Future Workforce and Evolving Skills in the Post COVID-19 Era: A Panel Discussion

AMCHAM’s Eastern Region organized a panel discussion via webinar on ‘Future Workforce and Evolving Skills in the Post COVID-19 Era’ on June 30th. The panellists for the session were, Consul General Patti Hoffman, U.S. Consul General in Kolkata, Mr. Narayanna Ramaswamy, Managing Partner, KPMG Eastern India, Mr. Madhavan Vilvarayanallur, Partner, KPMG India and lead for the education sector (future workforce), Mr. Chaitanya Sreenivas, Chairman – HR Committee, AMCHAM and Vice President HR & HR Head India South Asia, IBM and Mr. Gulshan Sachdev, NEB Member, AMCHAM and Managing Director, Quaker Chemicals India and Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM.


Ms. Ranjana Khanna opened the discussions by welcoming and introducing the panellists. She set the tone for the discussions by highlighting India’s skill development systems and spoke about the multiple challenge’s being faced by the work force. The U.S. Consul General in Kolkata, Patti Hoffman was the guest speaker and in her opening remarks she spoke about the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed an unprecedented global health threat. She said that it is only through partnership and cooperation that we will be able to ensure a healthy future for people across the world. She spoke about how the U.S. government, through USAID, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other relevant agencies, was working closely with India to support India’s response to the pandemic. She said that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the leading aid agencies globally. She also mentioned that till now, USAID has provided $5.9 million to assist India in responding to the pandemic. This assistance will help India slow the spread of COVID-19, provide care for the affected, disseminate essential public health messages to communities, and strengthen case finding and surveillance. She said the U.S. government, through USAID, donated the first shipment of 100 brand-new, state-of-the-art ventilators to India to assist its fight against COVID-19. She spoke about the strategic and bilateral partnership between the two countries touching upon President Trump’s visit in February to India and his meetings with Prime Minister Modi. She also spoke about the entrepreneurship programs the U.S. Consulate was doing through robust online outreach programs across eastern and northeastern India and the region.


Mr. Narayanna Ramaswamy shared his in depth knowledge on a range of new norms which were COVID induced, health and social norms which covered: social distancing, face masks, cultural issues, future work trends, skill sets for future, sector specific emerging roles which covered blended learning models and entertainment healthcare travel. Mr. Madhavan Vilvarayanallur spoke about the future of learning, changing learner needs (accelerated changes due to COVID-19) byte size (micro), anytime, anywhere, personalized, adaptive, collaborative, specialized. He also talked about learning delivery – the shift from face-to-face to digital – virtual classrooms, webcasts, conferencing, virtual coaching and capstones. He covered learning behaviors, organization challenges and future universities, among other topics.


Mr. Chaitanya Sreenivas centered on “What got you here won’t get you there.” He spoke on the importance of preparing a remote working atmosphere for a COVID-19 work world. He emphasized embracing remote work, setting goals, sticking to timelines and schedules and the value of time management. He highlighted the significance of learning new skills, while creating a work life balance embracing the changing world of technology, which included being agile and adaptable and most importantly focusing on mental well-being. Mr. Gulshan Sachdev, in his concluding remarks, said that the global pandemic had changed the way businesses think and operate. Innovation, collaboration and client centric decision making was going to be the key for organization growth. A heightened focus towards team collaboration, along with effective use of digital tools to maintain productivity, while working remotely will be in vogue. Besides novel employee engagement programs and well-being initiatives, greater emphasis will be placed on skilling programs with innovative means for making learning more agile and adaptive. It will become mandatory for managers to create a greater sense of belongingness. Managers will need to align employees with ethos of the organization, by providing autonomy and accountability for leading effectively in a virtual environment.