There are enough opportunities!

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Layoffs in IT industry are inevitable given the technological changes and socio-political changes we are witnessing. 89% of respondents to a survey carried out by CIEL last month corroborate with this. They see this as an irreversible change in the employment markets for the IT industry in India. This may sound depressing, but all is not lost. There are enough opportunities to be leveraged upon.

Why is it a big deal?

Typically, organizations asked the IT companies to automate their work processes by designing and developing an IT Application and then, making it available over a network. They had to maintain the infrastructure and the application so that business runs as usual. They saved dollars, increased speed and improved customer satisfaction. However, the landscape has changed in the last 5 years with the advent of smart phones, cloud computing and social networks. Customers transact business round the clock, communicate often and expect instantaneous results. Similarly, companies now have the access to a myriad of IT applications, do not need to own it and maintain an IT infrastructure by themselves. Our IT industry has geared up well to this new phenomenon of social, mobility, analytics and cloud. They have learnt these technologies and deployed them at work well.

Now, we are witnessing the next wave of change where artificial intelligence and big data are playing an important role in the computing process. New platforms have emerged which are helping the IT folks to create and deploy an IT application much faster and simpler than ever before. Automated tools such as bots and a range of automation platforms are reducing human efforts. Moreover, they are delighting customers by letting them be in charge of the transactions that they want to carry out with an organization. These disruptions are making many jobs redundant. Our estimates indicate loss of half a million jobs over 3 years. Most people didn’t see this coming.

Socio-political changes around the world are putting pressures on Governments in the West to review their policies of outsourcing work beyond their borders and allowing people outside their countries to carry out work there. Immigration policies are being relooked. Hence, companies in India have to find other ways of generating demand and continuously climbing the value chain. CIEL’s study shows the factors responsible for the potential job losses to be the Policies of Governments in the West, declining demands of outsourcing IT work and the advent of automation tools. Only 33% of the respondents anticipated this phenomenon.

The survey shows, most people (67%) believe, this event will get taken care to a significant extent by the normal attrition that happens in the industry. 44% believe that companies will shed the weak performers in this process. Similarly, 44% believe that the change has come faster than expected. However, a significant part of the working population in IT (56%) believe that the lay-offs are being discussed a lot and is causing panic.

New opportunities

New technologies such as augmented reality, robotics and big data are making waves in various industry sectors. They are no more restricted to sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, energy and financial services. We are seeing them applied in industry sectors like entertainment, hospitality and various other service sectors. The way we live our life is changing, right from the way we cook our food, keep in contact with the others, entertain ourselves, use appliances at home to educate our kids and take care of our health and wealth. Each of these have been transformed significantly in the last few years and have created millions of opportunities for our IT sector. Our IT folks need to reskill themselves quickly to seize upon these occasions and make hay while the sun shines.

Redeployment opportunities

Some of the IT folks can migrate to the other sectors of economy because each of them are deploying digital technologies in a significant way. Right from their processes to interact with customers to internal work processes, business planning and analysis we will see application of mobility and IT applications. Organizations will increase headcount in their IT and Technology functions to create the right applications, analyse the day-to-day transactions to derive insights and protect the information and wisdom from any threat. 44% of the respondents of the survey believe that upto a quarter of the laid off people can be absorbed in other industry sectors.

All is not lost. We have a way ahead to a bright future.

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Are you the Indispensable Employee?

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Artificial intelligence, cognitive computing and automation are redefining jobs and creating uncertainties for various professions. Robots, sensors, computers, internet, cloud computing and software are going to rule the roost. Several transactional jobs are likely to be performed automatically and human beings carrying out simple and repeatable tasks are likely to lose their jobs. What can an employee do to stay indispensable?

Do you have the Skills that are relevant and use them generously?

These days, emails, websites, e-commerce sites, social media, chat-bots and various such digital methods have shortened the sales cycle and reduced the need of salespersons. Going forward, these developments will be ubiquitous. This is just an example. For each industry, we will have more and more such automated tools making human effort redundant. So, this is going to be something similar to the time of industrial revolution, movement of manufacturing jobs to China, near-death of handicrafts, movement of call centre jobs to cheaper economies and so on.

To stay relevant, one has to have the skills that are going to build the future. For example, someone writing software codes or testing it, has to acquire new skills such as machine learning, big data techniques, cloud architecture, mobility and business analysis.

Often we see the change round the corner but we think that the change is not going to affect us. However, the change process like any other event of nature happens slowly and hits us unless we are sensitive to our environment. Irrespective of one’s profession, may it be finance, HR, sales, production, legal, medical care, teaching or singing, one has to keep an eye on the latest developments in the industry sector and function. We have to keep reskilling ourselves to be on the cutting edge. We will not let ourselves down!

Getting reskilled and certified is not enough! One has to be an expert in it; the best in the team as far as the skill is concerned. One has to be the go-to person in the team on the subject. If we think a bit deeper, we know, it is not only knowing how to do that complex problem but also about solving it hands-on and showing it to the others in the team.

Do you see the big picture and act benevolently?

Many of us do not see how our day to day contributions make a difference in the overall scheme of things. We think and operate in silos; many of us do not bother much about the targets of the team, the department, let alone the organization. Missing the big picture can never make one the organization-man.

Leaders and all other stakeholders in the business always look to work with people who see the big picture, feel for the organization, act benevolently keeping the big picture in mind, extend the hand of support when needed and walk the extra mile to fulfil the bigger goal. You are indispensable if you are this person!

Do you believe you are indispensable and over-reach?

Truly speaking, nobody is indispensable to an organization which has a purpose and spirit. No one person can hold a system its hostage for ever. There could be a vacuum temporarily, but the system recharges itself and gets on the road again.

If someone believes that the organization cannot survive without him or her, the actions will speak of the person’s attitude. Arrogance becomes visible; the members in the team see the person exceeding his brief often and taking a larger than life approach. This is a sure recipe for failure. It is possible that one will be dispensed with!

The key to a secured job is staying agile on skillsets, applying them at work, making the job of the manager easy, acting in view of the bigger picture of the organization and building a strong network within the organization. Let’s do it!

 

How Blended is your Workforce as Gig Economy Rises?

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Businesses all over the world have been looking for flexibility and quick outcomes. They are increasingly hiring for specific skills rather than following the traditional methods of hiring a person after a holistic assessment. As a result, the workforce is increasingly diverse today. We see permanent employees who are not only full-time but part-time; contractual employees are on multiple kinds of contracts : long-term contractors, part-time contractors, outsourced staff, freelancers, project interns, peak-time staff and advisors. Employees hold various kinds of contracts either directly with the employer or through a staffing company or a project management company.

We notice that independent work is getting increasingly popular. A few decades ago, barring a few professions such as doctors, lawyers and artistes, most other independent workers did not receive adequate social recognition. Examples are masons, plumbers, carpenters, farm labourers, cooks, taxi drivers, beauticians, electricians, painters, mechanics, music teachers, coaches for various sports activities, and many such. Interestingly, we did not have independent workers such as delivery boys, recruiters, writers, designers and so on! The socio-economic and technological changes around us have given rise to many new professions and new practices in businesses. People do not shy away from taking up entrepreneurial work and businesses adopt a combination of factors to decide the kind of employment they offer.

Horses for courses!

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Companies understand what roles are core to their mission and business model. They like to hire permanent workers for those roles, especially if these are strategic in nature. As the strategic component keeps dropping, they tend to go for non-permanent roles. This is where an organization brings in its competitive advantage by staying flexible, managing the costs and engagement levels. As companies blend their workforce, the approach required to manage various phases in the life cycle of an employee is  different. Right from attracting talent to off-boarding them, there are several steps that need to be carried out differently. Blend ratio [defined as the proportion of employees in each category] is an indicator of the organization’s agility.

Manage risks well!

As organizations have been looking for flexibility, they tend to spot the match between the candidate’s skills and their context while hiring. Some of them tend to put huge amount of energies for their permanent employees right from on-boarding, performance management, rewards, development and engagement. In the process, other kinds of employees get very little attention from the top management and HR department. As a result, the commitment levels of these temporary or part-timing employees remain limited to opportunism rather than any connectedness with the overall purpose of the organization. Over a period of time,  efficiencies and customer satisfaction takes a beating.

Hence, these risks need to be managed well by developing a strategic partnership with the service-providers, may it be the IT company providing network support, the Outsourcer providing customer support or the Staffing company providing manpower for sales on the ground.

Good for the employees and Good for the Industry!

People who donned the roles such as Secretaries, Housekeepers, Admin, Entry-level Sales roles, Technical staff for a Project, Delivery boys, Business support functions saw limited or nil growth in their career unless there was a unique situation in their organization. Since the job content couldn’t change much, their growth was stunted. This problem for an individual was resolved when the person decided to perform specific gigs, work as an entrepreneurial worker and keep the discretion to choose the timing, number of employers and so on. This helped the person getting exposed to a variety of challenges, solving them in various ways, staying flexible about her work hours and patterns.

For the industry, it’s a great benefit because they enjoy the flexibility to hire people to solve specific problems,  choose amongst a range of options, negotiate the best rates and avail services of individuals who have a breadth of experience.

Win-win for everyone!

Our economy is changing; so is the social environment. Organizations must ride on the opportunities that the Gig Economy offers us!

How will Home Automation impact the job markets?

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Smartphones are ubiquitous today. It is just a matter of time that our homes will become Smart too. Manufacturers in the US markets have already brought out products which can be controlled from the phones. Estimates show that 25-30 crore houses are being used for residential purposes in India now. While a large number of his dwellings are in the villages, we have now more than 22 crores people using a smartphone. So, the day is not far when each home will have at least one smartphone!

One Smartphone per home!

Smart Home ecosystem is still under development. Though current practices could be limited to accessing systems related to lighting, air-conditioning, geysers, television, music etc, it is just a matter of time that our homes will have devices that will use significant amount of robotics and artificial intelligence. Washing machines, refrigerators, Television sets, set-top boxes, water purifiers, stoves, ovens, floor cleaners, bulbs, locks, chargers, multimedia stations, cars and many other devices at home will be inter-connected and operable from a smartphone. So, we can easily track the health of various equipment, take early action as desired. We can monitor safety of our family members and physical assets remotely. Soon enough, there will be many other sensors and transmitters connected with household items that could run certain functions on an auto-pilot manner.

Imagine telling your digital assistant on the phone that you will reach home with 4 guests in 2 hours and your assistant gets into action. It keeps your home ready at the right temperature, illumination and odour to receive your guests; orders food and drinks for delivery in thirty minutes from your arrival! May be, your Smart assistant can play welcome messages for your guests and keep a playlist ready depending upon who the guests are! Many of these were limited to sci-fi but these will very soon be commonplace across all economic strata of our  society like a Smartphone is!

What jobs?

Naturally, there is a lot of IT in everything that people do! It does not matter what your employer company sells – fans, carpets, shoes, shirts, music, cakes, burgers, gym equipment, travel, hospitality, healthcare or IT. All these products will be found in a home and with automation, every company will need use a lot of technology and information. You must be comfortable using both to learn continuously and excel in your role.

Given  the speed at which changes are happening around us, it is imperative that organizations will seek flexibility in everything that they do. Instead of locking a lot of assets in their operations, they will outsource anything that is routine, leverage on the expertise of the others, reduce fixed costs as much as possible and seek to achieve efficiencies as much as possible in the matters of routine. So, organizations will remain agile in responding to changes in their industry, consumer preferences, technology, government policies and so on.

The roles which do not shape the strategic focus of the organization will either be on a fixed term employment or on an outsourced basis. It is a no-brainer to understand that the strategic roles in an organization will be a handful; these roles demand high levels of experience and insight; involve making strategic choices which are long-term and costly; both risks and rewards are high in this.

Some transformation!

And the roles which get outsourced will be large in number; drivers of efficiency. Risks and rewards for such roles will be comparatively low. Given the fact that many of our homes and professions are going to see automation, traditional blue-collar jobs in the factory and the fields will reduce. We have already seen how manufacturing industry and many other large-scale enterprises have become a lot dependent on machines whereas small-scale enterprises, artisans and craftsmen relied heavily on skill level and experience of individual workman. So, our economy will become a lot more driven by services. We can see how food business is getting transformed to food-tech, banking to fin-tech, education to ed-tech, agri-inputs to agri-tech and so on. Given the services-orientation getting stronger, one has to be able to listen to what the customer says, empathise and observe how a customer behaves. This is a significantly different attribute than what a typical blue-collar job entails.

Secondly, as homes become Smart, there will be huge number of jobs related to instrumentation, networking, electronic manufacturing, warehousing, delivery, customer support and technical assistance.

Today’s cars have at least 20% of their cost towards the on-board electronics. Similarly, our future homes will have at least 35% of their cost towards the on-board electronics in them! Imagine the number of jobs which will get generated to design, manufacture, install and maintain them! Like e-commerce has taken birth, our lifestyle and consumption behaviours have transformed and many jobs have sprung up due to the advent of smartphones, a whole new services economy will take birth due to the eco-system of these instruments in our Smart Homes!

How is Automation impacting Sales and Marketing?

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Automation has been the order of the last couple of decades. It has significantly altered the way work is carried out and life is lived. We have been examining how automation alters the job markets and how it impacts various functions in an enterprise. Today, we look at Sales and Marketing.

It has changed a lot!

Marketing automation has been in vogue for a little more than 5 years though it has existed as a concept for the last 25 years. Few large organizations could afford automation in their sales and marketing processes which gave them advantages in sales-force productivity and hence, reduced cost of sales per unit as well as increased sales volume per salesperson. However, with the advent of cloud technologies, mobility, social platforms and analytics, many small businesses have been able to leverage on the technological progress and rev up their sales and marketing engines. Today, we see a pest control agency, a bakery, a beauty salon, a pet clinic and many more such businesses reaching their target audience through Facebook, Whatsapp groups, Hike messenger, Google plus and so on. They are not only trying to reach their target customers but also are communicating how they are uniquey positioned to fulfill their customers’ needs. Some of them have been able to deploy a CRM or a Lead management system; some use emails with pictures and at times, videos! We see them having tied up with multiple listing agencies so that they are found easily; they work with multiple payment gateways so that the customer has a hassle-free way to buy from them. They know what their customer buys and proactively reach out to the customer with offers that make sense to the target audience. They respond to customer queries and comments on the social channels. These methods of engaging with the customer have revolutionised the way sales and marketing happened a decade ago.

Thinking of people who matter!

Someone who aspires to do well in life, irrespective of the size of the business and the role one holds there, needs to understand these changes. Old methods are not going to yield the desired results. Most colleges do not teach what is required on the ground. Hence, one has to observe the way businesses are marketing their products and services; learn  the fine nuances so that one is ready to deploy those at work on a day-to-day basis.

After having understood the methods and the typical requirements of the environment to make these methods bear fruit, one has to understand who matters the most in the business. A few years ago, it was the efficiency in delivering a product that determined customer loyalty. But, now we have many other factors which matter. Hence, the skill levels of the people who interface with the stakeholders of a business have become more important than ever before. Enterprises have realized that customer perception about the product is significantly correlated with their experience at each moment-of-truth. This is not only true for the new economy such as service sector but also for the traditional sectors such as manufacturing, industrial goods, commodities and government!

Buyers are tremendously empowered now, thanks to the automation all around. Internet, Smart phones and social media have made information easily available to the buyers. So, they do not need to speak to a salesperson to understand the features, benefits, market standing and price! The salesperson can add value only if s/he is able to help the customer discover his or her needs and show how the company’s offering fulfills the needs the best. And at the same time, s/her brings the insights back to the team to help design new offerings.

A lot of the traditional channels of sales are getting disrupted in favour of direct interactions with the end-consumer. So, the salesmanship is getting transformed. Clearly, customer is the king; the warehouse, the retailer, the distributor, the logistics provider and the software provider are no less in the value chain of winning a customer and keeping them loyal to the company!

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Actions need to be strategic!

Over a period of time, companies will reduce their salespeople on-ground and increase the number of people who are going to draw market insights, design customised offerings and discounts to customers, develop new business, discover consumer needs and strike strategic deals with channel partners for bundled offerings.

The function of Sales reporting and analysing is being performed largely by machines rather than the human beings. It is going to be outsourced to IT soon!

Product design and development is no more just the product, its packaging and the service network. It is a lot more now – the customer interfaces at each possible touch-point, its presence on various online as well as offline channels and so on. The communication methods have undergone a lot of change. The traditional 4P’s of marketing is getting redefined, thanks to the disruption that automation has brought about!

Marketeers are evolving faster than ever before! Interesting times ahead for the companies to transform their organizations to align with the new reality and education institutes to start preparing their students take on these challenges!

How is automation changing the HR industry?

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The last 10 years have paved the way for many discoveries in the tech world that every other sector has been trying its best to leverage on these new tools to find higher impact, up the productivity, transform the work processes. Some of these attempts have led to confusion and disruption while some of these have left their impacts deep.

In the HR industry, there are certain work processes which are repetitive and hence, should be scalable, cost-optimal and rigorous. Examples of such instances are in the area of recruitment; secondly, HR operations such as maintaining HR records, addressing employee queries, administering employee compensation and benefits; thirdly, performance management and training employees on skills and knowledge. It is obvious that each of these building blocks of HR call for a strategic direction and then, flawless execution. Automation enables the piece on execution and assists in strategy-making.

As automation picks up, the shape of the HR department in an organization will change. In our previous article, we highlighted that new roles will emerge, traditional roles will slowly change and the number of people involved in accomplishing a task will change.

Let’s look at the changes first!

Mobile, cloud, social, analytics and IoT are some of the biggest innovations in the recent times. Industry has been adapting these into their day-to-day lives. In the HR industry, some of the early impacts of automation that we see are: searching matching talent, attracting potential candidates from various talent pools available to HR people, the size, shape and behaviour of the talent, gathering and answering employee queries, observing employee performance and rewarding them, setting goals, communicating with employees, training and developing them. This is a long list, the fact is , at least one of the 5 innovations have impacted these work processes.

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HR Department is changing!

HR folks need to have new skills to be able to carry out their respective jobs in this new manner! For example, one organizes a self-service portal for all employees and interacts with them online, tracks cycle time of resolving a query, analyses the kind of queries and proactively communicates on the queries which spring up frequently and reduces number of queries. One more such skill is in the area of training: HR team now provides a score of instructional videos which are easily available to employees to refer during work rather than sending them to a day or two of training. These days, HR team creates a collaborative platform for employees to share information, seek assistance and share happiness; co-create policies rather than promulgating a policy top-down!

There have been  tectonic shifts in the way recruiting is being carried out. The tools have changed. Newspaper advertising and classified adverts have largely shifted online; in many cases, they are now highly targeted. The process of employee referral has undergone a sea change; it’s a lot online now and gamified. Interviews and other forms of assessment are now replaced by online tests, video assessments and blocking calendars online. Again, the process of background verification, reference checks have transformed significantly. Recruitment processes get outsourced because there are experts who can run these efficiently and at a speed that matches the need of the organization. The organization can focus on its core business while the operational aspects of HR can be done by well-oiled machinery that does this for its living.

Hence, an organization needs to not only change the skills of its HR team but also determine what levels of competency that the HR team should have.

Expertise rules the roost!

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Given the fact that an organization increasingly focuses on its strategic aspects, its team in-house needs to understand the business, the challenges, the market and its own values to enunciate its policies at a high level. These people need to bring with them depth of experience and a wealth of insight.

Operationalizing the ideas and policies  forms the bedrock of execution. While overseeing the execution is critical for the organization, day-to-day actions are best done by the respective experts. Someone needs to carry out the processes and analyse the results for the top managers of the company to tell them what’s working well for them and what is not. Such HR analytics can guide them to make necessary course-corrections. For example, if hiring a particular role takes long and one has to hire quite a few hires in a year for the role, it is important to know the impact and hence, make a course-correction. Similarly, experts can bring in the knowledge of invaluable benchmarks.

Automation has not only changed the scene with the arrival of new tools but has called for new skill-sets of the team and new ways of doing work. Ultimately, the team needs to match the speed and demands of the business in attracting, retaining and engaging the best talent from the market.