Building talent, brick by brick

By: |
April 18, 2017 4:15 AM

Smart companies know there is often a significant gap between knowledge gained at schools and colleges, and the practical skills required at a workplace. This has forced many firms to not only collaborate with specialised institutes, but also start their own academies.

An intern at work at the Renault Design Academy.

In a country obsessed with degrees and academic performance, many-a-colleges and courses flourish at every nook and corner. Armed with a degree, young people enter the workforce with dreams and aspirations, but find themselves lost once they come face-to-face with ground realities of corporate life.

Companies which hire these professionals invest a lot of time, attention and energy to train them but no amount of investment can pay dividend if the right talent is not in place. Therefore, to win in today’s competitive market, companies are not only acquiring smaller specialist companies for the right talent but are also setting up their own branded training academies.

A couple of years back, CareerBuilder conducted a study on companies making wrong hiring decisions, which stated that India figured among the top four countries worldwide when it came to bad hiring decisions, and the cost to a company of a single bad hire was estimated to be `20 lakh.

To nurture the right talent, companies across categories are taking the next big step of investing in courses and academies. Says HR advisor Hema Ravichandar, “Many times, the employability of graduates is not of the standard required by organisations. Also, good talent is always in high demand.”

Therefore, when organisations want to scale, it makes business sense for them to recruit talent which may have high learnability but not necessarily the knowledge base that is required. In such cases, knowledge training is given in dedicated institutes that these organisations set up.

Stepping stone
Automobile manufacturer Renault recently launched its first design academy in India. “The launch of Renault’s New Design Academy is a testimony of our strong customer-centric approach and long-term vision to strategically developing the skill set of the workforce,” says Luciano Bove, Design Academy head of program and advanced design manager, Renault.

With this move, the company wants to train young talent, select the best and place them at one of its international Design Studios. The academy, which operates out of the Renault Design Studio in Chennai, commenced its internship programme on April 3. During the six-month internship programme, six selected candidates will be working on a project under the watchful eyes of 12 Renault designers from France and India. Adds Bove, “We believe that because many design schools are around, it is necessary to find better and targeted ways to look for young talent. Today’s technology and new communication approach give us a different point of view about skill development.”

In 2015, TAKE Solutions, a business technology solutions provider, launched TALL (TAKE Academy of Life Science
and Leadership).

Similarly, Federal Bank set up a Federal Skill Academy at Ernakulam (Kerala) in 2015 as part of its thrust on social upliftment. In September 2016, it launched its second academy in Coimbatore. “The objective is to empower the youth and working professionals, to mentor and assist them to upgrade their skills for improved employability, increased efficiency and career growth,” says Raju Hormis, head — CSR, Federal Bank. JCB India, to fight the shortage of skilled operators, took the initiative of setting-up Operator Training Centres (OTC) a few years back. Through its 15 OTCs, it has trained over 24,000 candidates till now.
Apart from academies coming out from big and established players in various categories, start-ups which are seen as disruptors in today’s market are also actively initiating programmes to hone fresh talent.

For Roposo, a fashion social network, launching a virtual school — Blogger Academy — made sense. “Companies like us need to think out-of-the-box and take risks to get people to understand our vision, and be as enthusiastic about it as we are,” says Ashish Aggrawal, head of brand solutions, Roposo. He believes that this is the only path to achieve massive success as a start-up in any domain when finding the right talent is, of course, difficult.
“In this space, if you have a mobile phone, you can be a blogger. So, it’s definitely tough for brands to discern a great blogger from an average one,” he states. “This is one of our reasons to launch the academy. We already have the capabilities and a team to choose the best bloggers once we have the database.”

The RoI
According to Aggrawal, fashion blogging and creating content on mobile will increase multifold in the next five years and through the academy, Roposo is seeking to share its belief externally. “Our research shows that 2-4% students from each college batch are interested in being digital influencers, and we think there is a huge business opportunity in terms of influencer marketing that lies at the end of this journey. It is imperative to ensure that we are a part of the starting point of this journey,”
he adds.

For Renault, the Design Academy is not a school, but a professional test with some energy and engaging activities thrown in for good measure.

However, not all companies can or want to invest in launching their own academies. Some organisations work with institutes to introduce the industry-specific curriculum. This helps companies get ‘ready to deploy’ talent. The IT industry has been at the forefront of this, along with engineering and management institutes. A case in point is the Post Graduate Programme in Enterprise Management run by IIM Bangalore, specifically targeted at software professionals.

The companies investing in such programmes see it as a long-term initiative rather than a short-term plan. As the talent funnel narrows with increased competition, skilling potential or existing employees in this manner may soon become a norm.


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