The Future of Work Depends on Aligning Technical Skills with Soft Skills
The signs of change were already there. Covid-19 has only hastened the pace. With a more enabling environment, individuals are feeling empowered to take that plunge and bet on their skills. Similarly, organisations are realising the importance of seeking holistic competency in their employees.
Sandeep Sinha | September 21, 2021
This article originally appeared in Hindustan Times
When the pandemic hit, it brought corporate India to a near stand-still and changed the way business was conducted across industries, irrespective of size.
Anjali, a 35-year-old tech expert working as the tech lead for a start-up in the travel space, had a well-defined role before the Covid-19 pandemic. She was confined to managing the platform and improving efficiency.
Post-pandemic, she found herself spending most of her time resolving operational issues arising from the sudden change to the work-from-home model. Her mornings no longer began with creating a list of urgent technology checks for the platform, but instead with creating a daily schedule for her team and preparing for the eventuality of emergency leave requests from team members.
At the same time, customers were looking to either reschedule or cancel travels, rather than make fresh bookings. This changed the very premise on which the traffic-handling capabilities of the platform were constructed. The team needed to be swiftly prepared to handle these new challenges without the luxury of in-person training.
Overnight, Anjali had to learn to manoeuvre through the chaos, making tough calls to keep herself, her team, and her organisation afloat. Her technical background played a significant role in allowing her to pivot successfully when needed, but in the initial months of the pandemic, Anjali relied heavily on her interpersonal skills, quick decision-making, and creative thinking. None of these skills were taught at her ivy league university, and yet, it was these skills that complemented the technical knowledge she gained while pursuing her engineering degree.
While the conversation around the importance of soft skills had been gaining prominence well before the pandemic, rarely did the human resources department of even some of the leading organisations rank it above, or even at par with, the more traditional and easily measurable technical skills.
However, the pandemic has made it clear that, while an engineering degree or Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from a leading university might be essential to deliver on one’s job description, in a swiftly changing world defined by collaboration and out-of-the-box thinking, soft skills determine success.
The pandemic has also accelerated the creation of new-age jobs that are not confined by the boundaries of a traditional degree. KPMG’s Media and Entertainment Report 2020 found that India recorded a 29.3% increase in podcast consumption in the first year of the pandemic.
According to KPMG, India is the third-largest podcast-listening market globally and is expected to be valued at ₹17.62 crores by 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 34.5%. Until three years ago, one rarely ever heard of podcasts in India, but now, some of the biggest names in the world of business, hospitality, entertainment, and sport look forward to being featured on a popular podcast series.
From YouTubers to other social media influencers, different and yet lucrative careers have created a parallel world of opportunities that focus solely on passion, talent and creativity. Unlike previous generations, today’s GenZ does not have to feel pressured to find that one elusive seat in an engineering or medical college to secure its future. In fact, there are multiple instances of millennials who have quit high-paying corporate jobs to follow their varied passions — from writing and emerging as authors of some of the best-selling books of our times, to launch India’s first parenting platforms.
GenZ seeks to create truly fulfilling careers, which challenge them and allow them to lead more balanced lives. They are not afraid to steer away from the traditional path of chasing a degree or a coveted position at a leading investment bank or consulting firm. They understand and value their inherent talents and skills, and aren’t afraid to build a career around them.
The signs of change were already there. Covid-19 has only hastened the pace. With a more enabling environment, young individuals are feeling increasingly empowered to take that plunge and bet on their skills. Similarly, organisations of all sizes are realising the importance of seeking holistic competency in their employees by creating means to assess candidates based on both, their technical abilities as well as their soft skills.
From training human resources departments and creating different assessment models to re-imagining and updating job descriptions and roles, organisations have a lot to think about as they enter the post-Covid-19 era.
It’s a new world, with new expectations. The leaders who can acknowledge the importance of skills and create a working environment that meets the expectations of the next generation are the ones who will lead the future of work.