Future of work: Why soft skills are here to stay

Whilst business strategy needs to be realigned in the face of change, ignoring people’s needs impacts the journey massively

By Sanjeev Pradhan Roy

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Published: Thu 4 May 2023, 3:32 PM

Keeping in mind the critically-acclaimed Bollywood flick Piku, it reminds that life in general is “emotion in motion”, an adage that correlates to the newly-found impetus of emotional intelligence and social intelligence at work as the softer competencies that are the need of the hour.

The importance attached to welfare economics can be undermined only at the employer’s perils. Reduced working hours, calibrating newer indices of measuring productivity and have the employees define the way they would like to work, whilst delivering, has made quite a lot of biometric attendance and confusing hours at work as productivity, a clear liability.

Just recollecting a conversation with a talent in the UAE recently, whilst talking about the perks of working five days a week in Dubai in an organisation, she quizzically smirked that Sharjah already has 4 ½ days working and she has remote options too for an alternate offer! This is coming from not very distant days when five days working itself was a perk and espoused as an EVP.

Going by PwC’s research, whilst business strategy has to be aligned in the face of change, ignoring the people aspects to thrive in change impacts its disruption journey massively.

Employee experience (EX) has never been as crucial as it is now, as talents crave meaningful work not cradle to grave 9-5 routine and positive work relationships. Toxicity and high-handedness as fear-and-stick approach can take a long walk!

As per their survey, 7/10 workers would consider another offer for a fulfilling job and 1/3 workers would consider a lower pay in that trade off. The tangible benefits accruing to organisations from positive employee experiences, range from 41 per cent drop in absenteeism, 59 per cent drop in attrition, 20 per cent organic increase in sales and 17 per cent increased productivity!

With AI being used in recruiting, the ethical implications of these practices for fairness, diversity, inclusion and data privacy become increasingly critical.

Top organisations are using latest technologies (AI assistants, wearables, engagement bots etc.) to collect data on employees’ health, family situations, living conditions, mental health and even sleep patterns in order to respond more effectively to their needs.

In 2023 and beyond, employers must prioritise transparency around how they collect, use and store employee data as well as allow employees to opt out of practices they find objectionable.

In a recent dipstick, Peter Bentley, chief innovation officer at AON, opines that data and collaboration should be the two foundations of the future of work, data to focus, monitor and tailor intervention; collaboration to fix beyond the immediate need and solve on a more holistic basis. He also agreed that the wellbeing is not just a programme but a mindset to build engagement and drive transformation.

We all have nursed academic and purist definitions of organisational playbooks that succeed, encompassing frameworks and death by PPTs and a slew of Life Coaches and Executive Leadership trainers who apparently help the employee focus on them being their best version. We often miss the crucial link — culture. We start with an existing culture, attract talents who come from different cultures with the “culture fit” criteria and the marriage is rocky as either party tries to cope without much scope, as we force-fit our culture onto others. Result: superstar elsewhere becomes a damp squib in another organisation. Transforming our culture to accommodate the evolved is a good start.

Having values as a mission/vision idealism is great, “living it” is another ballgame altogether, which goes beyond lip service to actionable pro-employee, pro-talent outcomes on the ground.

There is always much a slip between the cup and the lip, the beholders (talents) are more discerning than ever. The question is — do we create change by dissonance (inside out) or resonance (outside in), either one is relative and worth a debate?


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