Article (August-2017)


Skill-up to remain resilient and sustainable

Rituparna Chakraborty

Designation : -   President

Organization : -  Indian Staffing Federation, New Delhi


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1. How do you see the scenario of mass layoffs in IT sector to change in future?
Ans. With newer technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and cloud computing, which help complete the job with less manpower, software companies are now going to be in demand. It's a situation where in the available talent hasn't kept up with the pace at which the industry was evolving and hence, many of them find themselves redundant. The consolidated trend may continue for the next 1-2 year, but we see it as an opportunity for IT professionals to upgrade themselves and get into the new - age technologies where demand is going to be huge. It is a transitory phase. However, things would look up in the next two quarters as IT services companies successfully steer towards a stable growth phase. Pink slips are likely for some of the jobs in manual testing, technology support and system administration since these are increasingly going to be managed by AI and robotics process automation based systems.
2. What all sectors and functions will be highly impacted by job cuts?
Ans. The different functions which will be impacted by job cuts are the following: QA, Security Testing, Performance Testing, Business Process Management & Execution, Infrastructure Automation, Code Review, Security Operations, DevOps, Cloud Infrastructure, Medical Diagnosis and various aspects of Project management etc.
The different sectors that are being impacted by layoff are information technology (IT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors and telecom sector is also expected to continue with this as the pace of job creation is slowing down. Mid - and senior - level professionals and many lower - level employees too are likely to face the axe in the coming months. Several large IT and telecom companies are in the process of laying off employees. The layoff won't be specific to any single group, but has spread across the company's worldwide offices and business units, including sales, marketing, human resources, engineering, finance and more. 
3. Is there a greater need than ever to stay updated, up-skill, re-skill and remains employable?
Ans. As technology continues to evolve on a daily basis, the life cycle of skills is shorter than ever before and change is happening at an unmatched scale. As robots, automation and artificial intelligence perform more tasks and there is massive disruption of jobs, we see a wider array of education and skills - building programs being created to meet new demands. Companies should conduct regular performance reviews to ensure that they have the right employee skill sets necessary to meet client needs and achieve our business goals. This process results in changes, including some employees transitioning out of the company.
The current commotion about automation is a sign of progress. We should focus on the opportunities that automation will create for us. While many jobs are taken away still a significant number of jobs will remain and many will be created. However, there is one skill that can't be automated and that is design thinking. I believe in a future where whether you are an engineer or an architect, you will remain resilient and sustainable due to design thinking. It's only our ability to remain agile and curious that helps us solve problems.
4. Has the current surge of job cuts made up skilling more crucial?
Ans. As technological transformation heats up in the workplace, industries are set to see greater discrepancy between the skills they require and the expertise possessed by their current workforces. So as the nature of many roles being changed, it becomes even more important that employers help ensure their employees are equipped by keeping their skills up-to-date.
The growing job insecurity among professionals on account of layoffs and a shrinking job market has put the spotlight on skills up gradation in recent times.
An alternative way of looking at these changes would be to see them as providing newer opportunities since there is now growing demand among the IT giants for professionals skilled in these newer technologies. According to a recent NASSCOM report, up to 40 percent of the estimated four million workforce in India needs re-skilling over the next five years to keep pace with automation and changing skill needs in various industries.
5. Since, a greater need to stay employable has emerged from the way technology is taking over the businesses - AI, robotics, digital, is it right to say that technology is the curse that is pushing the workforce to stay updated? Or, is technology actually a boon, which is aiding up skilling of employees?
Ans. Since time immemorial we have been witnessing civilisation being transformed with automation and hence it's definitely not a new phenomenon. While certain roles become redundant, new roles emerge and hence while the same jobs may not exists however automation paves way for newer job creation. There is an increase in demand for courses in AI, cyber security, machine learning and micro service architecture among the IT professionals. Employees are now becoming more flexible with respect to their job roles and are empowering themselves with newer software and skills which can help them move within the organisation with shift in demand. With up-skilling, employees can be assured of job variety and scope for rotation. They can expect an increase in pay, better prospects for promotion, and increased job security. They also gain knowledge and acquire newer skills, which in turn will help them stay motivated in the job and increase job satisfaction. 
6. How can organisations help employees to remain employable?
Ans. The adapt - or - perish scenario prevalent in recent times has put pressure on employees to leave their comfort zone and "skill up" - learn new skills and technologies in order to remain employable in the IT sector. There should be an increase demand for online boot camps, which equip IT professionals with multiple skills and specialisations. The companies that offer these skill - based training courses have increased the number of courses and batches to meet the demand. Several companies have also introduced new courses and technical skill training modules. Multi - skilling, or the process of specialising in various areas and skills, will greatly impact the status of an employee in his/her organisation and make their job retention prospects more secure. For every redundant role one needs to prepare differently. Organisations will have to take on a bigger role to build facilities internally to upgrade the skills of their employees. Industry players need to prioritise automation as one of their key areas and should build appropriate talent around this area. Vocational programs can present a tremendous opportunity to invest in the specialized skill upgrading the workforce.
7. What are the 3 basic rules to follow to staying relevant, updated and employable?
Ans. The 3 basic rules would be A) Learnability B) Flexibility and C) Adaptability.