Can Upskilling Your Frontline Workers Be Critical to Your Business Success?

India is forecasted to spend $500 billion a year on mega-infrastructure projects to accommodate its population growth by 2030. With supportive regulatory policies and increased investments, the nation has the resources and the intent to build globally competitive supply chains, but only if it can access skilled labour.

The skilled labour shortage has been a problem for many sectors in India for years. The Labour force participation rate has been on a decline from 2005 to 2019. The female labour participation rate further fell to record low levels due to the pandemic. Unlike white-collar workers, the entry-level training for blue-collar workers is disorganised. Several programs, like the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Skill India, have been launched over the years, but these programs lack the resources to scale and educate a huge distributed blue-collar workforce in the country. This is contributing to a huge demand-supply gap, as well as a skillset gap. As per the India Skills Report 2021, youth employability declined to 45.9% in 2021, from 46.21% in 2020.

For companies, the best way to tackle this problem is to upskill their frontline workers. This is even more crucial at a time when major industries are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Given the cost of hiring new talent, it is now crucial to build a workforce that is adaptable to market changes.

Why Upskill Frontline Workers?

Building a Skilled and Agile Workforce to Drive Digitalisation

The blue-collar industry is facing a rapid influx of new technologies. It’s not about man vs. machines anymore. As advancements like automation gain traction in industries, workers will need to be able to handle these machines, oversee their performance and maintenance, and also handle reporting. This is where upskilling becomes important.

Over 51% of workers and 48% of business leaders in India believe that re-skilling and up-skilling need to be embedded into workforce models in the next 3 years, to help employees adapt to changing business environments with agility. Over 36% of organisations plan to invest in tech skills across the organisation, to build a tech-savvy workforce that can embrace digital transformation.

The Advent of the Gig Economy

The “gig economy” is expected to create 90 million jobs in India’s non-farm sector alone. This will include both new jobs created, as well as jobs that migrate to technology-based gig platforms. It is interesting to note that despite the Covid-19 induced disruptions and risks ahead, 40% of skilled and 32% of non-graduates want to take up gig jobs in the future.

With the advent of new jobs in the Indian gig economy, workers need a certain level of digital literacy to manage intelligent workflows. Moreover, as gig platforms span multiple industry verticals and job types, the specific prerequisites associated with the growth of individual platforms vary. For instance, manufacturing facilities looking for skilled technical workers might be looking for worker credentials like certifications, among other aspects.

The success of individual platforms will thus depend on how much companies invest in their workers’ training and re-skilling. It is also expected to boost employee morale and retention.

To Make Workers Compliant

Compliance is a crucial aspect of the blue-collar industry. This is why companies need to continuously train employees regarding onsite safety protocols, Covid-19 protocols, and other such important issues to avoid paying hefty fines or be dragged into litigation. Moreover, it enhances the safety of workers dealing with new technologies, preventing mishaps on the shop floor.

Imparting In-Demand Soft Skills

Providing soft-skills training has become important in the age of rapid transformation across industries to build resilience. This is important as customer demands evolve continuously. No longer are blue-collar employees engaged only in mindless physical tasks. They need skills to think out-of-the-box and make informed decisions to solve customer pain points.

Globally, 33% of countries state that the most difficult to access soft skills in workers include reliability, discipline and accountability. In India, some in-demand soft skills are:

  • Creativity
  • Reasoning
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Stress tolerance and adaptability

Technology Makes Upskilling Blue Collar Workers Effortless

With machines improving productivity, companies now have more opportunities to train and re-skill workers, thereby providing them with tools to grow and succeed in the future.

However, companies face many challenges training blue-collar workers, which include:

  • Shorter attention spans of workers
  • The complexity of planning training sessions for workers spread across regions and work shifts
  • Workers being at different proficiency levels in the same batch
  • Lack of interest in certain topics

So how can businesses pull workers out of their busy schedules and impart training without hurting their bottom lines? Technology comes to the rescue here. To address the above problems, companies can create personalised learning pathways via AI-powered platforms. Such platforms can facilitate learning through bite-sized modules, distributed in vernacular languages. Workers can learn on the go through the device of their choice. AI enables them to discover new content, based on past learning behaviour, proficiency levels, and search history. Chatbots can be used to address queries and offer additional support.

Such training systems allow self-paced learning, driving greater engagement. They also provide companies many ways to incentivise workers to complete a course, a useful strategy to drive adoption in the workforce.

Believe it or not, trained blue-collar workers are crucial for building a digitally transformed India. Educational institutions don’t have the resources to impart skill sets to such a huge workforce. Companies can step up and take the onus instead.

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