Article (April-2019)


Workforce of the future needs to adapt, be agile and multi-skilled

TV Prasad

Designation : -   HR Business Leader

Organization : -  Bengaluru


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Where do you think, we are headed in terms of skill set requirements and capability assessments to build a talent bank for future workplace needs? And how do you visualize the workforce of future?

TV A fundamental transformation is underway that will shape the workforce of the future. Automation and thinking machines are gradually replacing human tasks. New opportunities emerge for the workforce to operate at a higher level. Current skills will replace newer skills. If we look back in the past 10 years, some of the jobs that were there 10 years back are no more there and many new jobs have emerged as well. The pace is unrelenting and is only going to accelerate in the future.

Workforce of the future needs to adapt, be agile and multi-skilledĀ  to face changing and varied opportunities that will be demanding in terms of their readiness, ability to contribute with no or less learning time available and contribute from wherever and whenever. This applies to all fields, functions, industrial sectors, geographies and is global. Workforce and organizations need to grapple with dynamic and not static scenarios and place some bets, marked by continuous learning efforts with a keen insight into the changing technology landscape to face the evolving future.

How is AI, robotics and automation affecting the employment scenario in India?

TV Historically, transformations have brought in newer opportunities requiring higher level skills and resulted in growth. We can look back at how onset of computers and the internet created newer jobs requiring newer skills and the phenomenal growth we have witnessed.

The forces of AI, Robotics, and Automation will also call for newer jobs that need newer skills, and there will be a new leaf of growth. It is the transition that needs to be managed well to capitalize on the opportunities these forces throw at us. Everyone (workforce, organizations, labour unions, government) has a role to play to make this transition smoother by embracing the change and putting in efforts to nurture agility, adaptability and continuous re-skilling. If done well, it will result in another leap of growth for India. Given the larger and youthful workforce that India has compared to any other country in the world, India is well poised to ride this transition for a better future.

There are statistics that speak a loud about the growing unemployment in the country, so much so that highly qualified individuals are forced to take up meager jobs to make a livelihood. To avoid any kind of social unrest, how more employments opportunities can be generated?

TV Every economy goes through sectoral changes based on evolutionary forces and as the economy grows. The current Indian economy is witnessing a shift of preference among highly qualified and educated workforce to involve in tertiary and knowledge sectors relatively as compared to agrarian, manufacturing and government sectors, though there is still a marked preference for the government sector. The growth of tertiary and knowledge sector can only absorb as much as it needs for the growth and remaining would have to do something to eke out a livelihood. On the other hand, we also are witnessing that the tertiary and knowledge sector's growth is not getting a fillip as a result of some of the highly qualified and educated workforce being not up to the standards of what the sector demands. One of the lacking features in the Indian educational curriculum is an application orientation where things learnt needs to be applied to real-world situations and scenarios. Thus, we have a situation of people with qualification but not up to the standards required. This needs a remedy to improve prospects for qualified people by re-skilling and up-skilling. The same phenomenon can be observed within other sectors as well to an extent.

Given the large youthful workforce that India has, employment in established sectors of the economy would not absorb all. Encouraging entrepreneurship, Innovation and cultivation of a mindset characterised by "dignity of labour" is much needed to prevent any social unrest.

Is the current HR ecosystem ready to take on the challenges of a highly demanding and dynamic future workforce? How HR should evolve and upgrade its competencies to address this challenge?

TV The forces shaping the workforce of future phenomenon will have an impact on HR and its ecosystem as well. The phenomenon broadly will have an impact at three levels i.e., HR professionals, HR organizations and the Organizations.

Individual HR professionals cannot stay complacent while doing what they are doing. They need to take ownership of re-skilling and up-skilling themselves to face and have a place in the dynamic future of tomorrow.

HR organizations and practices need recalibration and evolved continuously to deliver competitive advantage through people by taking advantage of the dynamic forces. Being agile, adapting and changing while creating new roles within HR (such as Employee Experience Expert, HR Technology Integrator, Culture Architect, etc.,) as the evolving situation demands will be the key to continue to deliver competitive advantage through people.

HR organizations also need to embrace the role of evaluating the dynamic forces and their impact on people within and on organizations, they are part of and enable the constituents ready to face up to the challenges and thrive.

What are the ways which can help HR to create a system where man and machine can co-exist without eating into each other's space? Is it even possible to have such a workplace universe?

TV In the foreseeable future, man and machine will continue to co-exist while the proportion keeps varying in the overall interface. Beyond the foreseeable future, it is anybody's guess about how it'll be.

HR can create systems to manage the foreseeable future by co-creating the future of work with stakeholders, embracing technology and strengthening innovation. HR can help redesign career paths, learning and development approaches, build leadership & critical technology capabilities, and redesign job and compensation frameworks.

How do you think young generation should prepare themselves to remain employable and worthy in the age of technological disruption? How can HR and organisations support in this?

TV The young generation growing up in an era of disruptive innovation and technology is already native to the digital world. They have many characteristics that equip them well to face challenges posed by the age of technological disruption. One characteristic that will have a major role in their pursuit to stay employable and worthy is pursuing continuous and life-long learning. HR and organizations can support them by providing a continuous learning environment as long as they have the drive and hunger.
(Views are personal)