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That dream job may be hard to find
Pankaj Anup Toppo, Outlook Money
April 19, 2006

Truly, this seems to be the best of times. The estimated GDP growth is 8.1 per cent, the market is buzzing with activity, and foreign companies are jostling each other on their way to reach India. And that means more and more high-paying jobs, and unheard of opportunities. Jobseekers are all set to party - and with good reason.

But for employers, this could prove to be the worst of times. There has been an explosive growth in opportunities, but no corresponding growth in trained manpower. In a recent survey, Manpower Inc. found that of the 4,382 respondents covered in India, 13 per cent found it difficult to fill positions in their companies. What does this mean to jobseekers? It means that perhaps that expensive course you've taken will not help you land your dream job.

"This is something we need to take cognisance of. If the demand for jobs keeps on growing the way it is, then it could lead to further shortages in future," says Soumen Basu, executive chairman, Manpower Services India.

So, how can you ensure that employers will want what you have to offer? Is there any way in which you can keep your skill set up-to-date? We at Outlook Money took a long hard look at the talent shortage in the job market and suggest some steps you can take to stay ahead.

The shortage story

The shortage of talent is a chain reaction. The boom in the economy has opened up many job avenues but there is clearly a shortage of people with the right kind of skills for these jobs. "India is beginning to become a destination of choice for MNCs in some industries and hence, the overall demand is moving up," says Shabbir Merchant, EVP-consulting services & CEO-international business, Grow Talent Company.

But there's a shortage of trained manpower. "The shortage is more pronounced in new activities," says Basu. Experts believe that IT/ITES, retail, biotech, automobile and auto components and financial services are some of the sectors that are currently facing talent shortages.

"The reason for shortage is a severe demand/supply gap, high growth rates and benchmarking to other similar industries," says Ambarish Raghuvanshi, CFO, Even the human resources function is facing this shortage. "There are just not enough good HR managers with an experience of 5-12 years," says Merchant. Jobs that are more administrative in nature are easily filled, but the admin jobs that call for specialised knowledge are not.

The Manpower survey

Is this shortage India-specific? Manpower surveyed nearly 33,000 employers across 23 countries and territories in late January to determine the extent to which talent shortages affect today's labour markets. The survey results show that 40 per cent of employers worldwide found it tough to fill positions due to lack of suitable talent available in their markets. Employers in Mexico (78 per cent), Canada (66 per cent) and Japan (58 per cent) faced the maximum difficulty finding the right people to fill jobs.

In fact, the talent shortage appears to be the least problematic in India, where only 13 per cent of the employers surveyed faced difficulty in filling positions. But the problem can grow rapidly as more and more companies enter the country.

Although the study does not look at levels where the shortage is more pronounced, experts however, believe that the difficulty lies in filling middle and senior level positions.

Pay matters

It's getting so difficult to find trained manpower that companies are willing to pay them the moon. A recent Nasscom-Hewitt survey found that 48 per cent of the respondents paid premiums for specialised skills at the hiring stage and the quantum payout was often left to the recruitments manager's discretion. "As a professional with the right kind of skills, India is one of the best places to be in right now. A double-digit increase in salary levels has been consistently happening since 2003," says Merchant.

Add to that this growth in salaries has had a cascading effect across industries. Salaries have been on the upswing even for people at the entry level. "Leave aside the dollar salaries doled out to IIM graduates, even at second-tier management institutes you will find average salary levels this year at about Rs 7 lakh per annum for a fresh MBA graduate with no work experience," says Merchant.

E. Balaji, ED, Ma Foi Management Consultants, offers another view: "Strategic planning by large corporates has ensured that entry-level salaries have more or less not shot through the roof. However, due to acute shortage, poaching trained talent with 1-3 years work experience has resulted in maximum percentage increases. At times, they can be as stark as twice or thrice the previous salary."

Why a Shortage?

"Today employees are loyal to their careers and professions and not to any company," explains Merchant. While many people believe that attrition is one of the chief reasons for the talent shortage, experts disagree. "Attrition is more a result of talent shortage than a cause for the shortage," says Balaji. Adds Basu: "The economy is doing well, new companies are coming in looking for talent and this leads to an imbalance, thereby leading to attrition."

Tech advances

Yes, demographic shifts, social evolution, inadequate educational programmes, globalisation and entrepreneurial practices are all responsible for creating a talent shortage. But the most important reason for this shortage can be in the major technological advances and resulting productivity gains. Due to technological advancements, many low-skill routine jobs are being eliminated and once in-demand skills are rapidly becoming obsolete. For instance, a webmaster was a pretty hot job not so long ago. But now, with the right software, anyone can create and manage a website, making the webmaster a person of little importance.

This is why experts harp on the need for employees to re-skill, or re-train, or at least keep themselves updated with the latest technological advancements. Take the case of Bangalore-based IT professional, Raghuram S., 29. He works on specific projects and needs to keep himself updated with the latest technologies and so opts for training programmes that his organisation regularly conducts. "Regular training on specific programmes helps us to be aware of the latest technological advances in our field. It also helps us in delivering a product to the clients' satisfaction," says Raghuram.

There's lacunae at the basic level too. The Indian education system, especially the university set-up, has not been upgraded in years. "You have a large number of graduates in all streams who make themselves available. However, the majority of them do not make the mark as far as meeting the corporate world's needs," says Merchant.

What you can do

As a working professional, you may fall into the trap of 14-hour workdays, daily meetings and deadlines, and you convince yourself that you don't have the time to attend training programmes. Or you may not see the need for such programmes as long as the job is still yours. But check if there are telltale signs that show you're no longer indispensable. "Lack of increments/promotions and lack of job offers is often a signal," says Raghuvanshi.

Danger Signs
If you aren't sure whether or not you need to acquire new skills or improve existing ones, here are some of the danger signals that say you must.
  • Lack of promotions
  • Lack of increments
  • Fewer job offers
  • Failure to add anything new to your resume every 6 months
  • Technological advancements that may render your skill-sets obsolete

One of the best ways for you to know if you are growing continuously is to make your resume every six months. "Compare your current resume with the previous one and if you have not been able to put something new on your resume, then it is a cause for concern," says Merchant.

"You should also evaluate your job profile. You should ask questions to yourself like: can advancements in technology render you jobless tomorrow or can the job that you are presently doing be done elsewhere in another country at a lesser cost and equally efficiently," adds Basu.

Employers too have a role to play

Every organisation needs to do an assessment and see which employees are on the fast track and who want to have a long-term career with your company. "At the end of the day, promoting your own employees is far less risky than recruiting from outside," says Basu.

Part-time courses

Once you are aware that you need to re-skill yourself, you need to decide what kind of programme you should undertake so that it adds to your profile. "The whole focus needs to be on further development of oneself, where equal emphasis should be put on self learning as well as external training," says Basu.

Look at what Amarendra Srivastava, 37, Delhi-based IT professional, did. Srivastava, a science graduate, managed the stock broking operations in his company. "While working on the job, I realised that if I want to do well in this career I need to know business administration as well," he says.

This prompted him to take up a part-time MBA programme. Two years after he finished his course, he was offered a business analyst's job. "The benefits of having a management degree started to show, when I started getting more leadership roles," says Srivastava.

In-house training

Many companies also offer in-house training programmes, many of which are offered online. So, you really can't say that you don't have the time. And with so many options available, it makes sense to keep up with the latest in your field rather than allow your skills to get obsolete.

There has also been a dramatic change in management's perception of training. Where once employees were sent off to training camps as a reward for a job well done, today training is considered an essential input. Employers no longer send staff away on long training courses. Instead, the courses are offered at night, on weekends or over the lunch hour.

"Part of this is due to the fact that training is critical and the employer would like to see training happening more on the job than number of days spent externally on training," says Basu.

Also, says Merchant, "Organisations are becoming more keen on seeing the impact of training, and hence, include in the training design live action learning projects in which participants commit to implementing learning." Releasing employees for training is becoming increasingly difficult for companies, which therefore, look at innovative ways of building accelerated learning. "Several organisations use open space technology, coaching as means for accelerated learning, not to mention brown bag sessions, where small training modules are conducted with training films in the office cafeteria," says Merchant.

Multiple jobs

Ambar Maheshwari, 32, heads the investment advisory business of DTZ Debenham Tie Leung in India. A chartered accountant, Maheshwari has been an investment banker all his life and used to focus on sectors like telecom and IT. But he has recently shifted to real estate, a totally new field. Why? One of the reasons for the shift was because he had the right kind of skills, and organisations were ready to pay a premium to have him. "Basically, I learnt most of the things on the job," says Maheshwari.

"For prospective job-seekers, it makes sense not to focus on industry specific skills. Rather, they should focus on skills that can be migrated across industries like sales, finance, etc," says Raghuvanshi. Agrees Balaji: "From the candidate's perspective, it would be useful to acquire experience/skill that can be used in multiple industries. This would help them take up jobs in sectors that are booming."

Bottomline: While employers may worry about the lack of talent, prospective jobseekers too need to ask a few questions. For instance, what are the skills that you need to have so that it becomes easier for you to find a job? For those with zero or little experience the most important thing is to understand what you want to do and top that up with what is your aptitude. "Get your strengths assessed in the area of your interest or else chances are high that there would be a high fallout rate," says Basu.

Also, decide on what kind of companies you want to work for. As Merchant says: "Youngsters who are preparing to enter the corporate world should not just rely on their education degree but should also focus on building their fundamental capacities." The four fundamental capacities, he says, are the capacity to learn, capacity to think, capacity to relate and the capacity to act.

On the whole, it always pays to learn new things while on the job. As experts say, there is no perfect time to start learning. If you have still not started thinking of "re-skilling" yourself, start now so that you can make the most of a market that is short of skilled people. And don't forget to attach a premium to yourself once you acquire the necessary skills.

With Namit Gupta in Delhi

Finding the Right Man

While sales representatives are in short supply all across the world. India faces a graver shortage of IT personnel. The categories are ranked in order of difficulty.
Global ResultsIndian Results
lSales representativeslSales representatives
lEngineerslIT staff (programmers/developers)
lTechnicians (prod./oper., engg./maintenancelAccountants
lProduction operatorslMarketing & PR executive
lSkilled manual (carpenters, welders, plumbers)lSales managers
lIT staff (programmers/developers)lEngineering/Technical managers
lAdm. assistants/Personal assistantslIT managers/Project managers
lAccountantslAdministrative assistants & PAs
lManagement executiveslTeachers
No. of respondents: 32,975, of which 40%
found it difficult in filling positions.
Margin of
error: +/- 4.1 per cent
No. of respondents: 4,382, of which 13%
found it difficult to fill positions.
Margin of error: +/- 1.5%
Source: Manpower Inc

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