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ET Back to Business: New skills, adaptability key in post-covid workplace, say experts

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The workplace has changed and the way we work will never be quite the same again. The pandemic has accelerated trends such as remote working, digitisation and the adoption of new technology, calling for new and upgraded skills in the post-Covid world.

Business heavyweights and top minds debated the future of work and what it will take to succeed at the second edition of the ET Back to Business Dialogues, a series of webinars on how the business landscape is evolving to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

History has shown that the most adaptable will survive and the one essential skill is maintaining balance in the new work environment, said Hero Enterprise chairman Sunil Kant Munjal in his keynote address. “Approaching this situation with an open mind and expecting the unexpected will be a necessary ingredient of all leadership and almost all managers. Only then can you be successful, regardless of what happens to the situation,” Munjal said.

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The first session, The Forces Shaping the Future of Work, was moderated by BigBasket human resources head TN Hari. The panel comprised Deep Kalra, founder and group executive Sabharwal, chairman, TeamLease Services; Rajeev Dubey, principal adviser, Mahindra & Mahindra; and Heather Emslie, APAC head, collaboration & productivity, Google Cloud. The second panel had leadership and talent adviser Abhijit Bhaduri moderating. The panel discussing New Skills for the Post-Pandemic Workplace consisted of D Shivakumar, group executive president, corporate strategy & business development, Aditya Birla Group; Rashmi Daga, founder, FreshMenu; Milan Sheth, executive vice president, IMEA, Automation Anywhere; and Rajkamal Vempati, EVP & head, HR, Axis Bank.

Hari asked if the coronavirus had permanently transformed the workplace. Yes, said Kalra, adding that even when the pandemic came under control, a hybrid model is likely to emerge as all smart businesses ask the question: Do we need so many people to come to work? Sabharwal had his own take.

“More flexibility is clearly on the cards but I don’t think this is the end of employment nor do I think this is the end of offices,” he said. Participants in the second panel weighed in on the shift in skills required post-Covid.

“Problem-solving skills, agility will be key but even in traditional areas, people will have to adapt to be relevant in the virtual world,” said Vempati. Shivakumar agreed that softer skills would become much more important.

“When demand contracts, about 17-30% companies drop out. The whole process is about being the best in the industry, and every crisis is an opportunity you shouldn’t waste. Then it rests on the soft skills of your employees,” he said.

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