The Future. Seldom before in the history of modern industry has there been such focus on the ability to anticipate the future, a need to be able to call trends in environments — external and internal, and accelerate internal readiness. And for good reason.

While Covid has been a stark reminder of the ease with which externalities can disrupt all business and upend society, it is the horizontal transformer — technology — that is the cause for the greatest change, and the greatest opportunity.

Why, might you ask, should one be overtly concerned about remaining apace with technology — it is an enabler at the end of the day; bigger ‘tech disruptions’ have accelerated tectonic shifts — and industries have coped, and flourished. The difference this time is how much faster and accessible computing power is at one level, and even more, how various technologies are able to converge. In turn, this is enabling a complete shift in business models and ecosystems. Quantum leaps are now possible both at the level of industry, and of society.

Each of the 81 companies that responded to the study by Fortune India and Work Universe on future trends in employment recognise this. And that is what makes them Employers Of The Future. Each has a strategy centred on anticipating the future through a razor sharp focus on the customer, but each is also transforming internally, on the back of tech convergence, into businesses that will be able to respond to accelerating shifts. And in that will lie sustainable competitive advantage.

Competitive capability aside, how will organisations thrive in the future? The answers are as old as time and as new as ‘new tech’. Ultimately, it is the age of the human. The people that make up the fabric of our companies, moral and competitive. The people whose needs we respond to as customers. These people want, above all else, a connection. To purpose, to meaning — a thread that binds in inclusivity as much as it allows individuality.

Leadership is the one key differentiator and the ask of leaders is what it has always been — credible leadership that can inspire, but most of all, that can walk the talk, with teams and employees that will be part of a new World Wide Web of talent. Thriving companies will be led by leaders, who are holistic in vision and focused on a purpose to which high-performing individuals will align. Leaders who can spot a risk/opportunity and pivot business model and organisational design in time will be the only ones to succeed. No one has time for mediocre leadership. It is an oxymoron. Further, firms will thrive because they will truly live co-creation — with customers to build products and services of the future, and with teams to enable collaborative loops of innovation.

But none of this is easy. All of it is critical. Not just for industry in India to be globally relevant, but for the nation at large. India’s need to transform its employment and employability paradigm is massive. We are the world’s youngest population but with advancements in senior populations, there will be vast segments of need (and opportunity, from the point of consumption and employment).

And so, any institution that seeks to create value through disruption of standard evolution must be recognised. A new world of work is upon us. It is time to embrace the change with the mindset of abundance, but also one of mindfulness. In individual endeavour is tied a collective future.

We are at an inflection point — India has been at many through its journey as a nation. This one though, is one where we, the current generation, will have to stand to count. The quality of firms we build, the readiness with which we will lead innovation and even invention, and how we respond to the urgency of a focus on sustainability will define this generation. The choice of that definition is ours.

Radha Ahluwalia is general partner, Work Universe.

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