As the pandemic continues to deepen the dilemma of the government and businesses, people are left with uncertainties, restlessness and dwindling hope. Pay cuts, layoffs and crumbling revenues indicate challenging times ahead. With no clear timelines on the availability of the vaccine or a treatment, the fight, it seems, shall be a long drawn one. We must hope for things to get better; in the face of uncertainty there is nothing wrong with hope, but hope is not a strategy! In such trying times, when the pandemic is dealing lethal blows on several businesses, the investment on self enhancement and improvement can prove to be a worthy one . The government’s announcement of ‘Atma-nirbhar Bharat’ has a much deeper connotation - it’s not about subsidy, fiscal policies or financial aid – it’s about self-dependence through investment on one’s own self. Employees must use this time to add to their list of skills and credentials that would make them resilient and indispensable.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and development (OECD), in its economic outlook report assessed India’s growth between -3.7%; and -7.3% – the 26% contraction in the economy in the first quarter of FY21 does not augur well for the economy. This pessimism is in sharp contrast to the earlier projection of 5.1% growth projected in its March report. With an unemployment rate of 24%, the employment outlook in India has hit a 17-year low, with employers in manufacturing, services and retail trade reporting their weakest forecasts. But amidst all this gloom and doom, there’s a silver lining - India, along with Taiwan and Japan, stands as the strongest candidates to have a sharp upward hiring curve as it steps out into the unlock-down phase. However, the new world of work would be very different from what it was and would demand a different set of skills from the workforce.
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years back; the second best time is today! People are waking up to the need of life-long learning and upskilling in this lockdown but this was a down payment that should have been made yesterday. Businesses are looking for digitally conversant, highly adaptive and multi-skilled people who can be moulded into any kind of role. Multiskilling provides resilience as the employees can then be moulded into multiple different roles and kept productive. Several platforms are offering courses across disciplines – a careful selection of the right set of courses, with the purpose and perspective in mind, would be valuable.
As layoffs become the order of the day, new job roles will emerge – and employees would need to stand out as potential candidates for the new opportunities. A university degree remains important, but of increasing value is a CV brimming with examples of lifelong learning and professional development. Productivity will become an important consideration and competencies across multiple skills will provide resilience. While some of the existing job roles are threatened, new ones will emerge in this increasingly digital world - the BFSI sector shall look for new job roles such as cyber security specialists, credit analysts, robot programmers, blockchain architects and process modeler experts; retail and e-commerce shall look for retail data analysts, digital imaging leaders, IT process modelers, digital marketing specialists and customer experience leaders; the automotive sector shall be in search for automobile analytics engineers, 3D printing technicians, ML based vehicle cyber security experts and sustainability integration experts; the IT and ITES shall see the emergence of new job roles like VFX Artists, Computer vision engineers, AI Research scientists, 3D modelling engineers, 3D designers, Cloud architects, migration engineers, android app developers whereas the textile sector shall see the rise of new job roles like environment specialists, apparel data analysts, IT process engineers and e-textile specialists.
Jeff Bezos once made an interesting quip, ‘I knew that if I failed I wouldn't regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying’. There has been a constant debate on the impact of Covid (temporary shrinkage of businesses owing to lesser demand and de-globalisation) and technology (automation, digitisation and artificial intelligence) on the current job roles and skills; the near-future outlook for businesses is uncertain and challenging and employees would need to continuously try to reinvent themselves and be future-ready! Employees will need to develop not only adjacent skills but also diametrically opposite skills - combinations like Technology and Creative, Technology and Psychology will become commonplace. Continuous learning is not only the key to success but has become fundamental to the new rules of engagement. They would need to take responsibility for making their own lives relevant and enriching in the new world of work. Dinosaurs did not die because the world changed; they died because they refused to change. It’s time to set the ball rolling!