Mayank Kumar is one of the sharpest minds leading the edtech revolution in India. He is the co-founder & MD of Asia’s higher EdTech major - upGrad, which within 6 years of its inception, has impacted over 2 million total registered learners over 100 countries. An IIT Delhi and ISB alumnus, Mayank was named the ‘40 Under 40 Achiever of the year’ by BusinessWorld Disrupt in 2017 and ‘BW Education 40 under 40 Achiever’ by Business World in 2020. He was also recognised with the title of Influential Leaders of New India in 2021 by the Team Marksmen and is currently the Chair of Indian EdTech Consortium (IEC).
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Mayank shares insights on the rising trends in the recruitment space, and strategies organisations can initiative to hire future-ready professionals and drive business growth and innovation. Here are some excerpts.
As companies across the country scale up their hiring plans, what, according to you, are the work trends that will have a decisive impact on their recruitment plans?
Regarding work trends, Work from Home has changed the landscape of employee diversity in terms of geography, flexibility, and better work-life balance. Some companies are already planning to adopt a hybrid model or shift to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic, a move that will reduce the overall space they need and bring fewer workers into offices each day.
Today’s market continues to be a promising landscape for job seekers, with economists even predicting more opportunities for professionals with the requisite skills, even without a degree.
To enhance their skill sets, candidates seek out various sources (Online certifications or programs, Training, Self-Learning, etc.) to get the relevant and required skills to meet the demands of their job roles or the dynamic market needs. And keeping this in mind, employers are now offering jobs to candidates without demanding a traditional college degree. Therefore, it can be said that now companies are emphasising skills over degrees or educational backgrounds in the hiring process. Indeed, appropriate skills and knowledge are being given more importance.
Given that the skill gap continues to be a challenge in the current context, what, according to you, are the skill sets most in demand in the present context?
We can no longer deny that skilling is very important, especially in technology, where human-machine interactions, Web 3.0, and brand building in Metaverse are happening as we speak. Following this trend, we have witnessed an increase in interest from our learners, especially from women coders, for our tech offerings across Blockchain, FSD, DevOps, Cybersecurity, Cloud Architecture, and more. Around 427% of our women learners were placed in tech-driven roles in JFM 2021 versus JFM 2022.
The notion of lifelong learning has become imperative today to retain the current jobs and move up the career ladder or make meaningful career transitions. Additionally, soft skills such as communication & negotiation, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and innovation, empathy, and decision-making, are in utmost demand among organisations. Adaptability, bundled with perseverance, is the other soft skill critical to growing within a corporate ecosystem.
How has upGrad Placements empowered organisations when it comes to finding future-ready professionals? What makes upGrad Placements stand out of the pack as a partner of choice for enterprise hiring amid the Great Reshuffle?
upGrad Placements serves as a one-stop destination for organisations to find the right talent as we not only upskill learners in the latest disciplines but also fulfil the huge demand for the most sought-after jobs of today. It helps organisations make intelligent, fact-based choices by matching the right talent with the resource requirements and ensuring reduced attrition levels and optimised hiring costs.
Hiring is simplified and made easy with a portfolio of industry-ready, multi-domain talent with 0-12 years’ work experience under one roof and dedicated relationship managers.
These key differentiators for upGrad Placements make us stand out from the pack.
Also, at a program level, upGrad has partnered with companies such as Citius Tech to deliver customised program segments to help learners to hone their skills in the areas of their interest (In this case, customised modules designed for the Healthcare Industry).
What’s fulfilling about working for upGrad?
upGrad has recorded several milestones in its mission of delivering positive career growth for its learners. In the past, upGrad learners have received career growth in salary hikes, promotions, double promotions, job placements, and re-joining the workforce post-sabbatical, amongst others. Some of the success stories are:
Sabbatical Stories: One key element of a triumphant return from a sabbatical is being updated with the latest know-how and being equipped with the current skill sets. Multiple women learners at upGrad have asserted the benefits of upskilling and how it has helped them drive meaningful career outcomes with exceptional salary hikes despite returning from a sabbatical. Some of them include Kavitha M Srinivas who successfully returned to IT after a career gap of 13 + years, and Mrs Shalini Ravi, who made a comeback after a 7-year-long sabbatical. Another recent example is our learner Shivali Sur, who currently works as the C&ORC Data Analyst at a multinational Investment bank. Hailing from a humble background, Shivali worked as the Deputy Manager at one of India’s largest private banks for 2 years. Unfortunately, she had to go on a sabbatical of 3 years due to a family obligation. Yet, even after a sabbatical, she has successfully transitioned into a new role and works as a Data Analyst.
Upskilling Success Stories: One of the leading examples is Anirudh Suresh, a Corporate Lawyer with expertise in corporate litigation and commercial contracts. His success story is the one to watch out for. Thomson Reuters recognised him among the top 50 Disputes Lawyers in Asia (Litigation and Arbitration) based on his work, market feedback, and client recommendations. Despite no contacts or resources to leverage, Anirudh went from an aspiring lawyer to an inspiring one with upGrad’s help.
Higher CTC Packages: Another real-life example is upGrad learner Gunjan Trivedi who completed an online Executive program in Data Science & Business Analytics in 2021 with upGrad’s university partner IIIT Bangalore and achieved a significant career jump. Subsequently, he led a Singapore-based Big Data Company as their Chief Operations Officer (COO) and is currently drawing a CTC to the tune of around INR 1 Cr.
In this new world of work, what are your thoughts on the best practices businesses can invest in when hiring? How can hiring managers better align their talent hunt to deliver business ROI?
Today’s recruitment processes are continuously coming face to face with unprecedented challenges. The result of market forces and behavioural changes of employees has resulted in companies today facing tough competition when hiring the right talent. Therefore, today it's imperative to invest in building the right talent pipeline that meets constantly evolving business needs, with innovative capability at the core of problem-solving.
Right Quality of Hire: Look for candidates who have completed relevant learning programs to access a talent pool of professionals ready to be hired across all organisational levels. Past projects, recommendations, and testimonials can measure a candidate's skills and ability to learn new skills. In addition, there should be an investment in constant reskilling and upskilling relevant in the market. For example, a candidate that focuses on networking and polishes communication skills can be a right fit.
Prioritising employer branding: Employer branding will help you hire new employees, create a strong company culture, and reduce marketing costs. Having a reputable employer brand is a must for an organisation's strategy because it helps companies recruit better candidates, reduce hiring and marketing costs, and improve productivity.
With companies actively seeking talent pools with highly skilled professionals, what are some final words of advice you would like to share with talent leaders?
One of the most impactful approaches is to focus on internal hiring rather than hiring new candidates. It can include a promotion, moving into new roles, internal team transfers, etc. This approach has several advantages, such as strong cultural fit, increased motivation, low hiring costs, and onboarding time.
The second approach is to have retaining programs to control attrition. It is more effective to retain a quality employee than to hire, train, and orient a replacement employee of the same nature.
The third approach is to hire employees with intentional career transitions. Making a meaningful career transition is a tough decision and says a lot about the employee, their interests and skills, their thought process, expectations, etc.