09 Oct 2020 21:58 IST

Digital disruptions need B-schools to prepare ‘next-gen’ workforce

Academia needs to adopt innovation-based teaching pedagogies that encourage critical thinking and creativity

The new-generation technologies like AI, block chain, robotics, quantum computing, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology are disrupting business models and reshaping the industries in unimaginable ways. These sophisticated fifth generation technologies have catapulted us as we sail through the significant industrial revolution. Global technocrats and HR experts suggest that these developments will erase and render redundant some present-day jobs and give rise to job profiles that don't exist yet.

Workplaces are rapidly altering in structure, and workforce composition and boundaries between digital and physical worlds are constantly blurring. These developments may lead to the surfacing of a global skill gap crisis. Indeed, today's employers face a shortage of 21st-century competencies, skills, and talents.

Revolutions have always remodelled and disrupted industries through various time periods. Looking back, the First Industrial Revolution changed the shape of the transport industry with the steam engine; the Second Industrial Revolution enhanced mass production of goods with electric power, and the Third Industrial Revolution automated production with information technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, reposed on the third, is the technological revolution, which is estimated to have a maximum impact on workplace skills.

Quick and swift

Unlike the first three industrial revolutions that took decades to achieve socio-economic transformation, build scalable training and learning systems, and develop skills to keep pace with these tectonic advancements, the fourth IR is too quick and swift. The solution isn't as simple as training more engineers and producing more data analysts, but it is about re-defining and re-calibrating roles; now that machines are taking over mundane and repetitive tasks. Let's understand this with an example. HR managers using smart systems to take care of most of the administrative tasks, more of their time can be used for addressing employee engagement issues and giving constructive feedback.

This shift implies that specific skills, like empathy, feedback, and communication, will rise in significance while others, like administrative tasks, scheduling, and data entry, will be automated. So, in essence, while technology will take care of mundane and repetitive tasks, organisations of the future will need managers for more rewarding and engaging roles. The new competencies and skills required will be like cognitive flexibility, complex problem solving, persuasion, negotiation, emotional intelligence, to name a few.

Future of jobs

These developments impact educational institutions in some significant ways. The "future of jobs" projections will be an essential guide for making changes in many education institutions' curriculum contents. These changes are going to be unprecedented. Given that the future of industry is on a fast track, educational institutions need to keep pace. Significant shifts are already happening in the education space. We're witnessing trends of students being interested in relevant, skill-based learning, project-based experiential learning, and less interested in stale curriculum seen with the rise of synchronous and asynchronous virtual classrooms.

As academicians, the fate of the future talent pool will be up to us. We can mould the students into talented and competent professionals of the future by adopting innovation-based teaching pedagogies that encourage critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, communication skills. Academic institutions need to move beyond outdated content-based learning and focus on offering evidence-based, discovery-based, experiential-based learning, and development. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, institutions can start preparing the 'Next-Gen Workforce' by including new-age competency programmes in mainstream curriculum.

A complete remodelling of academic philosophy and pedagogy is needed to become a progressive institution and stay relevant in disruptive times. As academicians, we shoulder the responsibility of producing a future-ready talent pipeline.

(The writer is Officiating Vice-Chancellor, NMIMS, and Provost & Dean, School of Business Management)