The Covid-19 pandemic is an extraordinary challenge for the world. Unmatched in both scale and impact, it has not only taken a huge toll on human lives but also devastated the global economy and destroyed millions of jobs leaving governments grappling with the crucial question of kickstarting economic activity.
The skilling domain now clearly needs a new game plan. The new ‘work from home’ normal has necessitated the redefining of functional roles and day-to-day operations, leading to a fundamental change in the future of work, workforce and the workspace. Therefore, innovation in skill development focused on online models will be integral to the new emerging realities.
Key questions on everybody’s mind are — How do we improve the readiness of businesses in using online tools for moving seamlessly towards a remote economy? What will the future workforce look like? And what will be the new skill requirements?
A FICCI, Nasscom and EY “Future of Jobs in India – a 2022 perspective” report states that by 2022, 9 per cent Indians will be in jobs that do not exist today and 37 per cent of the Indian workforce would be employed in jobs with radically changed skill sets. And this is now accentuated further due to the pandemic and its fallout, with the skilling fabric of the nation witnessing the widening of existing fault lines. Thus, the prime focus will be to reinvent, reskill, upskill and multi-skill the workforce for dealing with the structural issues in the economy and the changing employment landscape where new emerging sectors like logistics, food delivery, fintech, BPOs etc. are expected to create more jobs.
The biggest post-pandemic change in the business world will be the permanent shift to a distributed workforce which operates remotely. This has emerged as the single most significant driver of digital transformation and platform-based services. Work from Home (WFH) is the new normal in almost all sectors of the economy with India Inc waking up to the realities of virtual operations.
Working virtually will demand significantly different workforce capabilities. There is now a need for greater data-driven decision-making and digitisation. As technology will be the cornerstone of almost all innovation and new ideas aimed at productivity, efficiency, ease and scale, reskilling the employees accordingly will be a new challenge.
Employees will need to be abreast with the skills to work from remote locations. Companies like Tata Consultancy Services have discarded their 20-year old operating model and are looking at 75 per cent of their employees to work from home in the run-up to 2025 making use of a new operating model christened as, ‘Secure Borderless Workspaces’ (SBWS). Many other organisations have followed suit with their similar models that allow them to deploy virtual workspaces seamlessly.
Post pandemic new world order has led business leaders to embrace a slew of digital innovations into their business operations which will require the reskilling of employees to these technologies. For example, the extension of digital technologies and cloud offerings like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented/Virtual Reality, and 3D printing to simpler and daily tasks will lead to enhanced productivity and cost optimisation.
While reskilling for enhanced capabilities will become the prime driver, the mental and emotional stress on individuals should simultaneously be addressed. Turning the house into a workplace, 24×7 availability and managing domestic responsibilities, can lead to psychological and mental stress. Therefore, the mental health of employees must remain a central pillar of the organizations.
To stay ahead in the innovation game, India’s knowledge-led economy has the opportunity to showcase its global competitiveness. For this, India must ensure that the workforce upgrades its knowledge and acquires new skills to deal with a post-Covid world. We must change our mindset to Reskilling @scale and speed by harnessing our human resources and technological capabilities.
The writer is Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Opportunity at Wadhwani Foundation