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Chandramouli Srinivasan talks about the biggest challenges that an employee faces in the knowledge industry

In this rapidly changing job profile from manager relationship to technology interventions in the HR space, there have been two distinct employee issues which are posing serious challenge. The work place in the knowledge industry is changing from ‘life time employment’ to ‘life time employability’. Increasingly, firms are preparing themselves to see ‘very happy employees’ leave not because always because of the manager, compensation, company, policies or opportunity it offers. But because of the individual’s urge to keep oneself employable and stay ahead of the curve.

Before you brush this as a millennial behaviour, let’s think about what happens if employees don’t prepare themselves for employability and rather commit for the current employment. Firms are focused on quarter to quarter results and this has created serious challenges for the employee. Priorities of businesses in firms are changing and seldom are these communicated down the levels. What were hot skills, gets down the order in a matter of a few quarters or a year.

 

Development programmes

Smarter firms have created training and learning programmes and structured the courses to meet this changing trend. These firms are able to make out the difference between training programmes and learning and development programmes. Companies have to be seen investing in employees to make them employable.

A little deeper dive into this ‘employability concept’ reveals a whole set of new skills. Ability to connect over LinkedIn, effective networking, building a point of view, adapt to new technologies, make linkages between industries, stay in touch with adjacencies etc. These may or may not be directly relevant to the employee’s day to day role but makes the individual more valuable. A lot of these can’t be tutored.

 

Stay objective

Another important challenge for employees is to stay objective in the workplace. Employment space in the knowledge industry is fast changing from grade based policies to customised policies at an individual level. This means two people in the same level and role may have different policies with respect to compensation, salary structures, reporting structure, work from home policies etc. This phenomenon could take a while to get traction in large firms, but the trend is already happening in smaller and mid-sized knowledge firms.

Treating different employees differently is so relevant and possible in today’s context. Technology does make it possible to administer these at each employee level. The biggest challenge for employees in this context is to stay objective. The research findings in India stated that employee discontent on compensation is not always about the absolute salary. It is always on the compensation compared to a peer or a friend. In the new era of customised roles and policies, employees will see this variation a lot more. Compensation was just an example.

strength & weakness

It becomes very important for the employee to know what exactly their strengths and weaknesses are. It is also critical for the employee to understand the importance and the value one brings to the table. The value each employee brings can be classified in two parts: Deep domain skill and ability to drive the programme or the agenda. Most employees focus on the first part and either ignore or are unaware of the second one.

Driving an agenda needs very different skills. Ability to see the big picture, drive consensus, focus on end outcomes, involving multiple stakeholders, aligning to the larger goal are some of these skills. Being objective is the most important virtue in this context. The ability to be balanced on decisions, willingness to talk out a problem, articulation of issue without getting personal, knowing what and when to escalate, giving time for a solution to yield results are some of the aspects which employees need to practice.

Employees in knowledge industry will see a lot of these challenges more often than in the past. Market place and the economy is changing quite fast. Adaptability to these changing needs will be key challenge for employees.

(The writer is COO, Feedback Business Consulting Services)

 
 
 

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