Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HR: A Mandate for Nation building

It was a meeting with a difference. If most of us recruiters in Hyderabad thought we were meeting an old pal, and catching up with the past, we were in for a rude shock! For it wasn't too long before the guest, in his very unassuming story-telling way, made us reflect and even feel 'vulnerable' -forcing us to think on how we were planning to be relevant as the job market in India evolves in the future!!

I am referring to an impromptu talk given by B Sudhakar, Chief Human Resources Officer ,Tata Chemicals Limited at the ERA Hyderabad Chapter last evening on the "Future of HR". Prior to his moving to Mumbai in 2002, and before joining the highly respected TATA group, Sudhakar's formative professional years were spent in Hyderabad –and so, it was a delight for us Hyderabadis that he chose to spend some quality time with us, and shared some of his experiences and observations!!

He started off by giving a brief round up about some of the trends that are emerging globally:

-There is likely to be a huge shift in the nature of offshoring businesses from 2012, as more Baltic nations become part of the European Union. We in India, must be conscious of the possibility of an entire generation of ITES/BPO professionals -who entered the workforce without prior exposure to other industries, being saddled with skills that may not be employable in the coming decades.

-Touching upon the path Prez Obama has embarked on -especially in reference to the reforms in the health care domain in the US , there is likely to be a paradigm shift in the fortunes of the Pharmaceutical industry, the market for generics, and the challenges for increasing investment in R&D-forcing a re-look of several business models as they exist now.

(Can these lead to lots of opportunities for hiring of 'returning Indians'? There would be a lot of demand for some niche skills -and Indian recruiters may well be sensitive to (and if need be, to evangelising) the kind of topnotch talent Indian corporates are likely to be privy to-in future. eg availability of scientists, doctorates,... )

-The emergence of Africa as a market, and the increasing potential for Indian talent to be part of the growth there. It is, however a process that would require customisation of some skills pertinent in the specific geography, and more than picking up a foreign language or two.

-The likelihood of the present global economic downturn lasting longer, ( 'the worst isn't just over as yet "!!) as fundamentally most Governments have tried to stem the same by various short term stimuli so far. One should expect a shift of focus in the market forces as more fundamental measures are introduced to control the impact on GDP, maybe even tinker with the labour reforms, and policies in the near future .

If all these global changes were not enough to impact the career planning and career management challenges, Sudhakar then went on to hint on a few macro level changes that are likely to be specific to India..within India!!

a) Industries that depended on India as 'cost arbitrage' may find the going tough. Real Estate, salaries and the cost of living in the last couple of decades -are no longer the same. It would not be too long before other low cost centres emerge and the businesses migrate? What would happen to the local talent in India that do not find favour in the new scenario?

b) The increasing share of Services in the Indian economy. Do we see new types of industries (read eco tourism, medical tourism, for example) coming up? What are the kind of skills/vocations that may be relevant? Is the ecosystem geared up to produce the manpower required?

c) Increasing urbanisation, and migration of rural population -threatens to hit India as less and less land is available for irrigation. Already there is an acute shortage of farm workers, and the reduced tendency of the recent generations to pursue occupations /depend on agriculture and allied sources of income.

d) There has not been much thought given to the ageing workforce of the Indian manufacturing industry. The average age of a worker in the public sector units is already about 54yrs, and those in the large private sector( read Tatas, Birlas, Mahindras, Godrejs...isn't far behind with 51yrs.) and will retire in a decade. Compound it with a fact that neither of these sectors have hired any young replacements/substitutes in the past two decades.

Will the increasing dependency on the temporary /contract staffing in the recent past- turn out to be a hot spot of industrial relations issue? Will a change in the local labour reforms be a trigger -when it occurs?

e) The last few decades has seen the decline of students and professionals harbouring the social sciences/humanities stream! Already we in India have seen the demise of the joint family, and the possible hazards of cultural sensitivites/ imbalances that could affect the future generations. There is a dearth of psychologists already!

Is there a thought being given by the captains in the industry to cater to the GenY-who are admittedly more intelligent, assertive, restless, ambitious , and less tolerant of the mistakes our generation is responsible for!!?

Fast forward to the next decade-the world of business will need a workforce that is entirely different from the ones we have been used/prepared to historically.

Sudhakar suggested that ERA -as an institution, has a very important and constructive role in being able to contribute to, and influence this 'nation building ' exercise and nurture the talent required for tomorrow!!

Are we as HR professionals, geared for the same?

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