Article: The Employability Landscape in India

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The Employability Landscape in India

Skill availability is an ongoing challenge in corporate India, forcing HR to turn to newer talent sources.
The Employability Landscape in India

The business environment is highly uncertain and fast-paced. Gone are the days when decision makers mulled over a problem statement for weeks before taking a call. Employees today are expected to deliver right from day 1, and deliver to speed, to outpace the rapid rate of change. But this is possible only if employees are equipped with the right skills, whether technical, functional or behavioural. Hence, hiring right is of utmost importance and talent acquisition specialists must understand the available talent pools, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to be able to hire correctly. One such informative source is the National Employability Report put together by Aon CoCubes. It captures the overall state of employability and industry-wise perspective, offering a unique view of the graduate-level talent pool. 

The State of Skills

Before understanding employability, it is important to understand what defines employability. According to Aon CoCubes report on employability of engineering graduates, a candidate is considered to be employable for majority of the entry level white collar job roles if the candidate possesses basic cognitive ability along with knowledge of computer fundamentals. In addition, specific domain skills are required for specialized jobs such as, say, software programming or mechanical design. To be employable based on the requirements of the job, a candidate will need to be well versed in the following three buckets: 

  1. Cognitive Ability Skills: This constitutes Analytical Reasoning, English and Quantitative Ability skills. 
  2. Computer Fundamentals:  The world of work today is highly virtual. Employees must, therefore, be adept at basic computer fundamentals and also at coding (mostly in technical roles). 
  3. Core Domain Skills: Domain knowledge and expertise is a pre-requisite to be able to perform the job well.

Employability in India: A Skill-Scape

A close look at the talent pool in India reveals a significant gap in talent needs versus the available capability. Candidates are thus classified to be “unemployable”, “readily employable” and “employable with some training”. A large skill gap means that a majority of candidates fall under the “unemployable” category. In fact, only 22% of candidates have skills which can get them a job in most of the sectors (i.e. readily employable), whereas around 25% need some kind of training input to become employable. 

At current skills level, 53% college graduates fall short on employability scale.

A closer skill-based view of these statistics shows that Analytical Reasoning is the skill on which majority (69%) of the college grads perform well enough to get employed. However, the weak point for candidates in the cognitive ability section is Quantitative Ability, with 52% of candidates showing up a skill gap there. Surprisingly, the true nemesis seems not to be behavioural or cognitive skills, but technical skills. As an example on coding, one of the most highly sought after and well-compensated skills, - only 4% of the candidates are at par with the desired capability level in this area. It is no surprise then, that this gap in domain/coding skills makes graduates unemployable for core engineering jobs. 

The Gender Lens to Employability

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) forms an integral part of the talent strategy nowadays. Hence it is important to don the gender-lens while understanding employability. A gender split of the employability statistics reveals that except for core engineering jobs, females are more readily employable than males. On a whole, females (24%) are more readily employable than males (21%). In fact, female readiness outnumbers that of males in jobs related to BPO and KPO, Sales and IT Services. This may serve as an important input for HR to up the D&I agenda while weaving in the right policy changes to provide a fair chance and equal opportunity to females. 

Employability in India: Industry Specifics

An industry-specific look at the employability statistics shows that employability is much higher in some specific areas. BPO tops the list, with 70% of the engineering college grads being readily employable in this sector. This is followed by Sales and IT Services, with 48% and 30% “readily employable” resources respectively. However, if organizations do decide to provide some training, the status improves, with Core R&D also emerging as an employment-ready area for college graduates, with some training- 23% of graduates are “employable with some training”. Employability for IT Product jobs is the least, with only 2% of graduates being readily employable, and 2% more being employable with some training. For Analytics/KPO jobs, 20% of the graduates would become employable with some training while 21% are readily employable. These findings indicate that organizations operating primarily in the field of IT Product offerings need to rejig their talent strategy because of the dire shortage of ideal talent. 

The Way Ahead

Clearly, much is to be achieved in India if we are to rely on national level talent for our corporates. HR and L&D may need to rejig their talent strategy depending on what are the core competencies for organizational success. 

  • Educational affiliations: For industries with extremely low supply of skilled personnel, even after training, it may make sense to associate with educational institutions to build those skills at the college level itself. Such companies must treat colleges as “skill-building factories”, preparing candidates ready to be lapped up into the corporate as “Day 1 productive employees”.  
  • Redefine learning: For sectors where there are more people who are employable with some training (Core R&D), HR must relook at the L&D strategy and incorporate modern learning means to encourage skill-building on the job. Start training at the outset, so as to gain speed to productivity. For example, offer a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) as a part of the onboarding module to ensure that new employees start delivering quickly. Similarly, coaching and mentoring, mobile learning, social learning, microlearning and such processes can be institutionalized in such organizations. 
  • Competency-based assessments: Role profiling should be done basis the competency framework and the competency framework should be incorporated into talent assessment processes such as hiring tests and interviews, so as to know where the skill-gap lies. Devise concrete, proven assessments for skills such as coding, domain knowledge, quantitative ability etc. where most graduates are seen to lack. 
  • Policymaking for D&I: Consider catering to the unique needs of women employees and incorporate these into policymaking. Diverse viewpoints can go a long way in building innovative and relevant solutions. 
  • The gig workforce: We are seeing the rise of the gig economy. Dig into emerging talent pools such as freelancers, returning mothers, returning entrepreneurs, ex-servicemen and veterans, consultants, part-time workers etc. Today a significantly skilled chunk of the workforce can be found in these unusual places. The key is to keep looking for talent proactively, and where least expected. 

HR professionals must be on the continuous lookout for talent because the talent is the key differentiator today. At the same time, they must strive to be an employer of choice, through employee best practices. For this, they must not only be aware of the talent trends in the industry, both at a micro and macro level. Only then can organizations harness the best of people, and be the best themselves. 

National Employability Report 2016-17 by Aon CoCubes.

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Topics: Recruitment, #TAWeek, #HiringScience

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