Infosys, as discussed in my September 11 blog, has developed one of the IT industry’s largest and most comprehensive talent development programs. Although the program was created I India, and is by far the most mature, multifaceted and far-reaching in India, the company is now bringing parts of the program to other countries in which it operates.
From India to the World
Infosys has, for example, implemented versions of its CampusConnect program (which help colleges develop and launch business-relevant curricula and courses) in other countries in which it has Delivery Centers. It is, for example, working with Malaysian university faculties to improve IT education and with Mexican faculties to develop an IT curriculum to make programs more industry-relevant.
Just this month, it entered into an agreement with Singapore Management University (SMU) to jointly develop content, case studies and learning labs for both Infosys employees and SMU undergraduate and graduate students. They also plan to conduct joint seminars and tutorials and collaborate on currently unspecified research and pedagogy projects.
Infosys, however, is focusing the vast majority of its Out-of-India efforts on China, the county in which it has already hired 3,500 employees, with plans for another 8,500 in three years. For example,it opened a Development Center in Shanghai and an Education Center in Jiaxing. This new Education Center, which will eventually accommodate 3,000 students at a time, will generally replicate the company’s Mysore curricula and courses, but tailor them to the specific needs of Chinese recruits. More than 650 recruits have already completed the Center’s foundation training program and another 350 in process.
The company is also beginning to work with Chinese universities. It has, for example, launched a Chinese version of CampusConnect and is working closely with local governments to extend the program to more schools in other regions of the country.
Multi-Lateral in India
Infosys is also working to scale its education programs by partnering with third parties. These partners include:
- Individual companies, such as Microsoft, which is now participating in SPARK; and
- Non-profits, such as NASSCOM, where it is sharing best practices with the group’s Education Council, for deployment across India; and
- Pan-national organizations, like UNESCO, to share learnings and identify best practices that can be applied across many different countries.
The company also forges more informal cross-border relationships. For example, it regularly invites industry bodies and faculty from other countries to visit Mysore. They have hosted a range of countries, from barely emerging (like Bhutan and Rwanda) and solidly industrializing countries (such as Thailand and Colombia) to learn and deploy capabilities in their own countries.
Applying Indian Learnings to Developed Countries
Cross-border learnings on employee development and most other business processes typically flow from more developed countries (which typically have the educational institutions to create and the corporations to test and develop best practices around these processes) to less developed countries.
Perhaps, however, it is about time for more such learnings to migrate in the other direction. Companies ranging from Proctor and Gamble and General Electric Medical Systems have developed products specifically for emerging countries that have since been migrated to developed countries. There are similar opportunities for migrating business models, such as Li & Fung’s supply chain practices and Bharti Airtel’s use of variable cost, virtual infrastructures.
On one hand, it may seem strange to suggest that countries like the U.S. and England—countries that virtually invented and still have some of the best colleges and corporate talent development and management practices in the world—could learn much from India. That country’s IT services sector, for example, is prospering only because the private sector was forced to develop capabilities that the public sector was not capable of providing.
But in many senses, developed countries are now facing some of the same challenges as developing countries. These include a sclerotic education-to-employment pipeline that does not seem capable either of:
- Preparing students with the skills that will be required in an increasingly global knowledge economy, or of
- Reskilling current workers who must learn totally new skills to qualify for new jobs in their current industries, much less those in new growth industries.
This is certainly not to suggest that emerging country companies have some type of inherent advantage over developed country companies, either in helping schools to graduate more employment-ready students or in proactively developing the skills that current workers will need for tomorrow’s jobs. After all, Western IT services companies such as IBM, HP and Accenture, were faced with many of the same challenges as their Indian counterparts in growing the Indian talent pool. These companies addressed their Indian needs in much the same way as did the Indian IT services firms. All of these companies–both Indian and Western–are now applying similar practices to develop their Chinese labor forces.
Some Western companies–especially IBM in universities and Microsoft in secondary schools—are at least as active in partnering with U.S. schools as Infosys is in partnering with Indian schools. It is, however, a shame that such actions are not ubiquitous, across not just the technology industry, but all industries.
Given the seemingly intractable challenges faced in reforming our education system and in addressing the worsening mismatch in the skills that students graduate with, versus those needed by employers, this country’s education system seems to need at least as much help from the private sector as do those in China and India. In fact, in some ways it needs even more, since U.S. and European students are increasingly turning away from the type of STEM educations that Indian and Chinese students crave.
Perhaps many more companies, across all industries and countries, have something to learn from the Indian IT services industry’s experience in educating, developing and managing talent.