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How mapping skills to demand through technology can change the blue-collar dynamics

India’s rapidly developing socio-economic demographics indicate towards a potential growth across various industries, which in turn promises a favourable graph in the employment scenario too. The skilling ecosystem, backed by many of the government’s initiatives, is also creating a skill pool to meet those future demands. We recently brought together industry leaders from both the supply and demand side of the blue-collar sector at the launch of SkillConnect, the digital platform for bridging the gaps between both the sides. Discussing the challenges, solutions and some valuable inputs about their respective industries, the speakers at the SkillConnect panel discussion commended BetterPlace’s initiative to channel the right workforce into the right jobs.  

Addressing the skill gaps is essential

Given the fast-paced expansion across all industries, the hiring numbers are skyrocketing and so, skilling continues to be a challenge for the employers in order to deliver on the quality front for the end customer. The two keynote speakers Pulak Ghosh, Professor – IIM- B, and Sandeep Sethi, Chair, JLL, IFM, addressed this issue in their speeches too before the panel discussion began. While Prof Ghosh pointed out how the geographical gaps between the place of training and demand create a mismatch, Mr Sethi stressed on the need of keeping up with the pace because the skills relevant today might not be relevant in the near future. Prior to this, the Honourable Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and chief guest, Shri Anantkumar Hegde, too spoke about switching from production-oriented training to demand-based approach to fill the skilling gaps and move closer to achieving the 100% target.

Retention a major challenge across all industries

Talking about the challenges of staffing in the blue-collar industry, the industry leaders brought up the most common one – high rate of attrition. Athira Menon, who is the Lead, Public Policy, Uber for South India and Sri Lanka, said that the major challenge for them is to retain their driver partners. She said, “The drivers keep churning between the different cab aggregators, depending on where they get more money or incentive. And to an extent, we can pump more money in the market, but after that, we have to look at various driver welfare initiatives in order to retain them.”

Vivek Mehrotra, head of learning and development at Zomato, also said, “We today have a very limited pool of people that we are churning. The same person joins us, leaves us, joins somewhere else, and then somewhere else and comes back to us, or tries to come back. We say that we have 62% of the population in the employable range, but are those people really available to us in the cities we are hiring?”

Amit Jain, who heads Quikr jobs at Quikr, also agreed that retention is a major challenge in this segment, saying, “There’s no long-term career plan as far as this workforce is concerned. They are maybe thinking on a day-to-day or monthly basis about switching jobs. Like many of the employers here said, the same pool keeps leaving and coming back to them. Also, for the employers hiring is still a pretty messy process. They still have to wait through the initial phase to be sure that the employee will stay in the company.”

Sanjeev Kumar, President, Operations at DTSS, said, “Housekeeping staff makes up for approx. 70% of the facility management staff, which caters to different industries like healthcare, IT/ITES etc. After working over a period of time, the employee acquires skills relevant to other industries too, so they move on to other jobs. We also have migratory workforce from different states and their retention rate is poor. Actually, there are just four-five states that could supply to the demand.”

Sandeep Kumar, Head HR, Operations, Employee Relations & Compliance at Sodexo, said, “Earlier we used to have a very high rate of attrition of around 80%, but it has come down to 40% since we are focussed on improving the quality of life for our own employees through motivating them, training them and bringing them to that certain level. Also, technology has created a lot of difference both in terms of the nature of blue-collar jobs and the way the service industry operates now.”

Technology, innovation and reskilling essential to sustain the market

The panel speakers agreed that it’s essential to continuously innovate in order to sustain the rapidly changing market, and technology penetration helps them do just that. Sanjiv Saklani, Director Strategy & Operations, UDS, said, “We have to find ways and means to sustain in the market. Technology is driving a lot of change on both the front and back end, and because of that, a lot of optimisation is happening in the industry. For instance, technology has even changed the way housekeeping works, and replaced the age-old traditional methods.”

Raghvendra Hooda, Director, IFM and Asset Services at Cushman & Wakefield, said, “Today is the time when we have come very close to our service partners by doing away with many of the inefficiencies, like late payments. We are working very closely with many technology companies because a lot of our clients have started asking for digital facility management. So, we are partnering with technology companies to deliver on whatever our in-house technology cannot do. All our large customers’ expectations are also technology-driven now.”

How SkillConnect solves the biggest challenge by mapping demand and supply

The speakers on the panel were all looking forward to the launch of SkillConnect as it is the platform which looks at mapping future demand to right skills and hence transforming the way blue-collar ecosystem works. It also looks at resolving the mismatch in demand and supply through a frictionless digital platform.  

Rajesh Munjal, COO at Carzonrent, said, “The challenge which SkillConnect looks at solving is something which all the employers talked about. This is something which has been required for many years now because this will help map demand with supply. And this, in turn, will change the entire dynamics of the blue-collar industry.”

Vivek Mehrotra shared, “We have people in rural India but the demand is in the metros. So I’m really looking forward to this platform which will help bring the workforce where they are needed. Through this initiative, we will get people who already have been trained, probably we can groom them and that will help solve some of our major challenges.”

Sanjeev Kumar added, “While we continue to have challenges in the industry, the biggest has been connecting supply and demand, and I congratulate BetterPlace for creating this wonderful platform where we’ll be able to find a solution to connect supply and demand.”

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