The whole relevance of the word ‘job’ has significantly changed: Sandeep Sinha
In a country like India, which hopefully will grow by 8.5% annually over the next 10 years, we need about 19 million different kinds of work rows. Out of these 90 million, there are about 60 million, which are going to be the new ones and 30 million who are going to be moving laterally.
Sandeep Sinha | August 30, 2021
This article originally appeared in ADGULLY.
The discussions around the future of work seem to have consumed us. Digitalisation and globalisation have sparked radical shifts in how we live and work. These changes raise essential questions about our jobs, the skills we need and a worrying decline in employment. As we learn to find our feet amidst changing ways of working and workplace, we wonder about this future of work OR is it now our present? In this episode of Mrigashira, Charu Raizada speaks to Sandeep Sinha, Managing Partner of Lumis Partners.
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Is the future of work already here or are we still awaiting it?
As a professional in the space of work over the last 10 years, I think we have constantly been debating the arrival of future of work and I think most of us didn’t realise that it probably arrived a while back. And, in fact, interestingly enough, today future of work has become such a buzzword. It has more than 48 million Google hits already on the phrase, I think it’s high time we all accept that future work is already here and we got to address it right here right now.
Data states that the job market continues to be weak. Where do you see opportunities coming from in the near future?
I think the whole relevance of the word job has significantly changed. The ideal preserves of the job, job description, timeline, hierarchies — all of those have got through a significant shift. If you look from a work standpoint, in a country like India, which you know hopefully will grow by 8.5 per cent annually over the next 10 years, we need about 19 million different kinds of work rows. Out of these 90 million, there are about 60 million, which are going to be the new ones and 30 million who are going to be moving laterally. But I don’t think the challenge is about either jobor work. I think the big challenge on the table is about opportunities and the skills associated with those opportunities, because that’s the one I think, really in question. Job, work, employment, will remain in different shapes and forms as we go forward.
So, how do we create new pathways for tomorrow’s workforce?
Most of us believe that it’s your typically low and repeatable jobs which are getting automated. But I think what we have seen over the last few years is that even with the high-end jobs, there has been like a mayhem on the Wall Street, that is, the whole concept of insurance selling has gone totally digital. Customer relationship marketing has gone in a very different dimension altogether. So, I think the deconstruction or the demolition of job is actually across the board.
Then how it has translated is also very different from our parent’s generation. Most people had one or two jobs, and then people moved on to three to four jobs. The baby boomers are talking about a dozen jobs in their lifetime, and the millennials are talking about shifting a job every two years. And that’s a very dramatic shift. So, I think the question that most people are looking for is what is the problem you are trying to solve? How can I help you in solving that problem and how do I get paid for that? So, the deconstruction of a typical job profile into work attributes is what’s happening and that’s what we are seeing across the board. And the term that you referred to about gig economy, I think that’s all we will hear. In the US, we are talking about in the next five years, almost half the jobs are going to be in the gig environment. I am associated with a company called Avigna, where we have almost a million-plus gig workforce across 10,000 pin codes in India, as of today. So, that shift is also happening very fast. And I think it’s in line with the aspirations of the younger generation of how they want to be able to kind of merge different kinds of roles, different kinds of jobs and so on, and in the kind of work that they want to do.
That also means somewhere a merging of the collars. What do you have to say about that?
Yes, exactly. And I think the way the new economy is shaping up, some of the jobs that we were talking about in the typical blue-collar workforce, are actually earning much more than a good white-collar job. For somebody who is in a precision high-pressure welding job, their skilling is of the right level, those individuals are making much more than somebody sitting in a BPO and kind of serving an international customer. So, in my mind, it all boils down to what is the skillset that you can bring to the table? How is that skill set differentiated? What’s the premium you can command on delivering that skillset? And from a company standpoint, they would want it to be on-demand as much as possible because even the companies don’t want to necessarily take on the burden of managing full-year expense for certain skillsets, which are only needed for a sporadic period of time.
How can organisations adapt an integrated approach with two different models of working? There are multiple terms that are being used, how do you see all of these evolving in the next few years?
I think there’s a huge dichotomy that’s going to emerge over here. On one side, you will have corporates, which have a well-defined culture, they have their own ways of doing things, and they will have thousands of employees all across the country. But the moment this work starts getting distributed, some of these employees are going to start working from the flexible workspaces, the WeWorks and so on of the world. Now when you go to a place, we want to realise that they have cultivated and created their own culture a little bit in themselves, but the person sitting next to you is probably somebody from an entrepreneurial ecosystem doing something very different. There is another person sitting over there who’s working four hours a day for one customer, five hours a day for the other customer, and so on. I think as we go forward, there are going to be different streaks of culture, the culture of an organisation where you are a part of, the culture of the workspace where you are part of, the culture of the learning environment where you are a part of, and I think we will see a medley of these things put together. Honestly, I don’t know how it is going to play out, but it’s going to be very different from the way it is today.
You talked about Awign’s Pincode management model. We want to know a little more about that?
Avigna is a digital platform where you deliver workforce. But before that, I was an investor in People’s Strong, which is a regular world HR tech firm and where we did recruitment process outsourcing for a firm like, you know, an insurance company, across the country. These insurance companies wanted to hire 20,000 people, but by Pincode, because the belief is that if you are from that local geography, your ability to sell an insurance to somebody from your own community becomes much higher. So, when we were hiring these 18,000–20,000 people, we were literally hiring one to two people per pincode. These people were all working in a distributed manner all across the country. I have been a part of SHEROES for a while, and we have seen that a lot of women actually prefer that — if they can find work within their own vicinity, within a certain amount of distance, so that it doesn’t create too much of a disruption in their daily work.
So, one side is to be able to pick up digital work, which you can deliver from anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and the other thing is to pick up a distributed job, where you are actually kind of delivering the work from a nearby place and you are not having to travel one hour each way, and probably end up wasting a lot of time back and forth, versus delivering on the job.
With hybrid workplace models, is it time to bid goodbye to commercial real estate?
I think commercial real estate has a value of its own, I think it will continue to exist. You know, I have tried to work from home for about a year and the desire to actually be able to step into the real world is very much important. The whole appreciation that we have had of a single dimensional shift to working from home is great, but it has its own limitations. It has broken the barriers of work time zone. So, the need to step out of your homes, to be able to go to a place which you can relate with your work, is important for a lot of people. I think the future will see the concept of distributed offices.
Distributed offices for somebody from Noida not having to travel to, say, Gurgaon on a daily basis and having a satellite office within their own vicinity, which is a replica of the work environment they have created or for the companies which cannot afford a satellite office of their own to have like mixed offices, where people from different companies will come together. So, the commercial models will change the operating models in the world, the preferences will shift, but the commercial real estate requirements will continue to exist in a reasonable form as we go on.
*Edited for length and clarity
(Mirgashira is a podcast for Indian PR and Communication professionals anchored by RadhaRadhakrishnan and Charu Raizada. To listen to all episodes visit https://www.mrigashirapodcast.com/)