By Abhijit Bhaduri
Imagine trying to outrun a hundred metre high wall of water rushing towards you at 950 kilometres per hour. That is what a tsunami feels like. The tsunami of 2004 killed more than 230,000 people in fourteen countries bordering the Indian Ocean. The digital tsunami that we are currently experiencing will impact even more people across the globe.
A Corporate Shift
We are at that point in history where businesses are undergoing a simultaneous disruption in every process within the organisation. Lifelong employment is giving way to the “gig economy”, where talent is on tap.
Mobile technology is making every employee hyper-connected and creating a global marketplace for talent.
Employers no longer exclusively own the ‘employer brand’. Expertise is getting commoditized. There are more women entering the workplace. And we are all learning to rethink work, workplaces, the role of employers and employees in a world of radical openness that technology has been rapidly transforming over the last decade.
Technology has always impacted work. The Industrial Revolution made us transition to new manufacturing processes in 1760, and those lasted for nearly eight decades. It impacted work, created a new workforce, changed social norms and paved the way for changes that have persisted till today. The impact that steam and electricity had pales in comparison to the sweeping change unleashed by the digital tsunami.
The convergence of technology (web, bots, sensors, artificial intelligence, analytics, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.) now allows us to rethink every process while keeping the employee at the centre. If managing the change set into motion by one variable is tough, imagine how complex it will be to rethink every single variable and do it at the pace of a jet plane.
Emergence of a New Workforce
The digital tsunami is affecting jobs like never before. Artificial intelligence and robotics together will continue to evolve and impact. Autonomous vehicles may not only make drivers redundant, but also demolish the auto insurance industry and lower the demand for doctors who save people involved in motor accidents. Manufacturing will see robots replace several lower-skilled manufacturing jobs. Wall Street will see robotic advisers managing the wealth of clients. Every profession, from journalism to surgery, will see routine jobs done by robots. Robots are efficient, not subjected to pressure from unions, and need no holidays or healthcare benefits.
Technology will create new opportunities and new roles. YouTube has created a parallel universe; YouTube stars like the 25-year-old PewDie Pie earned $12 million last year. His YouTube channel has 46 million subscribers — more than what many movie stars can claim as their fan base. These YouTube stars have experimented with new media and crafted a new career, one that has no precedence.
The advent of machine learning is creating new opportunities for cognitive computing engineers and machine learning specialists. The Internet of things will give rise to architects and user experience designers. The regular learning and development jobs will give rise to virtual reality content creators.
The Need for Dynamicity
Managing any change means having to unlearn. Successful organizations are chained by their past success. Even successful leaders find it hard to learn and reinvent. Many organisations fail precisely because their leaders do what they are really good at; they continue to do only what allowed them to stay ahead for decades. The companies they lead fail to reinvent themselves in the process, and get replaced by newer competitors unburdened by the legacy of success. The digital tsunami is going to disrupt every organisation and every individual in equal measure. The future belongs to those who can learn faster than others.
Abhijit Bhaduri works as the Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group and has led HR teams for various multinationals.