There is a cloud of crisis on livelihood on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between April-June 2020, the world lost almost 400 million full-time jobs due to the pandemic, according to statistics released by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The pandemic continues to result in job losses and pay cuts and will lead to many jobs becoming redundant while at the same time, push the creation of newer jobs.
How can different industries reimagine jobs in order to future proof them? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Anil Salvi - MD & Group Head, Human Resources, JM Financial, shares his thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted the BFSI industry and its impact on jobs and skilling.
Between April-June 2020, the world lost almost 400 million full-time jobs due to the pandemic, according to statistics released by the International Labour Organization (ILO). India and other South Asian countries have collectively lost 110 million jobs in Q2 of 2020. What do you think are the implications of this for the Indian economy?
The pandemic impact on the economies across the world has been immense and each has tried to respond to the crisis with all measures that they could take, fiscal and otherwise. As the global economy has become more integrated, inter-dependent, and inter-connected than ever, the stress the major economies of the world are going through is having a spill-over effect beyond their respective geographical boundaries. The pandemic has turned out to be a continued global tsunami with all across ripple impact.
Indian economy is now well integrated with the global markets with the export-led and import-dependent employment opportunities taking up a sizeable part of the employment spectrum across industries. Thus, the overall employment became one of the immediate casualties soon after the businesses started facing headwinds. Social contact and travel have been severely restricted as a part of the precautionary measure to reduce pandemic spread; the related industries like travel and hospitality have taken the biggest and immediate hit. What is more worrying is the fact that a major part of the direct and indirect employment in these industries is unorganized without any organizational or social safety net support. Hence, it will be difficult to fathom the exact numbers. The alternate employment opportunities available have always been a backup for the major part of the unorganized workforce. But COVID-19 has eroded those opportunities, too.
“Reduced earning ability coupled with restrictions has led to reduced demand and overall consumption contraction. The fact that no one had any contingency measures planned for such event will make the recovery a long learning experience.”
The highly uncertain recovery in the second half of the year will not be enough to go back to pre-pandemic levels, even in the best scenario, warns the ILO. How do you think the BFSI industry will be affected?
BFSI sector which directly and indirectly employs and hires a significant share of the workforce of the country is neither isolated from the COVID-related developments nor resilient to the challenges emanating from the current scenario. Capacity-building of the organization which is majorly driven by the business buoyancy has become the immediate casualty in the BSFI sector due to a rather uncertain future. The pandemic hit the market right at the time of ‘hiring season’, adversely impacting the employment opportunities for the students passing out from colleges in 2020.
Most companies couldn’t visit campuses and some did not honor their offers previously extended to the eligible students. The students of the current academic year will sadly be known as COVID impact batch that will have extremely limited employment opportunities.
“The scenario reminds me of 2008-09 when students suffered dearly because of the financial crisis.”
Nevertheless, the sector has adopted various employee safety measures, in addition, to cost control measures like discretionary spend control and cash flow conservation by limiting travel and office spends. Such measures have had a cascading effect on other ancillary and dependent businesses which are inherently labor-intensive. The travel, office courier, and stationery businesses and the employment in those businesses has been hit hard. Hence, it is incorrect to evaluate the Covid-19 impact from a specific sectoral point of view, as it has a wider ramification.
In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. Which jobs do you think in the BFSI industry are more prone to these risks?
In the post-pandemic phase, some jobs will cease to exist thanks to technology intervention. Roles involving major manual efforts will become redundant as technology is fast reducing human involvement in operations. The customer-facing roles too would undergo change and those would need different skill sets.
While discussing employability we should take into account both the elements; volume and competencies. I am afraid in the short term we may witness a phase of redundancy in both aspects as I don’t foresee employee count going up while certain skillsets becoming redundant.
The pandemic has proven to be a litmus test that we could not have experienced in pre-COVID period and therefore, we’re just not able to conceive its business impact. The organizations have learned it the hard way and managed to explore and discover newer ways of staying relevant.
“Moreover, there will be a redundancy of certain approaches and attitudes usually demonstrated by staff. During pre-COVID environment, there was tolerance towards these attitudes. But, many such attitudes would become dispensable post-COVID.”
The new set of attitudes and values that would become critical are willingness to change, working collaboratively, being proactive, and highly ethical. As a majority of the workforce is working beyond the usual supervision or without any organizational monitoring mechanism, with only self-prudence as the guiding principle, ‘trust’ would become the most critical engagement measure.
On the other hand, the organizations will have a minimal tolerance towards negative, disruptive and non-collaborative attitudes going forward. Employees with such non-productive attitudes will initially get isolated and eventually become unfeasible and hence redundant.
On the other hand, there are some jobs that can become more important than ever. In fact, a new category of jobs may emerge altogether in the post-pandemic days in BFSI. What do you think are some of these jobs to be?
As I said, a new set of competencies will emerge. Those who have the ability to demonstrate positive energy, pro-activeness, willingness to reach out, transparency, and accessibility and ability to follow ethical standards would be in great demand. At the same time, some roles will witness consolidation. While these roles may not be part of the organizations, these will eventually become a part of some other organizational set-ups, maybe through outsourced model or services structures. The roles which are not core and critical to the organizations would fall under this category. Given the change in the canvas and advent of the digital world, certain associated skillsets falling under the remit of digital risk and security functions would be in great demand both within the organizations and across the sectors.
“Hiring, at the end of the day, is a zero-sum game. We have witnessed over time, certain roles became redundant, not valued, and unfeasible in developed economies only to reappear in developing economies where they were valued and feasible. These roles actually traveled geographies.”
A similar change will happen here too, as key roles will get consolidated and non-core activities will be managed separately to ensure efficiency and flexibility. Additionally, technology will help in achieving efficiency with lesser resources without compromising the quality of the outcome. Simultaneously, the tech-revolution will open up employment opportunities in various segments.
As employers, employees and economies transform amid the COVID-19 times, it is essential to identify the jobs that will be in demand and help the current and future workforce prepare for them. What do you think are the skills that are going to gain prominence post-pandemic?
Soft skills and tech-related competencies will be in great demand post-pandemic.
“The soft skills in particular have emerged as the key differentiator, as they help people manage adverse situations, develop an entrepreneurial perspective, work collaboratively, and influence the decision-making process.”
Emotional intelligence, critical thinking, flexibility, and adaptability are some skillsets that have gained importance as the pandemic impact has rewritten the criteria to assess employability to a great extent.
As technology is changing the face of the BFSI sector and taking the center-stage, all skills which will facilitate this transition for the organization will be valued and gain prominence.