Our Key Focus Areas Are Around Re-skilling Our Employee Base In Future Technologies

Chaitanya N Sreenivas, Vice President & HR Head, IBM India / South Asia in an interview to Dataquest talks about the HR challenges faced by ICT companies and  IBM’s commitment to up-skilling India in the emergence of new collar jobs. Excerpts:

Q. If you look at the ICT skills landscape, what according to you are the 2 challenges the industry is facing now?

The two challenges are – the growing skills gap impacting employability and  Diversity & Inclusion.

IBM’s commitment to up-skilling India in the emergence of new collar jobs is all about embracing technology, forging deeper relationships with ecosystem partners and acquiring in-demand skill-sets. We support Niti Aayog’s Atal Tinkering mission to build an innovative mind-set in students. We are launching school programs that will introduce students to new thinking and technologies in Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence. IBM and National Council for Science & Technology have partnered to conduct hands-on teacher training program, bringing together stakeholders from government and non-government segments, apex science organizations and educators in the fields of STEM. IBM’s Teachers Try Science program focuses on STEM pedagogy of design-based learning leading to professional development and quality education resources for teachers.

IBM has made strategic efforts to build a diverse and inclusive workforce. We are enabling a work–life balance for women or looking at specific job roles that can help bring in people from diverse backgrounds and communities into the organisation. Inclusivity is an innate part of the organisational culture and that is possible through focussed groups led by diversity champions across functions. With that it has established diversity network groups, which actually volunteer employee groups that come together with the goal of enhancing the organisation’s success through the meeting, teaming, networking, mentoring and coaching.

Q. The Digital Disruption coupled with automation has completely changed the nature of tech skills required for today’s ICT jobs. As an organization how are you coping with sourcing the right skills?

At IBM, we are upskilling our talent function through a mix of formal and informal learning modules using an Agile methodology. We have created a unique talent acquisition apprentice program, 1000+ digital badges earned through online courses and mentorships and digital credentials to unlock skills needed to become 21st century recruiters.

Aspiring applicants can use “Watson Candidate Assist” (in-house AI tool) that allows potential candidates to explore job opportunities at IBM in much more depth. The applicant can talk to Watson about their interests, aspirations and Watson will uncover a unique career path which historically has not been explored.

At IBM, we do not source resumes externally, we use Watson Talent to identify a key combination of skills. For internal sourcing, we rely on blue-matching (skills available within IBM).

IBM has recently partnered with IIT Delhi for hackathons and research projects and IIIT Bangalore for global remote mentorship programs as well as delivering technical workshops and demos to their students.

In 2017, we partnered with 80+ universities across India. More recently, we have partnered with Dehradun Institute of Technology, Mody University, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Malla Reddy College of Engineering And Technology (MRCET), to name a few.

Some of the recent implementations and programs include hands-on workshops on the blockchain, cognitive, analytics to familiarize students with new-age technologies, hackathons to help students apply their learning on IBM and open source software, long term research projects focusing on the latest areas of research helping students gain in-depth knowledge on a particular domain. These focused programs have resulted in white paper publications, conference presentations and short term remote mentorship projects to strengthen skills on an area of interest where IBM experts mentor students remotely.

Q. What are your top 2 priorities for your HR organization in the ongoing year and what makes your company an employer of choice for ICT job aspirants?

Our key focus areas are around re-skilling our employee base in future technologies like Cognitive, Blockchain, IoT, Quantum Computing and AI and enabling a diverse and inclusive work enviornment. We credit our success as a preferred employer in the country due to the #NewIBM transformational business strategy and our razor-sharp focus on the IBMer.  

IBM recognises that its employees are key to its business success. It commits to creating a workplace culture and environment in which employees balance work and personal priorities, according to their individual needs and the needs of the business. We continue to invest heavily in skills development through innovative learning programs like Think Academy, Agile Training, Design Thinking workshops and online platforms like YourLearning. Some of our employee friendly policies at IBM India are: IBM Senior Care Program; day-care centers; screen reader software for our PwD employees to enhance productivity at workplace; health services such as fitness program, flu vaccination program, wellness advisor, mindfulness practices; safe and free transport for pregnant women; Paternity Leave policy now includes same gender domestic partners; health insurance benefits to same gender domestic partners of ‘Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender’ (LGBT) IBMers, to name a few.

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