Why Invest In Employees?

TechCrunch has a great article by Vivek Wadhwa on Why America Needs To Start Educating Its Workforce Again.  I’ve quoted my favorite section of the article below:

“…Large corporations do offer some employee training programs, but managers often discourage their workers from participating in them. Why invest in workers when there is no clear payback? After all, training requires time off, and costs the department money. And bosses fear that once their subordinates gain new skills, they will be more likely to jump ship — to a better-paying competitor. That’s the common belief.  But as lessons from the unlikeliest of places show, these assumptions are wrong. Workforce education increases productivity, decreases turnover, and leads to greater corporate growth. I was myself surprised to see this correlation when I researched the secrets of the success of Indian industry.

Recruitment: When you’re looking for a job, what’s the first thing you do? Create a good résumé. What does a good résumé tell about a person?  Simply the ability to write a good résumé. The résumé doesn’t reflect skill, potential, or aptitude. Indian companies figured this out long ago. So they started putting applicants through batteries of psychometric tests and rigorous interviews. They hire for general ability and aptitude, rather than specialized domain and technical skills. Indian companies also learned to cast a wider net when looking for people with potential. Instead of hiring only from elite engineering colleges, technology companies such as Infosys, HCL, and TCS recruit from second- and third-tier colleges all across the country, and also in arts and science schools. India’s largest call-center operator, Genpact, has set up branded storefronts in 19 cities, where applicants can learn about the company and apply for a job; no resume required.

New-employee training: Companies in India assume that new recruits will have to be trained practically from scratch. So most large companies have built dedicated learning centers, and some employ hundreds of training staff. The Infosys Global Education Centre at Mysore can train 13,500 people at a time. New recruits attend a 16-week boot camp that strengthens their technical, communications, and management skills. For its arts and science recruits, TCS provides an additional three months of training. That’s right: fresh recruits get four to seven months of training before starting work.

Continuing training: Employees are typically required to participate in a wide range of education programs, including not only technical and domain training but also a wide range of soft skills and management skills encompassing training in quality processes; communication; and cultural, foreign-language and personal-effectiveness skills. It is common for companies to mandate one to four weeks of yearly training for employees. That is more than the vacation time that many Americans get. And these workers get rewarded for improving their skills: career advancement and salary increases are usually tied to the completion of training.

Companies don’t just offer online courses. They have programs of mentorship by senior executives; peer learning and knowledge sharing; and job-rotation programs. Take the example of Cadence India.  Its CEO, Jaswinder Ahuja, instituted a “leaders as teachers” program under which every manager is required to spend one to two weeks teaching internal classes. Not even the CEO is exempted from this rule. Training is considered so important that the most senior executives do their part. Trainers are often the most skilled and successful employees rather than those who couldn’t cut it in customer engagements.

Performance management and appraisal: Companies use ERP-like systems to manage the human-development process. Employees usually get reviewed at the end of every project. They are prescribed training if found to have weakness. (Yes, the performance review is used to guide development, rather than to protect the company from lawsuits in case they need to fire you).

Mechanisms such as 360-degree reviews (wherein you review your bosses and peers) and balanced-scorecard reviews are widely used. Managers are evaluated on a variety of non-financial measures, including employee satisfaction, attrition rates, and mentoring.”