By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
The talent pool has discovered that a degree followed by a few years of experience was the formula for a stable career path. Neither of them guarantees stability any more.
A shrinking job market:
Some years back I was addressing a group of first-year students at one of the top schools in the country. I asked him if the college offered an option of getting the degree without attending any classes, how many students would opt for it. You guessed it. The majority of the students said the “certificate” – not the learning was what mattered. The certificate puts them in the job market and gives them a head start. In many organizations, an MBA from a premier Institute gives a student better salary and a fast track promotion. Suddenly the pandemic brings the students face-to-face with a new reality. The job market has shrunk beyond recognition.
2. Startups funds are drying up
Today if a company announces that it will honor the job offers made, it makes national news. Some employers are hoping that things will return to “normal” in a few months and have delayed joining dates. Many of them have gone back on their offers. A few years back, when an e-commerce company had gone back on the offers made, the engineering college “punished them” by blacklisting them from coming back next year. A degree does not guarantee employment, even for top tier institutions. During a pandemic, skills become precious – not the degree.
Before the pandemic, the college hostels were fertile grounds for startups. A few friends would work on a particular idea and launch their own startup. Finding an investor took some time but was not impossible. The entrepreneurial route was an equally attractive career path if you were slightly adventurous. Failure to build a startup was worn as a badge of honor if someone wanted to find an employer. The pandemic put an end to that. Without funds the startups are pulling down shutters. Their founders and employees are out looking for jobs that do not exist.
Experience does not guarantee job security
Being a people manager was the reward for getting your hands dirty for a few years. People Managers would manage multiple project deadlines and teams. The employers found that Project Management software was more effective in managing the project deadlines.
The role of the people manager suddenly became fuzzy. They had to motivate the teams and ensure low attrition. The pandemic questioned their value to the organization. Many of them had not upskilled themselves in years and their salaries were bloated. The pandemic kills the weak and the vulnerable. The middle managers were in that vulnerable zone with their high salaries and skills that are rusty.
About Job security, financial well-being and career outlook, what do Indian professional feel and why. Read my take in this report by LinkedIn : The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index dt 2 June 2020
Changing talent pools
- Sectors like healthcare and technology will continue to be relatively stable but may see long term changes in the talent pool. As the demand for healthcare workers increases, there are reports of doctors, nurses and paramedics getting infected. Constant exposure to infected patients makes them more likely to get attacked by the virus if they drop their guard even once. Some parents are encouraging their children to choose professions that does not expose them to these dangerous conditions. The opportunity to serve is also inspiring many others to take up careers in the healthcare sector. It is much like a war scares many people from joining the army, but it also inspires several others to serve the nation.
- Mechanization will impacts returning migrants. Migrants have been the mainstay of the harvesting season. As migrants headed back home, landlords had to invest in mechanization and automation to cope with the harvest.
- Education will move to a hybrid model with some schools and colleges going completely online. The vast majority will open the colleges in baby steps. The revenue models in education have been built based on instruction being given in person. As colleges decide to offer the entire years of education online, there may be an increase in requests for deferring admissions to the next academic year. Without the experience of a college campus, the instruction and education being done online does not justify the fee. Besides, teachers and professors have not yet figured out how to teach the same course online and keep the students engaged.
- Anti-immigrant sentiments will rise: Politicians will not get their voters agitated when unemployment rates are already soaring. That will put employers to hire local people and anti-immigration sentiments will ride high unless the job needs skills that are not available locally. Investing in better collaboration platforms will enable businesses to engage experts no matter where they are located.
- Experts not generalists: As the CHRO of a large ITES firm told me, “Experts will continue to get sought after. Even for them, the preference will be to employ them on short term contracts for projects.” A large employer with deep pockets is likely to be the best predictor of job security (for the moment). According to LinkedIn “TCS and Infosys averaged an ~11% annual increase in revenue during FY15-20, while headcount growth averaged ~7%. HCL Tech’s revenue grew 14% annually over the period, even as headcount increased 7% every year. Analysts say the Big 5 – which also includes Wipro and Tech Mahindra – are seeing double-digit growth in AI verticals even as business from core services slows.”
- Frugal consumers: As consumers become more value-conscious and frugal, they will defer any non-essential buying that blocks up capital. Sectors which are low-cost and essential will recover faster than goods and services that demand discretionary spending.
- Reskilling for new way of working: Every function in the organization from sales to HR will need to be re-configured for a worldwide travel will be restricted and video conferences will become the norm instead of face-to-face meetings. Already everything from job interviews to on boarding to letting go of that happening on zoom calls and WhatsApp calls. This creates a massive opportunity for redesigning the organization in reskilling the people.
The “Passion Economy”
The pandemic has added speed to the changes that were already happening at the edges. According to Google’s annual report on search trends in India, “This need to know more has led to explosive growth in the consumption of lifestyle and edutainment content, especially on video, which accounts for 70% of India’s total data usage. Millions of Indians are empowering and upskilling themselves online. This trend is being driven by both day-to-day questions like “gym at home” (+93%) and “5-minute recipes” (+56%) as well as searches related to advanced skill sets like “machine learning” (3X) and “data science” (3X). With a majority of users being homebound, there has also been high growth in queries like “learn online” (+85%), “teach online” (+148%), and “at-home learning” (78%).”[i]
As traditional jobs are shrinking, there are opportunities opening up in the “Passion Economy”. This week, ads will begin showing up in IGTV for only around 200 approved, English-speaking creator partners, including Adam Waheed and Lele Pons, from a handful of major advertiser partners like Ikea, Puma, and Sephora. For the top creators on the social platforms it may mean big bucks. Instagram will share 55% of revenue generated through ads with its top creators.[ii]
As Andreessen Horowitz puts it, “Whereas previously, the biggest online labor marketplaces flattened the individuality of workers, new platforms allow anyone to monetize unique skills. Gig work isn’t going anywhere—but there are now more ways to capitalize on creativity. Users can now build audiences at scale and turn their passions into livelihoods, whether that’s playing video games or producing video content. This has huge implications for entrepreneurship and what we’ll think of as a “job” in the future.”[iii]
People who are able to help others get skilled or simplify their life will become more and more powerful. These creators are connecting with their audience and monetizing the unique abilities. This the golden age for creative professionals who know how to use the various social platforms. This is the direct to consumer model for talent. This may be the moment that creators have waited for.