‘Only the Paranoid Survive’- Andrew S. Grove, Intel Corporation, 1988. -There is no better way to summarize the current business situation, that all of us are embarking upon.

In the book ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, Yuval Noah Harari explained that no human job will ever be safe from the threat of future automation. The revolution of Automation and AI will make humans redundant from all sorts of fields from truck drivers to lawyers, from accountants to teachers and so on. It will change the entire concept of decision making about our career, relationship, life, everything. While this is going to be the future of ‘human jobs’ for the rest of the industries, the Technology industry is the chief agent of the ‘creating side’ of this world. With its revolutionary AI and Automation solutions they are constantly helping others transform the technology landscape, as well as adopt new ways of working. This existed even before the Covid19 crisis, the pandemic has only accelerated it.

Today’s customer priorities have shifted to ‘speed’ and ‘agility’ from ‘cost and efficiency’. Technology is the ‘core’ to the transformation. Cloud, Digital experience and AI are the top strategic spend areas where ‘human resource’ is the driving force for all these transformations. As per 2021 Gartner Board of Directors survey, enterprise directors plan to increase their spending on IT and Technology by an average of 6.9% where IT ‘Talent development’ is one of the strategic focuses in every industry. Research also has shown 74% of the organizations think that ‘technology’ is the primary enabler, out of those 42% tends to consider it is ‘reskilling workforce’ (as per a recent publication on the State of Intelligent Enterprise report by an Indian MNC). Across sectors, clients are now valuing industry knowledge, people who understand the nuances of the local market and the technology more than ever. Increasingly, traditional services are under stress and “ability to disrupt” has become more pronounced. Majority of the incremental growth for the industry will be led by services like Digital, Cloud engineering and Cybersecurity where next-gen technologies such as 5G, AI, Robotics and Blockchain will experience an exponential growth. Technology access and usage have been largely democratized and mainstreamed which has led to significant changes on how technology is developed, delivered, and consumed. Hence, Organizations which are bringing the technology competency today, are most-definitely finding themselves with a competitive advantage.

But how sustainable is this model in long term? The answer is ‘not likely’. A tale from old Wild West: ‘No matter how good the cards you hold, if someone changes the rules of the game with a gun, those cards are useless’. The gun here is new technology. Yesterday’s new-age has become today’s legacy and there will always be a tomorrow’s cutting edge. Same goes for human resources. what is in high demand today is no longer relevant tomorrow.  Future of skills relies upon who can evolve with this pace of change.

Being in the industry for more than a decade now in various roles throughout my career, and especially now being in a ‘partner management’ role, I am exposed to at least one new technology or a product every single day which claims to offer better benefits than the yesterday’s ones. The truth of the matter is –we cannot have talent who has the exact right skill for tomorrow, even though he/she is a good-fit for today. Although having ‘multi-skilled, multi-functional full stack talents’ sounds lucrative, it’s a far-fetched truth. The reality is, there will still be a gap in skill- expectation as the specific need of the customer will change rapidly over time and so will the skill-requirement.

Then what is the solution? It is there in the ‘Mindset’.

While technology is the core to transformation, ‘Trust’ has always been the backbone of any long-term customer success. Customers want to engage and commit to companies who they can trust, share similar ethics and values, and more importantly play a role of an advisor throughout their business cycle from ideation to execution. Even it is evident in the multiple researches that IT Service providers have shown much stronger recovery during the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 vs. during the Global Financial Crisis (that of 2007/08) [source: Everest group, 2021 company reports], because they were able to stand by their clients and justify their role as trusted advisors. In his book, ‘Hit Refresh: the quest to rediscover Microsoft’s soul and imagine a better future for everyone’, Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) sets out his philosophy which entails promoting bold new ideas, making space for employees to experiment and fail and keeping an eye on the long-term view (of customer love) rather than worrying about quarterly return.

Today’s clients always have to be ahead of competition, and they want their Service Providers to always challenge their status-quo, ways of working as well as help them continuously innovate. They are in constant need of knowing- what new technologies will help them to reduce costs? How can they reduce Non-Productive Time and improve operating margin? How can they get access to the right real time data to make faster and better decisions? Are they making right investment on the right personnel? and so on…

While the customer climate has significantly changed, expectations of growth has not. There is still expectations to grow revenue where customers are having a budgetary cut, there will still be expectation to work in a never-ending schedule and still strike a healthy work-life balance. Managing productivity in unprecedented times, away from the comfort of an office infrastructure, can present either the best of opportunities or the worst of challenges. And whosoever is accepting these facts and adapting to this changing need, are proven to be the ‘best of the breed’ talents be it in a technical or in a leadership role.

As we have established the fact that the skill requirements are ever-changing and today’s new age is tomorrow’s legacy, we cannot just depend on hiring the technology skill. The skill can and has to be developed and more importantly re-developed. Employees have to learn, unlearn and re-learn to become relevant in the market. Only thing which will stay is not the competence, but ‘the character’ or say ‘mindset’. Not only the organizations, but the professional schools also should focus their efforts on developing this mindset in their grad-students: What are the core values which the resources are exhibiting in day-to-day life (integrity, respect, trust, accountability, resilience are few of them)? To what extent they are aligned to company’s culture? How short is their learning curve? Is the employee a ‘design thinker’? What level of market awareness do they possess? Is he/she a team player? What motivates them? How good are they in dealing with changes? How do they score in different psychometric parameters? A featured report by Nesta on ‘Future of Skill: Employment 2030’, substantiates the fact that the skills that are likely to be in greater demand in the future, are interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills, and systems skills. 

Currently the IT industry is facing the highest attrition ever. We have to accept the facts that market is open and whoever is paying a greater remuneration, obviously can hope to attract the best talents. Hence it is also important to establish a process to retain the talented ‘minds’ in parallel to recruiting them.  This process includes- 1) Designing a Talent development strategy (with speed, diversity, ambitious training program) aligning to the organization’s vision. One of Google’s innovation principles is- ‘Look for ideas everywhere’ (‘BOLD’ by Peter Diamands and Steven Kotler)- which also indicates the current era of ‘community talent’ and ‘crowdsourcing’ that helps in delimiting the dependency of organization’s internal resources.  2) Creating a work environment to attract and retain talent (through company values, policies, compensation strategy and high learning & collaborative work culture). To conclude, it is high time that the organizations should start thinking beyond ‘technological competence’ and start learning how to cash on the mind-set for future, because ‘World’s most precious resource is persistent and passionate human minds’.

About the Author

‘Prajukti brings around 12 years of IT industry experience to her role and currently is working as a ‘Senior Alliance Manager for Data & Analytics Practice’ for Europe geography in Wipro Limited and is based in Reading, United Kingdom. She did her B.Tech in Information Technology and MBA in Human Resource Management and is currently pursuing a part time Ph.D. in Management from SMC University. Her spectrum of experiences involves Business development through technology partner ecosystem, Business analysis, Solution design, Pre Sales and consulting in the Data-Analytics and AI areas. She likes to spend her free time by watching movies, writing movie-blogs and painting portraits.’