Last weekend I received a call from someone who is extremely close to me. I have met this person at a client organisation and the relationship has blossomed into a lifelong friendship. “Dada, there is a piece of bad news. The Chairman of my company has decided to close the division for which I was the National Sales Head. Along with me, over 50 employees will be without a job. Can you please help me by placing my CV with senior management of different organisations who could consider me for a job in their organisations?”
My first response was pragmatic and the second, philosophical. Will the organisation respect the employability clause and compensate for the notice period as per the appointment letter? On being assured that this will be honoured, my philosophical response was that this loss of job could be an opportunity. Blessing in disguise. I have enough reasons from my own life to be a firm believer in this often-used expression of the English language. This article is not about my life. It is about all those who are facing job loss due to this raging pandemic.
What was my advice? I promised that I will share the person’s CV with people whom I know personally and who could have a chance of recruiting the person. Frankly, chances are slim. When most organisations are reducing employee count, very few are recruiting new resources, especially at senior levels. The more important guidance which has energised this person is to identify what can he offer as an individual to organisations which can directly measure the impact of his services on their businesses. I am confident that this person will be able to curate this value-added service which organisations are likely to buy. Does the life and career of this individual take a new turn once my prediction comes true?
What if someone does not have the ability to start off on his/her own? My experience suggests that the issue is not about abilities. It is about unrealistic self-assessment of abilities and unwillingness to step out of the comfort zone and try something which has uncertainty built into the concept. It is about demonstrating what one is worth in context of what business issue/problem it will solve for the business.
We have been advising some of our clients who are family-run businesses during this time regarding their manpower strategies through our consulting organisation, Aidias Consulting Group. We are learning as we read and speak to multiple business leaders from across industries and types of organisations.
A pattern is clearly emerging. There are organisations whom I call ‘opportunists.’ The pandemic is a reason to retrench people. Do now. My question is who recruited in the first place? Would you have retrenched them if there was no pandemic? There is no clear-cut answer which I am receiving. Moreover, retrenchment is based on subjective opinion of the ‘Boss’ rather than any objective evaluation of past performance and contribution to the organisation in terms of business results.
Second types are ‘finance driven’. If we reduce cost, we will be a winner. The focus is somehow on HR cost rather than operational costs. Divisional heads are getting into the good books of the owners by showing higher number of people being retrenched from their division rather than getting rid of few heavyweights. The lowest ranked employees like office boys are proverbial lambs for sacrifice. Reason- we are not operating the offices, so they are not needed! These finance whiz kids forget that financial results are outcomes of human efforts.
Third types are ‘humane’. This does not mean that they are not bothered about profits and shrinking revenues. They believe that the world will restart. They are transparent with their employees. There is a continuous communication by the leader, and they are taking a month at a time. The work from home opportunity is being utilised for capacity building and anticipated challenges in the post pandemic world.
One big issue of job loss which state and central government are struggling to manage are the migrant labour and their desperate efforts to return to their native places as they are no longer earning. I feel their distress and anxiety. I just pray and wish that they reach their homes safely and their return does not trigger the pandemic at their native places. That would be catastrophic and difficult to manage. However, few questions arise in my mind as I gather some understanding of the issue based on reading, watching and discussions with people who know much more than me.
Bulk of the migrant labour are from the Eastern parts of India and Rajasthan. They were employed in the west, south and parts of north India. What was the reason they migrated in the first place? The answer is lack of job opportunities in their home states. Accepted. The bigger question is why did states who employed these labours need them? Is it that these states, let us take an example, Maharashtra, does not have enough population within the state to become this workforce? Or is it that the cost of migrant labour is cheaper as compared to home-grown labour? Many of these labour who live in the slums have most of the gadgets like TV, fridge and the likes in the chawls or accommodation where they stayed is what I gather from a classmate who has visited such houses(way back in 1987) as a part of his management trainee assignment at the beginning of his career. Then, why do they need to leave such abodes and try to go back ‘home’? My impression is that the decision is more emotional than driven by logic. The prevailing uncertain atmosphere and lack of income is perhaps motivating them to get into the comfort zone of their native homes.
I anticipate the government to implement several initiatives to kick-start the economy. One of the sectors which is likely to receive huge government support is infrastructure development. It is a no brainer and I do not get into the realm of the concepts of economics as my knowledge of the subject is less than limited to discuss about it. I understand that infrastructure development creates employment and has spiralling impact due to the ancillary industries which get energised due to this reason. The million-rupee question is how will these companies engaged in infrastructure development source their labours? Does it imply that those who have stayed back will have increased demand and increased wages due to favourable demand-supply equation? Will those who have gone back home return to work quickly? Or will they stay back in the comfort of native homes? Who will bridge this gap in manpower?
The government has invested in skill development initiatives over the past few years. The results and impact are a matter of debate and discussion. I believe that the skill-development initiative of the government will be completely recast and redesigned to focus on few, relevant job roles with stringent monitoring of delivery by skill development partners. This will have an extremely positive impact on the future.
Finally, some numbers. International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that only India and China will have GDP growth this year by 1.9% and 1.2% respectively. This is the optimistic prediction. Nomura- the Japanese firm- predicts a 5% decline in the GDP of India. This is the most pessimistic prediction that I have come across thus far. In 2020, India’s GDP was estimated at USD 3.2 Trillion. Even if it declines by 5%, then the Indian GDP will shrink to USD 3.04 Trillion in 2021. Wouldn’t there be economic activities to achieve this pessimistic estimate? To me, this is the opportunity which should be the reason for optimism for anyone who loses his/her job. I know and empathise that it is a setback and is stressful. However, if one does a realistic self-assessment and reinvents self then this could be ‘the’ opportunity.
As Kennedy in a speech in 1959 had said “The word crisis in Chinese language is a combination of danger and opportunity”. No wonder Kennedy was considered a visionary.
Thank you for finding time, patience, and motivation to read the first article in the blog of SEED Academy. We will write an article on second Saturday of every month.
SEED is the acronym for Skill Enhancement for Employability and Development. This is the education and vocational training initiative by Aidias Consulting Group. We believe that trained manpower at the bottom of the hierarchy is key to success for any organisation. We have trained over 60 students in digital marketing in collaboration with Cambridge Marketing College, UK. All these students are either working or using the knowledge of digital marketing in their own business. We are ready to source and train students to be employed in sales, customer care and similar roles in dealerships of automobiles, real estate companies, hospitals, retail, and similar industries. Do reach out to us if you have any requirement. We assure you ‘readymade’ manpower whose gestation period is minimum and the impact on business results, measurable.