Rapid technology growth spawns new business and operating models that require new competencies and less of human intervention.

As young Indians struggle with job losses here are four macro trends affecting industriesBy Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Atom Employment Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 17:20

K. Ramachandran

Job cuts, downsizing and relieving “relative underperformers” from organizations have been hogging the headlines in the tech and e-commerce sectors in the past few weeks. This is indeed raising uncomfortable questions on the next level of growth in India’s thriving IT/Business process management (BPM) sector.

Unquestionably, the technology industry is undergoing a major shift to new business and operating models: this driven by a slew of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence, mobile, analytics, cloud and Internet of Things. They are challenging the capabilities and growth prospects of even large players. But if we look deeper, it is not just the technology industry that is impacted but almost all industries. Obvious reason: Every industry is using more and more of technology. Sample this:

Larsen & Toubro terminated 14,000 employees or 11.2% of its workforce in just one year.

HDFC bank eliminated 4,500 jobs just in one quarter attributing it to “increased efficiency and productivity” through introduction of humanoids to automate banking operations including cash deposit and foreign exchange transactions, and loans.

Infosys went on record that it let go of 9,000 people last year because of automation.

Ola, Askme, Housing.com and Flipkart and a few others accounted for over 10,000 job losses in the past year.

And Citibank has warned that robotics and automation could eliminate 30% of global banking jobs by 2025—with no reason to believe that India could be an exception.

So what does all this mean?

Experts across industries point to four key trends—all related to rapid development in technology—that are impacting jobs and people. While many think that this disruption will, in the long run, create newer category of jobs as history has shown and demonstrated, in the short run, the transition could be painful.

Trend 1: The rise of automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence

Repetitive work that can lead to human errors are rapidly being taken over by bots, algorithms and humanoids powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning and robotics. These automation technologies help achieve the same job results with greater efficiency, accuracy and speed. For example, bank teller operations, insurance agent operations, telemarketing jobs are being gobbled up by AI driven machines, which also learn and evolve faster to render results with speed, on a 24x7 basis.

Trend 2: Coming together of the Physical and Digital  

The industrial era is telescoping into, and merging with the digital era of knowledge-powered machines. This means, the skills of the industrial era need to be married with the skills of the digital era which is more data and analytics-driven. Every physical device from a toothbrush to a jet engine is instrumented. The data they generate are analysed by humans, who take meaningful decisions in real-time. This new space calls for inter-disciplinary skills that brings humanities and social sciences together with science and technology—something not easily available in the market or created by university systems.

Trend 3: Move from input-based models to consumption-led/self-service models

Traditional modes of implementing and maintaining software applications like SAP and Oracle, managing large IT infrastructure required an army of people. This threw up truckloads of job opportunities for fresh graduates, resulting in the creation of thousands of engineering colleges. But in the digital era, all these cumbersome applications are being simplified and modernised using newer technologies like mobile and cloud. They are becoming self-service applications that you and I can download, use and also pay for. This democratization of technology has meant lesser people to write code, test or maintain apps.

Trend 4: Hiring is getting localized; “on-site opportunities” evaporate

One big trend unleashed by the digital is every large corporation is worried about getting “Ubered”. They are worried about the next disruptive business model, operational model and new modes of delivering superior customer experience. This means IT/BPM companies create more jobs closer to where the customers are, to co-innovate or co-create these newer models. In the traditional model, clients would identify the problem and ask its partners or technology providers to solve it. In the new model, the partner needs to co-find the problem and co-solve it. This means the traditional opportunities to “work onsite” at customer locations in the U.S., Europe, Australia, South Africa, etc., will diminish. 

What does this mean for the future of science and technology graduates in India in the short term? Reinvent and move with the times.  

Here are a few tips:

The world needs problem finders, not problem solvers. This can happen not just through a deep understanding of technologies but job aspirants need to understand industries and also need to think out of the box. While the left side of the brain hones technology learning, the right side (thinking, creating, visualizing and re-imagining parts) needs to be burnished. Start doing courses on humanities and social sciences. This multi-disciplinary approach will open up newer thinking and newer opportunities.

If you want to be a technology buff, look for competencies and careers in data science, cybersecurity, and other new growth areas. Delve deep and specialize in them.

Do a MOOC or online course regularly. Life-long learning is the only way for you to survive and grow in a market powered by unprecedented technology-change.

Participate in events that test your competence and capabilities on an ongoing basis. Your hackathons ranking or score will be more relevant and meaningful than your gold medal at the university.

Go after companies that are changing and winning in the marketplace. Embrace world leading corporates such as GE, Google, IBM, Cognizant or Infosys that are making big moves to embrace change and are “shedding relative underperformers” and those who do not transition to the new skills. They are the frontrunners of change who are preparing for tomorrow, today.

A new world needs a new mindset and new skills. There is no time to blame “our educational system which will evolve at its own pace”. Try to acquire new competencies that markets seek.  

As Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn said: “The modern worker is one where he/she always has to be in a state of constant education – lifelong learning if you will.”

 

The author heads Strategy for www.361dm.com (Mail: krc@361dm.com)

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