By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

Talent Managers and recruiters have been continuing to report a ‘soft skills gap’ that coerces organizations to recruit candidates who fall short on interpersonal skills. Today’s workplace dynamic demands critical thinking and problem-solving, effective communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation as a toolkit of the highest-ranked skills that are being articulated as critical drivers of employee advancement and organizational growth. These competencies are bottom-line recommendations for bridging gaps through intensive coaching, training, and development. 

In addition, the soft skills gaps have helped refuel what we know as ‘The Great Reshuffle’ – the mass exodus of employees affecting the global workforce that questions the very purpose of work itself. Organizations have been scrambling to derive purpose from what they do, but more as an add-on to the drivers of growth. In contrast, winning organizations have made purpose central to their strategies that are largely implemented to level the playing field and reshape value propositions. 

A Critical Skills Survey by the American Management Association (AMA) divulged the most critical workforce skills that are paramount for employee development. Excerpts from this survey indicate that an overwhelming number of respondents believe that these 21st-century skills are significant to organizational development and will become even more important in the future. Edward T. Reilly, AMA President and CEO further went on to corroborate the survey findings and said that there is a pressing need for a mind shift in the current workforce. And that the onus of bridging the skills gaps to meet the evolving global market dynamics lies with business leaders and decision-makers.

Essentially, with the remote and hybrid work models here to stay, cultivating a culture of employee well-being and engagement requires a boost to soft skills – and is vital for effective communication, problem-solving, and increased collaboration for desirable business outcomes. From a technology and thinking standpoint, the one takeaway is that the current workforce that was trained to operate in a pre-pandemic environment will need a compilation of new capabilities to thrive in the changing world. You may want to ask integral questions about the customer experience your organization wants to provide, how learners come to understand and practice the new organizational cultural values, and the skills learners would need to realize the future organizational vision. Typically, the answers to these questions lie in developing skills with a multichannel approach, where learners interact socially and proactively practice new behaviors and mindsets.

Another recent McKinsey Global Survey indicated that 87 percent of executives concurred with experiencing skill gaps in the workforce, and less than half of the respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem. Fundamentally, the obligation of reskilling and upskilling the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era lies with the leaders, backed by endorsement from employers to develop skills that will make the overall business and employees ‘future-proof’. The urgency of addressing skill gaps is paramount across industries, with most respondents agreeing that skill-building is a surefire method for bridging those gaps. Surprisingly, the results also point to a dramatic change in the most important skills to transform and develop – which are largely social and humane and embrace empathy, leadership, adaptability, and resilience.

Why have Soft skills become more relevant than ever?

Workforce futurist and author Alexandra Levit outlined soft skills as an imperative for career durability. In her book Humanity Works, she defines this as the ability to acquire the skills, knowledge, and mindset needed to be an engaged and productive member of the team. “For someone to be successful 10 years down the road, they need to be resilient and be able to reinvent themselves in different learning environments”, she reiterates.

In an increasingly modern, interpersonal workplace, soft skills are innate and not explicitly mentioned, but concluding that they hold no relevance is mere oversight. A ‘hard’ skill does not mean that it is hard to learn and, likewise, a ‘soft’ skill does not mean it is not critical. Though hard skills can be taught and perfected over time with task-related know-how, soft skills are transferable, invaluable, and often learned through life experiences. 

As technology, globalization, and demographic shifts continue to reshape businesses, the importance of soft skills in the context of productive and healthy work ecosystems cannot be more emphasized. Deloitte Access Economics forecasts that soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, with the number of jobs in soft-skill intensive occupations expected to grow at 2.5 times the rate of jobs in other occupations. Inarguably, bringing in the element of humanity into work as the workforce is gradually acclimating to hybrid and remote routines is the core to fostering trust and collaboration. The answers lie in recalibrating mindsets and synthesizing areas that spawn employees’ cognitive capabilities:

  • Making connections and conversations deliberate and meaningful
  • Practicing vulnerability to enable open communication
  • Embracing mindfulness and self-awareness through positive feedback loops
  • Embedding coaching and mentorship in Learning and Development strategy for modeling the requisite skills

With the macro approach to employee skills development gradually becoming passé, organizations are now discerning the fundamental need for improving human capital. Numly was founded to help organizations rise to the challenges of skills transformation by reinventing co-learning with peer coaching. Promoting employee engagement and talent performance through human connections, peer coaching, and critical skills development is the essence of our human resource transformation goals. Our commitment to skill-building largely encompasses the following:

  • Coaching effectively and listen actively by leveraging an extensive range of backgrounds and skills to enhance creativity, innovation, and problem-solving
  • Amplifying engagement by investing in your employees and nurturing soft skills like communication, self-assessment, and collaboration

Whilst organizations are striving to craft talent strategy to revitalize employees’ digital and cognitive capabilities, designing a portfolio of initiatives to close skill gaps ensures that the constant business pivots demands are nearly met with. The cornerstone for success with skill transformations is often large-scale, programmatic efforts that are central to skill-building and acclimating to changing ecosystems. Developing this muscle by harnessing the collective skills and knowledge of the workforce is key for bolstering organizational resilience.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

In the year 2019, Texas A&M’s Professor Anthony Klotz termed the predicted mass exodus from the workforce as ‘The Great Resignation’ in the post-pandemic world. Also called ‘The Great Awakening’, these phrases are often used to express a global phenomenon as we begin to surface from the pandemic. And recent research indicates that this phenomenon is nowhere close to the end.

The US job market had four million people quit their jobs in April 2021 with the confidence that they could find a better fit with higher salaries, reskilling and retraining opportunities, more flexible hours, and better work culture in a completely new industry altogether. With a record number of people quitting their jobs, the exodus amounted to four million U.S. workers that constitute almost 2.7 percent of the workforce – the highest rate since 2000. Wall Street Journal headlines quoted “Forget Going Back to the Office – People Are Just Quitting Instead.” 

Gallup found that 48 percent of employees were actively planning to make a transition in the next six months – employees would rather surrender their jobs than just revert to the ‘old normal’. Numerous experiences during the pandemic have empowered many to re-evaluate their work-life balance to prioritize their well-being above their employer. Some of the areas are pragmatic and related to the employees’ day-day and remote or hybrid work models. As a predictable response to the pandemic, the pre-pandemic employees who had already been teetering on the edge of quitting organizations with a toxic work culture saw themselves pushed to a breaking point. 

The issues driving the Great Resignation are typically variations of a theme. Some areas are largely existential and focus on whether the organizations are fulfilling a pivotal purpose in employee satisfaction and belonging with an admirable turnaround strategy. Also, several others pointed to discontent and a feeling of insecurity attributed to cost-cutting policies by their current employer due to the pandemic-related business slowdowns. 

A survey by the recruiting firm Robert Half cited stress and burnout, where 25 percent of employees forfeited paid time off in 2020, 44 percent were more burned out than they were a year ago, and 57 percent say they needed an extended ‘awaycation’ to unplug from work completely. 58 percent of workers felt optimistic that the job market would make a turnaround by the end of the year. Employees’ unflappable willingness to quit their offices and trade in old careers for greener pastures – ‘as a case for exploring better opportunities’, tells us a story. That, it may be prudent and insightful to acknowledge that greater flexibility, better benefits, and more supportive organizational cultures are now the cornerstone of employee purpose. 

The fundamental disparity in promotions, frozen appraisals, and indiscriminate layoffs impact poor performers in particular, with the executive leadership refusing to partake in the anguish. Whilst most organizational leaders are continuing to scramble with these post-pandemic implications, the effect on the global economy in the long term can be catastrophic if left unacknowledged.

Peer coaching for a caring culture 

The solution for all employers, however, is heavily reliant on building a caring culture. If the unprecedented shift in the workplace can be leveraged to create a culture of caring, employee satisfaction is ensured in meaningful ways that harbor loyalty and prevent them from looking at alternatives. Evidence published by a recent Stanford study states that many organizations with toxic environments drove out already disgruntled workers who survived the layoffs but were otherwise cognizant of working in an unsupportive environment. 

Data collated over the years has continued to reveal that what is valued the most is how organizations treat their employees. That is measured by key metrics such as wages, benefits, and security, and ample opportunities for advancement, psychological safety, and an unwavering commitment to equity. 

Peer coaching is the most critical of all contemporary learning competencies, and when augmented by Artificial Intelligence (AI), can be a potent development tool that cracks through common barriers to skill-building and penetrates the existing competencies in your organization. As opposed to traditional coaching, peer coaching synthesizes connections and transformational learning to ensure that employees are catalysts of change.

Peer coaching delivers a structure that advocates a continuous exchange of skills and experiences for delivering real-world solutions through guided questioning and discovery. The positive far-reaching impact of peer coaching is realized through motivation and self-exploration that resonates with personal success, and consequently organizational success. With organizations promoting decentralization in today’s accelerating work dynamic, the dissemination and management of change are ably addressed by peer coaching. Furthermore, peer coaching humanizes work, supports networking, and propels employee experience and fulfillment. With many learning functions currently stretched thin, the opportunity to elevate the social, experiential, and psychological paradigm of peer coaching makes it uniquely positioned to address the most pressing demands of the modern workplace paradigm. 

Embracing a change culture is about employees engaging in human conversations versus transactional conversations. The ‘so-called’ Great Resignation suggests that employees do want to work, but the ground reality of being burned out and demanding more workplace support remains. A regular ‘9-to-5’ workday seems less realistic at this point, and time at home has made people prioritize their autonomy and mental health over the bottom line of their employers. 

In the current workforce landscape, HR leaders and technology experts agree that bias and data issues deter AI’s ability to accurately predict employee flight risks. Although a host of AI-powered HR methods calibrate employee sentiment and empathy, the efficacy of these methods for the reversal of The Great Resignation essentially trickles down to the quality of data present with the organizations. Leaders must start conversations around what is important to their people, identify areas where they may be a shortfall of empathetic leadership, and converge on what is integral to people. The element of empathy driven in organizations through AI-enabled technology comes from elevating the employee experience journey with deep engagement at the core of learning policies, and collaborative and connected learning.

The forever changed workforce landscape has ensured that things are more than unlikely to return to the way they were, and organizations investing in maintaining high-performance cultures are beginning to see an evolution with their people. Conclusively, employees at all levels want to stay with organizations that value mental health and the very elementary need for human connections. Essentially, practices that were once considered a luxury are now imperative for driving loyalty and trumping the war of workforce attraction and retention. 

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

With organizations diving deeper into digital transformation, upskilling the workforce has moved to the forefront. While digital transformation is creating powerful business opportunities, it is also creating a skills gap. The dynamics of work are also constantly changing and evolving, and organizations have no option but to invest in advanced upskilling strategies to capably respond to market changes and cash on the opportunities. 

The World Economic Forum had predicted that more than 1 billion people globally would have to be reskilled by 2030 to meet the needs of jobs transformed by technologies. 

In today’s world characterized by a hybrid workplace and remote teams, focusing on ongoing upskilling and employee development has become imperative. 

As the impact of the pandemic, organizations have to not only upgrade technical skill sets but have to work towards developing a workforce that is agile and emotionally & mentally ready to tackle a transforming market. While there are clear advantages that upskilling brings to the table, given the forces of disruption at play, the traditional approach of creating annual training plans no longer remains effective. 

Market dynamics are compelling organizations to add new capabilities on the fly. They demand organizations to be flexible, agile, and resilient. In such a dynamic and constantly evolving market, organizations need to make their training and upskilling initiatives agile as well. 

Given these shifts, how can organizations plan their upskilling initiatives? 

Replace guesswork with data analytics for precision 

Jumping on the next upskilling fad and expecting your upskilling initiatives to work? Initiatives designed from a place of gut feel or trends usually end up in the skills graveyard. This is because training only sticks if it is relevant and contextual to the employee. Why should the employee enthusiastically upskill if they don’t feel the need or understand the role these skills will play in their career development? How will the training stick in the absence of relevance? 

Organizations need to engage their employees and help them identify these skill gaps not from gut feel but from data-backed tests. These tests have become crucial data points to evaluate the technical and power skill needs of the workforce. Behavior Analysis tests or 16 Personality Factor tests, for example, can help organizations and employees self-diagnose and identify their exact skill needs. 

With this information, organizations can create powerful peer coaching plans and leverage a robust, technology-enabled peer coaching platform to drive great results. With such a platform, it becomes easier to make the right coach and learner pairings. A comprehensive platform will also provide actionable insights from rich analytics on skill development, performance, employee engagement, and overall transformational insights. All of these make training outcomes more impactful and positive with lesser effort.    

Remove ambiguity in a hybrid world of work 

Employees across the world are battling challenging times. While the chaos and uncertainty that gripped the world of work in the initial days of the pandemic have mellowed, ambiguity and complexity prevails.. 

As employees and organizations move into the Future of Work, it becomes the organization’s responsibility to help the workforce settle into this hybrid world. 

  • News of work from home burnout, concerns regarding career paths, and work opportunities are on the incline. 
  • Managers have to now move from being bosses to virtual leaders
  • Leaders have to discover new leadership styles to suit this new world. 
  • New employees have to find and build trusted networks and paths for career development. 
  • New and old employees are working out how to augment their career paths while ensuring they remain visible. 

The challenges in this new world of work are aplenty and add to chaos and confusion.

Helping employees and management (leadership) find the right direction in uncertain times assumes strategic importance now. Traditional upskilling initiatives are not designed to be impactful in this new world simply because the rules of engagement have dramatically changed. As such, upskilling initiatives have to account for the unique needs of the workforce and help them contextually resolve their problems. 

Peer coaching networks help a great deal in removing most of the complexity that comes with ambiguity. Since peer coaches come with similar life experiences and work challenges, it becomes easier for the learner to connect with the peer coach, understand the context and implement the actions that need to drive behavioral change. As Peer Coaching is a measurable and contextual process, it can be leveraged to drive learning and upskilling programs and cover up those aspects that typical traditional training programs miss. 

Battle constant change with resilience 

If there is one thing that is set in stone is that ‘change is now constant’. Organizations have to now develop their workforce such that they can contribute to organizational resilience. Digital technologies are assisting organizations in this journey. Cutting-edge technologies such as AI are helping them improve business capabilities and outcomes. 

The key to survival and success in these disruptive times is to remain agile towards the workforce and organizational needs. As such, while organizations cannot completely do away with training planning for the whole year, it is essential to supplement it with peer coaching to address the more immediate needs of the workforce. Peer coaching can also be impactful in reinforcing learnings and driving behavioral change that ensures that new skills stick and are implemented at work.  

This becomes especially relevant in these trying times as employees battle to understand the new rules of engagement and figure out strategies for professional success in a remote, disconnected, and hybrid world. 

Peer coaches, through non-judgmental and informal exchanges, can help learners navigate challenges and hurdles with ease. Employees are also more receptive to feedback when it is presented in a timely, contextual and non-judgmental manner. Strong peer coaching also reaffirms learning by providing personalized and contextual nurture actions that include notifications, reminders, alerts, kudos, and more. These actions, along with contributing to skill enhancement, also aid employee engagement initiatives by delivering enablement to employees when they need it.

Connect with us to see how an AI-powered coaching platform can power up your upskilling initiatives and drive them with deep engagement insights from data analytics and Machine Learning-powered engagement scores.

By Madhukar Govindaraju , Founder & CEO

Research shows that those organizations that establish a culture of continuous learning are 46% more likely to be first to market, experience 37% higher productivity, and are 92% more likely to innovate. Given the increasing competition and rising disruption owing to technological developments as well as changes brought about by the pandemic, learning has to extend beyond technical skills and over to critical skills as well. 

For organizations to succeed and emerge from the impact of the pandemic, it is essential to create an environment that supports an open mindset, encourages an independent quest for knowledge, and helps people develop shared purpose – irrespective of whether they are working in-premise, working remotely, or using a hybrid work model. 

While organizations are supposed to provide formal learning opportunities, peer coaching. when encouraged across the organization can be immensely helpful to drive this cultural transformation where learning becomes a part of the organizational DNA. 

This is an important point of consideration mainly because culture shifts happen only when people own and drive the learning process. Peer coaching facilitates continuous learning and helps organizations boost employee engagement and experience, drive performance, reduce work-from-home burnout, and develop a healthy leadership pipeline. 

However, taking the right approach to peer coaching determines the likelihood of its success. Having a people-first and a data-driven approach are essential for this. 

‘People-first’ or fail 

Peer coaching has to be, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ 

It is perhaps the most democratized form of coaching and, hence, it experiences a high success rate. This is also because people change or become accepting towards change and growth when it is not forced, is relevant and contextual to their narrative, and is proactive. Since people are creatures of habit, change only takes place when certain actions are reaffirmed regularly. Constant reaffirmation of learnings becomes critical towards driving the behavioral changes needed to bring about a shift in actions. 

But what does a ‘people-first’ approach entail?

Different people, different needs

Not all employees are the same and neither are their coaching needs. As an organization to create a coaching culture to drive continuous learning, it is imperative to identify the exact learning needs of the people. Not all your employees need to improve their communication skills. Not all need coaching on strategic thinking. Get the drift? 

To develop a successful peer coaching program, it thus is essential to identify the different needs of the people at work and pair them with the right coaches and help them achieve their goals. Peer coaching programs have to recognize the different needs of people and capably serve only what is relevant and contextual to individual needs. A new recruit, for example, will have different coaching needs than the seasoned employee. 

Driving contextual peer coaching is important also because now we have more demographic diversity in the workforce than ever before. With Gen Z and millennials overtaking Gen X and baby boomers, accounting for their learning and development needs becomes imperative to drive employee engagement. 

Account for the manager’s ecosystem 

We were delivered to the Future of Work as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. There has been immense pressure on managers to ensure their teams remain high-performing, motivated, and productive. They have had to rework their management strategies to drive remote work while ensuring that the trust barometer and the engagement index remain unaltered. 

For new managers, the challenge has been to build trust bridges without getting the opportunity to leverage everyday physical interactions. And along with this, they have to achieve and deliver everything that the seasoned manager is delivering. 

Peer coaching can address the challenges, both every day and unique, to these managers and give them the tools to lead their teams and themselves efficiently. With constant dialogue, action is more proactive than reactive, building trust bridges with teams (especially remote teams) becomes easier, and decision-making is more confident. Peer coaching also helps new managers immensely as it helps them build their network and make the right connections essential for navigating the organization.  

Diversity and inclusion 

A ‘people-first’ approach also amplifies the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives across the organization. Today, a serious attitude towards diversity and inclusion is not just important for social value and perception, it is essential for profitability too. 

Peer coaching presents the perfect solution to assist diversity and inclusion initiatives as it helps people recognize both conscious and unconscious bias and helps them understand how their actions impact those unlike them. Since peer coaching is a continuous process, it can bring about the shift in behaviors that drive the change in actions. 

With peer coaching, those falling under the diversity and inclusion umbrella also get a fair chance to overcome their fears and perceived notions that impede success. Having a thriving peer coaching environment helps these people develop the networks and bridges they need to navigate their careers successfully without fear or judgment. 

Data-driven peer coaching – what is that?

The ‘gut feel’ and ‘intuition’ are two highly romanticized words in modern life. We hear geniuses of our generation like Einstein saying “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift”. We have Steve Jobs propounding “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition; they somehow already know what you want to become.” In this romanticizing, we tend to forget that intuition can be and is a very valuable ‘tool’. But it would be a mistake to base decisions on intuition or gut alone. 

Things are no different for peer coaching. A successful peer coaching program will be based on data and will try and leverage data wherever it can be employed for better decision-making and improved outcomes. 

But how can we apply a data-driven mindset to peer coaching?

Data to identify the coaching needs 

Identifying what needs to change comes before how it needs to change. Instead of jumping on the next coaching trend, develop the capacity to exactly identify the learning needs of the employees, especially for critical skills like strategic thinking, leadership, communication, etc. 

A people-first approach has to thus be complemented with a data-driven approach to drive contextual and relevant peer coaching programs. Data-backed assessments like Behavioral Assessment tests or 16-Personality Factor Assessments provide accurate insights on the exact learning needs of the employees. This data-backed approach thereby contributes towards creating relevant, contextual, and consequently, successful coaching programs. 

Tracking program impact 

You can only manage what you can measure. Coaching initiatives are no different. 

How can organizations understand the impact of their coaching programs and understand their effectiveness if they do not have access to granular data on the same? How can they assess if their initiatives are bringing about the shift in behaviors that they want? How can they identify if the organizational skill sets have expanded as desired? 

The answer to these and other such associated questions lies in data. Thus, it becomes essential to have the right tracking mechanisms in place. Using an AI-enabled coaching platform, organizations can capture feedback, track the impact of the peer coaching program by measuring the change brought about in organizational skill sets, and improve program structures when needed. 

Data to drive organizational resilience  

A data-driven peer coaching program becomes the enabler of continuous learning in an organization. Using data and technologies such as AI, a peer coaching platform can help people remain on the path of continuous learning. 

AI-powered nudges delivered at the right time can help people proactively identify their learning needs and keep them on the path of continuous learning. This approach also builds organizational resilience as when learning becomes proactive and continuous, people are more prepared to handle and manage change and disruption. All of this contributes towards employee resilience which contributes towards organizational resilience. 

While culture change starts at the top, you know your organization has made a successful transition towards the culture of continuous learning when employees drive their independent quests for knowledge. This will only happen when organizations make it easier for people to connect with the right resources who can help them without judgment, and help them eliminate their reservations against feedback, and provide growth opportunities. Having a thriving peer coaching network within the organization makes this a reality. 

Connect with us to know how NumlyEngage™ can help your organization develop a culture of continuous learning and drive organizational resilience by taking the people-first and data-driven approach.