In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. 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. 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.
In a recent interview with Shilpa Vaid, HR Head, Prione & Cloudtail, we discuss the evolving job landscape amid the pandemic and how employees and employers can prepare for it.
In the post-pandemic days, there may be jobs that get lost forever. 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. How do you see the job landscape shaping up?
The pandemic has brought in large scale shifts to how work is done, the work force and the workplace. For me, the biggest change in the job landscape is that the post COVID-19 world will see gig and freelance workers becoming more mainstream – this is partly a result of the pressure organizations are facing and will continue to face in managing their fixed costs and can partly be attributed to the accelerated adoption of remote and digital working in the last few months. But equally this necessitates that companies and HR leaders prepare for assessing, rewarding, and managing this flexible workforce and strengthen employee experience in the digital workplace.
The pandemic has resulted in companies investing in automation and cognitive technologies more than ever before and this will lead to even greater demand for certain jobs that have been on the rise in the last few years. Some obvious examples include data engineers and scientists given the increased reliance on data; cyber security given the increased remote working; digital marketing, machine learning & artificial intelligence roles given the exponential increase in online & digital services.
I also believe that some newer jobs will emerge in the post COVID world or will now come at a premium. Services on call/demand at home; online education & coaching; workplace designers to ensure employee health & safety will see a spike in demand. The other aspect that most of us in the corporate world don’t recognize is the vulnerability that this pandemic has created for workers in the informal economy or those in frontline jobs whose roles come with occupational risks. It is imperative that companies take appropriate measures to ensure physical and mental well-being of their ‘at – risk’ populations.
What are the gaps, you think, holding people back from making the transition between obsolete roles and in-demand roles? How can these gaps be bridged?
The pandemic has impacted jobs and roles, but it is essentially skills that mattered and will continue to matter and therefore we need to focus on skill gaps vs. obsolete and in-demand roles. The responsibility of getting the workforce equipped with the skills that will matter in the future is shared between the company and all of us as employees. There are functional skills that are more in demand today but there are other softer skills that will never cease to be important even with the advent of newer technologies. Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others.
The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills – to my mind the future of work will be about elevating the work that humans do; not just eliminating it.
Organizations need to invest in identifying what skills will be in demand in the medium to longer term and which create competitive advantage for the business; help our employees understand what is changing & what it means for them and offer learning support for employees to re-skill & upskill themselves. We need to encourage employees to develop critical skills that potentially open up multiple opportunities for their career development, rather than preparing for a specific next role. Organizations that are willing to enable this learning journey will be able to not only address current skill shortages but also anticipate the demands of the future.
For employees, it is essential that they recognize that we are in a new normal and we need to let go of the past. Careers will not exist in the way that they did before “learnability,” or the capacity to learn new skills and adapt quickly, matters more than what a worker already knows. We must be ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
The only way the skills gap will be bridged is if companies and employees think deeply about how work is changing and take decisive actions to prepare themselves.
What technology trends do you see emerging with respect to the future of work? How can leaders prepare for this future of work?
The future of work has an impact on the work, workforce and workplace. It is estimated that 65 percent of today’s school children will work in roles that have not even been invented or envisioned yet.
In the last decade or so; we have witnessed unprecedented changes in technology & automation that have impacted legacy jobs and made skills obsolete. New age cognitive technologies like robotics, speech recognition, machine learning are now being used to design workflows that minimise human involvement and in the process changing jobs by taking over mundane tasks. Driverless cars, bots, augmented, and virtual reality have set in motion unimaginable facets of robotization that directly and impact people and work. There is human – machine collaboration at the workplace and with machines doing part of the roles that humans used to, there is a big opportunity to reshape ‘work’ so we can leverage humans for their unique value and for what machines are not capable of.
As leaders, we have an opportunity that has been accelerated by this pandemic. We can simplify our transactional work processes to become more digital by investing in artificial intelligence and other cognitive technologies; we can reimagine jobs by freeing up the time of our skilled employees to focus on critical thinking and work that creates value and most importantly; we can use this time to revisit our customer experience by putting them at the centre and forefront of our business. There has never been a better time for companies to innovate and evolve.
But a word of caution as we begin leveraging digital labour in place of human labour; we need to ensure that we don’t create a workplace that is devoid of human connectivity. And like I shared before, our primary role as leaders is to help employees understand that humans and machines will co-exist. While some skills will become redundant, newer ones will emerge. And that there will be adequate work, but people will need to evolve, upgrade themselves & acquire new skills.
As a leader, how are you preparing for the now and the future of work?
At Cloudtail, our current focus is to enhance employee experience while our colleagues work remotely by defining WFH guidelines, extending infrastructural support to our employees, doubling down on our well-being initiatives and adopting tools for virtual collaboration. We are also looking at reviewing and aligning our recruiting, performance management and learning programs to support this new reality of remote working and getting our workplace ready to welcome back employees whilst ensuring their health & safety. And finally, reinforcing our organizational culture and commitment to inclusion in this new normal is a key priority for us.
The last six months have been a learning for us to determine which roles can work remotely without an impact on productivity and this will serve as an input to our workforce composition choices in the future. As an organization, we have always prioritized automation of our work processes in the past and that focus has been accelerated further. We also continue to be committed to upskilling our employees who work in areas where there is significant evolution in the way work is done. An example of the same is the targeted capability building program for our In-stock managers.
Last but not the least, we continue to build leaders who can thrive in the face of relentless and often radical changes. Our flagship leadership development program, ‘Transform’ helps prepare upcoming leaders with the skills needed to operate in this new world.