Change is inevitable, they say. Yet, when we think of change, we think generations. We are all aware that the human mind resists change – and we are creatures of habit. What happens then, when we wake up to new technologies knocking at our doors? What happens when we face the scare of a pink slip? What happens when we have to unlearn, learn and relearn to survive? If this sounds like a nightmare for a single individual, imagine what change at scale could mean for a company with a workforce of
150,000 people spread across the globe.
Recently, I sat down with
P Krishnakumar (KK), Senior Vice-President, Consumer and Small Business, APJ, Dell Technologies,
to understand how change impacts a large IT major and what its economic implications could be? KK, in all honesty, told me just one thing, “There is no choice! Either you are in business or out of business.” He alludes to the future workplace/ or the ‘Future of Work’ as a digital game where you collaborate, compete and win or lose online. What remains to be seen is how good you are at the game and how challenging does the game get as you get better!
Dell Technologies has released a report on “Future of Work – Forecasting the Impact of Emerging Technologies on Work” earlier this month.
Excerpts from the interview:
What is the Future of Work for employees of large IT corporates?
Let me put it this way. Today, everybody is serving a customer. Technology has made the customer very demanding. It has made things transparent and open from a customer point of view and I think every company today is a digital company. Whether it is a taxi hailing service or an accommodation providing service, every company is a digital company.
Young companies are using technology as disruptors in traditional industries. What then should a traditional industry do? You either bring in new business models or increase efficiency in existing business models. Therefore, they need to take this journey to use technology to either stay on par or ahead of the game. We have noticed transformation of four types: IT (how technology is being used), workforce, security (physical assets and data) and finally application transformation. Amongst all this, the key thing is data – what data do you have and how are you efficiently using it?
Today, because customers have all the power, companies want to empower their employees. If employees have to serve the customer, they need information at any time and any device. This concept of empowering your employee at any place, any time and any device is what starts the journey. In our opinion, every company is in a process of digital transformation.
How do large companies handle the issue of training at scale?
It largely depends on the company itself. There are two types of companies, young companies – that are in step with what technology can do. Your question is more about large companies and those that have been there historically. Two things are required, one is entrepreneurial spirit and for that, the framework and flexibility has to be given to managers to ensure their teams serve customers better. The second thing to keep in mind is that large organisations have multi-generational folks. Success of every company is how well colleagues of different generations work well together. Companies are investing a lot in reskilling and upskilling of existing employees to the extent that employees have to be open to change. Companies recognise that we are moving towards a world of machine and human interface. Therefore, they help employees to engage better with machines. The world will change, not so much with technology, but how humans interact with technology. The most important training aspect is that of data. Companies should train employees at handling sensitive customer data and it is a very fine line.
You spoke about connectedness and collaboration. How does a large organisation ensure it has a connected workforce?
At a senior executive level, communication is face to face. You then break it down into phases and ensure that communication is cascaded. But now when I say cascade, it is not one-way communication. We always encourage employees and managers to have two-way communication. And, there are different tools, whether you use Skype or Zoom. We use WhatsApp effectively to communicate offers real time to employees. We have enabled access to all employees to check their emails on their phones. For the last mile, we encourage face-to-face communication. We strongly believe we are hiring individuals to the organisation and we spend a lot of time on people development. We have an Individual Development Programme, where we encourage employees to take ownership of their careers.
Let’s talk about an issue that has been in the news recently. On the one hand there is data saying that a large percentage of skilled youth is unemployed and on the other, companies talk about a skill gap. Can you elaborate?
As we evolve, we can divide employers into two categories – young companies hiring and the larger, older corporates. The big shift is the evolution of artificial intelligence and technology. The key thing here is acquiring digital skills. Digital literacy, technically has no definition and the government under the ‘Skill India’ program, is looking at digital skills. It could be as basic as word processing to IoT and artificial intelligence. The government is looking at training the existing and future workforce. Where is the future workforce? In schools today. The future workforce is an opportunity and we as a nation have to recognise that we need to train them on a large scale. We have close to 1.4 million schools, how many schools are educating students on the use and application of technology? The challenge today is we are not investing enough in education on technology and hence the future workforce is not getting transformed at the rate at which it should.
To me, it requires a private-public partnership that invests in:
- Actual technology
- Training capacity
- Scale spread across the length and breadth of the country
For a large company – what are the economic implications of transformation?
There is no choice! Either you are in business or out of business.
Simple economics. All companies are looking at increasing revenue and decreasing costs – no company today is increasing their costs anyway. Many companies are allocating separate budgets for transformation.
For us at Dell, we are investing in education for the future. We work with the Government of India on Atal Tinkering Labs. In the last three years we have trained about 80,000 teachers from 5000 schools on how to use technology. Technology is not being used in schools though the child wants to learn. We realised both the mother and the teacher have to be trained to train the child in turn.
No one has a choice – every company is on a digital journey. The economics is that if you don’t invest, you are out of business.
In conclusion, we are talking of work being any place, any time and any device! While work can be 24/7, no one will be required to come to office. There are a lot of jobs where you can collaborate seamlessly. Consider the analogy of digital gaming – you are collaborating, working and competing online. That is how I envision work in the future.
We only hope that this can solve the problem of traffic in some of our larger cities, we conclude in jest.
Nisha Ramchandani is the principal author of 'The Future of Work' series.
Published Date: Aug 16, 2019 06:08 AM | Updated Date: Aug 16, 2019 07:08 PM IST