Appropriate flexibility needed for talent development

In a dynamic fast changing knowledge economy, the imperatives of the availability of appropriate talent cannot be overstated. Because of the shortage in talent supply, organisations have to often resort to increasing compensation and this impacts their cost structures. Costs are further added as corporations adopt strategies of poaching and head hunting to augment their talent needs.

As a result, organisations have to increase the prices of their products and services. This not only harms the competitiveness of individual companies but directly or indirectly contributes to the national inflation spiral. This in turn impacts overall national competitiveness.

Time and again, human resource managers from diverse industries and from different parts of the country share their difficulties in finding appropriate talent for their organisations. The paradox is that the second most populous nation in the world should be suffering from talent shortage.

To resolve any problem we need to understand its causes. As in the case with other business issues, talent shortage needs to be defined and alternative solution driven roadmaps critically examined for their effectiveness. One of the main reasons for the talent shortage lies in the misalignment of the 3Es: Education, Employability of talent and the Economy.

In India, talent shortages originate from the spontaneous growth of new sectors (off-shoring, IT, telecom, retail, real estate and most recently insurance), mis-match between the ever evolving industry requirements and almost static education system, lack of required importance to vocational training and soft skills and the inappropriate talent development techniques adopted by institutions responsible for developing human talent.

There are industry segments that are not able to find resources needed to staff their businesses. On the other hand, the employability of talent developed by the educational system is as low as 15% for certain skill categories.

As a result, industry has to incur huge additional costs on training even to perform the entry level jobs. This is a waste of corporate resources and has widespread implications for the long term profitability and sustainability of certain services and sectors.

In most cases, the talent shortage gaps begin with the ‘one-size-fit-all’ approach to education, at the primary and secondary levels and lack of application based or employment oriented learning. From the perspectives of most industries, the softer elements and behavioral essentials are critical. For example, simple mind-set issues such as learning ability, attitude to change, team spirit, ability to strike a conversation and drive to achieve results have to be encouraged in the talent pool.

There is an urgent need to transform our traditional educational system into a flexible outward looking one a system that acknowledges and appreciates experimentation and innovation in learning.

Keeping in view the fast changing business environment; increasing integration of technologies in various business processes and systems; onslaught of innovations and disruptive technologies the talent need assessments have to be situation specific as well as futuristic in scope.

It is important to remember that human talent comes in a whole package. With fast socio-economic growth, aspirations of individuals keep changing. Dynamics, diversities, unexpected discontinuities, convergence and divergence of industries further add to this complexity. Therefore, appropriate flexibility also has to be built into the talent development approach.

From the international perspective, talent development strategy and methods adopted in China may not work in Philippines. In India they might work in one state and may or may not work in another.

Each location has its own distinctive characteristics and industry advantage profile which can be realised as well as enhanced by appropriate talent development strategies. Thus flexible, continuous and appropriate talent development forms the very basis of sustainable economic development.

Over the years, we have seen that governments are now concerned about talent development as well as improving economic attractiveness of their states for different industries. However, as stated earlier, each industry is unique and often requires a zero-base approach.

Each human being is different. For optimal results, talent development operations have to take into account the industry needs as well as the psychological and emotional needs of the talent owners — the individuals.

Keeping in view the lingual and cultural diversity, extensive social, cultural and attitudinal studies are essential for developing appropriate industry specific talent development systems.

Working in different parts of the world, experience tells us that a systematic and well co-ordinated approach saves time as well as cost. It also reduces wastage of the valuable and perishable human talent resource base.

To keep pace with changes in the business environment, the talent development governance mechanism should be designed to incorporate changes. It should be evolutionary in nature, with mechanisms to synchronise with industry needs. Also, the nodal agency may be designed as a not for profit organisation.

A centralised well co-ordinated approach would be essential. What we need is a well thought out and effectively coordinated national talent development plan, which is adaptive and streamlined.

Gone are the days, when we had the time and luxury to say, let the government do its job. It is time for all stakeholders to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. This is a trend that is slowly emerging in progressive societies.

Progressive countries are propagating the idea and benefiting from collaborative work. However, this model is yet to be implemented in India to its true potential, but in most consulting assignments they are increasingly seeing that happening.

It may not be wrong to say that India has the potential to build itself into a knowledge-rich economy. However the time has come to break away from old thinking and be experimental, take risks, learn from others and establish new standards.

We need to build far-reaching, industry-specific centers of excellence that are job driven and focus on inclusive, sustainable socioeconomic development.