By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Think of the last time someone sang the Happy Birthday song for you. Remember the line, “Happy long life to you …” The good news is that it is working. The bad news is that you will need to reimagine the Learn, Earn & Retire Model that worked even till the other day …
Happiness is …
Recently 3,700 PhD holders, 50,000 graduates and 28,000 post-graduates applied for 62 posts of messengers in UP police — a position that requires minimum eligibility of Class V. The selection for the job required just a self-declaration that the candidate knows how to ride a bicycle. However, recognising a large pool of over-qualified applicants, the department has now agreed to conduct a selection test for posts that have been lying vacant for the last 12 years. Clearly, educational qualifications do not guarantee employment and employability even to someone with a PhD.
We have grown up in a world where learning and earning were sequential processes. In ancient philosophy, we looked at four distinct ashramas — learning (Brahmacharya) was when time was spent in learning, which equipped a person to earn a living and run a family as a Grihastha. The third stage was Vanaprastha when the person retired and prepared for the final stage of renunciation, ie Sannyasa. This model needs to be re-imagined.
From a learn, earn and retire model, we have to create a new mindset that will enable us to prepare for a world where the shelf life of education is barely three years. Jobs get transformed every four years. Jobs and skills are no longer bundled together.
Earlier, educational skills guaranteed employment and once employed, status quo was maintained till retirement.
Today, the learn-earn-retire model has to be replaced by a model that has several more learn-earn-learn-earn cycles spread over every three to four years. Each one of us has to start learning for skills that will keep us employable for the next 3-4 years.
The new world of work
We have been feeding people the myth of demographic dividend. The myth convinces people that as other nations start having greying populations, we will be the prime source of talent.
In the previous waves of automation, blue-collar jobs were impacted while white-collar jobs got augmented by technology. This time, there will be enough white-collared jobs that will become redundant because of technology.
The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing many business models. Just as online travel portals have reduced the travel agent’s jobs to a trickle, AI is taking away the insurance agents needed to read thousands of cases and detect fraud. Computers are able to learn from millions of images fed in to diagnose diseases better than doctors.
It is time to accept that platforms like UpWork can make it possible to get parts of a job done by skilled workers around the world for a fraction of the usual cost. The new world of work is all about skills. This will need the partnership of the government, the employer and the individual.
Role of the Government
The government has to build for scale and relevance. The changes made in education will have an impact after two decades.Education has to be re-imagined for tomorrow’s workforce. Today when a student gets a poor grade in a subject, the student is still pushed to the next higher class. Low marks may reflect lack of understanding, but high marks no longer are a proxy for knowledge and proficiency.To prepare for future roles, we need to encourage depth in learning at all levels. A huge drive towards digital literacy and soft skills development is needed.While the power to make the changes lies with politicians and bureaucrats, the insights on where the opportunities will lie in future may lie outside.
The government must go beyond traditional populations and also create opportunities for upskilling at all ages.(Read about the Skill Pyramid)
Role of the employers
When it came to a choice, most employers addressed skill gaps by hiring from outside. There has been a reluctance to invest in skill development because a highly skilled employee’s market worth increases. Employers believe that upgrading skills leads to attrition. Employers could build in assessments to evaluate the change in skills of the individual and readjust the compensation for an employee to match what the market pays.
Ever noticed how in most organizations the leaders rarely join workshops and training events. They will sit at the back, doing their email. That signals to the team that they do not need to learn all this, but they are joining the workshop just to encourage the team. This is patronizing and tells the participants, the new ideas will not be implemented because the leaders have not accepted their own need to learn and accept new ideas.
Even now, in most organizations, the learning opportunities are segmented by hierarchy rather than learning needs. The seniors feel embarrassed to attend the same workshop that their team members are attending. It’s a sign of an antiquated mindset when leaders project themselves to be “beyond learning”. They will not be the role models employees need to stay curious and humble — two qualities that help a person to learn.
To sum up, individuals have to realise they cannot depend on the government or employers to stay employable. Each one of us needs to craft a two-speed strategy. The first one is all about upskilling to stay relevant. In parallel, we need to start learning what it takes to do the roles we expect to do in the next 12-18 months. Expertise building is a slow path. The right mindset helps us stay employable for a happy long life.