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Workforce Empowerment & Skill Development

Staff cuts, tight budgets and increasing workloads have created an environment in which employees are feeling overworked, undervalued and disengaged. While a focus on business results may have served organizations well in the short term, it won’t be enough to keep them motivated for long enough. Empowering employees has taken more importance as companies face the challenge of motivating and retaining young generation of workers, for whom flexibility is the bottom line.

Empowered employees are engaged employees. They have all the tools they need to learn and grow, connect with colleagues and others throughout the company, make their own decisions, be leaders and contribute to the success of the business. Empowerment is a key driver of engagement.

When it comes to skill development, training presents a prime opportunity to expand the knowledge base of all employees, but many employers find the development opportunities expensive. Employees additionally miss out on time while attending training sessions, which can delay the completion of undertakings. Despite the potential drawbacks, training & development provides both the company and the individual employees with benefits that make the cost and time a worthwhile investment.

Clean India Journal speaks to Vinay Deshmukh, CEO, Forbes Facility, to get a better understanding on how workforce empowerment and skill development have an impact on an employee, the company and the economy.

Do flexible work arrangements make workforce empowerment more challenging?

It is the flexibility that demands more of the workforce empowerment. It is the base level workforce that knows the work conditions and demands the best. It is they who can gauge what flexibilities are possible and which ones require any additional resources. If we don’t empower that level, the possibility of the decisions going wrong is high. The sensitivity of the sites and resources is lesser known as we move up the hierarchy. The hierarchy is to provide the framework, the guidelines and the drawing power on its experience and exposure.

How to bridge the talent scarcity gap?

If the gap exists, it is between the understanding of the content and intent. The talent is more often than not, the skills and knowledge as well as the application of it. The application, in turn, depends on the intent, which is, primarily, the will, the drive to learn and to progress. It is the content that can be learnt and developed, but the intent has to be there. Hence, the talent gap would exist if the recruitment is without considering the intent and if the career progressions and succession does not go pyramidically with the organisation.

How to adapt to changing work practices?

As said, the intent is the main pre-requisite. Then comes the awareness of the changes and the ability to understand two parts – what is happening, what is needed and second, how do to achieve it. The internal locus of control helps the drive. Today, the information is available in abundance and access is easy to all. The changing practices would be driven by STEEP (social, technological, economical, environmental or political). Each of these needs a different approach to adapt. The customers also play a very important role in it – at times, as the driver of the change to collaborate with the changes.

How crucial is workforce empowerment in the new economy?

The economy is on a growth path. The earnings and the dignity of labour is also enhancing rapidly. The development of SEZs and opening of opportunities are slowing the migratory workforce. These are powerful aspects that are enabling the workforce empowerment.

It is worthwhile to empower and further enhance the dignity of labour. This helps motivation, retention and in house growth of people. The stable and ingrown workforce further improves the empowerment and thus, gives the organisation more avenues for growth. This growth could be directed from the references and organic models.

What defines an empowered employee?

Employee who are high on morale and motivation are willing to build consultative relationships with the customers. The customers value and appreciate such people. Their performance on the numbers also reflects the confidence in the organisation and in the customer. They are more attuned in helping and growing people under them. These provide better avenues for leadership development.

How to build an empowered organisation?

The organisation must evolve the systems to look for intent as the basic ingredient. This has to be encouraged and monitored at all levels. Having set the inflow right, the next important step is to build an environment that entrusts the empowerment. Here, creating and giving opportunities for decision making, developing and delivering various programs for preparing the empowered employees for their roles and above is quite pertinent.

Apart from this, the most important aspect is to provide work environment where fear of failure is detested. The most capable and willing empowered employee hesitates in taking the steps if the organisation is seen as instilling the fear of failure. One of the most successful organisations has stated that they celebrated failures. If not this, conscious efforts have to go in to encourage and promote the culture of trying new things.

How important is skill development in defining company’s growth?

Any organisation that has its growth aligned to the growth of the pyramid of the organisation structure, is enduring, stable and successful. This entails the process of continuous monitoring and developing skill levels.

When we relate to the growth of people, we connect the fact that skills that brought the person to the next level are not necessarily the ones the person needs to carry forward. Hence, the need is to pick up new skills. The hierarchy, the exposure it gives, demand new and next level of decision making.

Whose responsibility is it to impart skill enhancement?

The first and foremost responsibility is of the individual. The willingness, awareness and drive has to be there.

As the next, it becomes the responsibility of the Corporation to first, identify the candidates, second, identify the role & skill requirement, third match it to the program what would help the individual to learn and fourth to give the individual opportunities to practice the skills learnt.

The academia is the preferred choice in many cases to ensure the right match of programs between the trainer and the learners. Here, we have a recent example of the core management team that attended a program titled for the CXOs at one of the IIMS, experienced the course to be immature and the batch consisting of manager level participants. These hamper the progress significantly as the resources with the Corporates are limited in terms of availability as well as funds.

What are the challenges?

The typical challenges are the depth of understanding, application, perseverance and direction (look for intent, not content which happens most of the times). These are multiplied when the fear of failure sets in with less attempts being made for offering empowerment and that being taken. In terms of development, the selection of inputs, timing, method used could throw different challenges.

The challenges also include the organisational culture, behaviour and last but not the least, acceptance from the customers. The overriding factors of STEEP would remain and might pose challenges that cannot be foreseen.

 

Staff cuts, tight budgets and increasing workloads have created an environment in which employees are feeling overworked, undervalued and disengaged. While a focus on business results may have served organizations well in the short term, it won’t be enough to keep them motivated for long enough. Empowering employees has taken more importance as companies face the challenge of motivating and retaining young generation of workers, for whom flexibility is the bottom line. Empowered employees are engaged employees. They have all the tools they need to learn and grow, connect with colleagues and others throughout the company, make their…

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