Dr. Madana Kumar, Global Head: GAMA, UST Global, Interviewed by XLRI magazine
A brief overview as an L&D Professional
I am an engineer by qualification, I have experience in several fields such as engineering, project management, manufacturing, quality management, etc. I always had an internal drive to improve the lives of fellow human beings. This drive made me shift into L&D. I made a conscious change to L&D role 9 years ago. From managerial role I came back into an individual contributor role where I became a trainer. I stayed as a trainer for a while but because of organizational needs I switched to a leadership role in the L&D field in IBM. I started with small management role for India then I moved on to Asia Pacific role, growth market role as they call it, and finally I moved to a global role. After some time I got an opportunity to move into UST as a global leader for learning and development. I took that opportunity and since them I am here. My focus in UST is to develop and execute a learning strategy aimed at building a learning culture and creating significant business impact through Learning.
How does the learning function helps in driving the growth of the company
For an IT company growth is all about execution. To be able to grow one needs talented people who can acquire new clients, retain existing clients, deliver in the technologies that the clients need and delight the customer with innovative solutions. There are two ways of growing talent in any industry, one is hiring and the other one is preparing existing people for different roles. In both learning and development plays a big role. L&D takes people and train them through the induction program. Whether you are a fresh college graduate or a lateral hire you need to go through that training and development program to be ready for a client project deployment.
To equip the existing employees of the organization with skills to get ready with technology, new ways of communication, new ways of accommodating diversity, new ways of leading, and things like that learning function plays a major role. Learning and development is an essential part of growth and without that I don’t think in IT industries growth can happen at all.
HR Challenges that the organizational growth has created for you
When the industry is growing as a whole, the competitors grow as well. So, there is always a war for limited available talent that is out there.
First major challenge for any organization is to get recent college graduate into industry ready material by instilling in them changes required to move from campus to corporate life. As the talent is limited we have to make sure to transform the available talent into corporate material.
Second major challenge is to get the staff ready for working in global environment. Due to the globalization there are no more country barriers. All big companies are now global companies with global working conditions. One has to interact with various parts of the world, as the clients maybe in Europe or in Latin America or in US, and you have to prepare employees for that global perspective, global understanding. Lot of cultural training is needed to do make sure that employees become global citizens.
The third way of growth is through acquisitions. In this the challenge is to culturally align the acquired employees to UST Values and culture.
In brief the challenges due to organizational growth are to convert college graduates into corporate citizens, then convert them into global citizens and to instill the organisational values and culture as we grow.
Some new initiatives and the impact they created
The biggest initiative has been to partner with universities and institutions to move a significant amount of employee training into campuses so that employees become ready before they join corporate world. There is a lot of time between campus recruitment and the graduation from campus. Our goal is to utilize the time that they have after having selected by the organization and before they join organization. They can up skill themselves and become industry ready. It has got major impact on both sides. It is good thing for the employee as he/she is engaged with the company and he/she can better prepare for corporate life. For an employer it is a win-win situation as the employee remains engaged and starts in the role with some basic amount of knowledge.
How to create a culture of learning in the organization
Learning culture isn’t a choice. We drive it by making it relevant, personalized and available to employees through e-learning/virtual learning. We are moving into providing learning through their smartphones/ tablets. Experts say that attention spans of adult have shrunk from 18 minutes in 2008 to 3 minutes now. So we will continue making learning experiences quick and impactful. We are trying to establish the relationship between learning and real business through revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, retention, etc. Then everyone will be able to see what learning is doing to the organization. Then, learning becomes an integral part of the doing business. Once everyone understands the business impact of learning, the organization will become a learning organization.
How can college graduates be made more employable right after college
According to me, all of us need to make our career path clear. Information is available to anyone, unlike olden times when we had to go by the advices of the people. Today with internet and social media information is a breeze. First thing we need to do is go through all those information sources and arrive at a decision regarding the career path one wants to choose. One should not go by what is more popular out there. Once you have made the choice about the career, your career is going to become a lot more enjoyable as otherwise you are going to hate it after a couple of years. So first step is to make a right choice about something you will enjoy. Once you have made the choice start preparing for the career by asking basic questions such as what are the options available, which industries hire for that, etc. My simple advice will be to start these things while one is in the college.