Festival season. It’s, again, that time of year which excites millions of India’s management students—over placements. The country has over 5,500 management institutions offering MBA, PGDM or equivalent degrees to over five lakh students every year. Students with varied academic backgrounds opt for degrees in much sought-after management.
A recent study tells us that only one in two of the management students are employable, while another puts it at 7 per cent (and that only half of them actually find jobs). So, where does the gap lie? What do the institutes and the students need to do in order to prepare for the big day?
India’s projected GDP growth rate is 7.1 per cent and FDI as high as $60 billion, even as start-ups continue to hire. That implies no dearth of opportunities in the market, which also has an ocean of candidates, giving many big firms a choice of candidates. No wonder, companies have stopped casting a wide net these days, instead, they have become more selective about the quality of their catch.
This shift, of not going after many B-schools but focus on a few, has come about as a result of working with candidates from such institutes who suit their needs. The easy way is to check out the top-tier B-schools. If that is getting expensive, go to a tier-2 school, where the pay is affordable—but that place is already crowded. Then you move to a tier-3 school, but there is a discernible dip in quality (that is not openly spoken about). You may yet find the right kind of people.
Broadly, there are three rules of thumb: the candidate’s ability to add value the moment they join (many firms can ill-afford training time), capacity to grasp the company’s culture so as to effectively supplement theoretical knowledge with techniques relevant to the organisation and, thirdly, ability to relearn and unlearn so as to ensure greater productivity in faster time. (Along with these, the right attitude towards work, stakeholders and colleagues.)
While these may seem rudimentary, they are most desired. Now, how to ensure these basic skills in a way that helps the companies manage the gap between what is needed and what is available? Again three points: the candidate has to have the ability to effectively communicate (for, messages must be delivering with clarity), bring in high-level energy (as this engenders a willingness to experiment and innovate) and, three, take initiatives (so as to be fast on the go and not wait to be told, as they can learn and adapt promptly).
Institutions must go beyond teaching and assessment. They must attract the best faculty and work on projects with corporates.
Institutions, on their part, need to go beyond teaching, assessment and certification to students. Given the changing modes of education and expectations of companies, there is a need for institutions to redefine themselves and the way in which they operate. They need to invest in attracting the best faculty (and make sure they are paid well), must collaborate with companies (where faculties could work with corporates on some projects and gain the much-needed relevance of education to students), build infrastructure to provide a global education experience to students (by delivering skill-based learning and develop as well as use innovative ways to track/assess students learning), invest in research to focus on fundamental and applied research that will bolster their own standing (and allow a certain strength of an argument), use technology such as cloud, social networks, mobile computing and big data to create digital learning ecosystems, and upgrade internships by researching on how it has worked for companies and not just as a matter of a ‘tick in the box’.
The most striking thing about the employability of B-school graduates is that while companies think they have unique needs, they really don’t. What hurts is adding more B Schools while all they need is a segmentation that works better for them. This cuts out time and they would want to come back to the B-school the following year. Today, firms throw money at the problem hoping that it will be resolved. Certainly government can assist in putting some stringent criteria for B-School accreditation. A strategic intent moving to strategic deployment and policy evaluation for implementation will make a huge difference, Proliferation of schools will not help. The talent market needs deep changes that help in reducing the gap in the demand- supply to companies.
(The author is Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India)