A new generation, led by millennials, is mining the treasures in data and influencing workforce change.
The surging high-tech, sharing economy is disrupting everything from transportation to food delivery. Technological advancements, such as blockchain, are driving efficiencies in areas ranging from the finance industry to supply chain. Meanwhile, cognitive computing and artificial intelligence are expanding the boundaries of the possible and turning science fiction into science fact.
This is just the latest iteration in the natural evolution of how we work. At the beginning of the 20th century, the second industrial revolution was powered by the sheer effort of the ‘blue-collar’ worker, a reference to the denim commonly worn by the men and women, whose skilled labour anchored the economy.
Then came the ‘white-collar’ workforce, a term first coined by author Upton Sinclair to describe salaried professional office workers in corporate settings.
Today, data is the new natural resource. A new generation, led by millennials, is mining the treasures in data and influencing workforce change. With every third person below the age of 25 years, India is a young and promising nation with an ever-growing number of millennials entering the workforce. While every company wishes to tap the most sought after millennial group for their unique skill sets, it is important to focus on ‘early professional hiring’.
With the advent of new technologies, the role of the individual worker has begun to shift again, creating what the ‘new-collar’ jobs for today’s economy. While these jobs are highly technical, many of them do not require a four-year college degree.
In addition to the expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in our schools, one way to close that gap is by expanding job opportunities for capable workers who have traditionally been left behind. This expanding talent pool is necessary to meet the growing demand for ‘new-collar’ jobs in areas, such as cloud, security, AI and data science.
As the IT industry is continuously evolving in India, it becomes even more critical to bring in young talent, help them upskill and give them opportunities to contribute to the larger economy. With demand and supply for these skills now reaching a boiling point, businesses must identify existing gaps so that we can bridge them with training and education.
Ultimately, connecting talent to ‘new-collar’ jobs will benefit all stakeholders. Companies gain new diverse talent, employees develop skills necessary for the new economy and the nation bolsters economic growth. What matters most is relevant skills, sometimes obtained through vocational training. It is clear: ‘new-collar’ jobs are the smart way to close the skills gap and put the right people to work solving the problems of today and tomorrow.
If an organisation wants to change how it addresses the skills gap, it should start building a new-collar approach by re-examining the workforce strategy, improve engagement and outreach to attract candidates, build a local ecosystem and create new partnerships with regional workforce development organisations, provide a holistic support programme for new hires and focus on continuous learning and reskilling of employees.
As far as the outlook for the industry in 2018 is concerned, HR must act as an enabler to leverage and deploy technology to enhance the overall employee experience. Another critical area which needs razor focus is the overall development of leadership skills, which will enable and equip employees, managers and leaders to succeed and add value, not only to themselves but also to their respective roles within the organisation!
(The author is VP-HR & HR head, IBM India and South Asia)