companies will need to stress on continuous training and learning to ensure that workforces emerge more competent and stronger in 2021 and beyond. Focusing on deploying reskilling and upskilling strategies will help address skill gaps, boosting employee retention and morale and building operational resilience to help workforces cope with work stress and increased workloads.

Views are personal. The author is Head-Indian Operations & Non-U.S. Territory Sales, SecureKloud Technologies Ltd.

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