Article (August-2017)


To stay relevant-Realise, renew and refresh...

Dr. Rima Ghose Chowdhury

Designation : -   VP & Head - Human Capital Management

Organization : -  India at Quinnox Consultancy Services, Mumbai


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1. How do you see the scenario of mass layoffs in IT sector to change in future?
Ans. In my opinion, the 'mass layoffs' part was a bit of an exaggeration. Post appraisal season every organization has its own process of rationalizing bottom performers. The timing of that process and change in US policies, the news of IT sector being temporarily down, everything coincided, leading to this widespread negative publicity about the sector. IT industry has stabilized after seeing lot of ups and downs in past. It is proven that the business model is sustainable; contribution to the Indian economy is established. Year 2001 is when IT industry had faced its 'first' downturn, but the slowdown did not intensify. In any industry ups and downs are quite common. Key to survive and thrive is resilience, which IT industry has learnt. The workforce in India has been very fortunate that there has hardly been mass layoff ever in the past 15 years (even during the 2007/2008 Financial Crisis). However, the world is changing and technology advances will create a challenging workforce and tech workers in India will need to ensure that they prepare themselves, improve their communication, people interaction and business/process subject matter expertise. To the extent possible, they should aim to be multi - skilled rather than an expert in a single technical area.
2. What all sectors and functions will be highly impacted by job cuts?
Ans. Indian corporate sector is heterogeneous and fragmented. Expectations have changed over a period of time. Gone are the days when a graduate degree was enough to get a job or sometime later, when an engineering degree was enough. It gradually made way to that '++' engineers with additional skills or graduates with a post - graduation in management etc. Different segments are impacted differentially. Professionals, who have not updated their skills, always stand the chance of getting negatively impacted by a downturn e.g. not making the move to learn automation testing from manual testing or not learning niche skills or allowing prehistoric practices to rule functions or continue to do repetitive work without worrying about automation or digital drive. The unrest would create enormous opportunities as well, in the areas of data science, machine learning, cyber security, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence etc.
3. Is there a greater need than ever to stay updated, up-skill, re-skill and remain employable?
Ans. Absolutely. As Artificial Intelligence makes data accessibility and decision making easier, there will be a tremendous need for employees to up-skill and re-skill where the current technology is redundant. As globalization and technology explore their interdependency, R&D, innovation centers of excellence in mature sectors will gain more and more importance. Borrowing the 'survival of fittest' mantra from mother nature, even the bald eagle renews, recharges and transforms itself after a certain age by a painstaking process of clawing out talons, beaks, feathers etc. so that the new physical features help him deal better with the ruthless wear and tear of nature. For employees, more of short term and stretch assignments are a good way to challenge themselves.
For organisations also, developing internal talent to address the business needs will be more crucial. Somewhere the efforts have to start at the origin. The exponential rate of technological and economic change is increasing the gap between education and labour markets. The lines between academia and the labour market may need to blur or disappear entirely as learning, R&D, knowledge - sharing, retraining and innovation take place simultaneously throughout the work - life cycle, regardless of the job, level or industry. Education systems should gear up more towards making students employable, in keeping up with the times. Organisations should also look at tie - ups at catchment stage to ensure that there are courses earmarked for students to make them trained and further trainable on the niche and evolving technologies.
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. Technology is never a curse, how it is used becomes a curse. Technology is definitely a boon which has made evolution of the human race possible, with a relentless advance of meritocracy.
4. How can organisations help employees to remain employable?
Ans. Organisations can inspire, influence and provide adequate training to employees. Massive overhauls of skill - based programs are not a must, but it is important to demonstrate how the program is, to address skills gaps. There is need to create an informal learning culture with mentors for internal talent who can guide them on self - exploration and suggest the avenues for re-skill. Corporates will trend on patronising integration of social tools with Learning - (CedarCrestone. 2011-2012 HR Systems survey).  Most companies have a fresher program of 'Catch Them Young' and then integrate them with the mainstream. These can be made more effective through increased collaboration which will also lead to increased engagement and compliance. Fostering of relationship with external educational institutes which can offer learning at convenience, will also help'.
5. What are the 3 basic rules to follow to staying relevant, updated and employable?
Ans. 1. Realise - realization of what is needed is half the battle won, there is a need to integrate learning with everyday behavior.
2. Renew - with the progress of technology, if we continue to do things the way we did before, we will continue to produce the same results. The approach of renewal should be holistic, of mind and body both gearing up for change.
3. Refresh - We are in the age of collaboration and sharing and social media tools have made it easier than before to refresh learning. Focus has to shift towards continuous self - investment to stay relevant. Technology is a compulsive and addictive way to live. - Rick Pitino.