Suneel Wasan has experience of working across global multicultural organizations with a combination of experience both in leading Human Resource function as well as functioning as a senior technical professional in various infrastructure engineering consultancy organizations of repute. In the last three years, the industry leader is also managing the responsibility of COO at Egis Geoplan.
In an interaction with People Matters, he shared his thoughts on the upcoming job market and what role technology will play to create new types of jobs.
What is the impact of COVID-19 on your industry in terms of jobs and skill development?
If we talk about jobs on a global scale, 19 million people lost jobs since April, the majority of them falling in the manufacturing sector. Engineering, consulting Industry was also no exception. When the lockdown started end of March 2020, the situation was tough, there were apprehensions, ongoing infrastructure projects got suddenly stalled and there was a situation of uncertainly all around as to when the situation will be back to normal and when the ongoing projects will again commence. Gradually, central and various state governments realized that stalling projects is no solution and it will hit the economy hard. Although it was a gradual process, the works started at various projects sites – both sponsored by central, state government & multi-lateral funded project with necessary advisory as per Government Advisory and today, we can say that our industry has achieved a better rate of normalcy in comparison to many other industries.
The adoption of new ways of working has necessitated the acquiring of new digital skills and the use of online learning platforms which has given new dimensions to skill development. The learning of new tools is paving way for more productivity and becoming a boon to support new ways of working in the face of disruptors like a pandemic. The importance of technology in supporting online skill development is also finding new norms and bringing the world together in the field of education, innovation, and new forms of collaborative practices.
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?
These are difficult times and it requires careful thinking. COVID-19 is the most serious health crisis the world has experienced in a century—and it could also be one of the biggest destroyers of jobs in human history. In this scenario, special focus is needed on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which account for the majority of jobs in India, and many of whose viability has been put at risk by the crisis. The government has done interventions to boost economic activity and recreate jobs by providing many incentives for its revival. These constitute industries in all sectors i.e. manufacturing retail, infrastructure, agricultural food processing, tourism, etc. Few sectors - for example, FMCG, call-center, and information- and communication technology (ICT) sectors, there have been significant new job opportunities. The government is making all efforts to promote various sectors to create further jobs. Agriculture, healthcare, and associated industries, infrastructure construction sector are certain key sectors where large growth and employment opportunities exist and further potential can be explored.
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?
All sectors are important for the balanced development of the economy and each sector has its own role. Whereas growth is anticipated in all sectors in the long run, but if we speak about the short term, the role of healthcare, Pharmaceutical, FMCG, IT, Digital companies will be more due to the current scenario in demand for healthcare, online delivery in demand and digital transformation is the order of the day. But, the role of other sectors is no less in the development and they will pick up after the fear of epidemic goes away in a few months/few years. But, the fact remains that jobs will change in terms of its nature – due to increased emphasis on digital transformation.
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?
New technologies will reshape millions of jobs. Technology will be an enabler for creating new types of jobs. Digital technologies will change the ways of doing the job. Jobs requiring a combination of digital and non-cognitive skills (communication, planning, teamwork…) are expected to tend to be better in demand. Remote working will transform the job market and could mean a truly global competition for every single job role.
When one can work from home, one could potentially work from anywhere, which means the job market could become truly globalized. It is a known phenomenon that there has always been global competition for strategic talent for strategic jobs but that will not be the case anymore for only strategic roles. For most other jobs, there has been a limited local talent pool. If you applied for a job at a local company, you could be sure that there were only a certain number of potential candidates that would apply for the same job.
A global job market could mean that there could potentially be thousands of applicants, and they could be from anywhere in the country, or indeed in the world. Word will be closer and more collaboration will enable potential talents to find better opportunities for work.
What should be the top criteria for businesses to manage employee performance and productivity amid the uncertainty?
In the prevailing uncertain times, it will be important to adjust the workplace to work remotely through digital collaboration tools. It will be imperative to build the skills around new ways of working and start cultivating a culture of collaboration. It will also be necessary to build business processes to adapt to new ways of collaboration and decision making. There is also a need to build tools and processes to monitor the remote working, provide support and ways of building the necessary capabilities to perform and maintain better 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?
Technology plays an important role in today’s world and various sectors gradually are gradually adopting the new digital transformation. If remote working will become a norm, the digital transformation will play a significant role and the tasks which can be adopted to this will see the loss of opportunities in certain sectors; but, on the other side, growth prospects in other sectors like Healthcare, infrastructure, FMCG industry may see tremendous growth in coming years.
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.
On the contrary, I think the rising concept of remote working will be a boon for the women workforce and we will see involvement and creation of opportunities for more women either for who had taken a sabbatical for family reasons or were not able to join the workforce due to various other family compulsions. They will be back in the workforce and will be instrumental to the contribution to the economy.