Speaking to All Things Talent, Mita Brahma, Head HR, NIIT shares her thoughts on the emerging skill sets post-pandemic, how the need for reskilling and upskilling has accelerated, and how training can be the most effective way to combat the great resignation.
Q. As the war for tech talent continues, could you give us some overview on its impact on the different business segments of the NIIT and its growth?
A. There are two chief areas of impact for us at NIIT that I would like to share. One, organisations realise that hiring and compensation strategies alone would not be meeting their talent needs. Organisations need to upskill their people in the right areas. NIIT is a learning partner of choice for several organisations for accomplishing this objective.
The second factor is that in the emerging technology areas, the institutes of formal education are not all fully ready with workplace-relevant curriculum and faculty. With NIIT’s expertise in corporate learning solutions, it is able to deliver programs to students and young professionals to bridge this gap.
Q. The big tech talent boom is great but it also asks a pertinent question about the availability of high-quality talent. How has talent evolved or upgraded in this present accelerated hiring situation?
A. This is an evolving and dynamic situation. A lot of high-quality talent has gone remote, and flexible. There is a greater focus on self-learning. There has also been a re-evaluation and re-prioritising for balancing personal life and health concerns.
High-quality talent can now demand work conditions and terms that would enable them to achieve a balance of purposeful work and personal well-being.
Q. What are the various new skill sets that have emerged in the last one year and a half which weren’t in much demand earlier?
A. Jobs have become more digital. As organisations aim for greater automation of routine jobs, paperless processes, and more effective remote working, there is a need for a greater understanding of technology in all areas. Digital marketing, HR automation, user experience design are some examples of skills in demand. Data science skills in all functional domains and businesses have emerged as extremely important.
At the same time, the human dimension of care and concern, healthcare, and eldercare have acquired great importance too. At an individual level, learnability, change management, resilience, and agility have emerged as critical attributes.
Q. How has the need for reskilling and upskilling talent impacted by this hiring boom?
A. The need for reskilling and upskilling has remained critical and in fact accelerated, during the Covid-19 times, and through the hiring boom. It has become a more distributed and individual-driven process. With the disruption of schools and colleges brought about by the pandemic, the accessibility and flexibility of online learning has emerged as a welcome option for individual learners in these segments.
“The need for reskilling and upskilling has remained critical and in fact accelerated, during the Covid-19 times, and through the hiring boom. It has become a more distributed and individual driven process.”
Q. Thanks to the work from anywhere concept, organizations are looking toward Tier-II and Tier-III cities for hires. What is your observation?
A. Yes, organisations are looking towards talent irrespective of location. They are looking beyond metros to Tier-II and III cities. There is a big increase in remote, anywhere, and anytime jobs.
Similarly, individuals are applying for remote jobs anywhere on the planet. Individual professionals are more equipped than ever before, to deliver anywhere while living someplace else.
Q. What kind of courses saw major traction during the pandemic in terms of the IT sector?
A. Some of the popular courses are in the areas of data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and basic programming. These have emerged as common areas whether we look at research reports of IT learning providers, or the research reports brought out by job platforms.
Q. How has the spending of companies increased on the skilling of their present talent? How does NIIT distinguish itself compared to other EdTech companies in the market?
A. The spending of companies for upskilling their talent has accelerated. It has also become more focussed. The upskilling is aimed at closing specific gaps, as companies evolve different business models and more digital methods of doing work.
NIIT distinguishes itself by its deep focus on the learner and the learning methodology. Our vision is lofty: we seek to play a key role in the directions and deployment of technology and know-how, for the benefit of mankind. We are not only delivering programs. We wish to contribute to society.
“The spending of companies for upskilling their talent has accelerated. It has also become more focussed. The upskilling is aimed at closing specific gaps, as companies evolve different business models and more digital methods of doing work.”
Q. What could be a possible downside to this huge demand for tech talent everywhere? And how to prepare for it or overcome it?
A. The demand for tech talent has grown exponentially in the new age areas. The supply side has not kept pace with it.
Companies are using multiple hikes and retention bonuses to hold on to their skilled resources. They are resorting to poaching and compromising on robust hiring practices like reference checks in their urgency to hire. This can at times lead to costly mistakes.
Another downside is that some students do rush into short-term workforce skill programs. Deep learning immersive courses that hone advanced cognitive skills require adequate time and expert guidance to give results.
Q. From a training perspective, can companies be prepared for the great resignation?
A. Of all the responses to combat the great resignation, training is the most effective. Companies can design training in the areas most required by employees, and to meet their upcoming opportunities.
Training results in deployment and internal mobility within the company. This brings in other positive impacts to companies like cross-unit engagement among people and multiple perspectives during discussions. For employees, it results in greater belongingness to the company.
Q. What is the hiring pipeline for NIIT? What are the employee initiatives that were rolled out during the pandemic?
A. At NIIT, we have been fortunate to have far lower attrition than most other technology-driven companies. We are witnessing growth in all the business segments that we are in. Hence, we are currently hiring experts in all areas of learning solutions, design, and delivery. We have a healthy pipeline, and are also hiring from campuses to bring an infusion of fresh talent to the organisation.
We rolled out several people initiatives during the pandemic. These were focused on the health and wellness of NIITians. For instance, we tied up with a panel of doctors for medical consultation by NIITians and their families; we arranged for webinars by expert health professionals for information, guidance, and counselling about Covid-19 and related health issues. We arranged for grievance counselling.
We held vaccination camps and drives for NIITians and their families. We had an isolation facility and ambulance service available at our corporate office.
We rolled out a financial assistance program to cover expenses not met by the medical insurance providers. Most importantly, we had several listening sessions with NIITinas to share their experiences and to get early information about their concerns. We faced the pandemic together as one family.
Q. How is NIIT preparing for `Back to Office’?
A. During the pandemic, all NIITians were enabled to work from home. Going forward, several NIITians would like to continue with the flexibility that the work from home provides. Several others are missing the social connect that face-to-face meetings provide and would welcome being back at the office. Many others would like to work in a hybrid mode.
The drivers for these decisions are similar in NIIT as for other organisations: we wish to strengthen the organisational connect and preserve our culture; we want to take care of individual NIITians as well as facilitate team bonding and effectiveness; we have to take care of data privacy and security concerns.
The role of leaders is to manage a balance between these factors and work out a plan that is best for individuals and organisations. Technology allows us anywhere and anytime access as well as enormous customisation, while we work out these options.
“Compensation for technology skills is currently volatile because of a skewed demand-supply situation. One thing to note is that the technology landscape would continue to change. It is important for organisations to maintain a culture of continuous learning. Leaders must focus on skills that contribute to agility, scalability, and sustainability.”