Pandemic: Upskilling and Reskilling

2020-12-28 by Ronn Torossian

What long-term effect will the pandemic have on the global workforce? An October report by the World Economic Forum (WEC) reported that two-fifths of the companies it surveyed are planning to reduce their workforces. The reason? Technology.

Accurate or not, the forecast for a shift is shared by others like McKinsey, which in 2017 predicted that 14% of the global workforce or 375 million workers would need to acquire new skills or find new jobs by 2030. In a May update this year, McKinsey said the pandemic has accelerated matters. AI has been invaluable in reducing expenses and reducing customer wait times for many industries but combined with other advances in the field and the current recession, WEC estimates that these accelerated tech changes could displace as many as 85 million jobs globally within the next five years. The organization noted that job creation is lagging behind what it called “job destruction” for the first time in recent years.

Many countries, like the U.S., initially responded with various stimulus packages to assist the unemployed. But for the long term, leaders need to seriously consider upskilling or reskilling their affected workers. Failure to do so, said the WEC, could push 115 million people worldwide into extreme poverty as soon as this year. The pandemic demanded that brands pick up their pace in AI, AR, and VR, and companies needed to hastily provide training to their workers to stay relevant in their areas of expertise. Brands that are still recovering need to do this to make sure they’re supporting their teams and staying on top of things.

And to ensure that the brand is up to date on the latest, leaders should embrace lifelong learning. Doing so also sends a strong signal to employees that the company not only cares about supporting their employees in meeting future challenges, but the actions will also foster employee confidence and loyalty. The larger challenge is for companies where jobs have been or are expected to be replaced in whole or in part by automation or other factors. What leaders must first do is to best determine what kind of skills will be required in the new normal and a new business model.

From there, it’s a matter of putting together a plan to build and train employees to prepare as much as possible for the future and support the new business plan. Any skill gaps that are identified also need to be addressed, and additional training is done to close them.

Companies that upskill and/or reskill their workforce should seriously consider adding training that includes emotional and social skills as well as worker adaptability and resilience to help them cope with all the changes. This will help workers be better prepared in the event of future disruptions and things at home.

Unfortunately, leaders should recognize that not every employee may be a good candidate for reskilling or fit into the new normal. This should be candidly discussed, and where possible, a talk should lead to other job alternatives within the company or a smooth transition out.

Affected companies that employ upskilling and/or reskilling will be better prepared for the new normal and have a loyal workforce and embrace the new business model. Communication must be clear and candid throughout the process.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities