Skills Reset: Industries Invest in Building New Capabilities
By Potshangbam July

Professionals across industries need to upgrade their skills to match market demand. PMI South Asia is partnering with the Confederation of Indian Industry to bridge the skills divide in the workforce in traditional industries and improve the competitiveness of organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped break down some of the toughest barriers to change, accelerating the adoption of new technologies, skillsets, and ways of working across industries. Sectors like automotive, construction, manufacturing, and heavy industry are witnessing a rapid shift from traditional operating models to tech-enabled operations to improve business agility and productivity. According to the PMI’s Pulse of the Profession™ report, 82% of project professionals in India see digital transformation as a key driver of change in their organizations in the past year. However, digital transformation is not easy for any organization – they need to not just upgrade processes but also upskill their people to adopt a digital mindset.

Leading industry association, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), recently tied up with PMI South Asia to offer skilling opportunities to employees of CII member organizations. PMI will custom create a range of offerings for these organizations to raise the competitiveness of the manufacturing and allied core industries. These will be delivered in the form of knowledge sessions, self-paced learning courses, and certifications. PMI will offer guidance and empower project professionals and changemakers with new skills, capabilities, and knowledge to help them deliver greater value to their organizations.

Organizations need such enterprise-wide skilling strategies to make transformation a success. In today’s Project Economy, fast and flexible is the name of the game for teams in response to unprecedented change and complexity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations will need to upgrade not just their employees’ technical skills but also project management skills and strategic business management skills.

Companies need new policies and practices that encourage employees to take ownership of their own development, and maneuver quickly to the new work environment.

Project managers need to continuously access the skills gaps in their teams and proactively introduce new learning initiatives. For instance, a project team in a construction company that needs to collaborate across all project phases now needs to get used to remote collaboration. Or supply chain managers need to develop critical thinking to analyze the vast amount of data at their disposal and improve decision-making, and a strategic mindset to drive business results. Project managers hence need to assess the team’s familiarity with digital tools, business understanding, and communication skills.

Besides digital fluency, teams need power skills such as collaborative leadership, emotional intelligence, problem-solving, resilience, and an innovative mindset to thrive in the changing business environment.

Manage South Asia reached out to senior practitioners in traditional, project-oriented industries to understand how they are equipping their employees with new capabilities to deliver business results.

Unlearn to Relearn and Embrace Change
The automotive sector is one of the core sectors of the Indian economy, which, to a great extent, serves as a bellwether for the current state of the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the automotive industry with many unforeseen challenges, ranging from a shortage of semiconductors and dip in the sale of commercial vehicles to shattered supply chains and disruption of all electrical fleets and batteries. These have resulted in an economic slowdown.

In these uncertain times, the role of project managers is key in how they conduct the day-to-day planning and execution of projects. ‘Unlearn to relearn’ needs to become the mantra for success. Embracing change and upgrading skills to suit the business needs is paramount. The critical skills include stakeholder management and engagement, and integration skills with the ability to present a strategic vision of the project and plan holistically in the ever-changing environment.

Besides managing the changing operational priorities, project managers should acknowledge and understand the personal challenges faced by co-workers. It is vital that they demonstrate empathy and support them in these hard times.

Since concerns over COVID-19 continue, we are conducting interviews, onboarding, trainings, assessments, and audits online. Everybody must embrace these changes. We need to follow international standards and methodologies along with guidelines to stay in touch with the emerging trends to run the business.

Empower your teams to learn new skills, with constant coaching from the organizational and project leaders. Teams need the ability to develop critical thinking and cognitive skills to deal with the crisis. Project managers must also change their leadership style from coercive leadership to coaching to boost team morale.

Not survival of the fittest, but survival of the agilest is now the new phenomenon for project managers, with a focus on profit, people, and process (PPP) to deliver the optimal results for projects.

Krishna Mohan is a business transformation leader with 19 years of experience in product engineering, program management, and business excellence.
Adopt a Collaborative Approach in Construction Projects 
Organizations witnessed new challenges as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded. Infrastructure projects faced difficulties related to productivity, worker health, supply chain, and output quality. The crisis created a necessity to continuously upskill and reskill the workforce to manage risks, and deliver results.

While conventional skills such as planning, coordinating, organizing, engaging with stakeholders, proactive risk mitigation, effective communication, document control, estimation, financial management, and contracts and claims management continue to impact performance, some of the behavioral dimensions also require attention. Special focus is required in areas relating to information management, interface management, digitalization, hybrid project management, and emotional intelligence while working in an environment that has faced disruption.

Gone are the days of the conventional waterfall approach. We need to build skills that help project personnel to appreciate the requirement of agile and hybrid approaches while dealing with the changes. Every construction manager should understand the schedule model and explore accelerated construction and leverage floats when hit by uncertainties.

Project directors and key team members need to develop a good understanding of working capital management and project cashflow. It is also important that construction and project managers effectively mobilize and demobilize the workforce quickly when there is a need, and minimize potential losses to a project. They should develop a holistic approach toward prime and sub-contract management. They should anticipate disruptions that could be of a similar proportion as COVID-19 or any smaller local disruptions, and proactively manage risks.

Digitalization is gaining more significance, and is an integral part of the project implementation approach. The modern workforce should be familiar with business digitalization such as the use of business analytics and engineering digitalization like building information modelling (BIM). The adoption of BIM should become wider and deeper, which will help in project design, construction processes, logistics, schedule management, cost management, procurement, progress tracking, operational assessment, clash detection, and ease of maintenance. Beyond BIM, there are many other areas, including the use of drones, predictive analysis, virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things, and autonomous equipment management. We need to adopt a collaborative approach supported by a digitally trained workforce to take project implementation to the next level.

Ravishankar Chandrasekaran has more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry in India and abroad. His specialities include construction planning, construction technology, proposals, contracts, and business acquisition.
Must-Have Skills to Return to the Pre-COVID-19 World  
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken organizations, including Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), to the core, resulting in unprecedented business disruption and setbacks.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced in this crisis is the restriction on physical presence, as it is not feasible to carry out certain tasks remotely. Besides the operational challenges, organizations have to deal with frequently changing COVID-19 safety guidelines tha t compel them to adapt to new business processes quickly. Moreover, lockdowns have paralyzed logistics operations and disrupted the entire supply and delivery chain. This has led to failure to meet customer demands, thereby posing a threat to a company’s brand and reputation.

To emerge stronger from these challenges, adaptive project management skills are the key. Flexible and adaptive approaches and practices are needed to handle these uncertain times. Project leaders must empower employees with multiple skillsets to ensure business continuity as the situation may demand that employees slip into a new role. Some of the must-have requirements in the new ecosystem are technology adoption and adaptation, agile practices, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, critical resource optimization, strategizing, communication, and supply chain resilience. Additionally, reskilling the workforce instills team confidence and enables quick issue redressal and risk management. Employees need to develop skills in managing relationships with stakeholders, including vendors, driving innovation, and conducting stock management efficiently.

Going forward, BEL is focusing on vaccinating employees, crafting new partnerships and collaborative approaches, contract reviews, and quick end-to-end strategy re-alignment. Our focus will be on these key elements to quickly return to the pre-crisis level and ensu re further growth.

Jagadeesh Kumar R, PMP, has vast project management experience and expertise in transformers- Electronic Warfare and Avionics (EWA), radar, military communications (MILCOM), naval systems (NS), Project Manager- Stators and Magnetics, and aero-export products.