An article in the Wall Street Journal back from early December have prompted me to write about India employees within multinational companies, and discuss how the skills and experience of these employees are developed so that they are successful when working across borders.
Within Manhattan Associates, my current employer, a key effort is made to develop the skills of India employees so that they can successfully support our projects from their India office as well as from on-site with clients. On every project I have worked on, an employee from our India office has rotated through as a technical or support consultant on-site. There are a few reasons why we see this as important:
- Client-facing Opportunities: Although an India employee may be successful supporting a project remotely and resolving multiple technical issues, working on-site allows the employee to get a hands-on sense of the client environment, the range of functional requirements involved, and also provides the client with an opportunity to become comfortable with the remote team.
- Direct Interaction with Functional Team / Project Managers: The rotation provides an opportunity for the India employee to deepen their relationships with on-site team members, who may primarily focus on more operational issues. Once the India employee returns to their home office, phone calls and online interaction increases in quality and effectiveness.
- Personal Satisfaction: The India employee develops a great sense of self-worth and value in relation to the company and client.
From personal experience, a great deal of value is also generated when on-site consultants rotate through the India office, including members from the client's team when possible. If both rotations can be done on the same project, the overall implementation for the client will improve considerably.
"WSJ: How have you viewed the management profile of multinational companies in India changing in the past five years and how do you expect it to change in the future, especially with regard to the mix of expatriate versus local executives?
"Mr. Venkatesan: My sense is that during the past few years expats were in great demand. This was driven by the entry into India of a large number of global MNCs [multinational corporations] and also by the emergence of rapidly globalizing Indian MNCs like Infosys, Tata, Reliance or Jet Airways that needed specialized skills. A significant number of the "expats" have been people of Indian origin returning to India. All this is beginning to change. Global companies are localizing their management, recognizing both that this is a key to success in the market and that India can be a good source of talent. Cost pressures have also caused companies, both Indian and foreign, to take a close look at which skills are truly indispensable.
"Over the coming years I see a few trends. I see global companies paying much more attention to talent. The best companies will rotate their highest potential talent through places like India and China and Brazil as part of their development. We will also "export" more talent from India to other parts of the world as part of the same global talent development process. Finally, I also see a greater emphasis to growing local talent from within versus hiring a greater proportion of senior/middle management from outside. The mix of expats versus local executives may or may not change, but the underlying intent and strategy will certainly shift from a short-term fix to skill shortages to a more proactive global talent development agenda."
As part of this dynamic, a company needs to encourage a culture of learning where employees are able to share knowledge and formalize experience into a number of best practices for use across borders in multiple offices. Without this, a company may rotate employees, but there will likely be a higher chance of negative experiences occuring. For example, an India employee may be brought in, put to work and then sent home without much of a welcome and effort to engage them inside AND outside of work. As Mr. Venkatesan infers, it is an important time to invest in your India talent and put in place the programs that will make your business stronger as the global economy gradually recovers.