Article (August-2017)


To beat job cuts, adapt new technological skills

Annapurna A

Designation : -   Director - Human Resources

Organization : -  Inspirage, Bengaluru


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1. How do you see the scenario of mass layoffs in IT sector to change in future?
Ans. Layoffs as we have understood from independence days, it means the failure, refusal or inability of an employer on account of shortage of coal, power or raw materials or the accumulation of stocks or the breakdown of machinery or natural calamity or for any other connected reason to give employment to a workman whose name is borne on the muster rolls of his industrial establishment and who has not been retrenched. However, in today's scenario it's a mixed bag of layoff and retrenchment. Layoffs terminology usage to IT sector may not fit too well, rather I think we need to use the term Job cuts or retrenchment of resources.
Well, when we talk of Job cuts and the scenario which is persisting or which will come in near future will see an upward trend. The reasons are also multi - fold. We can attribute to VUCA business world, rapid technical up-gradations and performance issues.
Apart from the above, many of the IT organizations in anticipation of projects have kept building talent pool which has not materialized. Investments with careful consideration of cost, speed and quality are driving in a big way. The same is creeping into talent acquisition too. If the talent is cost effective, agile and delivers with high quality then there are jobs, else not.
Also, we see a huge about of mid and senior level of managers who, a kind of getting or got obsolete in larger organizations, because of so called managerial role and less of specialist or embracing new technologies and thus they are huge mis - fits in the newer business models.
2. What all sectors and functions will be highly impacted by job cuts?
Ans. All sectors would see the job-cuts. As more and more automation is on way, every sector will embrace automation and mundane jobs will get obsolete. Machines are already playing personal assistant to driving cars. There are technically few jobs that humans do which machines can't do. Some roles which are safe are of Health care professionals, Teachers and Creatives. Mckinsey says only 5% of global jobs can be entirely automated at the moment.
3. Is there a greater need than ever to stay updated, up skill, re-skill and remain employable?
Ans. There is a great need to be updated and get to know as things are changing rapidly.
According to a PwC - Assocham report on AI and robotics, few Indian startups are initiating development of conversational bots, speech recognition tools, intelligent digital assistants and conversational services to be built over social media channels. Online shopping portals have extensively been using predictive capabilities to measure consumer interest in products by building a targeted understanding of preferences through collection of browsing and click - stream data and effectively targeting customers using a multi - channel approach.
"More and more machines are taking over repetitive work in the manufacturing sector as well as in the legal industry," said Jean-Marc Laouchez, Global MD, Solutions for Korn Ferry Hay Group. Laouchez noted that "so there will be an impact, and many of our clients in the last six months are embracing a lot of automation and artificial intelligence. As a result, the workforce would have to be more flexible to adapt to new technologies and develop new skills."
According to a report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a new approach is required to support job creation in this changing face of globalisation. "Protectionism is on the rise and Industry 4.0 is changing the costs and productivity of manufacturing, eroding the advantage held by low - cost labour intensive countries and reshaping global supply chains," the report said.
4. Has the current surge of job cuts made up skilling more crucial?
Ans. Rise in adoption of new digital technologies will have a significant impact on the job market and employees need to adapt to changing technologies and develop fresh skills to make themselves relevant. While some technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics will create job opportunities, it will affect some traditional and repetitive jobs. In such a scenario, it will be a major challenge for companies to retain staff strength in coming years as these changes have already started and are likely to intensify in coming years. Yannick Binvel, President, Global Industrial Markets, Korn Ferry, a global advisory firm, said some of these technologies are going to make people work "differently".
"Artificial intelligence is going to modify the workstation, and the way people are working today, "technology is going to change the nature of jobs. Technology is going to be a real enabler for value creation, but nothing is going to change the capacity of a man or a woman to make a humane decision based on their empathy". "The combination of man and machine can be very effective and we need to see technology not just as an enabler but also as an additional capability offered to improve the welfare at work."
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. Then or now, Technology has always enriched the human life. So with IOT coming our way one should embrace them, learn to cope up and stay updated.
I think none of us can stop this wave. We all need to have great experience of life. As human with higher order of thinking power (HOT) why should we waste our brains on mundane jobs? While such routine jobs might not be in place, newer jobs and roles will emerge and this is will help us to acquire new skills. While the changing is happening, it is not that everything will become IOT by tomorrow. In one research conducted 352 scientists were asked to predict how long it may take for machine to outperform humans on various tasks. The result is from 2016 it takes 120 years.
6. How can organisations help employees to remain employable?
Ans. Organizations/Leadership should play a very vital role in training their talent for the newer technologies. The talent management has to be very critical for every organization. Also it should not be the effort of only the organization, it should be bipartite. Both the organization and the employee should put in efforts to understand the gaps and figure out periodically as to what roles and skills, should the talent develop. Have clear development plans. For Ex: In Infosys, In an effort to encourage its managers to be at the forefront of disruptions and changes in the work environment, the company last month rolled out MaQ, or Manager Quotient, a platform that utilises crowd sourced feedback and analytics to personalise the learning journey. The programme uses data culled from company surveys through the year, exit interviews and employee feedback to allow managers to see how they are doing on certain core competencies. MaQ details key aspects which Infosys expects managers to instill and demonstrate - inspire teams, execute projects, innovate on ideas and solutions, connect with people, coach other colleagues and take an interest in and being responsible for their own learning.
7. What are the 3 basic rules to follow to staying relevant, updated and employable?
Ans. In order to be relevant, updated and employable one has to be agile, embrace new technologies and understand the relevance in each of the field. Bill Gates says while AI may replace human jobs, the future will bring new types of jobs and new avenues for human beings to excel in. So it would be time for HOT (Higher Order Thinking) jobs and not BOT's jobs.