P. Ravindra Pai is the Managing Director of Century Real Estate Holdings. He oversees all activities of the company including sourcing of land, managing people, planning, and execution. In a conversation with People Matters, he shares his thoughts on the impact on jobs because of the crisis and why skill development is more important than ever.
What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry in terms of jobs and skill development?
With COVID-19, like any other industry, real estate also faced a lot of challenges. Businesses were affected and people were laid off or served with pay cuts. While we ensured that salaries were paid timely, it was still a testing time. As lockdowns opened up and people started realizing the importance of having their own homes, the sector saw an uptick. Hence, the fear looming over the job market in our industry seems short-lived. The pandemic, however, nudged us all to reevaluate our ways of working with businesses adapting to the new normal. And so did their employees.
Today, right from a sales professional to someone working in the construction department has to become digital-first. Remote working has also pushed employees to stop working in silos and gain cross-functional knowledge. While real estate jobs are still going to remain the same at their core, there will be some fundamental changes. Sales leaders will have to get more innovative with the way they approach sales, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) teams will mitigate consumer concerns on delivery via periodic digitized construction progress reports instead of in-person meetings and so on.
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?
Companies will now have to be more proactive and predictive in their decision making to ensure business continuity and build organizational resilience. Their ensuing strategies should prioritize four elements - people management, stakeholder communication, short-term and long-term planning, and maximum use of Government support policies. For non-IT sectors, digital will play a big role. Real estate companies are already going digital as technology has equipped them with all necessary tools to get their businesses into motion even during lockdowns, and as a result, many real estate developers saw encouraging sales numbers.
The adoption of technology in various facets of working will lead to the upskilling of employees in CRM, sales, and other functions. Companies will also start identifying top performers to make them their evangelists both internally and externally, to drive a more native and deeper sense of how the business functions. In essence, a layer of mini CEOs with enhanced mindset and responsibility will be built to shoulder a larger portion of the business and also train their peers.
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?
The demand for smarter tech talent who can not only create and enable software but also understand emerging property technology like AI and ML and then use them for meaningful business outcomes will rise. New employment avenues will be created in areas such as real estate finance, research and marketing, and so on. We might also see the rise of a unique breed of talent - specialists possessing knowledge around the entire business cycle - who will anticipate, plan, create, and deliver efficiently. Strategy consultants delivering data-backed recommendations, collections agencies, financial advisors, credit-lenders, and project managers are likely to be more sought-after. Companies will also look for architects or product developers with a native sense of post-COVID product creation, in line with consumer requirements and UI/UX designers who can leverage consumer biases towards interactivity.
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?
If this happens, it will be a two way street. More global job opportunities will be available to professionals here as well. In terms of the effect of work from home, specifically for real estate, there will be an impact on product mix with a thinner bias towards commercial and retail portfolios. This will result in residential dovetailing consumer requirements more deeply into new product development and would be relayed to the allied jobs that specialise in these formats.
What should be the top criteria for businesses to manage employee performance and productivity amid the uncertainty?
In the last few months, both businesses and employees have faced many challenges and uncertainties. As I mentioned before, companies were focusing on balancing profit and losses which may or may not have led to cost cutting and layoffs. So, it is very important right now to make available open channels of communication for employees to air their grievances and also give them assurance on job security so that they can function effectively with peace of mind.
Organizations also need to reassess their performance management strategy in the current scenario. It's imperative to establish a fair process taking into consideration that WFH has become the norm and productivity has been impacted to a certain extent as employees have to adjust to complete / partial remote work, dealing with unexpected life changes, or juggling caregiving responsibilities. There is a need to reset expectations like extending deadlines for projects or deliverables to a certain degree without much impact on the overall objectives of the organization.
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?
In a post-pandemic world, jobs in real estate will only evolve to become more holistic with a 360-degree view on business. Professionals who will be averse to evolving with the role will be prone to these risks.
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.
Businesses are fighting tooth and nail right now, just to float. And they will continue to be more aggressive during COVID. Unfortunately, in our society there exists a bias that women would not be able to prioritize work or perform with an equal aggression. However, I do believe a change is stemming from within industries. Organizations that care about their employees and work with the right mindset have risen above this bias and today we see so many female leaders among us doing well in their respective fields.