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Can Jobs To Be Done framework explain the jobless growth that is taking place?

Where are the jobs?

The Jobs-to-be-Done framework, championed by innovators like Tony Ulwick and endorsed by the eminent Clayton Christiansen, provides valuable insights into understanding how products and solutions fulfill specific needs.


We learn that products/solutions are basically devices for getting jobs done. Some jobs are small, some are big, some serve an emotional need, some a very functional requirement, some are regular and so on.


A car is not the solution to mobility needs of a person. The person requiring mobility might by a teen, adult or an elder. Their needs of mobility and transportation are very different. Is car or an EV the solution to their needs?


The same solution may be valued differently by different users, depending on their circumstances. Some one spends 350 rupees on a coffee at Starbucks so that they can peacefully work on their presentation between meetings. The person might also have a cup of coffee at a South Indian coffee chain for 40 rupees as the person just wants to have coffee. They same cup of coffee will have different value and different price.


The various products/solutions solve different pains and gains associated with the jobs. The value of the job is perceived differently by the users and really dictates how much they will pay of it.


However, in the context of jobless growth, where economic expansion does not translate into increased employment opportunities, this framework can shed light on the underlying factors contributing to the phenomenon.


Fact 1: Better and more efficient solutions are replacing existing ones.


In an era gone by, companies used loadmen to move products, organise warehouses and load trucks. In large organizations like cement plants, fertilizer units, these men and their unions wielded huge influence and was a great source of employment for brawny unskilled youth.


These days, the same job is done by a handful of forklift operators, who are no longer unskilled. There will be a day when someone will offer to the fertiliser company not forklifts but an offer to move their goods and be paid a fee for the hours the forklift is used.


Such better solutions create joblessness amongst the unskilled. As our economy grows, many such jobs will get eliminated. We have seen this happen even in skilled roles as the definition of skill changes with technology. Ask BSNL employees, they don’t even realise that with modern technologies that are used in telecom companies, many of their skilled jobs don’t exist anymore!


We see some of the largest employment creators in the country, sectors such as construction, farming, warehousing, etc. go through the process of finding better and more efficient solutions. We will see a lot of infrastructure building, but not a proportional increase in jobs and the jobs that will disappear are the less skilled ones. The same will be true in every sector.


Fact 2: The value of the job and the compensation for doing it, doesn’t increase for ever.


Employees and workers have grown up expecting wages to keep pace with inflation. However, as the intrinsic value of jobs doesn't perpetually increase, some roles become economically unsustainable.


Take the example of tailoring. When I was a kid, every thing was stitched, shirts, trousers etc, by the neighbourhood tailor. Bespoke tailoring is now only afforded by the rich. The cost of tailoring a shirt in Chennai is more that what a shirt cost in a like Westside.


Similarly, a job such as shoe polishing is disappearing simply because the value associated with it is less than what the expected wages are.


But this also has unintended consequences. In cities like Chennai, we can no longer afford to get coconuts plucked from trees in the apartment, the cost of the coconut plucker is more than what it cost to buy coconuts from the market. It is also hitting essential services. School teachers are getting paid poorly as school fees are getting capped by government. As a result good talented people don’t want to be teachers anymore. I refused a professor of practice role in a B School as the compensation was low.


I do see that many jobs will exists that will attract very few applicants as they aren’t remunerative. Many of these will be jobs in government and will be outsourced. These jobs will include clerks, peons, attenders, secretaries, drivers, gaurds, etc., both low and semi skilled jobs. This will be seen as a joblessness scenario.


Fact 3: Jobs evolve and become standardized or automated and eventually disappear.


The most scary scenario for 40+ employees is jobs becoming standardized and disappearing. A lot of jobs disappear because of two factors; the processes mature and they are no longer required or new technologies emerge that eliminate the roles. Sometimes, a combination of the two happen as well. This happens in every industry.


In the manufacturing industry we have seen automation focussed on safety, quality and productivity eliminate jobs. As process mature, quality inspection roles disappear. Shift to flow lines eliminate roles of transporters. Use of CNC machines eliminates many operators. ERP systems eliminate jobs, so do sensors and a lot of simple technologies.


In the IT industry we have seen this happen, quality control roles replaced by BOTs and technologies. People managers getting eliminated. Project management roles getting optimized. Hiring using AI based tools reducing low end HR roles.


I have seen senior guys in IT companies unwilling to take long vacations out of fear that if they weren’t missed during the vacation, the role will be considered redundant.


This will happen in every industry and every type of role is prone to this risk.


The challenges of job generation in a resurgent India


In an industrialized and knowledge dependant world, inequalities are unavoidable. There are going to be high value creation roles that pay very well and many low value creation roles that pay less. The way the Scandinavian societies have managed is by creating a high cost, hit tax socialist economies. In these countries you will discover that a large population is engaged in low skilled services jobs, which by their social design are paid highly, making them a high cost society.


We know that US suffering from these inequalities, though higher per capita income means that this is not as severe a challenge as in India.


India needs to find it’s own solution for this problem. The solutions are in education and skill building. Key challenges are making people employable rather than educated. This calls for move away from the traditional education system we are used to and focus on skill building programs.


Can our governments bite this bullet?

Is our society ready to accept skill diplomas instead of degree certificates?

If these insights ring a bell, explore the topic further by booking a free 60-minute consultation using the link with Krishnan.

Alternately, Write to 

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 30 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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