Sushil Khaitan, CEO& Director of PureNutrition.me is a seasoned and experienced entrepreneur, with about 30 years of experience in the metal manufacturing and marketing industry, He played a fundamental role in carving the company’s tremendous progression route and also entering into the health sector. In a conversation with People Matters, the senior industry leader spoke about job loss, winding up of industries, and importance of technology.
What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry in terms of jobs and skill development?
The pandemic has affected almost all the industries and has certainly not spared the nutraceutical niche. In the initial months of the lockdown, we faced numerous challenges. Our productions were shut, sourcing raw materials were tough, it was difficult delivering products to our customers, team coordination was slow and much more. But the most heart-breaking impact of the pandemic was the number of people losing their jobs. However, slowly and steadily the industry is standing back on its feet. People are getting their jobs backs and things are falling into places.
As far as skill development is concerned, a lot of people, especially the senior, experienced members of the industry, have learned to use technology effortlessly and efficiently. And even though most of them are working from home, I’ve seen people work more diligently and coordinate with colleagues smoothly.
Between April-June 2020, the world lost almost 400 million full-time jobs due to the pandemic, according to ILO. How can we rebuild and reimagine jobs amid the coronavirus crisis for businesses to stay future-ready?
I believe, the reason that we lost millions of jobs is not the pandemic, but the lack of preparedness for a situation as such. The terms ‘telecommunication’ and ‘telework’ were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973 and yet 47 years later we were still stuck with the idea that only an office environment can bring out productivity. It took us that long and a pandemic to realize how wrong we were. Perhaps, if we would’ve accepted the idea of remote working, and built our system on it, we may have not lost so many jobs.
For the future, it is crucial that we understand the importance and the benefits of remote working, train our people for it and build a system flexible enough to keep switching between the office and home.
Additionally, I also think that every company needs to have an employee-first approach in terms of catering to its finances, mental health, etc. As after all, they are our true resources.
How do you see the job landscape five years down the line? Which jobs will be in demand and which ones you think can become redundant or transform?
Jobs won’t become redundant, but the system of a company or an industry will, which may have an indirect effect on the jobs. Industries that are not technologically advanced may fall out of the line in a few years. To ensure that you have a stronghold of your business and your brand, it is essential that you stay in line with technological advancements. And in the next five years, I see AI paving its way into almost every industry. This might also affect the job market in the long run.
Do you think the new work from home phenomenon can transform the job market? Will this give rise to a global competition for every single job role?
It may increase the competition once it’s a well-established system. As of now, it’s still a concept that we’re exploring and trying to get used to. Remote working and working from home need a few more years to rise to a global competition for every job.
What should be the top criteria for businesses to manage employee performance and productivity amid the uncertainty?
Communication. There has to be smooth communication between employers and employees to manage productivity and ensure good performance. Additionally, make sure that your employees get the right tools and information for their tasks. While this may seem redundant, often minor aspects such as - lagging computers or partial information cause losses to the company as well as bring down employee morale. Another key factor is motivation, keep a mid-term appraisal cycle. If a salary hike seems tough, encouraging words and working as per employee feedback also helps. Last but not least, empathy. Understand that the times are uncertain and offer support for their mental health and other issues to keep them bonded with you. Employee loyalty also helps their productivity.
In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. Which jobs do you think in your sector are more prone to these risks?
According to me, there aren’t any specific jobs or job profiles that may be lost in the post-pandemic days. It’s people who are prone to the risk. People who are not adept, who lack the ability to fit into this constantly changing work environment, who are not ancillary to the company, maybe at risk of losing their jobs.
Therefore, it’s best that everybody starts utilizing the time they have and invest it in upgrading their skills. Being multifaceted will go a long way in retaining jobs.
According to a recent finding by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more than 220 MN women globally are in vulnerable sectors. They expect 31 MN to lose their jobs, as opposed to 13 MN men. Your thoughts.
For me, it’s not a gender-biased criterion. All the industries across the globe believe in and promote gender equality, and I don’t think it’ll only affect women or affect them more. As I said before, in times as such when the economy has been hit this hard, the people who are not adept, and those who are not ancillary to the company may be at higher risks of losing their jobs. This is not something that only women should be afraid of.