The skill set of the future labor force will be based on the ability to learn, to be agile, flexible and adaptable
STEP BACK, MOVE BUT DON’T FREEZE -SHEHZAD MUNIM
Overcoming diverse challenges are an integral part of every successful business. The current pandemic similarly poses a steep challenge for all businesses alike; one which none have encountered before or have taken precautions against. However, based on the stature of one’s business I believe there should be only two ways of battling this crisis. The challenge reminds me of a story which I have quoted before. It is about a rabbit trying to cross the road at night. As the rabbit reaches the middle of the road, he notices a speeding headlight coming straight at him. At that point, the rabbit too is left with only two options for survival. Either it makes a dash for it and reaches the other end of the road or takes a few steps back and retreats to safety to retry later. However, if it chooses neither of the options and freezes, then it is surely destined to meet a gruesome end in the form of a roadkill. SHEHZAD MUNIM, Managing Director, British American Tobacco (BAT)
Similarly, successful businesses which have the option of marching on should continue to invest and grow while smaller businesses which do not find themselves in such a favorable position should try to cut back on expenditures and just plan for survival during this challenging time. Following the first principal, BAT boldly chose to continue its growth journey throughout this pandemic period upholding employee morale and motivation, ensuring full leaf and factory operations and providing support to the thousands of its partners including suppliers and specially retailers who were at the greatest risk. Our simple philosophy being ‘grip self- grip team- grip society’ where we wanted to look after our people and society at large, not wanting to add further economic burden on top of the current pandemic.
This pandemic will pass and the ones who will be standing tall though this, will emerge as the winners in their respective sectors. We believe in the indomitable spirit of this nation and according to our assessment, the economic growth post pandemic will be fast and V shaped. You can already sense the revolution happening.
ADOPT, ADAPT AND MULTITASK
There is no alternative to being agile and flexible in these ever-evolving times. The new world can’t accommodate those who are slow and change-resistant. To remain relevant – adapt, adopt and multitask. Globalization and digitization serves information on a silver platter available at everyone’s disposal. Individuals need to take ownership to research the most recent trends, filter out the noise, map out the most globally demanded skill sets and educate themselves to future-proof their careers. Always remember, if you don’t go the extra mile, someone else will, and that someone will take your spot.
If we take a real-life scenario, factory machines have historically been slow, and a predominantly older workforce would run them. With tech advancing at an all-time steep trajectory, machines are getting better at their jobs. As an organization packed with extremely driven people, merely surviving was never our goal at BAT; we stepped up and decided to get Integrated Work Systems (IWS) Phase 1 certification, which made our factory one of the very few factories of a scale as large to attain that certification.
Naturally, many factory workers couldn’t cope with the plethora of changes the certification process brought. As a responsible company, we gave them alternative employment training. But for those who did adapt, adopt and multitask – they are thriving and going beyond borders. We’ve always sent our managers abroad on international assignment – it is a matter of great pride for us that we’re also sending our factory workers abroad in countries such as Poland to train their people. We are far from stopping just there and are already training our workers for Phase 2 certification.
CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT
Change is not a 21st century concept; if anything, change has been the only constant since the beginning of time. However, due to modern technology, the pace of change is brazenly faster now. Just as old as the concept of change, is mankind’s fear of facing that very change, and the main challenge for us all is to fight our inertia and overcome this fear. When push comes to shove, we all learn how to overcome fear. For instance, this pandemic in many ways has taught us to grow out of our comfort zones.
Parents who used to struggle with using smartphones not too long ago are now seamlessly using online platforms to order groceries, working men who’ve never cooked a meal or cleaned the house are now seasoned cooks and cleaners. One thing to note in this however is that, it took a pandemic for the masses to learn these skills, while there was no reason for them to not learn these earlier. An important learning from this is that you either learn at your own pace, or be ready to be forced to learn at the pace set by volatile circumstances. SHEHZAD MUNIM, Managing Director, British American Tobacco (BAT)
THE BRIMMING POTENTIAL OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND
With high quality exports in mind, agriculture and fisheries are the areas to focus on. It is unfortunate that countries with far less capacity are exporting substantially more than us, while we are chained at the coast due to lack of proper farm management and compliance. As the newer generation of agriculture-based families emerges, there are tremendous opportunities for the NextGen farmers to revolutionize agriculture and do justice to a labour force that is fundamentally driven by agriculture.
At BAT, we are creating the largest farming network in the country, assuring right price and working every day to engage and enrich the farming community
High end manufacturing and light engineering sectors will also grow. However, we need vocational and technical training to fully leverage this growing sector. In developing countries such as ours, many have a misconception towards vocational education, which is considered to be inferior to mainstream higher education. As a nation, we need to step out of this backward thinking and encourage the masses to tap into these highly untapped sectors. Pharmaceuticals, ship-building and leather are also focus areas with predicted growth. Furthermore, I feel Information Digital Technology (IDT) and freelancing are also high-potential sectors that require massive institutionalization to bloom.
Lastly, it’s important that we find out where our key strengths lie and build competencies around those, instead of compromising time diverting from our strong suits. We are a country with a high demographic dividend, portraying lots of skills that can become very sellable with the right training. For example, a big chunk of the population are construction workers, however it’s quite regrettable that no institutional support is given to this population to enrich their skills and make a national brand out of them. SHEHZAD MUNIM, Managing Director, British American Tobacco (BAT)
The main challenge for us all is to fight our inertia and overcome this fear. When push comes to shove, we all learn how to overcome fear. For instance, this pandemic in many ways has taught us to grow out of our comfort zones.
We can take learning from the Philippines government who made a brand out of exporting domestic house help, by setting training colleges all over the country. As a nation, if we step outside our cocoons by discarding certain taboos and projecting indiscriminate behavior towards all jobs, we can unlock many doors of potential.
MINISTRY OF HUMAN CAPITAL
With the advent of technology, the service sector has evolved tremendously across the globe in the past few decades, leaving Bangladesh to play the catch-up game. In order to improve and excel, we need to focus our efforts behind proper training and development of our human resources. While formalization of the sector remains a priority, we also have to lift the overall quality of the service sectors to gain value.
In order to adapt to this situation, we need to trigger evolution’s among ourselves as well. We need to acknowledge the value of service sectors and take inspiration from the success of other nations which have specialized in relatable fields like hospitality, nursing, childcare etc. We also need to see a change in the approach at the ministry level as well, for e.g. from being concerned with and referred to as the Ministry of Labor & Employment to evolve to being more of the Ministry of Human Capital, focusing on preparing the workforce for skill sets required to excel in the modern world.
LEARNING IS THE WAY FORWARD
Salary is not the most important thing you should look for at your early stages of employment; channel your focus on finding a job that gives you learning opportunities. Work to learn and if your employer isn’t enhancing your learning curve, let go and move on. Once you’ve built skills, there are two options; you can either leverage your competencies to become an entrepreneur, or you can embody the same entrepreneurial mindset within the company to become the change agent that will drive growth for it. Regardless of which route you choose, don’t be a passenger, waiting for someone to tell you what to do next.
As you prepare to enter the job market, expand your knowledge beyond academic books. Put yourself in challenging environments that test your resilience and stretch your limits. Throughout the various stages of the pandemic, many corporations are taking stances to groom students by connecting aspirants with professionals from within the organizations. Battle of Minds and Xperts Platform are two such platforms we offer from BAT, through which students can get direction and up skill themselves as they set out on the road to their future endeavours. SHEHZAD MUNIM, Managing Director, British American Tobacco (BAT)
British American Tobacco (BAT)