The Urgent Need to Reskill for Employees in Asia

February 9, 2021 | Antique Nguyen

Digitalization and the constantly evolving need for employees to reskill has been affecting the workplace long before the current health crisis. In 2017, previous research by The McKinsey Global Institute reported that as many as 375 million employees globally may need to change occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 to meet companies’ needs and adapt to the rising implementation of advanced technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI). “People tend to expect and plan for the worst-case scenario, especially since we are starting to learn the impacts of the pandemic on our economic and labor markets,” says Jaya Dass, Managing Director of Randstad in Singapore and Malaysia. “Having a wide variety of technical and soft skills will also allow candidates to exercise more flexibility when looking for jobs in a highly volatile market.”

In the Asia-Pacific region, a recent global survey has shown that 40% or more of surveyed executives in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Asia overall, cited ‘Building talent by upskilling and reskilling’ as the most significant factor in shaping the future workforce composition of their company. Most executives in mainland China claim that about 11 to 20% of all employees would need to be upskilled or re-skilled by next year. In Malaysia, 9 out of 10 employees surveyed in Randstad’s 2020 COVID-19 Labor Pulse Survey intend to upskill or reskill this year, and found that 87% of employees feel they are not skilled enough to stay employed. Similarly, 9 out of 10 employees in Singapore see an “urgent need to reskill” in order to remain competitive in the job market post-pandemic. It is clear that employees and candidates realize that in order to succeed in a new world of work, they will need to build on their current skill sets or reskill.

Here’s how organizations can ensure their employees are equipped with critical skills needed for their future business models.


  1. Invest in Learning Technologies

Global research has shown that the top tactic of leaders in Asia and North America for skills development of employees is through learning technologies, such as a learning management system (62%). For instance, over 55% of HR executives in Hong Kong intend to make their biggest investment on ‘new or updated learning and development platforms’ over the coming years. For companies situated in multiple locations, electronic learning solutions offer consistency, scalability, and flexibility for HR. For example, adopting a learning management system (LMS) may provide relief when communicating changes to employees and holding employee meetings. Another key advantage is that employees are enabled with delivering consistent messages across the organization, and that online training programs can be tracked and developed around an employee’s role, location, or other demographic. In addition, many LMS have secure and flexible administration that ensure computer security as it allows employees to gain access only to the sections of the LMS that pertain to their specific role.


  1. Conduct Learning-Needs Workshops

Creating a series of workshops that are developed for each department within a company can help highlight the key skills or tasks that are either increasing or decreasing in importance, map those identified skills to roles for prioritization purposes and subsequently allow companies to establish an approach to close any skill gaps, for instance, developing internal talent. This allows organizations to address changing workforce needs prior to altering their operations and enables them with an action-oriented approach in closing talent gaps. It also enhances a leaders’ visibility into talent needs throughout the organization, which can be used to inform strategic goals.


  1. Create and Maintain a Culture of Ongoing and Lifelong Learning

A whopping 86% of companies around the world report that they are taking steps to instill a corporate culture that fosters lifelong learning. When planning how to invest in your staff and develop their skills, consider that the foundation where learning takes place must first be prepared by a culture of learning. Research noted in the Harvard Business Review reveals that 70% of change management initiatives, such as those in digital transformation, fail to reach their goals and concluded that “if people lack the right mindset to change and the current organizational practices are flawed,” digital transformation will only magnify those issues. This suggests that organizational leaders should aim to build a culture of development, where skills development is not only a core principle, but is fostered and reinforced in strong change management practices.


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