Modern Workspaces Need Employees with Adaptability, Agility, and Perspective

In a recent conversation with Ahmedabad University, Amit Das, Senior Director, Human Resources at Novo Nordisk, a leading global pharmaceutical company, shared that most youngsters who approached them came with a Biology or Pharmaceutical background. They assumed their graduate or postgraduate degree in 'related' fields made them relevant. "While it is so to an extent, most of these prospective recruits fail to satisfy our expectations. Domain knowledge only helps them on the development side. For all others, the need is to be aware of the customer and the ecosystem and be willing to operate in diverse conditions. Most of them are not open to experiment and learn, are poorly acquainted with a worldview, communicate in silos of knowledge, and are least interested in moving out of their armchairs and going out to meet and understand the customer – retail or institutional!" he said. Novo Nordisk's internationally followed policy recognises the need to be aware of the customer, the market, the environment, and corporate citizenship. New employees are expected to be focused on skills like communication, general awareness, ability to work in teams outside comfort zones, and customer friendliness, besides domain knowledge.

With organisations transforming and aligning themselves with the changing needs of the 21st century, they are increasingly lapping up candidates, whether new recruits or lateral ones, with keen analytical skills, tech-savvy orientation, learning attitude, agile multitasking, mobility, and the ability to think on their feet. The Career Development Centre at Ahmedabad University guides and prepares students for success by providing them significant resources to explore, discover, develop, and pursue not just their professional goals, as is traditionally expected of a career centre, but their personal goals as well. The Centre facilitates students' connections with organisations in the corporate world that match those goals. It is committed to working with students at all levels of their career aspirations, from understanding their interests to a judicious assessment of the same, from providing networking opportunities to equipping them with job searching strategies. The Centre also offers services in the space of continued learning where recruiters appreciate candidates who equip themselves with wider knowledge through additional certifications and are better networked and visibly engaged. Talking about how the Centre's preparation aligns with the requirements of modern workspaces, Mohit Gupta, Director of Ahmedabad University's Career Development Centre, says, "The industry is now looking for 'T' shaped employees who have a broad base of knowledge at the top complemented by in-depth knowledge in their particular domain, for people with a deeper understanding in their domain and the broader ability to deal with problems across domains. That's what we stove to equip our students with at the University."

He reasons that, increasingly, headhunters and in-house recruitment experts are looking for three essential skills: consulting, communication, and data. "With consulting skills, potential employees need to act like a consultant to get a 360° view with the 'T' shape of skill sets. With storytelling and the ability to convince, one can market ideas and solutions to internal or external customers. The ability to understand what kind of data needs to be collected, where to get it from, and then analyse and collate it to make it meaningful and relevant for decision-making is a skill you can ill-afford to overlook. Data mining – slicing and dicing – and analysing to get insights to support decision making is imperative, irrespective of the domain," says Mohit.

Parag Bhatt is the Head HR at Tatvic Analytics, a MarTech company. For him, technology makes a big difference. "Therefore, adapting to change, high learning orientation, flexibility, resilience, and collaborative spirit are the critical competencies our industry evaluates in prospective young employees," he says. "Interestingly, because of a lot of disruption in the industrial environment, be it recession, the pandemic, or overall competition, the industry has also inevitably adopted some adhocracy in its culture. Due to this, new employees may not get a lot of time to learn and settle in. They are expected to adopt new challenges, environments, and work cultures to remain connected with the business. Agility is a key skill."

Aligning with the requirements of modern workspaces, the Career Development Centre hones adaptation and agility as key skills in students. An elementary task towards this is to work closely with industry allowing students to develop a profound understanding of their future work environment. The Centre does this through a strong alumni network, participating in corporate competitions, conducting speaker sessions, and thus reaching out to companies. Mohit says, "We engage closely with industry leaders for guest lectures, seminars, research projects with our students, and more. We also provide holistic and customised career counselling, guidance, and planning. Ahmedabad students receive in-depth campus-to-corporate training, including professional grooming sessions, personality development workshops, communication proficiency interventions, resume writing workshops, mock group discussions, and personal interviews."

TCS, a global leader in IT services, consulting, and business solutions, looks for the 5 As in prospective employees: Awareness (of the technology and domain), Agility (in their mindset), Aggressiveness (in her learning journey), Adaptability (to Changes), and Application-Oriented Mindset. Gaurav Ghelani, Regional Head, TCS Academic Interface Programme, says, "It is very critical for an employee to know the business environment in which they are operating. It will help them to understand the customer and their challenges and accordingly work towards designing the solution to those challenges. A multidomain work environment will allow them to become a contextual master, besides increasing their demand in the business market."

When it comes to new recruits, it is always a challenge to come across a level of interdisciplinary skill in young students, as technical colleges focus on technology and business schools focus on business orientation. To overcome this challenge, some companies like TCS offer multidisciplinary programmes, sometimes in conjunction with universities, or approach universities offering interdisciplinary courses. TCS's Gaurav adds, "However, a few universities embed technical subjects in their business curricula and vice versa. I have observed academic programmes changing, and most established institutions are trying to groom their students in an interdisciplinary way so that they do not learn only their core subjects but also develop a holistic understanding." 

Aside from these skills, the right attitude counts as a necessary requirement in modern workspaces. Rachna Mehra, Chief Human Resources Officer at leading textiles company Arvind Ltd, says she essentially looks at integrating the adaptive and technical space when hiring. She says, "Academic hygiene is important but what works for us is improvement academically. In the adaptive space, we look at the energy and enthusiasm for life. Additionally, we assess self-awareness, the ability to communicate, internships, if any, and how that experience landed with them. Multidimensional individuals with an opinion to offer and those who are clued into the larger environment are the need of the hour. When looking at lateral recruits, we definitely want individuals who have made themselves available for diverse roles, have functional expertise and have cross-industry experience."

"If someone asks me how prepared our students are to adapt to modern workspace, I would say they bring a unique industry-relevant perspective to the ecosystem driven by our interdisciplinary pedagogy and focus on research. What equips them further is our deep connection with industry and a thorough understanding of what they require," says Mohit.