Digital disruption or Tech talent wars: What will it take to win?
The tech disruption narrative has moved beyond words and rhetoric, rather comprehensively. Focussed research and on-ground actions have ensured that. A PwC report last year had estimated the global opportunity of AI to be about 15.7 trillion dollars, by 2030. More recently, about a month back, a report released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY), Government of India, stated that India’s digital economy could expand enormously from $200 billion (currently) to as much as $1 trillion by 2025. Approximately, $385–$505 billion of economic value will come from the new and emerging eco-systems which use digital to increase efficiency.
Clearly, it is understandable why there’s a rush among nations to capture the largest share of the pie. And talent has emerged as the new competitive advantage that companies and nations will have to develop to stay ahead in this game.
India has been the nerve-centre of the IT revolution for more than two decades. Our industry had put the nation on the world map during the 3rd Industrial Revolution, with a pool of skilled IT professionals who were inexpensive and proficient in English, thus making significant inroads into the Silicon Valley. However in the 4th Industrial Revolution, India is confronted with an enormous challenge with respect to its TALENT – though, India is not alone! Almost every nation is facing this challenge today in varying degrees.
As new technology adoption gathers momentum, many job roles will become redundant but at the same time, a lot more will be created. According to the WEF’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, technology disruption will create 133 million new jobs. In order to take advantage of the opportunity, a massive reskilling effort is required. Interestingly, the report also pointed out that on an average, employees will need 101 days of retraining and upskilling.
The private sector will only be able to profitably reskill 25% of the workforce which is at-risk. (Based on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that has projected that 1.37 m workers are likely to be displaced over the next 10 years in the US). For the government, it is profitable to reskill majority of its “at risk” workforce as the cost of reskilling is significantly lower than the costs of welfare and societal disruption. All of this can improve substantially if there is a collaborative response across industry, academia and government. Re-skilled employees have greater earning potential which translate into higher salaries.
Many countries have already understood this and have set up national talent agendas. For instance, Singapore, France, Canada and Egypt have already made significant strides on this front. Singapore, through both public and private sector initiatives has provided citizens access to a variety of opportunities for continuous learning and reskilling. The French Government from the year 2020, will grant the working age population, a credit of Euros 5000 to spend on training of their choice. Likewise, in Egypt, an online skilling platform ‘NTL’ brings together various learning content providers, across 44 learning tracks (AI, Blockchain, Android etc). It provides 100% subsidy on all learning tracks to learners.
If we invest in reskilling appropriately, we can be certain of transforming into a trillion-dollar digital economy which the Government has envisioned.
India’s IT-ITES industry (comprising about 4 million people) is making a massive effort to reskill employees, prepare them for the future to make sure no one is left behind. Until now, NASSCOM research suggests that 600,000 employees across the industry have already been fully or partially reskilled. The largest four IT firms in India that have a collective employee base of about a million people, have already reskilled 20% - 50%% of their workforce in new emerging technologies, in areas such as cloud, analytics and agile software development. Other firms are also driving reskilling hard and the industry is implementing innovative learning models to drive workforce reskilling. For example, at Genpact, there is a shift in focus from ‘reskilling individual employees’ to ‘reskilling a group of people working together’ to augment their collective intelligence. Clearly, it’s a departure from traditional I-shaped upskilling to T-shaped reskilling where employees get to learn from each other which enables them to interoperate better and leverage the power of collective intelligence. Likewise at Wipro, the TopGear platform provides virtual development environment for the employees to gain hands-on experience in emerging digital skills. Structured learning paths enable employees to develop skills that suit business requirement. WNS has replicated a university-like structure called ‘WNS Education’ that’s learner driven and offers structured curriculum based programs. These programs have a longer tenure and is almost equivalent to enrolling in a part time course.
This year, the scope of the initiative has expanded to include the Academic ecosystem to help transform universities in their journey to be able to supply skilled digital talent as per the industry’s needs. The FutureSkills for Universities initiative includes the reskilling of faculty – which is critical for sustainability. The Faculty Development Programme in AI, aims to co-create a faculty development ecosystem that strengthens and prepares students for future.
Reskilling is the collective responsibility of the Government, Industry and the Academia. On one hand, companies will need to take the lead in building and strengthening capacity within their organizations for a seamless transition towards future; on the other hand, they will increasingly need to partner with other stakeholders for managing the large-scale upskilling challenges. Collaboration with academia to build sustainable talent pipelines will be the key. Government will also have a crucial role to play in creating appropriate infrastructure and ecosystem for cultivating a culture of lifelong learning. A multi-stakeholder coalition is our best bet to make India the global hub for digital talent.