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Executive Education

At HR Roundtable Discussion

Interview with Mr. A.K. Shrivastava, Chairman, Asia Pacific Institute of Management

1. What are the skill challenges before the India corporate Inc.? Which sectors/ functions are most skill deficit and why?

The first thing I would say that the question of skill challenge is a global issue... and, it is not unique to India only. Even in developed countries like the US, the skill gap is up to 60%. The main reason for skill deficit is the ever-increasing forces of change affecting all the sectors of the economy, especially since the digital revolution. Any aspect or functions of the business world where technology can have an impact are going to be affected the most. And if we ask this question to ourselves, that what aspect of the business technology can impact, then answer is everything except what we cannot imagine. But overall, apart from technology related to sectors, I see massive changes and, thus, skill deficit emerging in the field of management, education, healthcare and governance. But technology is a great leveller...The biggest opportunities are also going to be created in these areas.

2. What are the various dimensions of up skilling employees? Which of these are critical for individual and organisational development?

I think that’s the mistake we have been making. When it comes to upskilling or development, we start thinking about developing dimensions of people and organisations. We have to think in altogether new way. We have to develop individuals and organisations as a whole and not in dimensions. Our upskilling and developmental efforts should be coherently targeted at both overall business climate and the human side of the corporations.

3. Why we need to upskill employees and senior management more than ever before?

Business is like an organism. It grows and evolves continuously. Skills of a toddler are of no use to a teenager, and the chain goes on. Senior managers decide the strategic directions of the company amidst chaos and complexity. So that’s why they need to be skilled more than anybody else. Due to rapid changes, skills will become obsolete in a couple of months or year. If you look at the history of great companies like Intel you see that a new change that impacts a business is usually ten times more powerful than its predecessor. They call it “10X changes.” The top management must be skilled enough to lead these 10X changes which determine strategic direction and fate of companies.

4. What opportunities and obstacles exist in workplace learning? How can the obstacles be overcome and opportunities tapped?

Every obstacle comes with an opportunity. At the workplace, opportunities come in the form of infrastructure and the accessibility to the latest tools and technologies available for upskilling. Cost is not a barrier as technology is a highly competitive arena, and most of them are affordable and cheap. However, for enhancing workplace learning mindset change, readiness for the training, spare time from usual schedule for training are the major obstacles.

5. What is the cost-benefit outcome of upskilling? Can you illustrate this with some good empirical evidence?

Upskilling is always an investment and not a cost to the organisation. Its benefit is initially qualitative in nature which ultimately converts to quantitative benefits.

According to an NSDC (National Skill Development Corporation) report, around 12.8 million Indians are entering the job market every year. We are sitting on the ‘demographic bulge’ where job seekers are flooding the job market but unable to gain requisite skills. We are way behind our targets of skilling people. For example, India had a target of training 8.5 million people in 2012-13 but was able to train only 1.4 million people. That shows that we should do something urgently and overhaul our entire strategy.

6. In specific reference to upskilling HR management, what are the needs and trends? Where do you see HR functions, skills required and skill deficit five years from now?

Five years from now, I see a huge transformation going on the way the managerial skills are taught and learnt. The human resource skills are going to be the key competitive edge but not exactly the way we have seen them happening so far. If you look at the industry practice and top think tanks in management like Harvard Business Review the trends become obvious. The top managers of the future are going to be more of an innovative, entrepreneurial technology oriented generalists and less of a boardroom specialist or micromanagers of a particular area say recruitment or training. For example, a discussion that I read recently in June 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review says that specialist managers are getting lower, and less diversified offers as compared to the managers who can look after many aspects of business, …and in some cases the difference in salary is up to US$ 48,000. That’s roughly around 30 lakh Indian Rupees which is a huge difference. And this is something counterintuitive to many people having a traditional view of management or any occupation. Functions of HR like staffing, training, compliance, employee relations, etc., have undergone a huge change, and many brands which had great success in doing them earlier in a typical way are almost extinct now. Being a domain innovator will be the profession of the future, and we at Asia-Pacific Institute of Management are honing our students to be ready for this new future of human resource management.

7. What are the best practices for bridging the skill gap? What do successful organisations do to address the issue?

There should be a strong emphasis on a public-private partnership to address the present skill gap. We should have grassroot level of tie-ups and must be able to reach every potential trainee in his/her socio-cultural and organisational milieu. In India, learning is a community-based process and successful organisations are tapping on it. Imagine we start skilling our students since school days, reach out with our skill programs to people in their community or where they are going to be employed. In this way, the gain will be immense, and the results will be highly encouraging.

8. Is there a relation between job loss and skill deficit? Which sectors are most skill critical? How is India Inc. gearing to address this issue?

Yes, there is a direct relation between skill deficit and job loss because an individual who doesn’t possess the required skill set to deliver the result becomes a baggage to the organisation.

IT and technology driven sector, service industry are the most critical sectors for skill development. Therefore, upskilling is the only solution to address these issues.

9. What’s the management institutions role in providing skill-ready work force and upskilling senior employees?

Management institutions play a vital role in providing industry-ready workforce as essentially they provide leaders for the Indian INC. So, various programmes like college to corporate, on the job training, apprenticeship, etc., should be holistically provided to the trainees. Management institutions should also develop intellectual property and the resources to conduct PDP’s, MDP’s, etc., for upskilling of the India Inc. Further, there must be good exchange mechanism to improve knowledge sharing among faculty members of the management institutes and the senior management from the corporate world.

10. What is Asia Pacific Institute’s experience and achievements in this area? Please discuss in detail.

Being a premium management institute, Asia Pacific Institute of Management carries a vast experience of more than two decades in developing and executing various management development programmes to prominent industries. It ranks among the top notch management institute of India in overall ranking and delivering such programmes. It has conducted MDP’s for prestigious PSU’s like NTPC, NHPC, BPRD, PNB, GAIL, DRDO and many more. Our faculty members have also been imparting the cutting-edge management training at the global giant multinational corporations like Ernst & Young, Mercer, etc. Our faculty members have been enriching the management literature by contributing and publishing in high impact prestigious journals. We at Asia-Pacific Institute of Management have always believed in creating a highly innovative and enabling learning environment for the students, whose fruits are well reflected in our global outlook, international study programs, and placement of students, resulting in an overall excellent placement track record.

We also consider it our duty to contribute to society by upskilling and enriching the quality of its workforce. In pursuance of this, one of the prominent wing of the Asia-Pacific Institute of Management is involved in skill development initiative of the Government of India and is partner for various skilling programmes like DDUGKY, PMKVY, NULM other State Skill Mission initiatives. Till date, we have trained more than 5000 trainees under these skill programs. We have also placed more than 3500 trainees in various sectors/job roles and helped the trainees in not only earning a sustainable livelihood, but also a rewarding and satisfying career based on their skills and hobbies.


Mr. A.K. Shrivastava
Asia Pacific Institute of Management

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