Successful execs foresee change, reskill to be on top

Sharpen Domain Knowledge To Add Value, Remain Relevant

Gone are the days when one passed out of college, joined an organisation and happily retired from there. Professional lifespan of individuals and even organisations have shortened when they fail to anticipate change and adjust themselves against headwinds.

The trend will become stronger with the advent of a world of jobs, which is getting rapidly transformed by the future of work. Technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are playing spoilsport for the careers of those who are slow to adapt.

Executive who move from tech roles into people management lose relevance: Bright, hard-working professionals move up the career ladder fast in the initial years in their technical fields. But after around a decade of work experience, they start feeling the heat generated by the organizational pyramid. Good, interpersonal relationships and soft skills open a new career vista for them in the form of people management. They slowly begin to wean away from their domain expertise. And a time comes when it dawns upon the organisation that a younger, more energetic and cost efficient professional can easily replace the manager.

At no stage of a career should one lose touch with one’s domain knowledge. People management capability can be a differentiator between two equally good professionals, but dynamism in substance (skill) can be a force multiplier.

Compensation goes up, skill does not catch up: A unique but common situation that’s emerging in organisations is that annual hikes bloat the people cost without ensuring a commensurate value-addition. Organisations that are meant to operate at a cost pyramid model transform into a cylindrical shape over time, thus negatively impacting margins and affordability. In many cases, a level of skill upgradation among the work-force doesn’t happen, leaving them behind desired levels of proficiency. And when it comes on the radar of the ‘powers that be’ in the organisation, the axe falls. Beware of your designation climbing faster than the value that you bring to the table.

Peers and even juniors supersede some execs, leaving them frustrated: Organisations are meant to operate with a critical mass at the base and few leaders at the top. The honeymoon period is the first few years when professionals lie in the critical mass at the bottom of the organizational pyramid. High performers, high potentials and people in critical roles tend to move up the ladder faster as compared to their mediocre peers who take a slower path up the organisation. Those average performers who continue to remain complacent lag their more promising peers and even juniors who supersede them to occupy senior positions in the organisation. And what follows is normal and predictable – jealousy, cribbing, heart-burn, poor productivity, frustration and eventually mid-life crisis for the laggards.

Skills become outdated & re-skilling doesn’t happen: It’s believed that this decade has seen technology-driven innovations disrupting business models and professions like never before. Who would have thought that the biggest threat to automobile sector will come not from within but technology companies. Uberisation has turned balance sheets of many an automobile company red. This disruption has made organisations wither away and employees redundant. Technology-driven skills are perhaps the biggest contributors ensuring the irrelevance of employees, if they do not anticipate the changes they need to make their skill-set to remain professionally relevant.

It’s normal tendency for humans to look at their employers for career-enhancing interventions. This blunder is costing professionals their bread and butter.

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