‘Skill Collar’ Is The New Brand of Workforce in Digital Era
In the digital era, there is a whole new set of trends that are sweeping organisations as they work to adapt and thrive. The evolving skill profiles, the ubiquity of technology, and the diversity of the technology workforce are shaping the modern business ecosystem.
Skills have become paramount to surviving in the digital era. Technology has become pervasive and is constantly evolving. Employees skilled in one technology or domain are becoming irrelevant with new innovations in technology and new business models in the industry.
The skill collar workforce
Move over blue- and white-collar employees of the 70s and 80s, we’re entering the era of the ‘skill-collar’ employees. As businesses across industries rapidly adopt technology in response to evolving demands of the market and workplace, the ‘skill-collar’ workforce is in the limelight, because every forward-looking business has a tech dimension driving it.
Technology as the new alchemy of business
Hiring a tech workforce is no longer limited to the knowledge industry because technology’s pervasiveness outside and within the enterprise means every dimension of business needs to be tech-savvy. Knowledge of technology is now an existential necessity across the workforce, a language that everybody uses to communicate regardless of whether they work in the frontline, middle office, or back office.
Digital transformation is also effectively bringing back the peer-to-peer (P2P) business model for enterprises with the technology platform serving as the intermediary and the advantages of direct person-to-person interactions without third-party interventions. These shifts are redefining who needs tech knowledge and what skills are in demand.
New age workplaces present unique challenges
For enterprises, building the necessary tech know-how within their organisations to match the pace at which business has transformed is a challenge. They are trying to bridge the knowledge gap through upskilling and/or reskilling before hiring externally. When compelled to find talent outside the organization, hiring decisions are influenced by those with scarce skills and their expectations.
The composition of the workforce continues to evolve and will eventually be an interesting mix of employee, contractor, gig worker, robot, ecosystem player in the not-so-distant future. The diverse tech workforce consisting of gen Z, millennials and baby boomers present will come with different experiences. They will also come with diverse expectations and contribute high value in the digital era. Innovation will be key to create balance in workforce strategies. Employment contracts as well as the economic value system will be redefined.
Meanwhile, enterprises haven’t heard the last of the Great Resignation. Research by Michael Page shows that 86% of employees plan to quit in the next six months. Employees continue to quit because their expectations are not met on various fronts including compensation package, schedule flexibility, and job fulfilment.
These factors have compounded the talent shortage woes faced by enterprises today. It also means they will not be able to capitalize on every business opportunity unveiled by technology and risk losing the competitive advantage they gained over incumbents through their program of modernization. After all, the workforce is the number one risk to growth and the principal means to drive growth, according to PwC research.
A big rethink to address modern workforce demands
With these shifting market patterns, leaders now need to focus more on preparing a future workforce that not only copes with uncertainty and volatility but thrives on it with the alchemy provided by technology. Some of the key considerations are:
Opportunities for continuous learning
According to Deloitte research, 68% respondents believed that the ability to learn on the job is integral to an optimal working environment. This requires a major business model rethink and recalibrating policies, processes, and systems to foster a hybrid workforce, digital trust, upskilling, and reskilling. Doing so will help enterprises unlock the full potential of their digital transformation.
Lack of flexibility is cited as a top reason for employees to quit. Enterprises must offer more choices to employees that feeds their need for flexibility at work. With the emergence of the skill-collar workforce, giving choices to employees over factors such as work location, responsibility, economic contracts, schedules, and relationships, will immensely improve their sense of flexibility and control over their work-life.
Choosing experiences over stability
Start-ups, formerly a premium, ignorable segment meant for invention, have now climbed up the value chain for mainstream innovation. By nature, these attract investors and employees with a strong appetite for experimentation and supported by studies reporting that workers in India are willingly switching to jobs in areas where they don’t have any expertise. The younger demographic of the workforce, in particular, is comfortable dealing with experimentation, and actively looking for such opportunities in contrast to earlier generations that sought stability and safety in their employers. If they don’t find such choices, it fuels their fear of missing out (FOMO). Traditional and new-age enterprises must leverage this aspect of research and development to attract this demographic, which will be driving talent availability in the future.
Rewarding efforts, not just outcomes
Organisations are already rethinking policies to reward employees not only for the outcomes but the effort itself, which is of phenomenal value. For instance, Mastercard creates mentor-mentee pairs from its talent marketplace based on capabilities and ambitions for successful career roadmaps. Team efforts must be balanced with individual excellence to ensure motivation and reward meet the needs of the individual as well as the team. To prepare a future where skill-collar employees and effort will dominate, the need to calibrate the pendulum, based on each business model, cannot be ignored.
The erstwhile definition of blue collared or white collared employees is losing its significance, in view of the new ‘skill’ collared jobs. The new collared employee is one who must have the necessary technical and people skill to work with modern technologies and may not necessarily come with traditional educational backgrounds. It’s time to upskill or reskill existing employees to move them to skill collared workers.
Lax Gopisetty, Vice President, Global Practice Head for Microsoft Business Applications & Digital Workplace Services, Infosys
Lax Gopisetty is a senior business leader driving digital transformation growth with Digital Workplace Services and Microsoft Business Applications practice for Global 2000 clients across industries and regions. He has over 25 years of global management consulting experience across Infosys, Accenture, PWC, and IBM advising global enterprises with their complex business transformation initiatives driven by latest technology developments. His focus is on bringing Innovative solutions, disruptive and relevant approaches, creating new possibilities enabled by technologies and value creation for our clients to be future-ready enterprises built on digital capabilities.