Hari Kolam of Findem: “More job sharing on the horizon”

More job sharing on the horizon — Many employees and potential employees demand flexibility, yet don’t want to go less than part time or leave a job they enjoy. This can especially be the case for moms who may fear losing professional ground if they have to pull back on hours. Job sharing — where two professionals share the […]

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More job sharing on the horizon — Many employees and potential employees demand flexibility, yet don’t want to go less than part time or leave a job they enjoy. This can especially be the case for moms who may fear losing professional ground if they have to pull back on hours. Job sharing — where two professionals share the responsibility of a single position — can offer a lot of benefits for employers and employees. Employers gain the benefit of more diverse skills and viewpoints being brought to a role, in addition to better coverage for absences and higher retention rates. Employees get more work-life balance and the opportunity to experiment in other areas of their career field. As we move to a more flexible work model, job sharing will be something we’ll see more of.

There have been major disruptions in recent years that promise to change the very nature of work. From the ongoing shifts caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the impacts caused by automation, and other possible disruptions to the status quo, many wonder what the future holds in terms of employment. For example, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute that estimated automation will eliminate 73 million jobs by 2030.

To address this open question, we reached out to successful leaders in business, government, and labor, as well as thought leaders about the future of work to glean their insights and predictions on the future of work and the workplace.

As a part of this interview series called “Preparing For The Future Of Work”, we had the pleasure to interview Hari Kolam.

Hari is the CEO and co-founder of Findem, where he is responsible for driving the company’s overall direction and strategic growth, as well as overseeing its day-to-day operations. He’s a serial entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience building companies and creating trailblazing technology solutions, as well as an accomplished technologist who has co-authored more than 50 technology patents.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?

I was born and raised in a small south Indian town called Bellary where I grew up with a diverse set of people from different walks of life. I want to believe I have a high degree of empathy and curiosity because of my formative experiences, and this came in extremely handy in my entrepreneurial journey. I came to the US to pursue my graduate studies, but quickly found my home in the startup-land and have been building companies for the past 13 years here.

What do you expect to be the major disruptions for employers in the next 10–15 years? How should employers pivot to adapt to these disruptions?

Automation and AI have already proven to be massive game-changers in the past decade and, now with technology advancing quicker than ever, we can’t fully begin to imagine what it will mean for employers. In the near term, businesses should be very actively working to get — and to stay — ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest technologies. That also means optimizing their teams by having humans take on the work that machines can’t and won’t foreseeably be able to handle. They need to be picking up the phone to close the deal with great candidates who can help them adapt over the next decade.

The expanding remote workforce is another one. We’re never going to revert back to a long-considered traditional model where employees are expected to be in the office from 8 am to 5 pm, and that’s not a bad thing. Employers need to take on a mindset and embrace how it can positively impact their business — they’re now able to increase workforce diversity and not be relegated to filling roles with just people in their own backyard. Work now to get the right technology in place and build a culture that supports remote work in every shape and form.

With diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, the disruption has already started and this wave is only going to swell. Broadening diversity within your workforce is not only the right thing to do helps drive the bottom-line, it can also be the difference between a top-notch candidate accepting an offer from your or the next company over. With employees wielding more power than ever due to talent shortages, your company’s clear stance on DEIB in many cases can be a deciding factor.

The choice as to whether or not a young person should pursue a college degree was once a “no-brainer.” But, with the existence of many high-profile millionaires (and billionaires) who did not earn degrees, as well as the fact that many graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt and unable to find jobs, it has become a much more complex question. What advice would you give to young adults considering whether or not to go to college?

I have a more traditional perspective on this topic in that I believe college is an important part of one’s lifetime — it provides invaluable experiences and life-long connections. One can be absolutely successful without a college degree and there has been evidence (like you say) of many multi-millionaires who made it big without one. However, those black swan events are probably hard to plan for. Furthermore, college grads do make much more than those without a degree and, as one gets further in their career, they tend to make a high income with most degrees.

Despite the doom and gloom predictions, there are, and likely still will be, jobs available. How do you see job seekers having to change their approaches to finding not only employment, but employment that fits their talents and interests?

It’s really important that job seekers first step back and decide what’s important for them, so they know how to best direct their job search. For instance, a remote workplace may be a top priority. If that’s the case, I recommend building a list of companies that are remote-first and spend extra effort targeting them. I actually don’t think it’ll be too long before we start seeing publications produce lists of “Best Companies for Remote Workers,” and that’ll make the research part much easier.

The remote-work economy also calls for thinking outside of the resume — something most should have been doing pre-pandemic anyhow. Resumes are merely table stakes in the current job market — and they don’t tell the full story. Set aside some time and summon your creative juices to develop some collateral that will give you an edge. It could be a video application, a blog, contributed content or anything else that demonstrates your thought leadership.

Go beyond employer branding to see what the culture is really like. Review a company’s social media, see if they have a DEIB policy, check out their Glassdoor reviews and try to network your way to an internal connection to really get a feel for their values. Also, interviews go both ways, so use them as an opportunity to ask questions important to you as a prospective employee.

The statistics of artificial intelligence and automation eliminating millions of jobs, appears frightening to some. For example, Walmart aims to eliminate cashiers altogether and Dominos is instituting pizza delivery via driverless vehicles. How should people plan their careers such that they can hedge their bets against being replaced by automation or robots?

While I can understand the concern about automation and AI playing a more leading role in customer service, deliveries and other industries, I don’t see a near-term future where they’re displacing humans en masse from the workforce. For robots, that’s particularly true, since they’re not as far along as most believe would believe from watching movies and reading media coverage.

The fact is that AI and machine learning can actually complement humans in their job functions, making them more efficient and bringing a greater level of intelligence to what they do. That said, to be equipped to succeed in a workforce where these technologies will be more predominant, it’s important to continue your professional development, even getting educated on using these technologies in your field. It’ll also be critical to focus on specialized skills and soft skills — things like communication and relationship-building that machines can’t do.

Technological advances and pandemic restrictions hastened the move to working from home. Do you see this trend continuing? Why or why not?

My view is that, yes, companies are likely going to have to offer at least a hybrid work environment to stay competitive. There will still be a central office — or maybe more than one, now that more companies have employees in different locales — where people can meet in person. However, not every employee will be required to be in the office all of the time. The pandemic has proven that people can work remotely and be productive. Now that employees have more power to pick and choose their employers, I can all but guarantee we’re going to see this negotiated into a large number of job offer agreements.

What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support the fundamental changes to work?

A vital and necessary change is a shift to a global mindset, both on an individual and an organizational level. The shift to remote work has started to tear down boundaries, but there’s more to be done. It’s not just about accepting other cultures or expanding your business overseas, it’s about grasping the complexities of the global ecosystem and authentically embracing talent outside of your region rather than just giving it lip service.

We also must look at adopting technology that facilitates remote work and the measurement of productivity in a remote world. Along with this, there needs to be an acceptance of different styles of work and ways of working. When it comes to hiring, companies must be willing to implement more technologies in their outreach to candidates, because that’ll enable them to stand out from the crowd in a fiercely competitive labor market.

What changes do you think will be the most difficult for employers to accept?

We’re seeing a movement toward pay transparency with labor laws like the one in Colorado, and others being proposed in other states. Already, I see companies resisting these actions, which are intended to close the gender and racial pay gaps.

Other big ones coming down the pike where I think we’ll see some opposition from employers include daily pay, four-day workweeks, new strategies to measure productivity in remote and hybrid workforces, and even flexibility on remote workplaces. Some companies are moving quicker in these areas, while others are struggling to accept the new world.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped highlight the inadequate social safety net that many workers at all pay levels have. Is this something that you think should be addressed? In your opinion how should this be addressed?

By all means it should be addressed, and the pandemic has fortunately been an impetus for driving some new initiatives in this area. There’s no single solution, but rather a set of actions that need to be taken. I think we can begin with more pay transparency to tighten the wage gap and ensure everyone is being equitably compensated. I’d also like to see more support and actual plans to better support working parents. We saw nearly 1 million mothers drop out of the workforce and lose ground in their careers amid the pandemic, and we need more industry-wide initiatives to buoy them in the near and long term. Additionally, veterans have historically lacked leadership opportunities, and we need to take steps to fill that gap and to boost their hiring rates overall in the civilian world.

Despite all that we have said earlier, what is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

That technology is helping us overcome DEIB challenges. We are more alike than different, and an emphasis on DEIB will make us more accepting and stronger as we grow our businesses, hire and nurture our employees and generally take big steps forward as a nation.

Also, the pandemic put a fire under companies that have been impelled to change quickly or fall behind when it comes to remote/hybrid work. Now, more than ever, employers are open to considering candidates who may not have the exact titles or experience for a certain position, which used to be our standards of measurement. They’re more open to evaluating candidates who instead have the right attributes to do the job, which is a win-win because it suddenly expands their talent pool, and it gives job-seekers greater opportunity.

Historically, major disruptions to the status quo in employment, particularly disruptions that result in fewer jobs, are temporary with new jobs replacing the jobs lost. Unfortunately, there has often been a gap between the job losses and the growth of new jobs. What do you think we can do to reduce the length of this gap?

This certainly was the case in 2020 when we were in the thick of Covid-19 pandemic and jobs were scarce. It caused a good deal of disruption for those new to the workforce or looking to regain their footing after a layoff or furlough. However, the tides seem to be turning now as we’ve seen The Great Resignation take hold over the past several months. Millions have left their jobs in search of more work-life balance or better opportunities and, at the same time, the economy was reinvigorated, which caused companies to ramp up their hiring. Now, we’re seeing the market tilted in favor of job seekers and companies struggling to find strong talent. The new dilemma is more about how companies can hire to fill their holes, and what strategies can they employ to ensure they’re winning the candidates over their competitors.

Okay, wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Watch In the Future of Work?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. AI to aid with recruitment amid The Great Resignation — As I mentioned, we’ve seen employees leave their positions in droves as part of The Great Resignation. Companies are working harder than ever to recruit for open positions and hold onto their high-quality talent. This is necessitating a bigger focus on passive recruiting where HR leaders have to unearth candidates not proactively searching for new jobs. Artificial intelligence will play a leading role because it can search all publicly available sources for the right candidates based on their attributes, and then help engage those candidates through the hiring process. It can also be used to predict flight risk, so retention strategies can be implemented for those at high risk.
  2. Resumes diminish in importance — Companies are putting a lot less emphasis on resumes when hunting for candidates for a couple of reasons. For one, it really isn’t an accurate representation of a candidate because it’s very narrow and only provides very basic information, failing to reveal their core attributes. Also, since we’re seeing passive recruiting on the rise, talent sourcers and recruiters are using technology to conduct people searches, unearth their ideal candidates and engage with them. For job searchers on the hunt, it’s more about building a personal brand online and using innovative approaches such as video introductions to stand out from the pack.
  3. Remote/hybrid-first becomes the norm — Now that the country — and even the world — has been thrust into a workforce that’s largely remote or hybrid, there will be no turning back to the traditional nine-to-five in-person workday. Offering the chance to work remotely or maintain a hybrid schedule will be table stakes for employers who want to attract and retain top-quality employees. For larger companies, I suspect we’ll begin to see the emergence of managers with specific remote/hybrid specialties and others honing their skills in this area.
  4. New world of benefits — Now that many physical office perks and traditional benefits have lost their relevance given the prevalence of remote workforces, companies will get more creative with the types of benefits that they offer their employees. Things like wardrobe stipends and gym memberships will be replaced with more inventive options such as at-home childcare, adventure funds and pet insurance coverage.
  5. More job sharing on the horizon — Many employees and potential employees demand flexibility, yet don’t want to go less than part time or leave a job they enjoy. This can especially be the case for moms who may fear losing professional ground if they have to pull back on hours. Job sharing — where two professionals share the responsibility of a single position — can offer a lot of benefits for employers and employees. Employers gain the benefit of more diverse skills and viewpoints being brought to a role, in addition to better coverage for absences and higher retention rates. Employees get more work-life balance and the opportunity to experiment in other areas of their career field. As we move to a more flexible work model, job sharing will be something we’ll see more of.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how this quote has shaped your perspective?

One that really resonates with me is a quote by Albert Einstein that goes “You never fail until you stop trying.” When you’re an entrepreneur working to grow a business, I believe there is no such thing as a complete failure or success. You need to be on a perpetual path of learning and progression to find the right answer. Intermittent failures are an important part of that process and get us closer to the answer because we learn with each one.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d have to say Trever Noah because I appreciate how he uses being a comic as a cover to highlight important and relevant issues

Our readers often like to follow our interview subjects’ careers. How can they further follow your work online?

I would welcome the chance for them to follow and interact with me and Findem on any of my social channels. You can find us on Twitter at @hkolam and @FindemAI, and on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/hariharan-kolam-30bb3b1 and https://www.linkedin.com/company/findeminc. People can also try our new Impossible Search on our website at https://www.findem.ai/#scroll.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

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