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The "Quality of Talent" Debate


An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes from a KPMG partner is both eye-opening and outrage-inducing. He talks about how our graduating students are hardly prepared for the real world in terms of skills, problem solving ability, learning new things and being really professional. With very notable exceptions I cannot but agree; in general, there is an overall sense of entitlement, a lot of job-hopping and resume-shopping, a questionable work-ethic or a lack of "professionalism". It is difficult to find the right attitude and aptitude in the same person, and the cost-benefit equation can be exceptionally skewed. Some people price themselves out of the market.

But please note that these large type of companies are also to blame. Those that demand longer hours "when required" tend to be those that demand longer hours all the time, unless you have an emergency that your house is on fire and you can actually smell the smoke on the phone. Those that pretend to a potential customer that they are skilled in a certain technology, and then beg an independent consultant who actually does have that skill to sit in a conference call pretending to be a long-term employee. Then those that double-bill their clients on the number of hours worked because, well because they can. Those financial service companies and banks that tell their managers to lie outright to their customers, even if they are old and widowed and all that. The lala companies where you are expected to be a boss’s man-friday. Those that refuse to give you your gratuity or PF benefits when you leave, or create unnecessary delays of months or years. And those that expect loyalty from you while, at the same time, giving a newcomer a salary twice yours as a "market" figure while he contributes far lesser than you. I’m sure you can think of more.

Everyone can rant and rave. Butevery dog has his day. Today, certain people are in demand. Tomorrow, unless they upgrade their skills, they won’t be. Today just a large company’s name is enough to get people to join it. Tomorrow, even they will have to grin and be proper employers to get the quality people they want. For years, new chartered accountants had no option but to work at salaries like Rs. 5,000 per month as an "apprentice" at large CA firms, working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Today they can get 5 times that much at newer firms and IT companies, and the old CA firms crib and crib and crib. Times change. People change, or get left behind.

I have, early in my career, taken Rs. 30 as auto fare as a reimbursement when I actually travelled by bus. I haven’t job hopped (how do you do that as an entrepreneur?) but I’ve hired those who did (which in a way is my fault). I’m definitely inconsistent, being arbitrary when I wanted and demanding fairness otherwise. I hope I’ve changed, but it sometimes took an exiting employee to help me. I’ll probably be both an employee and employer in the future. And I hope people (including me!) will change for the better, that companies will be better places to work.


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