Cross-industry talent exchange: The future of work

Various organizations sitting on a talent pool which they are unable to utilise themselves due to business slowdown can loan them under certain conditions to other companies possibly in completely different industries which need them.

The whispers about cross-industry talent exchange and its benefits have always been around. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to accelerate the change  and amplify the benefits. 

Various organizations sitting on a talent pool which they are unable to utilise themselves due to business slowdown can loan them under certain conditions to other companies possibly in completely different industries which need them. An example could be moving an airline or hospitality industry (which is currently going through a slowdown) talent to a healthcare, logistics or e-commerce industry (which is currently going through a boom). This ensures the organization in slowdown has an income to keep itself afloat, the employees are assured of a job and income in volatile times and receiving organization benefits from a market ready workforce to handle the high demand they are experiencing. 

To expand this thought further it is also important to look at similarities within different industries. While McDonalds and Fedex might be from two completely different industries, their DNA is intricately linked to operational excellence. Both thrive on providing their customers, the best, the cheapest and fastest outcomes. Employees of both the organizations are trained to work with the clock and a granular process based system, honed over years leaving little or no room for error. While the fast food industry is floundering, the logistics industry is booming and the two organizations could have a talent exchange without too much friction. On the other hand you need to be careful about using talent from a five star hotel to a logistics company in the same way. Employees of a five star hotel are used to creating bespoke customer experiences which would be completely contrary to the cheap, fast, best model that a logistic company will work on. However the same 5 star hotel employee will thrive in a grief management role for a hospital in the current pandemic. So while working on cross-industry talent exchange both skill sets and mindset have to be considered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the future of work. I have always maintained that the jobs have always been changing. The horse carriage driver was replaced by the motor car driver. While the job of driving a vehicle remained the same the nature of the job and associated skill sets changed. As handlooms gave way to power looms and mills, the skill set of the worker changed even though the final outcome was cloth. However after a long time, the nature of work is changing and its changing at dizzying speed. 

Working from home on a large scale is now a reality. As organizations and employees both realise the enormous benefit of this,the change could become permanent. Future of work experts have already warned about automation making a lot of traditional jobs obsolete. We already see dishwashers and maids competing against each other in hundreds of Indian households while AI bots working hard as the 1st level customer service agents. We were told to focus on human skills, as machines would take over the jobs that required repeatable technical skills. This is only going to grow, however at a heightened pace due to the pandemic. Technology development projected for the next 5 years has been condensed into the current 5 months. Industries which  ran the risk of being overtaken due to new technology in the next five years are already in dire straits. A cocktail of technology advancement, economic volatility, and the pandemic based lockdown has pushed a lot of industries to the verge of closure and millions of people face the spectre of unemployment. Under this scenario, the cross industry talent exchange not only provides a short term balm but also creates the transition bridge which will allow working professionals to upskill themselves for the changed nature of the work that they will be doing in the very near future of the post pandemic world. The exchange if adopted with detailed thought and clear measurements has the potential to be the economic and psychological lifesaver that the industry needs right now. I am sure there will be a number of naysayers who might dismiss this as impractical and not feasible. All I want to say is that it was these same set of people who said that working from home on a large scale was a pipe dream.

This post was written by Shekhar Sanyal, Country Head and Director at IET India

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