Challenges to attracting talent

As students of science, we know that water finds its own level. As corporate denizens, we have to agree that talent finds its own ground.

While the world fights its wars in the new battlefields of markets, economic strength is the martial muscle and talent its arsenal.

While countries compete for talent, a pertinent question is – on what basis does talent rank countries? What is it that a talented professional seeks from a country before he or she decides to shift base? What possibly talent desires is good remuneration levels, quality life style, safety and security and possibly rights to invest.

A gargantuan country like India, and its economy’s celerity in transitioning from socialism to capitalism, is not bereft of challenges. While India has moved up on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) to the 81st position, it still remains a laggard among the BRICS nations, as per the study by Adecco, Insead and Tata Communications; the developed, high-income countries are still the global talent champions.

The report says that India (81st) is the laggard of this group. Formal Education (67th) and Lifelong Learning (37th) is keeping pace — and thus the pool of Global Knowledge Skills (63rd) is solid compared with other emerging markets. With potential to improve, India can address this at three levels:

Country level: Arturo Bris, Head of Competitiveness, IMD Switzerland, says, India is lagging at retaining local and attracting foreign talent. The factors mentioned above — remuneration levels, quality of life, security and property rights — play spoil sport. A stable government, clairvoyant policies, industry-friendly governance frameworks, agility in execution, excellence in corporate governance, dignity of labour and a corruption free India is my wish list. It’s the culture of accountability across government bodies, industrial associations and corporate that can create magic. It’s not the number and structure of departments sector-wise that bolster growth, but the vision, agility and rectitude in policy implementation, that can alter the talent landscape. The rest could be left to the Trump effect.

Institution Level: India is unique in its ability to create Deans of world renowned academic bodies, but a handful of true-blue researchers and academicians within the country. India’s talent output is directly proportional to the quality of talent enablers — teachers. Right from schools, junior colleges to professional education, institutions are unable to attract worthy talent and have to manage with stop gap arrangers or moon lighters. What is missing? Accountability – towards students, parents, institution, society and the country.

Our apex bodies, in their pursuit of protecting students’ interests, have created a Frankenstein. For instance, x acres of land, xsq ft of built up space, other infrastructural facilities help only a few politicians, business houses, or businessmen who can muster up funds to enter the fray.

In an economy where you could avail of a loan to buy an appliance, no true academician is capable of creating an educational body, because the very same conditions serve as an entry barrier. The result, academia runs almost like a business. Cost management is as critical as marketing the results, the game changes – excellence capitulates to P&L. While the government is attempting to address this, factors like vision, agility, rectitude and accountability impact the outcome.

Competency framework

Organisation level: A strong talent strategy in sync with the business strategy and vision of the organisation forms the bedrock. A competency framework defining talent at various levels is a good blue print. Choice of tools to attract, the right selection followed by meaningfully deploying talent and ensuring fair and transparent policies to reward and engage talent is a logical flow. But the most critical factors at the organisation level are the following:
The spirit of the organisation. Does the HR have a voice? Or is it subservient to the financial ratios? We have witnessed so many organisations fall prey to the trap of meeting short-term financial objectives.

The custodians of talent, the HR team, can have an infinite impact on an organisation’s talent strategy, and its future. The understanding, sensitivity, conviction and skills of this team change the game. Although the challenges at each level reflect a high degree of disparity, it is important that all three are in sync and dance to the same tune. For a country to win its market wars, the day is not far, where the Talent Competitive Index would be monitored as frequently as the currency is.

(The writer is Director, Lee Hecht Harrison India)

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Challenges to attracting talent

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