Jan 4, 2018

Future of Jobs, #FutureOfWork in the age of #ArtificialIntelligence, Gig-economy - The #India perspective

“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future” – goes a Danish quote. One routinely sees the fallacy of predictions even by experts. That’s because we overestimate the quantum of change in the short term, but under-estimate it in the long term.

Another reason why predictions fail is that the human brain is more comfortable thinking linearly, however changes happen in complex systems, where a small incremental difference can impact a disproportionate impact in another are – or what is known as “the butterfly effect”
So at the risk of sounding like an idiot when someone revisits these words (as I am quite sure I would be) here are my thoughts about the short and long term future of jobs and work.
However if we observe from an India perspective here is the current state of affairs:
Technical and Professional education is at a standstill. More and more engineering colleges and management schools are shutting down due to over-supply of seats, lack of proper selection process and job-ready candidates, and a shortage of teaching staff. Outside the elite institutions people are getting jobs that they would have got even if they were plain graduates.

Traditional big industries from manufacturing to IT to banking to telecom are introducing automation and Artificial Intelligence to take away jobs that would traditionally be done by humans and is prone to human error. RPA (Robotics Process Automation) is taking over tasks across industries.

While re-skilling is imperative, incumbent industries that are trying to compete with disruptors are under tremendous pressure to cut costs and hence are unable to take on the costs of reskilling.

It is also accepted as a given at today’s generation that is coming into the workforce will need to reskill of radically different skills about 10-15 times in their lifetime. So careers are going to be “emergent” rather than planned and more like a patchwork quilt than a traditional ladder. New skills are evolving all the time. And an openness to experiment and learn would be imperative for any employee.

Everyone talks about the rise of the gig-economy and the freelance workforce, that is enabling a lot of talent that traditionally drops out of or is ignored by the organized workplaces, like people with disability, LGBTQ people. The rise of niche online/app-based marketplaces is empowering for these people. However, the ones making the money are doing it without the safety net of traditional employment like health insurance or retiral benefits. In addition since this economy is ruled by algorithms and attention so the “power-law” applies – some freelancers who are recognized as brands or get rated higher get disproportionately higher work and compensation. Think of the movie industry analogy (which is essentially a gig economy) where the stars get paid the most than others.

Put together all these trends, what emerges is a pretty dismal looking scenario for humans looking for work in the organized sector (I’m not counting the 90% of the workforce in the unorganized sector) is the rise of specific types of jobs that would require people to not just be operationally excellent but who can look at what the algorithms/bots can’t spot or do. While driverless cars and trucks are still some way off from Indian roads – automation will also impact the semi-skilled workforce in the building and construction as well as textile industry.

We will see  a lot of people realizing that the onus of developing their professional and vocational skills are up to them. They will sign up for the various free and paid online certification to build skills that are in high demand as they make radically different shifts into unrelated careers. HR departments and organizations would need to give their people flexibility to do that, otherwise they themselves will lose out on talent. This would also impact the kind of talent organizations will hire as the fascination with “pedigreed campuses” will wane and with the rise of micro-certification of specific skills

(This article was written for the January, 2018 issue of People Matters magazine)

After I shared this article on Twitter I recieved two thoughtful responses, one from a Recruiter and one from a HR consultant. Here they are:
First response:
Second response:

Dec 27, 2017

Happy New Year wishes to all of you

As 2017 draws to a close, here's wishing all of you and your loved ones a very Happy New Year.

May 2018 bring you meaningful and purposeful work, continued love of your close ones, and lots of new learnings!

Dec 20, 2017

Chatbots, AI, HR Tech - quoted in this article by @toymango in Economic Times

My friend Tanmoy Goswami was working on an article on chatbots and AI and reached out to me about the earlier wave of HR technology (which we called ESN, Enterprise 2.0 etc)

Tech-enabled engagement platforms have a patchy history. Before bots, there was the office intranet - which flamed. Gautam Ghosh, consultant, talent advisory services, VBeyond Corporation, and former director of talent branding at Flipkart, says intranets didn't work because companies thought buying the tech would be enough. They didn't think through the design ("why employees would use it") and the human intervention needed to nudge people along.
Read the whole article here.

Dec 19, 2017

Interviewed by the students of IIITM Gwalior on HR, #socialmedia and @v_beyond

The students at IIITM Gwalior interviewed me for their atudent magazine and they've published it online on their blog.

You can go read it here.

Some excerpts I wanted to highlight.

On my social media journey:
Well I was lucky I started blogging in 2002 and I was one of the few people blogging about HR and business those days. So, it was just a circumstance of being at the right place at the right time starting off as an early business blogger. I convinced a lot of people within HR that if you take to social media, take to blogging, take to Twitter you could connect with people across the world. So, I guess that momentum from blogging to twitter and to other social media helped.  So, if you start early people know you much more and when you move to another platform they follow you into that platform. I’ve now spent more than a decade on twitter and one and a half decades on blogging. It’s just a matter of being consistent and keeping at it, trying to share something of value.

On what students should read:

Don’t discriminate, read everything, form your own opinions. I think that’s critical.

On qualities we look for when hiring people to VBeyond:

We hire recruiters and we hire engineers into recruiting roles. So, if you are an engineer and you feel that you want to try something else, if core engineering is not your cup of tea but you have knowledge of engineering, you can talk and convince a person that you have self-confidence and are willing to work hard and earn a lot of money if you are successful then this is it.

Dec 14, 2017

Listed amongst 100+ Brilliant HR Blogs

A company called USA Mobile Drug Testing put out a list earlier this month in which they included this blog at number 19 in what they called 100+ Brilliant HR Blogs to Follow

It was an honor to be listed amongst some of by longtime blogging friends like Steve Boese, Suzanne Lucas, Laurie Ruettimann and Jon Ingham, and also thought leaders like Stanford professor and author of bestseller business books Bob Sutton.

Go out check out the list, if you want to follow some great global HR blogs!

Nov 24, 2017

My blog post on #diversity #hiring #recruitment at the @v_beyond blog

Diversity is no longer a “good to do” thing for corporate around the world. It’s become a “must do” imperative. Studies around the world from academic research to research by consulting firms like McKinsey and Deloitte point to the fact organizations that have a diverse workforce are more creative, perform their peers in most financial parameters. The major reason is that the customers are themselves diverse and companies need a diverse workforce to understand and empathise with the needs of today’s customers.
Yet, building a diverse workforce remains a challenge for most organizations. I take a look at some of the major reasons why that happens, and what organizations can do to overcome these challenges on the VBeyond Blog

Nov 20, 2017

Book Review: #HitRefresh by @satyanadella

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book by Harper Collins' publicists. They reached out to me and I did not solicit it.

The book is part memoir, part manifesto and part forecasting of the future of technology. As he explains he's written the book when the transformation, as he says "Hit Refresh" (based on the browser command) is still ongoing.

What stays with you after the end of the book, is Nadella's view of "empathy" and "growth mindset"

When he was hired in Microsoft his hiring manager asked him "what would you do if you see an abandonded child in the middle of the road?" Satya answered "I'll call 911" 

The manager after he was hired told him that his answer was wrong because the correct answer was "I'll pick up the child". Nadella reveals that he became acutely aware of empathy when his son Zain was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and how it shaped his worldview. His wife Anu also introduced him to "growth mindset" and that shaped his view of the future is that it will not belong to the "know-it-alls" but to the "learn-it-alls"

Another gem from the book is:

The book is a both a memoir, where Nadella shares his personal stories and also his vision and manifesto for Microsoft as well as the future of how technology is impacting the future.

He reveals that he is a huge cricket fan, and that he was playing with a cricket ball when he got the call to be Microsoft's third CEO. His cricketing hero was Hyderabad's legendary ML Jaisimha.

The book is a case study in an on-going culture change, but Satya's impact is felt. He shares how this image made many of his colleagues nod their heads in agreement when they saw it - and when he became CEO his role was to change it
Image result for microsoft culture
He shares how Microsoft is now collaborating with competitors like Apple, Adobe (Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and Satya are both alumni of Hyderabad Public School) and Google. Also shares how he was against the Nokia deal (Microsoft dumped it soon after he became CEO)

There is also a chapter on how tech companies are struggling to deal with user privacy and national security and the reason Microsoft supported Apple's decision not to give the US security agencies a "backdoor entry" to the iPhone's data - I wish this was a longer chapter

He also owns up his missteps - like the time he spoke about the salary difference in tech by gender - and was criticised for his remarks.

I'd highly recommend this book - its not a linear retelling - but a fascinating mix of a person's journey from being as aspiring cricketer to the CEO of one of the world's most impactful tech firms.