It Is All About Expertise



Think
of an IT company and the importance of training there and the first thought that
comes to mind is that of freshers going through programming and operating
systems fundamentals. Think ahead and the image changes to technical training
areas, learning new technologies or retraining to move to a new domain area. And
in a way, this is what is expected. The primary expertise a software engineer
needs for doing a good job is technical expertise.

An employee with good education, who has already gone through a battery of
entrance tests and examinations, is an intelligent person who picks up new
skills fast. He is used to competing with peers, and this makes him learn
quickly. A lot of newcomers are also driven by a fear of obsolescence of their
knowledge base, and by the need to have the right skills on their resume.
Research has it that techies get their satisfaction mostly from work-related
success. Obviously, therefore, they focus all their energies on learning new
technical developments. Send them to a technical training program and they jump
at the opportunity. There is so much of a clamor, in fact, that all you have to
do is announce the program and your halls are brimming over.

But is technical expertise enough for an employee to succeed on the job?
People also have to work with other people effectively, they have to have good
communication and presentation skills–both verbal and written, as business
becomes international–and there is need for some grooming or basic survival
skills when dealing with outsiders, and much more. One of the other things that
we have recently realized is that it is the MTV generation that works in the IT
industry, or GenX.

As many as 75% of the employees are in the age group of 21-26 years. They are
highly independent, mobile, intelligent, ambitious and have high expectations of
themselves and the company. They focus on themselves and a low need of
communication with others. Excessive communication through e-mail also makes
things more impersonal. Shortage of software engineers worldwide has created a
seller’s market, with engineers being chased by scores of companies and
headhunters all the time. US-based companies are now coming to Indian
engineering universities to hire freshers! This was unimaginable even a couple
of years ago. This has made the GenX pros aggressive, almost mercenary when
evaluating career options.

Ask line managers or HR chiefs or even the employees–most of the time, self
development training focussing on behavioral development is seen as low
priority, something that the human resources department is pushing. People don’t
sign up for it, and managers send those who have some free time, rather than
those who need it! No one wants to go for these, whereas self-development in
behavioral terms is something that is needed most.

Let’s take the following situation. In the IT industry, companies grow at a
rate of 50-100% every year in terms of revenue as well as number of people.
Combine this with attrition in the range of 20-30% each year, and you realize
that you are creating a new company each year! In a way, the company seems to be
perpetually new. At any time, approximately 60% of the employees have been in
the company for less than a year! How do you build culture in a fast-flowing
river like this? How do you develop strong relationships amongst people? How do
you create bonding?

Most employee induction programs end with an orientation program where there
are joining formalities, overview of the company, and policies and systems. What
they miss is something more important. A well-rounded new employee induction
program must have sections that help employees understand the culture of the
company, provide opportunities for self development, help them realize all the
roles that an employee has to play effectively. In short, the idea is to help
them understand what is expected of them–employee-ship, understand their
personality style and that of others, and how to effectively work with others,
team building insights, the vision of the company and their own, and how there
can be a win-win relationship.

Another thing that is key, especially today, is to help employees be secure
about themselves. This is crucial since most are young, and for quite a few,
this is their first job.

They think they are not good enough if their colleague gets even 1% more
increment. If their friends are going for jobs abroad, they get pressured to do
the same. There is a need for them to be on their own, drive their own destiny,
and live in the present, rather than be anxious about the uncertainties of the
future and spoil the present in the process.

Each industry, and each company within that, has specific needs for training
and companies need to identify these needs and develop suitable programs. We
must also recognize that the needs themselves change from time to time.
Recognizing that most employees and managers do not see behavioral training as
important, a special effort has to be made to put this in high focus.

Then there are constraints related to time available and the money that can
be spent on training. One must work with these constraints and use imagination
to develop something that would succeed. Working on the ideal big budget program
will only lead to frustration.

Aadesh Goyal is vice-president of
human resources, IT and corporate communications at Hughes Software Systems.

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