Gone are the days when global corporations viewed India as only an effective option for labour cost arbitrage. Things have changed for the better since the first wave of global companies set up shop in India.
Today, while companies typically understand that they have the potential to do more in India, their internal practices and community involvements have not always caught up with this awareness. Corporate leaders within India have started making inroads in translating the ‘shift in attitudes’ towards India's talent into ‘shifts in action’. However, there is more for us to do to match up to this evolving trend.In addition, talent in India needs to take emerging global skills into consideration. Think about today’s new top talent management imperatives, such as:
Ability to collaborate and communicate and drive impact across the organization globally and in real time. Creating a pipeline for future talent by cultivating and challenging employees. Taking decisive actions in unpredictable dynamic global situations. Strategic partnership and client focus driven by in-depth understanding of the business. Moving beyond traditional ways of doing things to innovate and create intellectual property. Being able to influence both top line and bottom line.
All of these talent imperatives have one thing in common. They do not refer to only technical skills. Instead, they reflect the demands of a new world of work that decidedly overcomes operational silos and spans geographic boundaries.
To deliver on the promise of these news skills across India more broadly, we need to answer the call to focus on four key areas of development and change. These areas help create competitive advantage in the present, and beyond that, they will help India cultivate its next decade of talent with the critical skills needed to thrive on the global stage. In addition, we must be mindful of building these skills among India’s next cadre of employed persons participating in the labor force with higher-skilled jobs.
India has many natural talent and demographic advantages. These have been in place for decades and continue to make India a preferred destination for global companies. But over the past two decades, we have seen India become a hub for true innovation. The annual Global Innovation Index (GII) published by INSEAD, Cornell University, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation has lately shown significant improvement in India’s overall innovativeness. It has climbed 24 points in the GII’s ranking of countries since 2015.
Companies are clearly picking up on these changes. Most notably, companies rarely open up new operating facilities in India purely for service, processing, or back-office functions, with eventual plans to evolve them into more strategic functions. The key trend instead is now to leapfrog such evolution, and open facilities that operate as accelerators and incubators for companies globally. This vision charters India-based workforces with carrying out deep research, and actually creating new intellectual property and competitive advantages.
Even in existing operational footprints, global companies have stopped viewing Indian operations as processing centers that help improve the bottom line with greater efficiency and lower cost delivery. Teams in India, leveraging the new skills profiles of Indian talent, are asked to think strategically about what they do and how it should be done, with a view towards developing different solutions. They are pivoting toward improving the top line with direct revenue impact, such as by expanding client relationships in operations or creating products in technology.
Hiring and professional development in India now reflect the shifts in capability towards innovation and partnership. Rather than hiring merely for a particular task, we look at people through the lens of what potential they may have after two or three promotions. Simply put, it's thinking about people before tasks. They also must plan global mobility into their talent management plans much more systematically.
Similarly, this evolving approach to talent means hiring people from different professional backgrounds, too. The stress is not only on prior financial services experience in the hires for operational functions. It also includes hiring technologists and engineers, business analysts, and other non-traditional skill sets for direct inclusion in operating teams, and not in separate or parallel silos.
Activism and advocacy within local communities
The importance of new skills and capabilities for India also influences the places where companies focus their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.
Undoubtedly, with 2020 little more than a year away, companies have made and will continue to make exciting, innovative moves in the cultivation and deployment of talent in India. Digital platforms and the rise of automation and AI are only the most notable among global talent shifts that affect our country. The coming decade will only see more development of India's talent base.
This time around, as the pace of change in the global workforce accelerates, India's skills base positions us as creators of an emerging, automated world. With respect to the expected level of innovation, the entire world is a sort of emerging market. This will only be magnified by a new generation of Indian workers, many more of whom will have grown up as "digital natives" rather than people of older generations who have had to learn technology in the middle of their careers. Investments in future generations and skills by NGOs, public sector, and private sector actors are reinforcing the role of India as a mature labor market helping drive global change. This is the vision that we're working towards.
Sudish Panicker is Managing Director and Head of BNY Mellon International Operations (India).