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www.expresscomputeronline.com WEEKLY INSIGHT FOR TECHNOLOGY PROFESSIONALS
25 May 2009  
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Home - 1000th issue - Article

HR Perspectives

The training focus

Renuka Vembu on the training scenario in India, that transforms students into employable resources, and sets professionals on their career growth path

After a stupendous show in the past one decade, the show stopper for the IT industry has arrived—badly hit by financial slowdown in India, worse, recession around the world. Melting resources and the grim economic scenario is forcing companies to slash budgets yet maintain the quality standards and the quantity of output. It has become a case of doing more with less; or even doing double in half.

Even as cost crunch is staring companies at their face, the resonating voice is that resources should be optimally utilized and not compromised upon. Technological progression, the demanding industry, and the global level playing field, demands that training is one key area that has to function perennial.

Streams in demand

IT training in organizations is still largely undertaken in the form of corporate trainings and in-house trainers, while there are a few big players in the retail training space for corporates. And training itself is segregated into job related technical education and product and domain knowledge, and also understanding the nuances of the ubiquitous soft skills which is gaining equal prominence.

Emerging verticals like retail, penetration of the telecom sector, and the boom in the aviation and hospitality industry in the last few years, coupled with high industry standards, adoption of best practices, scaling client demands and increasing global footprint, have made it imperative for organizations to push IT training in India.

Lokesh Mehra, Regional Manager, Corporate Responsibility, Cisco South Asia, said, “Though IT was the shining star till some time back, it has lost some of its sheen. IT networking has emerged as a promising career opportunity. This is owing to the fact that in today’s global world, ‘the network’ has become a platform to integrate all forms of technology and communication systems. A networking professional is engaged in designing, installing, configuring and troubleshooting networks and network devices.”

A view from a cross-section of experts in the industry places the following as some of the most prominent and significant streams/certifications that were highly availed of—

  • Technologies like Java, .Net and Mainframe-related technologies, EJB 3.0, Spring, Hibernate, .Net 3.0 & 3.5, SQL Server 2005, Testing (manual/automation), XML & XSL, SharePoint, Ajax, DWH
  • Application suites like Siebel, Oracle
  • Certifications like LOMA, PMP, Prince2, J2EE, Oracle, Testing, Sun Certified Java programmer (SCJP), Pega Rules Process Commander (PRPC), Quality centre and Certified Software Quality Analyst (CSQA), ISTQB certifications in software testing, HP-QTP and Sun certifications

Kalpana Jaishankar, HR Head, Mastek Ltd., listed the areas they had placed their priority on:

  • Latest technologies in various streams like J2EE/Microsoft/ Oracle
  • Design skills with the implementation in J2EE/Microsoft
  • Training on insurance and insurance products to build insurance capability for upcoming insurance projects
  • Testing automation with an insight into few tools like QTP
  • Architecting and solutioning course to help building our future Technical Architects (TA)/Solution Architects (SA)

"In certain industries that require high levels of constantly evolving expertise, training needs cannot be entirely disregarded, and any budget cuts being made should be done keeping in mind the enhanced threat of not maintaining
standards achieved previously"

- Shailesh Mehta
CEO, Gurukul Online Learning Solutions Academy

"In today’s market scenario, customers expect training vendors to act as partners in addressing their business challenges, making it imperative for us to address their concerns around manpower
productivity, quality work as well as
performance and ROI"

- Lokesh Mehra
Regional Manager, Corporate Responsibility, Cisco South Asia

"The real-time challenges of ensuring the right mix of utilizations and allocations, and leveraging pyramids to enable higher revenue generation is the balancing act that many progressive IT organizations are consistently focused on"

- Vikram V Kallianpur
Director and Country Head, HR,
Virtusa (India)

"As a global organization, the biggest challenge for us is to ensure that the training needs and requirements of the associates is not hindered by the logistical challenges of distributed workforce in multiple time zones"

- K Venkataraman
Director, Cognizant

She added, “As training is regarded as an ‘investment,’ there has not been any reductions made in the budgets allocated for the same, but the best possible cost effective option is used. There is considerable emphasis on training being provided to employees by internal experts, and e-learning as an option is becoming more acceptable and appreciated.”

“Within IT, we have seen a high demand for training in computer applications, database management, including designing and administration, programming and hardware networking, systems operations and systems migration, amongst others. These are generally the fields in which a high level of expertise is involved, and in most cases, this expertise and understanding of systems needs to evolve to keep up with developments,” added Shailesh Mehta, CEO, Gurukul Online Learning Solutions Academy.

Challenges faced

Some of the basic but major obstacles faced by organizations revolve around accommodating the needs of the diverse dispersed workforce. The second hindrance would be having the required infrastructure in place to leverage the advantages of technologically advanced methodologies like video-conferencing, e-learning, blended learning, unified communications, etc. Training also has to evolve and keep pace with changing times and augmenting business requirements. Gaining expertise and constantly working towards upgrading the skills will help employees be abreast of the requisites of the trade.

K Venkataraman, Director, Cognizant, said, “As a global organization, the biggest challenge for us is to ensure that the training needs and requirements of the associates is not hindered by the logistical challenges of distributed workforce in multiple time zones. To address this, we have invested in setting up both physical and virtual infrastructure such as e-learning, live meetings, virtual classrooms and online assessment engines. The second challenge is to keep pace with changing technologies and business demands and to ensure that courseware and assessments are always updated and maintained.” This is ensured through dedicated asset management and product development teams, which work in collaboration with various Centers of Excellence within Cognizant as well as its technology partners.

Vikram V Kallianpur, Director and Country Head, HR, Virtusa (India), said that the trend is increasingly moving towards leveraging alternative delivery channels for training like e-learning and tele-learning, which are helping organizations to significantly reduce costs.

Impact on training

The economic wave has washed away the profits and drowned the revenues of many a company. The cut in costs across all departments and functions, yet the need to churn out the maximum productivity is imperative. Fine-tuning training modules, en-cashing on new learning techniques and investing in upcoming technologies that are bound to have a long-term impact, inclusive learning with equal emphasis on all hierarchical levels, cross-functional trainings, multi-skilling, etc., are some of the immediate and effective measures companies are coming up with. These are bound to yield optimum efficiency within minimal means.

Though the investments in trainings have been reduced, the training and developmental initiatives have to be perpetual. Re-skilling and upgrading the skill sets and knowledge base of employees so as to enable them to take on additional tasks and contribute significantly to the existing job profile or role will be a value addition that companies can extract. Re-evaluating the modules and aligning it to the business interests and company goals, keeping in view the company’s current environment and the overall future market scenario, is what all organizations are engaging in and formulating out of.

However, Karthik K S, CEO, 24x7 Learning, asserted that the message from this meltdown was anything but positive. He said, “Although the initial panic situation at the start of the recession was to cut costs across, one soon realized that learning and development programs during this phase were crucial to keep the momentum going and to keep the employee morale high. The expectation during these tough times is for the workforce to do more and take up different roles and thus, it makes business sense to invest in their development and well-being.” Any recession is temporary and it is like a churning phase. By the end of it, a lot of players perish. Organizations have realized this and therefore use this time to get ready with their workforce and processes. For once the markets recover, they can move their way up quickly and establish themselves as leaders.

"As training is regarded as an ‘investment,’ there has not been any reductions made in the budgets allocated for the same, but the best possible cost-effective option is used"

- Kalpana Jaishankar
HR Head, Mastek

"The expectation during these tough times is for the workforce to do more and take up different roles and thus, it makes business sense to invest in their development and well-being"

- Karthik K S
CEO, 24x7 Learning

Mehta put across a different viewpoint, “Budgetary restraints have had a significant effect on investment in training by companies across the board. However, in certain industries that require high levels of constantly evolving expertise, training needs cannot be entirely disregarded, and any budget cuts being made should be done keeping in mind the enhanced threat of not maintaining standards achieved previously. From another perspective, training specialists need to enable themselves to deliver better value at the best possible costs.”

Sighting the general industry view, Mehra said, “On an average there has been a dip of 20% in the ongoing training programs as per the training experts in India. In today’s market scenario, customers expect training vendors to act as partners in addressing their business challenges, making it imperative for us to address their concerns around manpower productivity, quality work as well as performance and ROI.”

Future trends

Karthik viewed that the demand for IT training will continue to be on the upswing in the coming years, and there will definitely be an emphasis on imparting generalist IT skills at all levels, probably as part of the induction. A chunk of IT training will be delivered online, giving employees the freedom and flexibility to learn. Learning IT skills through gaming and interactive play, and high-level of customized content will be a trend that will rule in the coming years.

Venkataraman felt that with the increasing population of Gen Y learners, there is bound to be a shift in the type of learning, which will focus more on collaborative learning (use of Web 2.0 technologies) and extended learning programs where handshake with the learner is not limited to classroom interaction, but happens on a continuous basis. Sharing of content will become one of the key trends, as manifested in You Tube/EDU, ocw.mit.edu, blogs, Wikipedia, and so on, along with group mentoring and coaching.

Synchronizing training modules and amending it as per the market tactics and company’s business framework will take organizations forward. Also, e-learning, due to its simplicity in usage, easy updation and modification, enabling encapsulation of a diverse audience base, constant availability and reference point, will be one of the most efficient ways replacing the traditional one-time advantage that used to be gained out of classroom trainings. Here, the benefits can be gathered time and again, and knowledge refined.

renuka.vembu@expressindia.com

 


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