In an interaction with People Matters, Arif Khan, Chief HR Officer, Sasken Technologies Limited, talks about the new wave of technologies and how re-skilling is an important aspect of the talent pitch, and also how employee engagement initiatives help employees create the connection with the organizational values.
Arif is responsible for Global HR including Business HR, Compensation and Benefits, Recruitment, Resourcing, and Policies. Arif brings over two decades of experience and has joined Sasken from Harman Connected Services where he was heading the company’s Global Strategic Operations.
With over 27 years in Product Engineering and Digital Transformation and 70 patents, Sasken has transformed the businesses of over a 100 Fortune 500 companies, powering over a billion devices through its services and IP.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are the talent challenges in the tech-world today?
In the current talent market, it is not just a challenge for organizations. I would call it a Talent War instead. It’s clear that with the current/forecasted growth of the technology industry and the limited supply of fresh talent pool, companies often engage in talent wars when attracting talent. In today’s market, the competition is fierce on both sides of the equation—companies have to be proactive and re-evaluate their overall strategy to attract talent and talent have to do the same.
The employment market, today, is more of an ‘employee’ market than an employer market.
When we think of the job market, we only focus on the job seekers and struggle to find talent that fit the current needs, culture, and definition of what one is looking for in the ‘next generation’ workforce. With the ever-changing technology market and demand for newer skills, it becomes extremely challenging for companies to attract tailor-made talent. There are other softer areas in today’s times such as Glassdoor reviews, policies, compensation strategy, etc. where companies face talent-attraction challenges.
How can those challenges be converted into opportunities?
Proactive talent strategy is the name of the game. Organizations need to have a robust demand and supply process which gives them breathing time to cope with both the readiness of in-house talent and the marketplace. The training engine needs to be well-oiled so that resources are up-skilled/cross-skilled to leverage both current and future opportunities. Organizations can build a pro-active approach to the marketplace to find ways to get to the talent, even before they are actively looking for a change. Building a favorable impression of the company in their minds and connecting with them also helps. End of the day it’s not only active candidates that can network. In other words, keep prospecting.
When you talk about re-skilling of employees, how do you define the path an organization must take to ensure low layoffs and more integration of workers in the system.
Strong and well-defined forecasting processes need to be in place to ensure the future pipe line is catered than engaging in a talent war. As I mentioned earlier, a well-organized system, which has a defined demand in terms of the competencies needed, should be in place for an organization to avoid situations that arise from multiple reasons. An organization needs to look at the fungible skills in demand which cut across their various verticals/horizontals and ensure the execution of readiness is in place.
Tell us about what Sasken does in re-skilling employees through its various workshops?
At Sasken, we have a well-defined system to cater to our demands both laterally and in-house. Sasken has a defined set of dense and parse TCBs (Technical Competency Baskets) against which we hire from the market and up-skill/cross-skill internally. With the well-defined TCBs, Sasken also has a way to assess these per employee. We call it KENMAP. Each employee is reviewed internally and mapped on a scale of 10 against the KENMAP rating and programs are run to ensure they move up the rating each quarter till they are classified as experts in their respective areas.
Organizations are now keen on investing in their employees with many engagement initiatives. How important and impactful are such initiatives? Can you share some examples and metrics from Sasken’s activities in this regard?
Investing in employee engagement is a proactive approach and often used as a retention tool. There are times when some initiatives work and create a mark while some do not and are just part of the game. Some such initiatives are hugely valued by employees at Sasken. One such initiative is the KENMAP assessment that I mentioned earlier. Each employee is categorized according to his/her KENMAP rating and the company ensures that his/her competence is worked on to make him/her an expert in their domains. Employees appreciate this exercise as they can see a tangible value-add both to their skills as well as to their work. We also organize festival celebrations, Joy of Giving activities, and eco-friendly Diwali flea markets among others. Employees love our Mandhaara program where we invite prominent speakers to give a 45-minute inspirational talk on their achievements and ways to overcome challenges they may have faced along the way. In the past, we have invited personalities such as Nandita Das, Arundhati Nag, Raghu Rai, Shekhar Gupta, Padma Shri Dr. K Ullas Karanth, Capt. Naveen AN (Kargil War veteran), Akkai Padmashali, and many others.