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Stepping Into The Future

With the rapid technological transformation, the nature of office work is becoming digitised and intelligent. So how are B-schools preparing their students for the future?

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The conventional view of regular work is witnessing a significant transformation. Organisations are now looking for people who are efficient in technology that is intuitive, powerful and aligned to its needs. According to Gartner, by 2020, the greatest source of competitive advantage for 30 per cent of organisations will come from the workforce’s ability to creatively exploit digital technologies. The growing businesses have started realising that it is their workers, who are enabling them to create and innovate further. 

Every year, around 360,000 MBA students graduate from 4,000 B-schools in India, according to a data from the All India Management Association. However, only 60 per cent of these graduates find jobs. B-schools are the passage to the job market to the lakhs of people. Any deprivation in the ability to partake knowledge to the students with the existing course structure can fall short to meet the demands of the current work structure in the job market. Hence, the challenge is to catch up with the fast changing trends of the job market demand.  

The need of the hour is B-schools should make efforts to leverage technology to improve the academic environment and increase the access of education. The B-schools have to make deliberate efforts to revise and revamp the portfolio of courses and make them relevant for the technology and knowledge-driven business world. AI, mobile, social media and IoT are driving data complexity in the corporate world. Business schools cannot ignore such development any more.  

According to Bhimaraya Metri, Director, Indian Institute of Management Tiruchirappalli, “There has to be separate programmes in the B-schools to give specific attention on the changing trends. Future belongs to the remote, temporary and virtual staff, particularly in the area of super specialisation in this accelerated changing technological era. In future of work, individuals are going to play significant role than the companies/organisation. Like say, virtual CFO may work for multiple organisations and can play the key role for the organisations. Thus, they can bring sea change difference in the organisations.”

Automated Future

Use of machines, technology and AI are used to automate and delegate work that are performed through manpower currently. According the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Job report 2018, nearly 50 per cent of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022. Also, with the contours of change moving towards Fourth Industrial Revolution, the perception of work and the role of a worker are going to vary extensively. The prominent question of the hour is whether the proper pedagogy is in place to take this in the future. 

R Jayaraman, Professor-Operations, SPJIMR, states, “Industry 4.0 will bring in a lot of machine driven, software directed and controlled, algorithm-powered, work methods. Processes will work efficiently, more output can be generated from the same assets.” Eyeing the changing nature of future work, companies are seeking to harness emerging technologies to reach higher levels of production and consumption, exploring new markets and compete with new products for the global consumer base. But then are B-schools future-ready? Metri believes that emerging courses such as Business Analytics, HRIS, AI, Data Visualisation, Machine learning, Fintech, Blockchain and others are being introduced in every reputed B-schools in India and abroad for getting ready for the future of work. 

There is also a frequent prediction that in the future there will be progressive decentralisation of work operations. Different geographies, workforce capabilities and market conditions call for different strategies, which is becoming impossible from a central location.  Jayaraman says, “The potential for such a development is quite favourable. However, this will happen only when 3D printing is developed fully, which is at least five years away.”

Productivity Pressure

Over 38 per cent of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. The structures of work that have been in place and relied upon for long have started to crumble with the intervention of newer structures that enhance productivity. 

Hughes Global Education is an interactive online learning platform that works with B-schools such as IIM-A, IIM-C, IIFT Delhi, XLRI Jamshedpur, and INSOFE which enables working professionals to pursue Online Executive Diploma/Certificate Programmes. Anurag Bansal, Senior Director & Business Head, Hughes Global Education, states, “Most of the organisations today work on the principle of increasing per employee productivity of an organisation and HR managers, business heads work together to achieve this and improve it year-on-year basis.” 

On the other hand, Jayaraman admits, “Automation, IoT, AI, etc. will improve efficiency due to machines and connectivity, algorithm-driven decisions made by analysing the massive amount of data through clouds. In such a scenario, the role of the human is not much to improve efficiency as to manage the complexity, understand the interactions between asset pieces, and ensure delivery out the door.”

In order to really encompass what is come our way, we need a different understanding. Metri says, Future is Fluid. “We live in such a fluid and disruptive world where the pace of change is accelerating. In an age of shrinking of business cycles, faster obsolescence of skills, expanding of life expectancy, and rapid injection of new technologies, to stay relevant as a leader in future, a unique style of leadership is essential that is contextual or Fluid Leadership.”

Given the coming of industry 4.0, there will continuously change in the roles and responsibilities of an individual in their regular works and hence also in the future of work. Metri adds, “Thus ‘liquid workforce’ is going to be the reality in future which requires the skilling, reskilling and upskilling.” “Therefore, it is imperative for the B-Schools to prepare the students/executives to take up the series jobs, which are unknown and are yet to borne by sensitising them towards learning, unlearning and relearning as a part of lifelong learning,” he further adds. 

With the vast sources of information available, it will become impossible for human or an organisation to keep track on everything. Jayaraman added, “Domain knowledge will remain king for many years, even before it is downloaded to bots and AI/machine learning. Till then B-school grads have to learn how to automate, what machines to be automated, what devices to be installed and connected through IoT and so on, based on their domain knowledge.” This unfolds the picture that as the trends of job market change, the knowledge imparted have to shift accordingly. The old information that becomes redundant due to up-gradation has to let go. Jayaraman informs, “Leading B-schools are in the process of introducing several new courses in the areas of Big Data, Data Analytics, in all streams of management. Overall, I would say that leading B-schools are aware to some extent, and some have started the courses, but much remains to be done.”  

The concept of side-hustle is growing in India with the technology being such an enabler. It has become synonymous to pursuing one’s passion apart from doing their full-time job. Will that see an effect in the future? Metri says, “It is not going to affect the job market in a big way. Since many existing repetitive jobs are going to disappear and the same number of more new jobs are going to come as part of the future of work which demands only liquid workforce.”

Need Pedagogical Changes

Bansal informs on the ground-level pedagogical overview of B-schools, “Now present courses at B-schools deal majorly with a permanent structure of employees and doesn’t consider the temporary staff, who are creating discord among the manpower structures.” He adds, “Most of the premier schools are aware of the changing trends at work but pedagogical changes are taking place at a slow pace. Management professional with right skills are going to play a major role in the companies going through such transformations, and it is required that they are proficient in areas of change management, global business management and conflict management.” 

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