India. 1.2 billion people. 600,000 are “unorganized”! Ok, I’ll start there. What does “unorganized” mean? Can that many people actually be off the grid? How do you get “organized” when you start off “unorganized”?
Preparing for my ten-day adventure in India (beginning next Sunday) means collecting information from lots of sources. Too much, too early and my learning will color my senses when I’m on the ground. I’ll have too much baggage to be an effective observer. I want as few filters as possible.
Too little, too late though and I’ll miss opportunities to follow my passion for how and why people are hired. I want to ask questions that dig deeper into our cultural similarities and differences (not to mention a few other problems I could encounter…but more on that later).
I’m in the midst of reading some 30 articles (thanks in part to our SHRM delegation’s organizers) and finishing up with half a dozen phone calls to colleagues, friends, relatives and others with differing perspectives about India. The time there is understandably short-no more than a single frame in a real-time movie of indeterminate length. I imagine I'm walking in right in the middle.
My wife, Diane, is not coming with me. She is happily remaining home, preparing for the holidays and looking forward to another trip I’ve promised for another time- in return for my "kitchen pass" and a Skype call every night.
Most of my sources have limited or sketchy details about the employment scene in India- how professionals, trades people and other workers are found, wooed, screened, selected, on-boarded and retained. How it was only a few years ago and how it might evolve in the next few years.
I’m looking for unique stories that we seldom encounter here in the US. One colleague for example, a staffing leader just returning from his first visit to his India technology facility, is still stunned by his experience. One of his firm’s top developers was about to get married when her work suddenly became an issue. Apparently the fact that she was not a full time employee and, instead, was hired and working as a contract employee was socially unacceptable to the groom’s family, and the wedding was cancelled. True or did he misinterpret what he was told?
I’m excited to be going with a delegation of HR peers. This SHRM led group of 20 plus will spend most of our trip in New Delhi and Mombai. One advantage of a group (there are many) is the shared conversation as we meet with government, educational and business leaders as well as tour companies and host meetings with peers who have spent years working in India. Another is I have a habit of wondering around and finding trouble when I’m traveling alone (just ask Todd Raphael [ERE] about Moscow)
Today, I'm just trying to digest a few facts:
- In India there are 397million workers. 124 million are women (but 106 million of those women are in rural areas). The percentage of women in management is approximately 2%. In the US by contrast, nearly 75 of 121 million women over the age of 16 are working full-time (75%) or part time “and women account for 51% of all workers in high paying management, professional and related occupations.” (SHRM whitepaper October, 2009- Perspectives on Women in Management in India )
On the other hand, only 15 CEOs of Fortune 500 firms are woman including Indra K. Nooyi of PepsiCo, Inc. (there are 9 more among Fortune 501-1000 companies)
Does this mean untapped pools of talent already exist or are cultural factors still raising educational, social and professional barriers? How quickly are market forces driving change? How are recruiters who work in global firms educated to their firm’s value propositions around diversity, gender, innovation, performance, community, society, sustainability, etc.?
- Historically, diversity in the US begins with a discussion about race and broadens to focus on issues around how our diversity of thought increases our ability as a business to compete. In India, the subject of diversity evokes an image of caste consciousness that is, superficially at least, connected. While India's government has long employed an affirmative-action program that reserves 23% of all national government jobs to those from underprivileged classes, 86% of technology workers at multinationals or sizeable Indian tech companies come from "from upper castes”. (Caste Away; India's high-tech revolution. Wall Street Journal. 23 June, 2007).
Many companies are leading a change to create a market driven economy that values skills, knowledge and experience wherever it is found. One multi-national CEO was quoted as saying "It's a global industry. In America, the only caste that matters is talent" (Maybe a bit presumptuous even for the US).
So just how do cultural traditions in India and elsewhere impact selection assessment and access to skills knowledge and experience? What can we learn from how our peers in India tackle their challenges?
Once started, the questions keep rolling out:
- What skills do they seek that we don’t?
- What issues about the workplace are essential to a jobseeker choosing an employer versus what people might imagine they are?
- What role do families, friends and colleagues play in a jobseeker’s decision?
- What data about the workforce is available?
- How important is location?
- What are the limits infrastructure and local transportation impose.
- What sources of hire are most effective and are they different for small versus large firms; multi-national versus national firms.
- Do third party staffing firms operate differently than the firms with the most competitive recruiters?
- What worker protections are afforded by law and custom?
- What assessments, tests, interview screens and other selection methods predominate in the recruiting process?
- How critical is technology to the staffing process?
- What wouldn’t a US employer even think to ask when considering how to construct and design a job that can be done by the available talent?
Is there anything you want to know? I’ll ask.
A special thanks to the organizations who have helped underwrite my trip: Recruitingblogs.com, FutureStep and Alliance Q.