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Srividya Kannan

Kannan is Founder & Director, Avaali Solutions

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The Future of Talent

Successful talent of the future is going to be highly entrepreneurial, self-driven with a fierce sense of commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. Enterprises will need to significantly step-up to get the best of their high potentials by creating a culture of learning and collaboration.

This article was published in the December edition of Illuminar from Avaali

The topic that is being intensely debated recently is the future of work and where jobs will be replaced by technology. In the past few quarters, we’ve seen all kinds of facts and figures around job losses and how digital is changing the human resources landscape.  On the one end, there are huge risks of job losses, and on the other end, enterprises are facing severe shortage of relevant talent for the workplace of the future. This kind of contradiction is analogous to what Charles Dickens calls “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness”.

Automation related job losses are predicted across all economies and industry segments. Every other day, we see news of thousands of job losses across geographies. However, enterprises also have this other challenge of a wide gap in digital talent. A few recent survey reports suggest that over half (54%) of organizations agreed that they lost competitive advantage because of shortage of talent. While digital talent was always thought of alluding to technical skills, what is getting increasingly pronounced is the talent gap in soft skills in addition to hard skills. Digital talent includes both hard skills such as AI, Analytics, IM, ML etc., plus soft skills in the form of positive attitude, comfort with ambiguity, customer centricity and passion for learning.

Over 29% of employees believe their skill set is redundant now or will be in the next 1–2 years. Gone are the days where one focuses the first 20 to 25 years of their life on education and the remaining 40 odd years on work. Being relevant for the future of the workplace will require that employees focus on continuous learning, and being flexible and adaptable to new requirements of the new demands from the workplace.  

Here are some ways in which enterprises and individuals could re-think their talent goals and objectives to align such that they meet each other more often.

How enterprises can address the skill gap:

  • Define specific skills required for success: Enterprises will need a clear vision of what skills are required based on customer demand, business goals and objectives and innovations planned. The more granular definition of these skills would mean not only determining technical skills but also functional skills, domain understanding, soft skills and specific competencies that needs to be on board. This must also then be a very integral part of their recruiting function who need to clearly evaluate and understand not only ‘what skills’ they are looking for but ‘where’ to look. Sometimes,
  • Defining the skill gap: Enterprises must align leadership on a talent strategy and the unique needs of digital talent.  An inventory of the “current skills” and an honest self-assessment of the as-is needs to be done to determine the current levels of proficiency. This should have business involvement in association with HR. A clear view of the type of employees and their digital persona will be identified at this stage. Some companies go to the extent of defining how employees with this mindset think – for instance they may focus on passion towards creativity and building something new, having an entrepreneurial mindset, a strong positive attitude etc.
  • Plugging the gap: There are several ways how the gaps can be addressed. The more conventional methods include effective trainings and partnering with niche digital technology firms. More unconventional or inorganic routes include for example employee exchange programs between a set of enterprises, cooperation with a local university or start-up acquisition. Other examples include making tweaks in the business processes entailing gamification or mobile applications, where digital skills are mandatory to execute the process. Some enterprises are also trying to reduce the impact by turning to a new kind of diversity in the workplace where they hire a fair share of freelancers to work aside full-time employees.  Again, in an increasingly connected world with digital, visibility with respect to opportunities for offshoring has only increased. The gig economy has seen a huge rise recently with skilled workers become agents to offer their services for a stated duration within enterprises. Innovation possibilities that exist in the next ten years with working models, platforms and marketplaces are clearly immense. It would be interesting to see how policy makers try to institutionalize and treat such freelancers with laws and guidelines.
  • Retention of talent: With high demand for great talent, enterprises need to create an environment where individuals want to stay in the long run. Several employees are now looking for on-going learning and career paths that take them to discover new areas. Enterprises need to focus on building a collaborative, flexible and open work environment with continuous focus on upskilling and learning.
  • Measuring and evaluating progress: Like any strategic initiative, this too needs continuous monitoring and assessment of the progress. This is also required to keep track of the ongoing changes in the digital landscape combined with the internal dynamics of the enterprise.

Individuals and their self-development:

With an increasingly connected world, individuals are taking ownership for their learning and development. It is estimated that over 52% of all the employees prefer learning through a massive open online course (MOOC). Individuals are looking beyond their organization’s L&D programs. They are making their own critical assessments on where they stand in the maturity curve in terms of digital proficiency – whether it is basic, intermediary or advanced, to then lay a plan and roadmap and incorporate progress back into their development plans.

We’re amidst unprecedented technology change that has a huge impact on the workforce. According to a recent World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report, 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types. It will be interesting to see how and when governments, educational institutions, enterprises and employees will come together to create a balance to meet the demand supply skill gap. This requires all hands-on-deck – believing that someone else will take the lead and leave us in a state of comfort is not going to work. Shortage of digital skills is a nice to have problem, as it gives enterprises, individuals and the entire ecosystem, an opportunity to expand their knowledge and challenge existing limitations.

Successful talent of the future is going to be highly entrepreneurial, self-driven with a fierce sense of commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. Enterprises will need to significantly step-up to get the best of their high potentials by creating a culture of learning and collaboration. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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