In an exclusive interview with Higher Education Review, Shweta Mohanty Roy, Head HR, SAP India shares her insights on the Indian higher education landscape, growing popularity of online programs, importance of soft skills in the IT industry and more.
A 2022 study found out that only 5.5 percent engineers in India are qualified with basic programming abilities. Considering this, what is your opinion on the higher education landscape in India?
The scope for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and its significance within higher education in India has mushroomed with the advent of advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Machine Learning, and IoT. In fact, 70 percent of the world’s STEM graduates now come out of Asia and India is a massive contributor. However, the main challenge in availability of STEM education has been the lack of infrastructural divide between the digital haves and have-nots. However, the situation is slowly changing, thanks to a strong political wherewithal and programs under the ‘Digital Saksharta’ Mission. These changes are happening in three main areas:
Internationalization: In terms of organisation, curriculum, pedagogy, faculty contact, and faculty and student migration, the Indian higher education system is becoming more and more integrated with the global educational system.
Digitalization: A growing reliance on technology in education is being driven by more digitalization and virtual learning. For e.g. we’re seeing increased collaboration between IT firms and academic institutions, introducing digital literacy programs to reskill and upskill talent by allowing them to stay competitive and be future ready.
National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: NEP 2020 recognises that skills such as coding, scientific temper, and evidence-based thinking should be learned by all students for them to be successful, innovative, and adaptable. The focus of NEP 2020 is on laying larger emphasis on experiential learning, core learning, inquiry-based, discovery-based, discussion-based, and analysis-based learning. Further, the introduction of subjects like AI and Design Thinking, as well as an emphasis on Math, computational thinking, machine learning (ML), and data science, will now begin at the foundational level (at age 6). As a result, the policy's multidisciplinary approach and incorporation of STEM learning to instil technology acumen at a young age will evolve the youth's technological fluency. The combined effect of these three factors will bring about significant changes in the Indian higher education system, making it relevant for the twenty-first century and giving the next generation of Indian youth the skills and mindset they need to be ready for the future-of- work.
With more online short-term/certificate programs gaining popularity and credibility in India, do you think recruiters should limit their candidate pool to just college graduates? What are your thoughts on these online programs and their ability to create skilled talent?
Short-term online certification programs have grown in popularity in recent years because of an increased demand for constant upskilling and reskilling. Recruiters should not limit their candidate pool to only college graduates, as there exists a widespread and cross-level demand for highly skilled workers. Because these online-short courses are designed to help individuals enhance their skills and knowledge of the respective industry, it is critical that these programs are viewed as an additional individual effort to remain upskilled.
The time efficiency, accessibility, and course structure of these online programs encourage individuals to constantly upskill themselves. Apart from these benefits, gaining knowledge outside of industry through these programs can help one broaden the horizons and apply the skills received via the course in a practical setting.
With more businesses automating their workflow, tasks that cannot be automated has become more crucial for their development. In your opinion, how has this increased the importance of soft skills in the industry?
The process of screening and hiring employees and freelancers has shifted in response to the rapidly changing business landscape. Today, employers frequently seek candidates who have demonstrated soft skills - the habits and characteristics that define how you work with others and on your own. Soft skills contribute to improved workplace performance and productivity. For instance, with excellent time management and communication skills, we can effectively manage time and clearly communicate the ideas to team members. This ensures that the deadline is met without compromising on the quality.
Another instance that aids in the development and maintenance of workplace relationships is empathy. Employers prefer candidates who can empathize with their co-workers, understand, and value their opinions. Empathy shows concern and respect for others, which strengthens the rapport. Therefore, employers prefer candidates who have mastered a variety of soft skills when hiring for a specific position because it contributes to the achievement of a common business goal.
Over the years, technological advancements and innovations have made many jobs obsolete. In light of this, can you mention some of the top tech jobs that will offer better job security in the future?
Without a doubt, data science is not only the highest-paying job and a great career in technology, but it is also a sector that has seen incredible growth. According to Indeed’s January 2022 study, demand for data scientists has increased by 29% year over year and by 344% since 2013.Apart from this, cloud architect, Computer Research Scientist, Computer Hardware Engineer, Robotics Engineer, and likewise are seeing an increase in demand.
Candidates are now prioritizing on work-life balance when choosing an organization to work for. How do you view this change in employee psyche and what are the essential things a candidate should check before choosing an organization?
A good work-life balance is linked to an employee's mental health.Employees today demand flexibility tailored to their specific needs, whether it is work-life balance or physical and emotional health. Further, employees or talent look for organizations that have various elements of flexibility like - where work can be done, when work can be done and how work can be done. While flexibility has become a priority for the employees, various initiatives have been implemented by organisations to assist their employees in achieving a work-life balance while maintaining work quality. Some of the measures implemented by "employee friendly" organisations include flexibility, remote working, shifting the focus from productivity to hours, reviewing workloads on a regular basis, and time off.That said, while work flexibility is highly desired by employees, according to internal polling on preferred work styles in the post-COVID era, 80 percent employees prefer a mix of working from home or remotely with sometime in the office.
Given the ongoing talent war, what strategies are IT companies adopting to acquire and retain future-ready talent and how important is upskilling?
Creating a long-term talent pipeline is critical for any business. As the war for talent resurfaces in a dynamic and disruptive business landscape, organizations are revisiting and redesigning their recruitment efforts. While recruitment is a short-term process, organizations are making every effort to reach out to potential candidates by posting job descriptions, publicizing job postings on social media, and so on. Furthermore, as part of their long-term effort to acquire talent, companies are heavily investing in elements such as employer branding, employee experience, diversity hiring strategy, overall performance, and metrics.
Heavy investment in HR tech to transform traditional HR practices into engaging experiences will enable the employees to perform better. It also helps in enhanced and focused employee experience management, core HR payroll, talent management, and likewise. For instance, our SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management Suite (HXM Suite) offers individualized experiences and strategic solutions that empower employees to reach their potential. Providing learning and development programs, upskilling and reskilling initiatives, and a successful hybrid work model are some of the measures that the company should implement for its employees and business growth. Thus, the need for redefining the employee experience, upskilling, and reskilling, better understanding their needs and wants, and providing them with a voice to feel connected, supported, and empowered will aid in the retention of future-ready talent.