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A guide to how organisations need to reset people practices for ‘new normal’

Learn, learn, learn. The nature of work has changed. Gig work and upskilling are for real. Human resources will have to put employees at the centre of the organisation and help them acquire new skills. Job-seekers, too, will have to keep learning to stay ahead of the curve.

May 24, 2021 / 11:48 AM IST
Representational image

Representational image

The coronavirus outbreak has upended our lives and transformed work. The office has changed and organisations, too, will have to embrace the “new normal”.

For decades, organisations, individuals and standard practices stared in our face and we accepted them—no questions asked. But, there comes a time when the norm is shattered and a state of flux flows, we now stare at such a situation.

Organisations have for long survived as blocks of progress, adding practices and standards to better their revenues, customer experience and finally, the lives of their people. The coronavirus pandemic has distorted that model.

We can no longer look at people as the appendages who get things done. They are the reasons why things are done. And, organisations will now have to focus more on the ‘soul’ than solely on revenues. Several archaic methodologies must change to focus more on what is absolutely necessary, critical, essential and impactful.

The last six months have been a period of observation and reflection. One thing that is crystal clear is that the human resources (HR) function in an organisation has changed.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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What was once a recruitment and payroll function is now the heart of the organisation. An organisation needs its people and in this article, we work towards reducing the fluff around HR practices and making them more real, mission-focussed and less delusional.

Sifting the essentials

A lot of job shifts have happened—jobs are now classified as essential vs nonessential—and a lot of reskilling is required.

While it is easy to talk about this shift, it is much harder to imagine. Mckinsey estimates that the workforce transition could be huge. Some 75 million-375 million may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills due to automation and the rise of highly skilled workers.

Two positives emanate from this, though:

1) The way we look at work and workers has changed— gig and contract work is now on the radar of many large organisations. Some experts believe there will be a new split: large monopolies and the “Uberization of jobs”. It essentially means business models being undercut by gig and contract workers.

2) There will be a demand for jobs we didn't think were important. Healthcare is a big challenge, so is vaccine administration. New capacities are being built to meet the growing demand, which means economic expansion and the creation of specialised roles.

Investing in talent

Another emerging work trend is people demanding companies to help them learn. Experts say the demand for skills such as leadership and initiative-taking is set to rise by 30 percent.

The way talent and importance are linked to roles is changing. Earlier, all roles in the same horizontal plane were of equal importance but now the value linkage is more nuanced. Each role will bring its own importance. Companies that make swift reallocation changes are likely to perform 2.2x better than peers.

As roles become more dynamic, the rate of upskilling demanded by the market is exponential. Organisations will have to prioritise learning and development not just as a part of compliance but also employee expenditure and quarterly goals.

This will mean:

Creating skill-evaluation systems.

Learning on the job.

Creating more learners.

One cannot simply hit the pause button on employee capability-building when this ecosystem is on the verge of a great restructuring.

From bite-sized learning courses to allowances for books, external course material, instructors and new technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality getting into mainstream learning—big disruptions are on the way.

The new paradigm of skills, training

Individuals have to invest in their learning as well. An organization can support but can’t enforce upskilling. It’s for an employee to decide if they want to remain relevant in a changing job market. Organisations are looking for those with a basket of skills. The theme is, “you hire for the drive to learn—never for skills”.

According to Richard Lobo, Executive Vice President and Head of Human Resources at Infosys Technologies, “Why would you need a JD (job description) or resume if you have a skills passport? Or for that matter why is a designation important?”

He believes companies have to invest in their employees and multiple talent pools will emerge—existing, alumni and gig and contractual. Churn will be high as employees will shift and come back. Companies will welcome with open arms those who return with a new set of skills.

Lobo says we are heading into an era of “talent platformisation”. If food can be ordered, so can talent on the job. People will have talent scores and companies can hire from a larger pool of talent that is “ranked highly” for their skills. This will further expand the talent pool and make it global.

Focus on self

The pandemic has made people realise how frail life is and how vulnerable we are. The fundamental definition of ambition has changed— people now switch seven careers and 20 job roles in a conventional career span. Ambition is short-lived, work-life balance is the priority.

People are now proud of distorted CVs and career choices. This means organizations, in turn, are now talent marketplaces and the war for talent is equi-poised. Employees have to continue to show value and not become redundant.

According to Shaakun Khanna, Leader of Human Capital Management Strategy & Transformation for Asia Pacific at Oracle, “The learning function in an organisation can no longer stand isolated. HR leaders have to calibrate speed in embracing tech and digital learning practices.”

(Nisha Ramchandani and Varun Choraria co-host The Edge Podcast for CHROs.)
Nisha Ramchandani is Manager-Outreach At Axilor Ventures & Writer, Future of Work.
Varun Choraria
first published: May 24, 2021 09:40 am
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