The chemical industry has witnessed several changes in the way it operates, especially over the past decade. Led globally by consolidations, and an all-pervasive impact of digital technology and lean portfolios, organizations must rapidly change and adapt to these new realities. This will have to be done keeping in mind the industry challenges of high capital investments, R&D costs, IPR protection, and environmental regulation, amongst others.
Furthermore, the chemical industry in India is poised to tap into the larger opportunity that the business presents, both, in the domestic and global markets. As the seventh largest chemicals producer in the world, the Indian chemical industry is projected to nearly double to $403 billion by 2025. To fuel this growth, companies must have a special focus on acquiring and retaining talent, their most critical asset.
• Attracting Young Talent
Traditionally, the chemical industry has focused on senior-level talent acquisition and retention for the expertise they hold in this domain. Most of the knowledge and experience resides with these senior executives as they have been in the sector for long stretches. This is not a good sign for the future of the industry, as many may be poised for an exit, creating a void as they hang their boots. A 2015 Deloitte study estimates that in the US market alone, around 23% of chemical industry employees are expected to retire in less than a decade from now. This is not very different from the situation in many other countries, including India. It is crucial to inculcate a transition mechanism and central to this will be attracting new blood.
The industry is heading towards a potential skill shortage as freshers come in with less domain expertise than what currently resides within the industry. This is what the industry should focus its efforts on. The existing gaps will be filled by millennials, whose idea of an aspirational career usually may not include working in the chemical industry as a first choice. To make up for this, companies must invest more and more in reskilling and on the job training (OJT) for existing employees especially since technological integration is changing the way we work. This will also help chemical companies attract fresh talent that value this in an employer.
• Cultural Diversity
Integrating a wider range of employees coming in from different backgrounds, age and experience will be vital factors at the time of hiring. To succeed in these times, chemical industry professionals must embrace diversity of knowledge, insights, and experience that each employee brings to the table. This is an important aspect in the current scheme of things, where the market is plagued with uncertainty and volatility. Gender parity is another area where diversity is imperative. While the number of women in senior executive positions has risen over the years, chemical companies continue to lag behind on adequate representation of women in operational and management roles. A gradual transition of roles is necessary in the sector in order to maintain gender diversity and an inclusive work environment. It is, after all, a key driver of business performance as global research has consistently shown.
• Maintaining Work-Life Balance
Given the difficult and stressful environments that the like of chemical engineers often have to work in, organizations will have to seriously confront issues relating to their mental health and well-being. This has a direct correlation with their productivity and much needed creative abilities for problem-solving and innovation.
With the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the chemical industry, ensuring a positive work environment is no longer a choice but an overarching imperative for companies that wish to thrive and succeed in the business. Talent has, for long been cited as the most important asset by businesses, but more as a politically correct thing to say. In the chemical industry, especially now, this is being accepted as a reality that companies must work on.