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Cosmic Conference 2020 - Session 3: Remote Work, Recruitment, Education & Entrepreneurship

The 3rd panel of the Cosmic Conference explored all-things education, recruitment, and how that has and will continue to change as a result of remote work. As students and young professionals enter the workforce post-COVID-19, they will need to hone new skills for the remote experiences ahead and it’s likely they will take on their first role without commuting to work or taking a tour of the office. In this discussion, panelists shed light on the knowledge and skills educators, employers and recruiters are looking for in emerging talent and how to thrive in the workplace of the future.

About the Speakers

Chrisyle Antony is an Advisor for Talent Acquisition at Dell Technologies covering the Middle East, Turkey & Africa. Chrisyle is a passionate talent acquisition professional, recruiting for all-things tech and specializing in strategic sourcing and talent acquisition across different regions. Chrisyle is a strong believer and advocate of Diversity & Inclusion at the workplace and is focused on People, Culture & Innovation.

Mohamed El Abbouri is an Advisor with the Misk Foundation in Saudi Arabia. As an Advisor, Mohamed has worked with the Foundation’s leadership to set the strategic direction of the Foundation, establish and grow various subsidiaries in the fields of Education, Media, Culture, and Arts. Mohamed has 20 years of business and management consulting experience across Europe and the Middle East. He established and led the Education Practice for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in the Middle East and worked with governments and private sector entities on strategy, organization, human capital development, and large-scale transformation programs.

Stella Mantechou is the Associate Director of INSEAD’s Executive Career Development. She is an international talent and career development professional with over 15 years of global experience in the higher education sector specializing in executive and career coaching as well as training and curriculum design. Stella’s "intrapreneurial" nature and passion for sharing knowledge by connecting people, led her to initiate and curate a regional “think tank” in 2012, the Middle East Career Development Conference, bringing together thought leaders across youth development and career counseling to support talent growth in the region.

Key Takeaways

The future of university degrees

According to global data, 47% of university students are thinking about deferring their university access this year. Based on this, panelists were asked a bold question to kick-start the session: is a university degree relevant in today’s world?

“The requirement and appreciation for the degree is greater than the skill,” said Mohamed El Abbouri, Advisor with the Misk Foundation in Saudi Arabia. “It depends on the region that you are in and what you want to do. Some areas such as medicine and engineering require a degree and the background education”

“A degree is always relevant,” said Stella Mantechou, Associate Director of INSEAD’s Executive Career Development. “It will always open new doors and while there will be less class time and more experiential time, the future will have to be tailored. We need to think of what the students need, what their jobs are and curate an experience for that future,”

Echoing the need for universities to rethink how they create degree programs in order to stay relevant, Chrisyle Antony, an advisor for Talent Acquisition at Dell Technologies said “Universities will have to undergo a ‘digital transformation’ process. There is now a distance and online learning landscape that wasn’t there before. This prepares them for the digitally transformed environments they are signing up for.”

Despite the changing nature of online learning, the university experience is still centered around the connections students build with their peers, working towards a common goal. Stella Mantechou shared her perspective on what universities can do to nurture this, particularly as more online learning becomes the norm. “Peer-to-peer connections in a real-time environment is a very important aspect of being at school. At INSEAD, we use Zoom, breakout rooms. This isn’t crazy innovation, but it is a simple example of how we can replicate the environment in a classroom. Playing music during self-reflection exercise is another example of this. Of course, the quality of academics is extremely important.”

Integrating new technologies into the education system is nothing new. Just think of how the classroom projector advanced through the years, and when typing became part of the curriculum in elementary schools. But as curricula and teaching tools become more digital, so too are degree programs and the university experience. Panelists were asked their thoughts on whether employers in the MENA region will acknowledge more online degrees, and what lasting impact that has on emerging talent.

“COVID-19 has been a huge social experiment. Over one billion people have been learning remotely. In the absence of having a live or in-person class,” said Mohamed El Abbouri. The two things that have changed are first, the new habits and patterns acquired, and second, the necessity of regulators to adjust to the new reality. This includes accredited online degrees, which we are seeing become more and more accepted.”

Chrisyle Antony also shared her perspective from a recruiter’s point of view. “Having a university degree is important but it no longer has to be a bachelor’s degree. There is a wealth of experience available online at amazing schools such as Yale and Harvard. These are well received, as they reflect how curious and inquisitive candidates are.”

Recruitment trends and essential skills in the post-pandemic world

It is estimated that COVID-19 has eliminated around 400 million jobs in Q2 2020 (UN labor agency). But in the last few months, new recruitment trends have emerged, some with a more permanent effect than others. Participants were asked to share what they have observed in the industry:

“The delinking of talent from place is the first trend I have seen. No longer is talent associated with a certain place and we can tap into talent from all around the globe. This creates an opportunity for more diversity and inclusion. The second trend we are seeing is a far more resilient workforce. Individuals overnight have learned how to work from home, they have experienced new things that have forced them to take on challenges in this period of time," said Chrisyle Antony.

Stella Mantechou shed light on another trend related to hybrid working. “As companies adopt more remote working contracts, candidates should showcase self-motivation showing how they can be productive while remote. Top-notch communication skills are also a must. Building relationships and trust are another; it's not just being familiar with the tools and your employers, it is also about building relationships with your stakeholders and clients. You cannot always rely on technology, you have to remember that you are speaking to people, and to learn how to interact with your colleagues in hybrid or flexible work settings.”

This networking is a critical part of what Stella believes will equip talent for success in remote settings, “It is all about internal networking,” she said. “Meet everyone on the team, have a virtual coffee chat. Ask for advice on how to navigate the workforce. You can still find a mentor, find a buddy. Whether it is virtual or not., and most importantly, stay curious. You can even think about how you will spend your first 100 days on the job.”

Agreeing with Stella, Mohamed El Abbouri believes that ”Self-motivation and self-organization are super important skills, rather than just being tech-savvy.” He added that candidates should be prepared to share more about what they are working on.

“Over-Communication is necessary. People don’t know what you are doing so you need to do this to show people what you are achieving. Additionally, there will be a change in how organizations organize themselves. How they organize, delegate work with autonomous teams, the role of the manager, etc. These will accelerate and concepts that have been written about in the past such as reinventing organizations, or holocracy will become mainstream over the next few years.

“Recruitment in its entirety is shifting to be online. This is something we are seeing across sectors, added Stella. Referencing LinkedIn’s Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough, she continued, “while we currently see hiring declining, these trends have slowed down. We have seen certain areas looking for talent including supply chain, healthcare, video conferencing, SaaS, homeware, etc. These sectors are reporting healthy growth but overall job seekers must be ready for longer periods of job search. We are expecting a slowdown in global talent sourcing”.

Innovation Intra/Entre-preneurship

It is said that crises are a perfect moment for innovation. Participants were asked if they agree with this and whether now is a good time to teach emerging talent about entrepreneurship.

“This is the right time and place to think about startups and entrepreneurship, particularly in the MENA region,” said Mohamed El Abbouri. There is hunger and an appetite for funding, and there is a need to grow the private sector. At the MiSk Foundation, we have the MiSK Global Forum and the Entrepreneurship World Cup partnership with over 500 startups. We have seen first-hand that the digital model can far outpace the live model, showing us that there is potential to be more efficient”

Sharing her perspective on Intrapreneurship, Stella said, “This is an opportunity to innovate inside a business, particularly when innovation is the critical factor in determining the longevity of a business (economically-speaking). Adding to this, Dell’s Chrisyle Antony believes that:

“Intrapreneurship doesn't have to be a major innovation. It can be as simple as improving a process, creating a workflow backlog. It is about small business ideas that have a lasting impact.”

The Future of Work Is…

Here’s what this panel said about the Future of Work:

“The future of work is ever-changing,” said Chrisyle. "It’s important to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape and you need a growth mindset, and to commit to continuous learning.”

“The future of work is you,” said Mohamed. “You are the architect of your own future. Don't be passive. Take initiative, find the opportunity, and create the opportunity. Work together, learn from each other, and support each other.

Stella closed out the session saying, “the future of work is now. Digitization is here, be open to change, and continuously question the way we work.”

Want to learn more?

Check out all other sessions from the Cosmic Conference 2020.

Session 1: Digital Transformation & COVID-19 - Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 2: How Remote Work Impacts the Top and Bottom Line of a Business. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 3: Remote Work, Recruitment, Education & Entrepreneurship. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 4: Workspaces of the Future: The impact of the remote work movement on commercial real estate in the UAE. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 5: Company Culture, Employee Engagement & Wellness. Watch the panel on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.

Session 6: Cosmic Conference 2020 - Closing Debate: To Remote, Or Not To Remote? Watch the debate on our YouTube Channel or read the key insights here.


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