Renewing our talent pool

Posted on March 14, 2011 | Author: Chandrasekhar Sripada | View 595

Instead of flogging the current workforce, companies must focus on training those currently rejected.

artical Picture The war for talent is yet to abate. There is a naïve belief that some companies will do some smart things around employer branding and will somehow win this war. However, if we step back from our own little battlefields and take a national and multi-year perspective, we will find many beleaguered and fatigued generals (CEOs and HR heads) and lots more injured soldiers (recruiters and headhunters) — leaving trauma all around.

What we are left with is a huge deficit of talent, which the war-like approach to managing talent has only worsened. It is estimated that the country’s manufacturing sector alone will need a staggering 73 million factory workers in 2015 — 50% more than what it requires today. The IT industry envisions a shortage of up to 3.5 million skilled workers by 2020. Growing sectors such as retail, hospitality and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) will need an additional 20 million of trained manpower.

While this is the demand, our ability to produce skilled and employable manpower — despite the huge demographic dividend — is abysmally low. The National Skill Development Corp estimates that our total national capacity to train skilled people is just 3 million people while what we need is perhaps 83 million in just another four years.

This is definitely a traumatic situation to be in, but how do we handle this at national, societal or even at just an organisational level? If we just take a company-level view — since a national and societal view can be quite complex — I believe there are definitely a few steps organisations can take to minimise the effect of this trauma and rebuild the talent muscle in organisations, for today and tomorrow.

We need to invest in creating talent and not just use up the little we have: One major reason for talent shortage in our country is industry constantly dipping into the existing pool of talent without investing in creating new talent. I strongly believe that it is time industry scales up its investment in academia and skills ecosystem. We need to identify prospective employees early and then invest in training and refining their skills to make them employable. But this is not enough; we clearly require a more concerted effort to bolster the talent supply chain.

Can each major company ‘adopt’ ITIs, polytechnics, universities and departments in their respective areas and invest ahead of time in talent creation?
We need to hire for competencies, not for track record or pedigree: Our obsession with selecting candidates based on their track record is harming the talent generation process. We are flogging a few proven people to go round the musical chairs of opportunities instead of significantly expanding the pool and inviting unusual suspects and, thus, growing the talent. To me, this is the second most important reason for dearth of talent in our country.

All interviews and selection processes are largely based on what a person has done and not on what she is capable of doing. Processes that can analyse a candidate’s potential and predict future performance need to be honed to solve the talent problem.
Can we try a project manager from construction industry to lead complex projects in IT services sector? Can we redeploy someone selling soaps to sell solar power solutions? Can we formally retrain a qualified housewife as a storekeeper and effectively reintegrate her into the work stream? Hiring people who are 80% ready helps many more people join the talent pool and, over a period of time, expands it. If for each job we wait for the picture-perfect Ivy League MBA, we will only worsen the talent deficit. I am aware of the risks involved in employing unproven people but if we don’t take this risk, the shortage would only perpetuate.

Accelerate learning and training: Why can’t we compress the time of learning? Why should we take six months to develop skill A and another six months to develop skill B? Just like we have power breakfast and power yoga, can we not inculcate power learning? I believe we can innovate on our instructional design and delivery capabilities to rapidly advance learning and skilling. This is an urgent need.

Company-level infrastructure around training needs serious renewal and rejuvenation. We blame the university system for the antiquated syllabus and archaic training methods. But are corporate inhouse training functions agile, nimble and capable of constant renewal? We must learn for the few exceptions and infuse our training setups with capabilities of boot campstyle rapid learning facilitation. Our 9-10% GDP growth aspiration cannot afford the current snail pace of learning.

We need to invest and create an efficient talent supply chain, go beyond the obvious and hire people for their potential, and compress the time taken to groom talent. The process is capital and involvement intensive; however, the churnout will come closer to cream.

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