Textiles: The Now and the Next

Textiles: The Now and the Next

Minakshi Arora, CHRO, Trident Group, speaks with Human Capital about how COVID-19 has been a huge turning point for the labour-intensive textile industry, the hard and soft skills required in the post-pandemic era, and how HR and Business leaders can challenge archaic practices to boldly reimagine the future of work in the textile sector.

The pandemic caused both temporary and permanent shifts in business models and how and where work is done. Which changes in the textile industry do you believe will be short-term? On the other hand, which transformations are likely to extend into the post-pandemic era?


The COVID-19 pandemic is compelling companies to find new ways of managing shop-floor performance through remote work. The textile industry is a labour-intensive sector. Complete adoption of remote working arrangements seems far-fetched. The frontline personnel appreciates face-to-face engagement. The feasibility of remote work depends not only on the nature of tasks associated with any given role but also on the shared working conventions. A hybrid model is more suitable for manufacturing to reconfigure operations for long-lasting strategic advantages.


COVID-19 has permanently reshaped e-commerce as we know it. Organisations need to consider timely investments in e-commerce to capture market share and emerge better positioned after the crisis.


Due to the pandemic, digitalisation of customer interactions has accelerated by several years, and there have been huge leaps in product development within the span of a few months. An action plan focussed on delighting consumers is of utmost importance to grab this unique window of opportunity.


Other changes, including the acceleration of Industry 4.0, sensitivity towards technology, organisational changes towards agility, and elevation of human-centred design for an enhanced digital experience, are here to stay.


HR leaders across organisations are smack-dab in the middle of reimagining how people and businesses can thrive, rethinking workforce practices and realigning them with the new norms of working. What are the top HR challenges confronting the textile industry today?


In manufacturing, before digitising a process, it is important to evaluate that process to determine if it can be reorganised and re-engineered to deliver a better business result. Otherwise, organisations risk digitising flawed processes.


More importantly, employees need to be involved in how a designed process impacts them, and what HR will also need to do is convince leaders to embrace more people-centric technologies. Openness towards technology has to be inculcated in the culture for quantifiable results. Even with the hybrid model, HR will need to change their company cultures before they change technology, which poses a challenge.


Many service-based companies and tech giants have made remote working arrangements a permanent option given the potential cost, productivity and talent-attraction benefits. For a labour-intensive organisation, this competition with service-based industries to enable flexibility with the optimal arrangement is a top challenge. Even with the hybrid model, due to the relative dominance of service industries, a complete shift in policies to expand the scope of employees who could work remotely has to happen swiftly to be appealing for high-potential talent and to have access to a diverse talent pool. Industry 4.0 will give us connectivity solutions in order to improve production efficiency and retain employees.


While many soft skills will never go out of style and are transferrable across a wide range of roles and industries, the shelf life of hard skills is rapidly shrinking. Which soft and hard skills are becoming increasingly valuable for the textile industry?


Soft skills are becoming increasingly important, as even with the rise of AI, these are precisely the type of skills that can’t be automated by robots. As the soft skills of the future are going to be inherently human, empathy wins the race. We know that leaders are now taking responsibility for developing the skills of their workforce; therefore, persuasion, entrepreneurial mindset, adaptability and agility have become increasingly valuable for the textile industry. Not only will developing soft skills create a more agile workforce, but it will also help human workers specialise in areas where machines are less likely to excel.


The priority of the manufacturing industry is increasing their employees’ capacity to engage with technology and use advanced analytics to enable the adoption of Industry 4.0. Core hard skills indispensable to textiles are people management, artificial intelligence, data science, and analytical reasoning. This change from a traditional mindset to a tech-savvy mindset, from a labour-intensive workforce to automated systems, requires a nuanced understanding of how automation, Industry 4.0, and the human workforce are intertwined.


How is the workforce composition of your industry changing? Do you see non-full-time talent as a strategic part of your talent pool?


The question of skilled resources is key for companies facing the digital transformation to Industry 4.0. The gig/work-from-anywhere workforce is here for the foreseeable future, and organisations that do not embrace it could experience significant retention, engagement, and talent acquisition challenges.


Job flexibility is more appealing and potentially more viable for certain job roles. If we are to reimagine the textile sector, this model can unlock significant value, including more satisfied employees. For example, a digital marketing and branding team resource can work on flexible timing from anywhere in the world if they are working on a campaign that has to be curated, launched and utilised on an online portal only.


What do you believe are the most crucial traits that HR leaders in the textile industry ought to cultivate and demonstrate to help organisations emerge better positioned for the post-COVID future?


How leaders behave during critical moments leaves a lasting mark on organisational culture. In our industries, cultural & emotional intelligence becomes a crucial trait that HR leaders need to cultivate. If we are aiming for cultural diversity in our organisation, we need people to expertise and drive cultural diversity, curate relevant policies to make the organisation culturally inclusive (as diversity is multidimensional and multi-cultural & demands speed), creativity, and, most of all, humility.


Another important change is that HR executives have become contributors as business partners. The role of HR leaders has evolved to genuine leaders and business partners, where they are equally responsible for change management and successful running of the business along with business leaders. In a period of unpredictability and a vague timeline, your people are looking to HR for direction and confidence for accurate and authoritative information.


Change management is paramount to match, given the speed at which this crisis has been unfolding and the great acceleration of technology with it. Organisations and policymakers need to be faster, bolder, and more agile than ever before to succeed.



Ankita Sharma is working as Senior Editor with Human Capital. With 6+ years of experience, she has performed diverse roles across the entire spectrum of corporate HR — from hire to retire.


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