I went to India to check off one more country on my “bucket list” (not that I plan to kick the bucket anytime soon mind you but I’ve always had a long list of adventures to experience and this is one of the last countries on it).
My colleagues on this trip and I all recognized that the ten days we spent in 3 cities barely scratched the surface of India’s current business practices, culture and history. Ten years wouldn’t be sufficient, but we made the most of our moment and hope that as students of HR and staffing practices we learned a thing or two we might take back and share in our work.
For my part, the real enjoyment was engaging ordinary people and listening to their stories- How they got to where they were and where they aspired to go.
The most obvious place for that to happen was embedded in the many meetings we had with business leaders, HR practitioners, recruiters, students and professors.
My most rewarding time was speaking with students about their studies and plans for the future. They clearly appreciated how fortunate they were. They fought hard, competed successfully for their place in school (ratios of 100 applicants/to 1 admission were not uncommon) and while they were as enthusiastic about sports like cricket as their counterparts in the US are about football, somehow I got the impressions they would not be wasting much time on non-academic pursuits.
The picture below is from Welingkar. Here, two Business and HR Masters “Freshers” (who both, believe it or not, have several years software engineering experience before returning to school) are talking to China Gorman. I’ve already connected with a few of them on Linkedin.
It was also a privilege to chat with the many local guides like Preeti and our national guide Sandeep shown below (who was with us from beginning to end). They openly shared their stories and answered a continuous flow of some typical, some not so typical and sometimes quite personal questions with patience and dignity.
Finally, we seized random moments like the this one with a young bartender, Vipul, who has a Masters degree in hospitality and whose aspirations are to run a major hotel chain. Vipul is skilled, knowledgeable and serious about his learning. Between the time it takes to work, prepare for work and return from work, there is little time for leisure. He was also working at a sister hotel last year that was attacked by terrorists. He is the master of what he does and world class in how he does it. (Dr. David Miles, a retired Marriott executive and Career Coach ,and I spent hours in the bar in pursuit of this knowledge. lol )
Peter Cappelli, well known Wharton professor, was recently quoted a saying that “the newest and most cutting edge practices are in India.” I wouldn’t disagree.
I can think of three themes that have direct and indirect impact on recruiting:
Community & Social Responsibility
(CSR) is embedded in the DNA of the country (Declaration of Independence) and in the mission and vision of very firm we met with. The subject of sustainability goes hand in hand with responsibility for the 350-700 million people “off the grid” in India and it came up without prompting in every meeting. The country and the leaders in it take environmental issues and the challenges of its “poor” seriously. I think India may be the world’s equivalent of the “canary” in the mine. Her environmental and infrastructure problems are indescribable and I know I’ll not be able to explain them to anyone who hasn’t been there. At the same time, professionals seeking opportunity are not taking jobs based on sustainability or community involvement since it is expected and assumed that every company is doing its part to change the balance.
Transparency & Self Awareness
go hand in hand. Professionals in India are very open about how they live, where they live, how much they make and on and on. Their sense of self, pride in their work and dignity do not depend on material goods. Money is sought but not displayed outwardly the way we do in the west for obvious and not so obvious reasons. “Face” here is different than other Eastern countries but no less important. Family ties are critical but not as dictatorial as they once were. I believe professionals in India make their own decisions about whether to jump for a better job or not based on more data than their counterparts in the US have.
Competition for talent versus availability of labor
. Serious issues regarding equal access to education for women and the poor have limited potential pools of candidates- perhaps for generations to come. Compounding this are limitations in the size and organization of higher education, a government controlled “trust”. New grads- “Freshers” are viewed as unprepared to work by most companies. However, once firms invest in their training and they eventually go back for more specialized masters degrees, the resulting workforce is on fire.
Most firms still rely too heavily on 3rd party sources for hiring but the ability of internal recruiters to leapfrog into access through social media, job boards, alumni databases, referral initiatives, etc. is changing the landscape as we speak. Multi-nationals that take the time to learn how to recruit are improving rapidly.
Our delegation’s final meal together was memorable. I’ve not mentioned specific people in these blogs out of respect for their privacy but it was an extraordinary privilege to meet and get to know so many talented and diverse professionals as individuals. In addition to the HR and business knowledge they brought to the table as leaders in their respective firms, they brought their interests as writers and researchers; coaches and car collectors; moms and dads and grandmothers with grand daughters; nurses and motorcycle racers with them as well. Being part of a group committed to learning more about a culture and willingly sharing their views and themselves while they were experiencing it enriched my experience beyond measure. I strongly recommend it.
A few final thank you toasts:
- To Gandhi who defines leadership by example;
- To Brian Glade, SHRM’s global representative, who has been to India 14 times and still has something new to share each and every time;
- To all those who have seen the Taj;
- To SHRM’s staff in India for creating an experience we will never forget.
- To China Gorman, our delegation's leader and chief engagement and membership officer, who ensured we enjoyed the full measure of this experience;
- To my friends and colleagues who offered comments, questions and insights before, during and after this adventure
- To Ed Newman, FutureStep; Jason Davis, Recruitingblogs; and, Phil Haynes, Alliance Q. A very special thanks for your support.
- To India. Check.