Covid pandemic and the talent pool

Abhijit Bhaduri | Updated on June 03, 2020

People who help others get skilled will become more powerful   -  mixetto

Neither a degree nor experience guarantees you a job or a stable career path any more

Some years back, I was addressing a group of first-year students. I asked them, if their college offered an option of getting the degree without attending any classes, how many would opt for it? You guessed it. The majority said the “certificate” and not the learning was what mattered. The certificate placed them in the job market. In many organisations, an MBA from a premier institute gives a student better salary and a fast-track promotion.

Suddenly, the pandemic brings students face-to-face with a new reality. A degree does not guarantee employment, even for top-tier institutions. During a pandemic, skills become precious — not the degree.

Today, if a company announces that it will honour the job offers made, it makes national news. Some employers have delayed joining dates. Many have gone back on their offers. A few years back, when an e-commerce company backed out of the offers it made at an engineering college, the institute “punished” it by blacklisting it.





Before the pandemic, college hostels were fertile ground for start-ups. Finding an investor took some time but was not impossible. The entrepreneurial route was an equally attractive career path for slightly adventurous students. The pandemic has put an end to that. Without funds, start-ups are pulling down shutters. Their founders and employees are out looking for jobs that do not exist.

Experience does not guarantee employment

If degrees are no guarantee for jobs now, experience too no longer counts. Earlier, being a people manager was the reward for getting your hands dirty for a few years. People managers would manage multiple project deadlines and teams. But their role became fuzzy when Project Management software was found more effective in managing project deadlines. People managers’ role then became to motivate teams and ensure low attrition. The pandemic has questioned even this value to the organisation. Many of them had not upskilled themselves in years and their salaries were bloated. The pandemic kills the weak and the vulnerable. The middle managers were in that zone. (see illustration)


Changing talent pools

1. Sectors like healthcare and technology will continue to be relatively stable but may see long-term changes in the talent pool. Constant exposure to infected patients makes healthcare professionals more likely to get attacked by the virus. Some parents are encouraging their children to choose professions that do not expose them to these dangerous risks. The opportunity to serve is also inspiring many others to take up careers in the healthcare sector. It is much like a war scares many people from joining the army, but also inspires several others to serve the nation.

2. Migrants have been the mainstay of the harvesting season. As migrants headed back home, landlords had to invest in mechanisation and automation to cope with the harvest.

3. Education will move to a hybrid model with some schools and colleges going completely online. The vast majority will open their institutions with baby steps. The revenue models in education have been built based on instruction being given in person. As education shifts online, there may be an increase in requests for deferring admissions to the next academic year. Without the experience of a college campus, the instruction and education being done online does not justify the fee. Besides, teachers and professors have not yet figured out how to teach the same course online and keep the students engaged.

4. With unemployment rates soaring, there will be political pressure on employers to hire local people and anti-immigration sentiments will ride high unless the job needs skills that are not available locally. Investing in better collaboration platforms will enable businesses to engage experts, no matter where they are located.

5. Experts will continue to be sought after. Even for them, the preference will be to employ them on short-term contracts for projects. A large employer with deep pockets is likely to be the best predictor of job security (for the moment).

6. As consumers become more value-conscious and frugal, they will defer any non-essential buying that blocks up capital. Sectors that are low-cost and essential will recover faster than goods and services that demand discretionary spending.

7. Every function in the organisation, from sales to HR, will need to be re-configured for a travel-restricted world where video conferences will become the norm instead of face-to-face meetings.

The ‘Passion Economy’

The pandemic has added speed to the changes already happening at the edges. According to Google’s annual report on search trends in India, “Millions of Indians are empowering and upskilling themselves online. This trend is being driven by both day-to-day questions like “gym at home” (+93 per cent) and “5-minute recipes” (+56 per cent) as well as searches related to advanced skill sets like “machine learning” (3X) and “data science” (3X). With a majority of users being home-bound, there has also been high growth in queries like “learn online” (+85 per cent), “teach online” (+148 per cent), and “at-home learning” (78 per cent).”

As traditional jobs shrink, there are opportunities opening up in the “Passion Economy”. This week, ads will begin showing up in IGTV for only around 200 approved, English-speaking creator partners, including Adam Waheed and Lele Pons, from a handful of major advertiser partners like Ikea, Puma, and Sephora. For the top creators on the social platforms it may mean big bucks. Instagram will share 55 per cent of revenue generated through ads with its top creators.

As a blog post on venture capital firm Andreessen’ Horowitz‘s site puts it, “Whereas previously, the biggest online labour marketplaces flattened the individuality of workers, new platforms allow anyone to monetise unique skills. Gig work isn’t going anywhere — but there are now more ways to capitalise on creativity. Users can now build audiences at scale and turn their passions into livelihoods, whether that’s playing video games or producing video content. This has huge implications for entrepreneurship and what we’ll think of as a “job” in the future.”

People who are able to help others get skilled or simplify their life will become more and more powerful. This is the golden age for creative professionals who know how to use the various social platforms. This is the direct-to-consumer model for talent. This may be the moment that creators have waited for.

Abhijit Bhaduri is a leadership and talent coach to organisations

Published on June 03, 2020

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor