Skill Gap

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Fresh MBA Hirability – A Practical Industry/College Solution

Published November 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

An article in The Hindustan Times today caught my eye –  Fewer than half of new MBA graduates getjobs as economy sputters, trend at 5-year low. The articles open with a hard punch to your gut : “Job offers for fresh management graduates in India are at a five-year low, official data show, a trend experts blame on a sluggish economy as well as a mismatch between the years-old curriculum and industry expectations…. In 2016-17, just 47% of Master of Business Administration (MBA)graduates got placed on the campus, a dip of 4% over the previous year, marking a five-year low. At 12%, the drop was far sharper for postgraduate diploma holders.
Image Source : from HT Article linked above


I said this on my blog nearly 4 years ago – there is a dire need to revisit the MBA Curriculum; but it isn’t the only aspect of this problem. I say this with authority, as I have seen both sides – having been a Visiting Faculty, as well as a current Industry Veteran. There is an issue with the MBA Course, but correcting it requires a will; it requires a combination of fresh talent in MBA Colleges – Industry Veterans who should team up with Academicians for solving this complex problem. At the same time, Industry needs to invest in training – which it doesnt; it needs to re-visit the entire Performance Management System, which is hopelessly obsolete, number oriented and simply fails to capture the modern reality of business; it also needs to set up realistic expectations from new recruits. Let us consider these two problems one-by-one in detail
THE MBA COURSE
The view that all in wrong in the MBA Course is inaccurate – for any number of reasons. First of all, the MBA Course is an introduction to Business & Management, and establishes the fundamentals in business – without which we are lost. In my experience – all the courses I have been associated with, do it admirably, at least in letter. The difficulty is the absence of proper teaching aids – and I don’t mean AV equipment. Frankly, they are enablers; we require content. And content is the real issue – there is a need to revisit the content of the books, and make them more relevant.
The content is woefully inadequate in terms of Indian Examples. As a Management Book Reviewer and avid reader of Management Research Books,

  • ü I have observed many-a-time that I am yet to read too many Indian Institutes & teachers coming out with real  case studies on the Indian Market and Brands, as also Management Thought. We aren’t creating intellectual property – which is the real issue. Simply making cosmetic changes to the course will not suffice.  
  • ü Add to this the Language and Affordability barrier – content and books are damned costly, and in English, which is a major barrier
  • ü You need to make the content richer in terms of relevance to Indian Markets, which will enable deeper learning and also provide a deeper connect with students as they can easily relate.
  • ü The course as such is just fine; there is little that is missing. It needs to be made more contemporary in these terms.
The MBA Course is supposed to give basics of Business, Marketing, Finance, etc to prospective employees for the corporate sector; this is what it does. 



  • ü What it doesn’t do is – give a connect with the realities of the Indian Market. That is why we need Indian Original Content, not copied Western thought.
  • ü In addition to this, there is a need for students to do more realistic projects on all subjects; the course is far too theoretical, and gives the students zero idea of the domestic realities. The marking system needs to incorporate genuine brain-work on realistic projects, not just exams. 


  • The way to do this is simple –
  • ü deeper Industry College interaction; and
  • ü lateral hires at Professor level for MBA College teaching options
  • ü Given the lesser stress, it will be easy to attract talent for the universities;
  • ü this will require a re-visit of the qualification norms, and the development of precise judgement criterion to ensure the lateral hires fit in, have knowledge of their domain, and can contribute positively.
  • ü The pitfalls of hiring only basis visible achievement is inaccurate, as designation is no guarantor of true ability and knowledge, which needs to be kept in mind.



CORPORATE INDIA

In the paragraph above, I stress deeper Industry-College interaction; this cannot happen unless Industry understands that it is a part of the problem. I stated in the opening that both the colleges and the companies are responsible for the glut; let me add a third factor here – the students. The industry grouse that the MBA expects too much and knows too little is grounded in reality, that much is sadly true. But with deeper interaction – this can be attended to, as the reality sinks into students. Before blaming the students, we need to accept that we are making no effort to educate them as well.
The key question is, how will this interaction happen? This can only happen in the Human Resources Function, and some other staff functions; for reasons I attend to later on in the article. 
  • ü One possible way is regular interaction of HR / Staff function managers with a selected bunch of colleges – in terms of lectures by managers – properly curated by the College in terms of content;
  • ü Co-hosting real-time tiny projects in real scenarios, which same to be designed to be of very short {daily projects}, short {week-fortnight} projects.
  • ü An example of a daily project could be market survey of all retail counters in a street – which will take only 2 hours; or checking documentation in back-office etc. This can be suitable added on by a thorough training intervention – which should be regular, not sporadic.
  • ü Even a child requires help to walk; and a fresh MBA is a Child in the Big Bad World of Corporates.
The other aspect that needs attending to – the toning down of expectation from new hires. That will not happen unless you re-design the entire PMS – which leaves no scope for learning, or real training. I understand we are in a hypercompetitive market; and that bottom and top lines need to be achieved; but chasing numbers mindlessly, without heed to basics is fraught with even higher risks – as many in my parent sector, Telecom, found much out to their chagrin. There needs to be a balance between pure numbers, and business basics – and at all levels. You need to judge strategic ability at all levels – and this is even more vital in a hypercompetitive market, where the cost of a strategic misjudgement and improper strategic implementation are the precise same – Business Closure.
The list of companies that have paid the price for the above is incalculable; we need to do both – hit our numbers while also ensuring long-term stability of the business as a running enterprise. This we have clearly failed to do in many cases. And once you shift focus to the nitty gritty of business – the nuts n bolts, the basics – the need for a strong fundamental and theoretical basis will emerge ever more strongly. You don’t need an MBA to just hit numbers, to be brutally frank; but you need a good thinking and  trained MBA to be able to judge the medium and long-term impact of your short-term tactics even at field level, and  modulate your responses in the field accordingly.

  • CONCLUSION – INDUSTRY
  • ü Industry expects immediate numbers;
  • ü industry expects top performance without any time for learning; 
  • ü industry expects a softened person, whose edges have been rubbed off.
  • ü All three require training and experience.
  • ü You need people – so why not associate with idenitified universities – in Tier B and C towns and colleges as well and step in in a win-win situation?
  • ü Second, as a line manager myself – I too feel at risk when I used to go for a fresher; the risk to me personally, or my team targets, as well as the complete absence of a support mechanism or space in operation deny me the space to create my own strategies. {That is one reason why I feel this initiative has to be owned by the staff functions}
  • ü This, in a nutshell, is the gist of the problem on the company side, which is complex mutli-layered problem with no easy solutions…
CONCLUSION – COLLEGES

  • ü On the education side – they also need to do the same as above; they need to open up and admit lateral hires, as well as be more open to partnerpships with companies.
  • ü Create Intellectual Property of your own… invest in Research, papers, books creation on the Indian Market, and make them publicly available. Don’t treat them as classified secrets!
  • ü Revise the course to make it more contemporary
  • ü Increase the practical work importance, content and relevance so that students are in touch with reality!

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De-Stressing The Corporate Job While Retaining Competitive Ability – 1

Published June 18, 2017 by vishalvkale

One of the rising themes of management discussion is the concept of work-life balance, compounded by rising stress in corporate life in India; quite a lot has been written about how we need to lessen the stress. Another theme is the concept of how Indian Managers don’t take or get leave too often, or rising lifestyle disease incidence and about rising burnout cases and so  on. Most articles I have read emphasize on a lot of points as a solution – namely, advocating leaves / smaller working hours / de-stressing and so on… sadly, most of these don’t take the overall corporate atmosphere into account.
LITTLE ALTERNATIVE TO THE STATUS QUO
Let me take a divergent view – that there actually little alternative to what is taking place, at least as of now. And the reason for that is that the current realities highlighted above are actually the symptoms of a larger malaise, or rather problem. We need to examine the overall atmosphere in which a modern corporate operates, the external environment.  Any processes and policies, even on the personnel front, need to be in keeping with this external environment and its relevant factors.
FACTORS OF THE REALITY STATED ABOVE
And these factors are : High growth economy in comparison to the developed world, newly opened to external pressures, increasing competition both internally as well as externally, the current work culture in India, massive gap in demand and supply of jobs, rapid rise in information availability – the information revolution. These factors intertwine together to create a situation where no other approach, at least majorly, is feasible.
Taken together, these impose virtually crippling constraints on Corporations; and the cost of ignoring the brutal demands imposed by the market can at times be too huge, resulting even in shutting of companies – leaving thousands jobless. That is not an alternative that bears contemplation. However, it doesn’t stop at these factors, as the two most crippling factors that stifle innovation while also affecting work culture is something that isn’t limited to Corporate India  – our Chaltaa Hai Attitude & our penchant for selfishness and corruption. These two will be analysed fully in the next article on this theme; as their impact cuts across functions, industries and levels, seriously eroding both innovation  as well as competitive ability, dampening enthusiasm & hampering winning strategies & thoughts.
SUMMARY ANALYSIS OF THE IMPACT OF THESE FACTORS
You have an external atmosphere, a culture where people habitually work long hours, even Sundays; where the in-thing is to be seen to be working hard. Add to this, fast growing competition, information revolution, and demand-supply gaps everywhere – and you are looking at certain marketshare losses if you buck the trend; or a certain job loss for yourself – as the pressure on your manager will hit your relationship, or both. If your specific industry involves long hours, and you alone strike out on your own – you could be looking at serious losses unless the shift in work pattern is strategized carefully.
The source of stress & diseases, tiredness is not just time-  but pressure as well. And even in that, I see little alternative, for the current method is the way we in Corporate India have been conditioned to operate under. Given the huge Demand-Supply gap, fact is that any employee at any level can be easily replaced without any loss of operational efficiency. A high attrition rate has little discernible impact on the overall operative efficiency of an organization so long as it is not too far out of hand. Sure – it has massive strategic implications & damage – but the modern manager is not trained to think along strategic lines, neither do most HR processes allow for any room for strategy at the levels where it should matter.
MODERN LIFE IS A CAULDRON
Modern Life is a cauldron – make no mistake about that. I suspect that most career lines will have similar problems, given the overall interplay of the factors outlined above. In a highly competitive atmosphere – stress will rise. That is the nature of competition. The problem isn’t the stress, or the late hours, or such things; they are symptoms of something else – and that something else is what we need to look for in our quest to unlock potential, lessen disease incidence, and enable better stress-handling capabilities of our employees.
In this series of articles on corporate stress and rising disease incidence, I will attempt to look at these factors in detail, and specify what that something else is, before embarking on the hunt for a solution to these issues. For now, my advise to newcomers to this life – adjust to it, and as fast as possible. Find out at the earliest possible moment from the time you graduate as to what helps you de-stress, and then nurture that; it will prove invaluable to you in the long run.
THE REAL ISSUES AT HAND
Coming to the point of the article-  the “something else”, the core reason why stress, disease etc are rising in Corporate India. This is isn’t any one, definable aspect; but rather a jumble of many intertwined major challenge areas : namely, competitive ability & skills – on personal as well as organizational levels;  internal core organizational processes {Pay, R&R, JD, Line Processes, Decision Making support systems, ethics, complaint redressals, PMS} not keeping pace with the external environment; organizational structures {size, span, power matrix, power collusion} not developing fast enough to meet & match external threats; and the most critical failure of all – the total failure of most organizations in my personal knowledge to tap into available information, collate it,  and use it properly…

It is the delicate interplay of these complex factors operating at individual, group, team & organizational levels that collude to create the problems and challenges you see around you. The organizations that manage these in older industries succeed more often than not; while in new industries, the organisations that succeed in incrementally improving these slowly rise above the rest, and take a commanding control of the initiative in the market. This series will, over the next few months, take a look in detail at each parameter… stay connected!

Skill Gap – 3 : Doing Something Practical About It

Published February 4, 2015 by vishalvkale

The MBA is considered among those courses that are a ticket to a good life and earnings, it is considered among the most-sought after qualifications a person can have – if done from the right institution. To some, it is one of the most hyped courses, while to others, it is the only target and the only qualification. And yet, this course and its degree holders are the one that are among the most challenged. Similar is the situation with other professional courses at the Graduate and Post Graduate Level, in particular Engineering. 
And yet, surprisingly, it is the students of these courses that are finding getting a job to be a tough ask. Outside the top few colleges, placements are a real challenge. Even in cases where placements are done, the right job or a lucrative job is rare, to say the least. Placements usually require a compromise on the part of the student, who is understandably keen to land any job in this tough market. And even then, a good number have to remain jobless
Further, we are seeing a stunning spectacle of seats going unfilled in MBA colleges, and the closure of institutions. For example, as this article clarifies, 147 schools closed down last year. For a nation which is supposed to be going through a skill shortage, this is both sad as well as surprising. On one side, companies are crying skill shortage, bemoaning the lack of quality trained manpower, and on another – the institutions which can provide the manpower to companies- MBA, Engineering and other colleges are going through strain – either closing, or unable to attract students, or are going jobless, in a classic case of the supreme irony! This would even be a laughable joke, if it werent so tragic at so many levels…
This points to a deep seated problem at two levels – firstly on the part of hiring managers and organisations, as I delved into some detail in previous articles on my blog : Skill Gap and Skill Gap 2. In these articles, I noted the sad and pitiable status of training cutting across functions in companies; as well as the reluctance of companies to get into the situation, roll up their sleeves and craft a solution to the problem. 
Given the reluctance of the organisations to do anything about it, I can only conclude that these organisations lack the skill sets required to craft a solution to this vexing issue, something I shall go into greater detail in my next article on this matter. We then have no choice but to look at the other side of the equation, given that the people actually facing the problem have no intention of either solving it, or lend a helping hand in solving it. 
The second level of the problem is within the MBA courses and colleges itself, who in my experience have both the willingness as well as the ability to craft a solution. As a matter of fact, much of what I state will already have been thought of in colleges across the nation, of that I am certain. The key question here should be, what can these institutions do that is doable as well as logical?
Here again, there are two levels : one relatively easy, requiring little specialised knowledge and readily doable over a short time-frame; and the other exceptionally hard and time-consuming, requiring deep specialised knowledge and conceptual clarity of a high degree. The first is increasing industry-college linkages, and the other refurbishing the design of the MBA {or the core curriculum in degree courses} course itself. This article dwells on the first aspect only, given that the second is rather a tall order, especially for a blog post. 
The moot point in this is that the industry has shown itself to be completely unwilling to engage itself with colleges and institutes outside the top few in a meaningful manner, restricting their interaction to giving pointless and empty feedback regarding what students lack : in effect, brushing their hands off the problem and walking away! This leaves the colleges and the students both up a creek, so to speak : hunting for vague meaningless terms like “soft skills”!
The net result is that the people facing the problem in full : the students, the colleges {in particular the placement and administrative cells} – have little precise knowledge of exactly what the industry requires, for the perfectly simple reason that no one in the industry has ever taken the trouble of telling them in function and role-specific terms as to what is required. The reason for that, as we shall subsequently see in the follow-up to this article, is that companies themselves haven’t even a farthing’s idea as to what exactly this ethereal and by now almost legendary skill gap is in practical terms. 
Thus, the people who should know, dont; and the people who are the interface, the people who can link to the students and sort out this mess – the professors and teachers – cannot help in the absence of information. This leaves the gap open for vocational training services, which come at a cost, and, while effective no doubt, can with a little thought be made far more effective and pertinent. 
The solution is simple : catch onto professionals who would like to make a difference. Please note my usage of words, carefully : I did not state hire professionals as teachers and professors. I stated clearly, catch the professionals who want to make a difference. Trust me, if colleges across the nation make a determined effort, they will find ready talent across functions and levels – Engineers, Doctors, Managers, Marketers, Finance Specialists : the whole lot of professions – who would want to make a difference. All they require is an alternative, one which offers them a career option. 
I also did not state increase salaries to the level of the industry; the reason is straightforward. The industry can always pay more, there is zero chance of all institutions matching industry packages. Some might, but certainly not all. Second, there is the hope factor: so long as you are in the rat race, there is always a hope that you will get the promotion or the new job. Third, matching packages will run the risk of attracting people who are in it for the money, not for the love of the profession. What is required is giving entry to professionals, and a decent package that can ensure a decent life. That is it. 
Next, set up expectations from these professionals, in a defined framework; a framework that asks them to give some value addition from their industry experience. These cross-over professionals should be clear in their mind that their task involves both covering the syllabus as well as grooming students for corporate life. Interaction with such professionals in a classroom over a sustained period of 2-3 years is bound to have a powerful impact. This will of course require tweaking in the class allocations, with additional time being given to such professionals, alongwith some performance measurement criteria in terms of deliverables. Critically, for this to succeed, this has to be taken up with an almost missionary zeal. The make or break will be the professionals you hire, who should share this zeal and passion. 
The start will perforce be slow; but it has to be done. For in my considered opinion, as I shall cover in the next article, the industry cannot be relied upon to sort out this mess; it just does not have the requisite skill sets for this. Neither is the training institutes route a permanent solution; these are excellent; no doubt : but are hamstrung on two parameters : firstly, low acceptance in the industry, and second, high resistance to external intervention by industry as well as colleges, which is completely understandable. This will have to go hand in hand with a solution to another problem that is also a core issue : the availability of the proper study material at the right price and in the right language : which is a massive, massive issue… but that is an entirely different story, to be taken up in the concluding article in this series…

Corporate India : Understanding The Ethical Dilemma

Published December 16, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second part of the article of Is This Business? Professionalism? Planning? Management?


We looked at some real-world examples of the result of unethical behaviour in the Corporate World in the previous post linked above; these can be easily added to by the simple means of a google search; any number of real cases will appear for ready consideration. As I asked in the conclusion of the previous article, why does this happen? 


There is no simple answer to this; I personally refer to this as the Ethical Dilemma that each new employee is faced with. At this juncture, let us all move away from the oft-repeated excuse that we are a corrupt society, and this is the way things happen. That is not the issue here; the focus here should be to understand the underlying factors that result in on-the-job unethical behaviour, and how are they rooted in core corporate concepts, processes and methods. 


It is only through such an exercise that we can evolve new processes that can alleviate the problem. The objective is not Gandhian or some abstract social change paradigm; I am a hard-core, hard-wired corporate professional, and my objective here is only to assist in creating a more smoothly functional organisation that can deliver better bang for the buck while remaining within legal and moral parameters; in fact – harness ethics and ethical behaviour as an asset, rather than as a liability that most people currently believe it to be. It can be done; that is certain. All it requires is a process-centered approach and an iron-will…


UNDERSTANDING THE WORD ETHICS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD

In this article, I shall focus on the ethical dilemma; we shall subsequently look at some processes in the 3rd part of this mini-series. Before we move into corporates, let us establish the bedrock : our society. Whether we like it or not, the current trend is that morality and straightforwardness is not an asset in the modern world, with corruption being almost endemic, and there being an almost ubiquitous belief in “duniyadaari” or being worldly wise. And most discussions on ethics are brushed aside by saying you need to be worldly wise. Keep this in mind; this is a vital attitude that we will return to later in the 3rd part, as it betrays a lamentable lack of understanding of  a few basic concepts. 


To be frank; such an attitude is neither here nor there, and is in reality totally irrelevant. There are only two terms that are relevant to us : being ethical, and being naive. If you open all your cards in a business negotiation, you are not being ethical; you are being naive, and foolish. This has nothing to do with ethics! As another example, if your channel partner is not giving adequate focus to your business, then the question of how to proceed is not one of ethics, it is a straight and simple business question, and has nothing to do with ethics. 


We need to be specific : what do we mean by the term ethics? By that, let us be clear  that we are referring to illegal behaviour, actions and steps that are against standard societal norms, and such actions that will eventually lead to loss to the organisation in the long term due to their being focused on individual gain. Let us qualify this last point with one caveat : unless short term steps are deemed to be necessary for short-term organisational survival, and documented as such by the concerned management.



THE ETHICAL DILEMMA

Let us start with an example; you are in a negotiation with a prospective business partner. In the course of negotiations, you hold back certain information; as I stated before, that is a standard and indeed essential practice. But this needs to be clarified : all information that is pertinent to the decision of the business partner as well as is vital for a long term association needs t0 be revealed; holding that back is unethical. Such is the fine line between ethical and unethical behaviour in a business situation. 


Furthermore, there is also a very high degree of probability that the above may be against the law, which mandates release of all pertinent information in a business contract. Be that as it may, the decision as to what is pertinent is a very situational parameter, and requires experience. Look at it this way : if the Channel Partner is looking for a long-term association with a solid or upcoming brand with a clear way forward, whereas you are in it only to solve a short-term crisis without having any long-term intentions, there is a potential fundamental disconnect. If your brand then does not have a clear way forward in terms of new products, marketing activities and their range & scope, and you nevertheless imply or commit that you do, then you are in unethical territory. 


So long as you give complete disclosure, that you need a business partner urgently, can provide a solid business case to the potential partner, and can meet objections, you are fine. All you have to do is identify the core non-negotiable points of the other party, and what points can be negotiated on, and build your case on them. But the moment you cut corners, and start lying, you are on suspect ground. This leads to a disconnect between the partner and the organisation upon the start of business when the partner learns that there is no clear way forward – leading to him or her withdrawing from the business. 

This is just one example of the ethical dilemma, wherein professional falter  : my KRAs versus Solid Business Logic. The inability to connect the two is the ethical dilemma; the word dilemma means specifically “a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable“. Here the choice is the unpalatable choice of breaking norms and lying to achieve the goal, versus the equally unpalatable choice of having to struggle hard while keeping on the right side of ethics. 



UNDERSTANDING THE ETHICAL DILEMMA


Why should the employee be faced with such a hobson’s choice : KRAs, or Ethics? The next question then comes automatically : Are the two really mutually exclusive under current circumstances? Or is the entire feeling of a totally different origin? Or is it that both the KRAs as well as the other factors need consideration and reworking? And what are these other factors? 

One thing needs to be clear at the outset : the question of ethics is fundamentally an individual decision, an individual choice. And yet, we see the improbable sight of a large number of people sacrificing ethics at the altar of the rat race, the race to succeed, to survive, and to get ahead. This is the single largest indicator that there is something, some fundamental weakness or oversight within the core processes of the companies that either catalyzes or fails to check unethical behaviour. No company states unethical behaviour as acceptable; 100% frown upon it, and yet large swathes of companies are struggling to bring unethical conduct under control, which is a strange paradox. 

Optimally, the ethical dilemma should not occur to employees in the first place; ethics should support and in fact strengthen the business process. That they dont is a manifest reality, as indicated in the examples I mentioned in the first article linked above. Granted that in the real world, there will always be difficult choices and borderline cases; but that does not take away from this core reality. 

Since the choice is one of individual behaviour, and is made with an objective to achieve some business goals, KRAs automatically become a part of the discussion. So does the entire system that the employee is exposed to; why is the employee having to make such decisions on a regular basis? KRAs, Relations with superiors, Support systems, Checks and Balances, external environment all come into the gamut of discussion. For the ethical dilemma may be that of an individual, but it is of an individual who is a part of a larger system, which shapes as well as influences the thinking and decision making of the individual. 

The key point, the way forward is to understand the functioning at an organisational level, and plot the pulls pressures and developments in both the organisation and the external atmosphere it operates in. The reason is simple : we are in business for profit, not an NGO for social development. We need to plot a way forward that is largely ethical, that rewards ethical conduct, and that does not instill a feeling of threat while being ethical; all the while operating in the external atmosphere as it exists in the modern day – and we certainly arent living in a Utopia. 

This is the subject of the 3rd part of this series… 

The Great Indian Skill Gap… A Reality Check

Published November 27, 2013 by vishalvkale

I am a corporate guy, with experience in teaching MBA classes as well . And I categorically state: there is no skill gap. The only gap is in our approach, at least in the general sense of the term. What is the difference between the 2 statements – Skill Gap and Approach? When you say Gap, the onus is on the student; when you say approach – YOU are the culprit. This is not splitting hairs, this is the core issue.

You say students are not corporate-ready. Fine, Enumerate steps taken by your organisation to tackle this. And please dont list A-lister colleges. Till date, I have not seen a single corporate aligning with universities, If you cant get in, dirty your hands and solve it, stop crying and face the music! Do you seriously expect a greenhorn to come raring out and write perfect code? Do you seriously expect a greenhorn to come out raring and bribe a government babu with impunity? And dont tell me corporates dont bribe, please! Do you seriously expect a new guy fresh out of college to climb on top of distributors who have handled hundreds of such college geniuses? Do you seriously expect a fresh college grad to put in 18-hour workdays? And again, dont tell me we have an 8 hour day!

Further, till date not one single person in my knowledge has specified exactly what a skill gap means in specific deliverable terms. No general statements, please, Identify specific gaps. Cant code? Cant adjust? Cant take pressure? But before you think of this, think of how do you treat your summer trainees? Is there any genuine effort to train them? I have been through it, so I know exactly how much we – aah- train them. Dont make me laugh. How on earth you expect a fresh guy to deliver as much as an experienced guy is beyond me.

The Army spends 2 years training its people – as well as regularly every 2 years. Dad had to attend regular several-month-long trainings, as well as got a 2-year break for further studies.  How much do we invest in training? I have been through – aah – induction programmes, which generally tell me all about the organisation – which a simple google search will reveal – and precisely nothing about how to deliver on my KRAs!!!!! And then we cry – Skill Gap! Wow!

Saying “Skill Gap” and ‘Soft Skill” is fine; be specific – identify specific areas, attributes, habits, mannerisms that are, shall we say, desirable. In my reading, no one has, till date. It is a fashionable trend, saying we have a skill gap. And if I am wrong, please give me specifics, not generalities. We sales guys have a habit of dealing in specifics! 

It may sound funny to many people – but, again, my point made above is straightforward: try and identify s-p-e-c-i-f-i-c areas of gaps; and see the problems that emerge as you try to define it. And pray tell me how can a problem be solved if it is not even defined? I have certainly not read any article in main stream business news regarding anything beyond the generic term “skill gap”

For example, you say students cant talk properly? Fine. Why cant they talk? It is all very well to state they cant talk; ever thought about the why? Ever taken the trouble to ask them or their families? Ever thought about how they got here in the first place? And what do you mean they cant talk? They talk well enough in their own circles. So why cant they do so in front of you? What is it in your approach – or his history – that presents a block? Try and go into specifics – then you will see the real problem emerge- which is not repeat not a skill gap. It is something else entirely!

A gap is not in the ether somewhere; also try and relate it to the real world, where education is costly. Also keep in mind the population distribution of the nation; the top 200 cities do not account for more than 5.68% (from memory) of total population. The age group of 18-35 of the top 50 cities is something like 2.57% if memory serves me right. Or is it the general contention that India exists only in the metros????? Try and scale it up on a state-wide scale; let alone a national scale. And keep in mind earning skewness in India, consumption trends and spreads; average cost of a decent college education; as well as attend to why dont all students reach college?

The problem is two-fold; first, corporates prefer people to fit in to a certain stereotype; and woe betide anyone who challenges this. Anyone who does not fit in is left out – regardless of other skills sets he/she may be having. There is little focus on the person, there is no focus on giving something to the employee in terms of training and life skills, there is little focus on attempting to make the employee fit in, there is little focus on re-training line and staff managers to cope with the new challenges being posed – as corporate India enters the smaller towns and villages for its manpower. There is little thought being given to this – that simple fact that the modern serving corporate manager does not have the skill sets to deal with this new set of people, who have different values, attitudes and experiences in life from your top – 50 city metrosexual individual.

Second, Yes, there are gaps – but these are primarily socio-economic gaps, gaps of infrastructure, gaps of earning potential of parents, gaps of service delivery in schools, gaps of high fees that are unaffordable, gaps of social status,gaps of inferiority complexes that are rooted in our caste structure etc. You cannot simplify such a massive socio-economic problem as a skill-gap, and set up short-term institutes to bridge it!

These are students who could not get a top-line education in mainstream schools due to personal problems. Therefore, crying about their technical incompetence, or other issues is a pointless exercise. The real problems lie in the massive infrastructural bottlenecks that are facing India – lack of good teachers, lack of good pay for teaching staff, lack of good books in the Vernacular, lack of money for education in better facilities etc. Does this mean that they are to be left out always? Further, does this also mean that all of these are unemployable? They have passed the college exams, and are equipped with the basics. Despite this, the general claim is that 90% of such people are unemployable at any role?

That is why I say get into the specifics – it is only then that you will realise that what you are asking for is first of all impossible in the current set of circumstances, and second, that somewhere along the line you yourself are responsible. It will also lay bare prejudices and misapprehensions – which do exist in any corporate. It will also force you to identify key mission critical areas – because now you can be pinned down to your statements and held responsible – since now you are giving a pinpointed, factual answer supported by facts. And on that, you can be challenged! This will also serve to identify specific shortcomings in students, which can be communicated to colleges.

 It does not require much time to give proper feedback or engage with colleges – but no one does it. This is limited to the IITs and IIMs. Why cant it be taken to other colleges from where campus hiring takes place – and for all domains like Telecom, FMCG etc – as well as for all functions – Sales, Finance etc; AND for all levels – Sales Trainee, Management Trainee, Sales Officer Trainee, Trainees in other domains etc? The current focus is only on IITs, IIMs and other top tier places. There are others towns and cities, and other colleges – which go largely ignored; the manpower from them is not considered worthy of such mundane activities as feedback ad industry-college linkage!.

These problems are not going to go away for decades at least; in the meantime corporates will require manpower. So look internally; identify and re-train your own manpower to deal with these people. Create internal systems that can tackle the shortcomings/ As it is, we dont spend a dime on serious training, Simple fact, whether or not anyone likes it. As I read on Quora once – you can either train and run the risk of ,manpower leaving, which will give you at least some managers who are more capable – or dont train, and run the risk of unskilled managers staying with you.

You wont get the same skill levels everywhere; and the modern manager is simply not emotionally mature enough to handle people from such – aah – “skill gaps”! Because of this, there is a tendency to judge everyone in the same mould, rather than trying to judge the ability to perform after sufficient hand-holding and training. But, for that, you require time, patience, tolerance for other world-views, ability to converse in local tongues, robust internal systems to check abuse and targeting etc. This requires real management – which is diametrically opposite to what most managers do – which is just scream at subordinates, without adding any real value,. Start asking your own people to add some real value – and see this perceived skill gap lessen!

This will also generate a massive goodwill for organizations that do these activities; further, this will strengthen the Industry – College linkages, as well as create a pool of trained manpower. Not only that our nation will also greatly benefit by such an effort.  You can also look at it as a corporate social responsibility initiative – and this one initiative that  will give long term tangible and certain benefits. All it requires is a change in approach; this does not require much expense. The benefits more than compensate the effort required – and this is eminently doable as well. But it does require a very different approach, as well as a different mindset…