Finding the Right Talent: Collaboration of Corporate with Academia

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What worked for Runa Maitra was largely the faith of her management that her team would work towards meeting the crucial deadlines, not worrying about the issues. Having spent most of her career in the ‘New Age Industry’, the journey of Runa Maitra, has been full of excitement and challenges.

“When you take up an assignment where you have no past history or reference to reflect or ability to learn from someone’s experience then it is indeed a different world”, Runa said.

When asked about her initial challenges, Runa said that sourcing the right set of people was the key issue being aware they won’t bring the industry knowledge. It was imperative that potential management of the talent pool by understanding if they had the aptitude to learn and deliver to build business was the need of the hour. We could gauge from the talent we on-boarded that they had the right approach to handle their role and hunger for contribution to business growth.

About 2 decades ago, Runa joined the NBFC industry which had its mark in 30 different locations and also a small footprint in neighboring country with a tiny team in HR department.

Talking about the technological disruptions in the HR space, Runa said,” We saw the transition from DOS to Windows with advent of CCMail implantation to create a seamless communication platform for our employees. We hired largely from premier institutions in India and many talents from Ivy leagues colleges to build an efficient team which created the back-bone to respond to such quick changes in the work environment since during that period pagers and mobile were introduced. In fact, we introduced Smart-card which probably was ahead of time for which we struggled to hire the topmost talented people who could help us to launch such sophisticated products.”

The challenge for Runa was not limited till here. The biggest test was not just hiring the right resource but to train them to handle customer post sales.

With absolute no clue about the talent pool in the country, Runa took up one assignment in a BPO, which was perhaps one of the best call centre of the globe. With the experimental mind, courage and rigor, she ensured that the quality was not compromised and kept the entire team going.

Talking of the advantages, Runa further continued by saying, “Our ability to handle multiple projects at a time without looking at the clock brought the advantage. Most importantly, we kept moving city to city to explore and find the right talent was the driving force.”

These wonderful organisations gave Runa the right push to take up an assignment where she could be part of a M&A team to work in their global offices based on-site with people of different countries. Interestingly, the challenges discussed in regards to bringing onboard the employees as right fit were mostly common.

Runa believes in the process of weaving a talent builder’s mindset into the fabric of the business while managing similar challenges we face in our home country.

THE WIN WIN SITUATION

The corporate-academia partnership is the uppermost requirement prevalent in the past, present and future and it always helped seamlessly to bridge the gap if they collaborated right. The talent partnership model between them is in fact apparent during placement season.

In Runa’s words, this spike is slowly reducing since stakeholders of both segments are recognising the importance of hand holding instead of old game of demand-supply. Earlier, the model revolved around academicians collaborating with business through guest-lectures, workshops and conclaves some of which still continues with different flavor.

Having said that, she further continued, “The trajectory has now moved more towards learning the business fit by developing the faculty who are now open to understand real business through experience not just depending on reading secondary data for same reason.”

It is interesting to see that some institutions may not depute their faculties to catch up with industry knowledge in the offices. However, the interaction between them and industry partners has definitely improved through various innovative processes. The stress of internship besides summer and in some cases winter is stronger with much better quality avoiding printing certification to tick-box as factory. The focus on live project coupled with replacing final semester with industry experience has moved the needle big way.

EMPLOYABILITY – WHEN WILL THE STRUGGLE END?

Employability is a challenge and every now and then thousands of graduates being churned out by companies.

When we caught up with Runa to understand the dilemma of the industry and the high hopes of making things change, she said, “We always follow law of average, which blocks are ability to observe the changes happen around us. Employability had been challenge in the past and continues due to inability to cope with the changes while moving from industry 3.0 to 4.0. The repertoire of action taken by both academy and industry had never been enough – even now.

A CAREFULLY DEVELOPED CURRICULUM – TIME FOR A CHANGE

When asked about her thoughts behind enhancing the curriculum, Runa suggested that the design of course-curriculum management needs to undergo rapid change to respond to future need. “In order to meet the industry demand and empower the skills, the students should go through industry specific topics along with techniques and managerial skills”, she further added.

When interacting with students during seminars, workshop or mentoring program, the top question in Runa’s mind is whether there will be enough job opportunity for them as ‘Freshers’.

For Runa Maitra, this query inadvertently is an outcome of lack of faith in the chain of knowledge creators, knowledge bearers, and knowledge facilitators since students have the access to knowledge through Internet, which they constantly compare with their education system.

MAKING THE GRADUATES CORPORATE READY: THE RIGHT WAY AHEAD

To build the appropriate trajectory for students, the industry experts need to come forward with conviction protecting their self-interest to engage the adequate talent pool. The professional skill is an outcome of such hand holding of talent seekers who apparently are fighting their own battle of managing operation neglecting talent building.

Talking of making graduates corporate ready, Runa shared the right way to shape the professional skills. She said, “The ability of managers who are yet to cross the border of internal HR and operations must wake-up to own the resources waiting to be hired by them from campuses. They need to first partner with human resource team to work on the job descriptions to marry the same with the courses designed for students. In today’s world application of knowledge brings improved professional acumen instead of simple academic knowledge. Now, thrust is given to more exposure through practical experience with help of internship, mentor-mentee program, live projects, online courses, virtual learning etc.

THE CORPORATE-ACADEMIA PARTNERSHIP: THE BIGGER PICTURE

Coming to the bigger picture, it is indeed a matter of concern that whether the corporate academia partnership is helpful in matching the capabilities of what the companies are looking for.

what the companies are looking for. Runa opines that the corporate-academia partnership, to some extent is of help to match the capability of employees. However the distance covered had been minimal. It is indeed a long journey; the good news is that in most cases, the path had been beaten by some who had recognised the need, yet to be followed by rest who might be waiting to review success stories.

HAS THE FUTURE OF HR ARRIVED?

The industry is busy responding to the technology advancement, which it was already battling since computerisation. While it moved from analog to digital crossing a long distance diffusing inefficient infrastructures taking the industry through immense transformation.

“The change is inevitable to elevate deploying technology for better connect with the marketplace understand competition being agile”, said Runa, when asked about the future of HR is heading towards.

The velocity of change happening globally is impacting all sectors both in business and finding the right people to run it. The dearth of talent who are tech-savvy not as coders only, but largely as the users are most important who are the consumers, customers and employees of an organization.

The skills required for the business needs to be available at the right time hence embracing re-skilling of the existing employees, understanding of new skill to hire and train to sustain in business.

The bigger challenge, Runa shares, is the ability to respond to global demand since the challenge of finding the right skilled workforce is not issue of our home country alone. Our employee’s travel across borders to collaborate with their global team to deliver as the nature of jobs is changing. The challenges the industry across the globe are facing shortage of skill and not talent. There are enough people who are ready to join industry however they are either not ready for the job or for the aspirational organization which leads to offer dropouts in large quantity.

Runa further questions the ability to prepare the future workforce to diffuse the skills gap from the demand and supply perspective. She said,” In order to hone the right talent for right fit both industry and academia need collaborate to do continuous diagnostics, keep identifying the industry-relevant skills by interfacing with the universities by redesigning the curriculum ensuring more job-ready future employees.

The driving mantra, she concluded by saying that, in the field of Human Resource, that concerns for both industry and academia is to continue to upskill, reskill and adopt new-skill else perish!

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