The wave of digital transformation and automation sweeping across business domains has also upended the workplace and job market at large. It does have its share of challenges—work intensification, mental wellness of employees and so on. But for the most part, it offers a new window of opportunities with enhanced productivity growth, new job markets to tap, better work‐life balance and, possibly, higher pay.
While automation and digital transformation have been in the works for several years, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a reconceptualization of the nature of work and the workplace. It also accelerated the shift of services and people’s livelihoods onto virtual and digital platforms. The digitalization of the job market covers a mix of occupations such as quick commerce and its on-demand delivery workforce, to ‘influencers’ who earn with their activities on social media channels as also super-skilled software developers working remotely.
But as a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) flagged, “Digital workers are distributed around the world with an asymmetrical organisation of labour. Digital workers are generally young and male. The skill levels of digital workers are heterogeneous, though with greater representation among those who are highly skilled. Overall, digitalization has penetrated almost all major economic sectors and changed the structure of the labour market.”
As a result, non-traditional forms of employment relations, such as casual work, are becoming dominant.
Employers need to tackle concerns about repercussions for the quality of jobs. On the plus side, there is flexibility but it comes tagged with a huge amount of precarious and unpaid work. Research suggests that digital employment can increase economic inclusion, but there is evidence of explicit or inexplicit forms of discrimination based on location, ethnicity, religion, and gender.
Another critical aspect is how the workforce across sectors is getting tech-oriented. As this report pointed out, “JP Morgan is still a financial services company but has mushroomed to over 50,000 employees in its Information Technology (IT) organisation while cutting its core banking staff as it reshapes to become a digital and technology-centric bank. Its annual IT budget now exceeds $11 billion, more than the annual revenues of several companies in the S&P 500 Index comprising companies with large market capitalisation.”
Skill gap, training
The new job market is also characterised by how employees’ skill composition has been challenged as the requirements are tilted towards more advanced digital skills, which are in short supply.
India will need 30 million digitally skilled professionals by 2026, and as much as half of the current workforce would need to reskill themselves in areas of emerging technologies, according to a report.
The report states that over 2 million jobs in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and blockchain are expected to remain vacant this year. This is mainly attributed to the skill gap.
The problem is accentuated as the number of people in the working age group is expected to reach 1 billion by 2030.
However, this presents an opportunity as it creates a huge potential in vocational training and re-skilling businesses. Existing companies would need to strike partnerships or develop their own training programs to keep their employees future-ready.
HR desks need to prepare themselves for developing a skill matrix and conducting skill audits, targeting specific learning journeys, intermingling upskilling within the company culture, and creating a comprehensive skill development strategy.
According to the World Economic Forum, investment in upskilling could potentially lift India’s economy by $570 billion by adding 2.3 million jobs by 2030.
People angle is key
Firms that are actually turning the tide, and moving from a 30% to 80% digital transformation success rate, depend on getting the people dimension – the organization, the operating model, the processes and the culture – right, as per consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Organizations need to mesh the work of machines and humans together as a guiding principle. Indeed, the future of business organizations is bionic. By combining human and machine capabilities, bionic companies can do things that traditional businesses cannot. This requires a cultural change and needs HR departments to become strategic partners to the rest of the business.
BCG’s advice on getting people’s dimension right has several layers. This includes a committed, aligned and engaged leadership right from the CEO down to middle management.
Another key factor is to adopt new, agile ways of working, breaking down walls between teams.
In the same vein, HR teams need to understand that the talent the company might need could come from parts of the organisation they wouldn’t expect. This makes it important to take an open-source approach to finding talent internally, as well as upskilling existing employees.
The end note
Digitalization has created new job opportunities across a wide range of industries and skill sets. As technology continues to evolve, it is likely that new job roles will emerge, creating even more opportunities for skilled professionals. It is important for individuals to stay up-to-date with the latest technology trends and continuously learn new skills to stay competitive in the job market. For employers, the task is to maintain a healthy balance between automation and human interface.