COVID-19 has shuffled the cards for businesses, with many having to modify their operations and adopt remote working overnight. However, the lack of key skills is proving to be a big obstacle in adapting to these changes.
One in five small businesses we surveyed cite the lack of employee skills as their biggest challenge in pivoting in response to the pandemic. One-third of midsize businesses hold the same view.
The situation is grimmer considering many businesses are even clueless about the key skills they need. Fifty-three percent of respondents to one Gartner TalentNeuron survey say their inability to identify the required skills is the top challenge they face in workforce transformation and 31% say they have no way to identify market leading skills.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is, our survey on small and midsize businesses has uncovered the top skills businesses are counting on while responding to the pandemic.
In this article, we’ll explain what these top skills are and how your organization can use these for upskilling the workforce.
Businesses have likely made more network management changes since the onset of the COVID-19 than in the last decade. With a majority of their employees working remotely, businesses are having to pivot to ensure the security and connectivity of their networks.
Simply put, they’re making changes to ensure employees can access the business network effectively, without compromising on productivity or the security of the critical business assets on the network.
Our survey shows that for 38% of small businesses, network management is the top skill required in the wake of the pandemic. So, if you’re struggling to prioritize your upskilling initiatives, network management can be a decent place to start.
Network management is the process of administering computer networks. It involves network performance management, fault analysis, network provisioning, network monitoring, and service quality maintenance.
It also involves ensuring compliance with network management protocols such as Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) and Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).
A network includes a plethora of devices: routers, hosts, bridges, terminal servers, modems, end-user devices, phones, laptops, wearables, etc. A network management professional keeps an eye out for potential failures in all these devices, highlighting which devices need to be managed, how to identify faults in the devices, and how to troubleshoot the identified faults.
Here’s what a more drilled-down view of network management skills looks like:
Drawing out network management architecture, components, and protocols.
Listing fault, configuration, accounting, performance, and security (FACPS) functions.
Creating and implementing a network management strategy.
Examining network management protocols and standards.
Monitoring operations, administration, maintenance, and provisioning (OAM&P) procedures.
This list covers the key network management skills but the skills your organization may need will vary based on your unique network management requirements such as your system dependencies, critical infrastructure list, and size of operations.
Here’s how you can help employees gain network management skills:
Check out certifications: Many leading network hardware/software vendors offer professional certifications around network management. These will not only help your upskilling effort but will also test employee skills and certify the knowledge they gain.
One example is Cisco’s certifications around network management that help individuals upskill as per their professional experience (associate level, professional, or expert).
Build project-based training: You can also create project-based training based on the challenges your team members encounter during professional practice. Such training sessions are a good way to offer hands-on training and experience; they also tickle participants’ problem-solving abilities by simulating real-world challenges.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the storefront was the prime location for raising brand awareness and generating revenue for most businesses. But with customers choosing the safety of their homes over going out, footfall at physical stores has shrunk considerably.
This decline has pushed businesses to move to digital locations to manage revenue and sales, consequently fuelling the need for website and application development skills. As per our survey, 30% of small businesses feel web and app development is the second most relevant skill they need for upskilling employees following COVID-19.
Web and app development refers to the process of developing websites and applications for the internet or the intranet. It may involve developing software components ranging from a single webpage to commercial websites and social media platforms.
The primary responsibilities for an app or web development professional include developing software applications and websites or updating and modifying existing ones. This professional customizes programs according to business needs, designs application prototypes, implements and tests source code, and troubleshoots errors.
Here’s a list of the key skills involved in web and app development:
Designing, building, and maintaining websites and software applications.
Evaluating code to ensure quality and industry-standard compliance.
Testing the validity, structure, and compatibility of code with browsers, devices, and operating systems.
Performing or directing website updates.
It is important to remember that technology is ever-changing. Therefore, developers need to constantly be on the lookout and keep updating their skill set.
To bridge the skills gap around web and app development, you can try the following options:
Pick an online course: Web and app development courses sell like hot cakes in the e-Learning space. Courses from GitHub, Google Developers Training, Codecademy, Coursera, and edX are among the popular options on the market.
In conjunction with online courses, individuals can also take certification tests to gain recognition for their skills.
Sign up for a workshop: App and web development requires hands-on experience. This makes workshops highly effective.
Your team can attend a three- to four-week web and application development workshop offered by industry experts or trainers. You can also discuss with the trainers about any specific areas in which your team needs upskilling
Because of COVID-19, businesses that used their storefronts as the primary means of engaging their customers have had to come up with digital means. And those with an existing social media presence have had to up their efforts to increase visibility in the already crowded social media landscape.
Our survey identifies the importance of social media marketing post-COVID-19. Twenty-nine percent of small and midsize businesses consider social media marketing to be a skill set they’d need most to pivot in response to the pandemic.
Social media marketing is the process of using social media platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) to market products and services, increase brand awareness, engage customers, or resolve complaints. These platforms are highly effective in reaching out to current and prospective employees, existing and potential customers, industry influencers, and the general public.
Social media marketing professionals need to manage various areas of a company’s social presence. They have to create a business’s social media strategy, manage social media ad campaigns, plan and schedule posts, manage the brand’s online reputation, analyze the performance of posts and ads, etc.
They also have to constantly be on their feet to share the latest business updates with their followers, such as changes in the service or business operations. They also have to keep an eye out for how to spot and repair damages to the business’s online reputation.
Here’s a more drilled-down view of their responsibilities:
Growing a company’s social media presence and driving engagement on social media platforms.
Creating the overall social media strategy, planning the budget, ideating content, and implementing posting schedules.
Collecting customer data, analyzing customer interactions, and monitoring the performance of social media posts; analyzing the collected data to improve future strategies.
Ensuring brand voice and message consistency across all the social media platforms a brand is active on.
Monitoring and researching competitor social media strategy.
Here are some ways to drive a social media marketing upskilling initiative:
Check out apprenticeships: Digital apprenticeship programs bring value because they give practical knowledge and mentorship from experienced professionals or experts. There’s no remuneration involved. Users receive constructive feedback and guidance on projects in return for their hard work.
Although apprenticeship platforms usually don’t charge a fee, some platforms may do so per apprenticeship.
Harness social media learning: Most social media platforms educate users on how to best use their platform to market products and services. For example, Facebook and LinkedIn offer courses and learning material to guide users on how to target social media audiences with ads or how to use the available features.
This is a low-cost approach for users to brush up their social media skills and gain expertise on different platforms.
You can turn COVID-induced challenges into an upskilling opportunity to reinvent and emerge stronger from the crisis. While you’re working on your upskilling initiative, know that giving existing employees continuous learning opportunities to enhance their skill sets is a proven approach for employee retention.
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when thinking about an upskilling program to grow your workforce’s digital skills:
Meet employees where they are: Some employees will have more time at their disposal while others may have time constraints; some may already have the basic understanding while someone may require training from the ground up. As an employer, try to offer multiple ways of learning, such as online courses, one-on-one training, or coaching sessions, to match the participant’s learning needs.
Make reskilling easier for employees: Create and share a list of key skills and learning options to jumpstart employee training for each team. Keep the sign-up for training easy and straightforward and give individuals explicit permission to invest time in training. Also, encourage them to explore innovative options that work for them.
Build an in-house learning team: Through this team, members can collaborate to give and receive training on professionally relevant topics. This space can give them the opportunity to create and exchange training material through a shared repository or knowledge hub, to bridge the skill gap.
Consider leveraging technology: You may also leverage learning software such as learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience platforms (LXP) for upskilling employees. While an LMS helps you create and upload learning material for employees, an LXP is a more open platform where your employees too can upload and exchange content. Learn more about these two types of learning tools here. Compared to an LMS, an LXP is also better in terms of employee engagement. You can read more about the differences between an LMS vs. LXP and find which one is right for you in this article.
The products/services/vendors named in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.
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