• Desmond Hoo

Retraining Your Staff Is No Longer A Luxury

Do we really need another pandemic to future-proof our people? I’d say, start now. You’re already behind.

f your employees are only skilled in their core function at your workplace, your company is not future-proof. There, I said it.

This is a piece of hard truth that took a global pandemic like COVID-19 to uncover, in a rather heartless fashion, no less. No warning, no indicators, nothing. This pandemic was economy-agnostic. Whether you’re a developed country or a developing economy, the widespread fear and panic hit you all the same.

If your employees are only skilled in their core function at your workplace, your company is not future-proof.

Businesses and jobs are now being divided into two clear buckets – essential, and non-essential. It was almost as if the tables have turned. Nurses, who were fighting for a higher wage just this decade, are now heroes of the world.

Find Win-Win Solutions

Healthcare and aviation are the two hardest-hit sectors in most modern economies when it comes to dealing with a global pandemic such as COVID-19. Healthcare is being swarmed by an influx of patients who tested positive for the virus on top of the usual healthcare attention needed for other life-threatening conditions. The aviation sector is closing operations and grounding flights on a massive scale, forcing employers in the aerospace industry to rethink and redeploy their grounded staff.

By now, as a seasoned human resource professional, you would imagine the panic if your business is in either sector, healthcare or aviation. How do we keep our employees gainfully employed in a season such as this? Or, how do we meet the demand for medical attention in our hospitals?

These are very real questions that businesses are asking every day. Somehow, Singapore seems to have found an innovative approach to this predicament. At least for the two abovementioned sectors.

Instead of providing hospitality and serving passengers on a plane, the now-grounded cabin crew have been retrained and redeployed as Care Ambassadors with a local hospital. Since they have are already so familiar with hospitality etiquette, these retrained cabin crew have a deep foundation to build upon when it comes to serving the needs of customers, in this case, patients.

Though cabin crew are not medically trained, they could help ease the load of other healthcare functions such as catering to the patient’s accommodation and dietary needs. This injection of manpower, as you can imagine, would allow nurses who are trained medically to administer the medical and nursing needs of the patient. This partnership provided much-needed employment for grounded cabin crew, and much-needed relief for the overwhelmed nurses in the hospitals in this outbreak. A win-win for both.

Future Proof Your Business

However, this, I’d say, wouldn’t have been possible without retraining and reskilling of their human resources, building upon the foundations that have already been laid in their existing vocations. Thereby, future-proofing their businesses in the long term.

With the advent of the internet infrastructure and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platforms, the time is nigh for affordable yet quality training to take place. Learning online was never a problem. Tracking your online learning progress is. A Financial Times piece articulated this succinctly. Nina Huntemann, Senior Director of Academics and Research at edX, believes that students can obtain knowledge and skills without formally completing a course. “’We don’t see completion rates being a goal,’ she says. ‘People poke around to find parts of courses that help them, not necessarily every module.’”

Well, for some general knowledge, a bit of “poking around” would be harmless. But I certainly would not entrust my life in the nurse’s hand if she was just poking around her nursing education. We know that having avenues to learn online was never the issue here, but rather, the journey of the learner needs to start making sense. The learner deserves to see where and how all their learning falls into place. How do I marry what I’ve learned from two different topics? How does this spark a new idea in my current work problem? How can this help in my overall growth as a professional?

Find Your Platform

Once these questions are answered, I think most people wouldn’t mind learning all day. And now with the proliferation of machine learning and big data capabilities, these learning journeys are really not that difficult to map. And as the employer, you need to provide that conducive and data-driven environment for learning to take place. You need to find that online learning platform that acts more than just a repository of e-versions of your textbooks and PowerPoint decks. Find that platform that is a marketplace where your employees can learn from the best, and be the best at training others. Knowledge retention becomes inevitable thereafter.

Do we really need another pandemic to future-proof our people? I’d say, start now. You’re already behind.

By Desmond Hoo

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