Fresh skills vs experienced talent — What should organisations choose?

Freshness is always welcome, but dedication, experience and familiarity cannot be ignored either

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While some organisations are evidently open to hiring freshers or people with limited to zero years of experience, the resumes of these freshers lack face value, which comes from adding the names of prominent organisations. However, how can organisations decide whether fresh hires are a good fit without experiencing their potential? How can they choose between upskilling or reskilling a tenured employee and taking on a new hire? Such dilemmas have increased for organisations today, especially in the post COVID era.

How to gauge the potential that is yet to be proven and reviewed

Rolling the dice or taking chances would mean going for a fresh face that can bring in fresh ideas and creativity to the plate. Often freshers are hunted down by organisations because they not only bring in immense positive attitude and emotional intelligence, but possess a high degree of dedication, as compared with that of tenured employees.

As Rajani Tewari, HR director, Viking Ventures, says, “Organisations have searched for fresh faces since time immemorial. Tenured employees, although accustomed with the work culture, seem to somewhat experiment less and bring in ideas with a traditional approach.”

Most organisations hire candidates after a thorough selection or screening process meant to filter out the ones who fail to exhibit the soft skills required for that job. Whether a person is tenured or not, hardly impacts their possessing the right attitude or not

Sachin Narke, chief learning officer- group and head-HR (CIG), Forbes Marshall

Just because potential has not been proved does not mean that it does not exist at all. Moreover, studies have given proof that core skills are adaptive and transferable in nature. There is literally nothing on this earth that cannot be learned and acquired by a human being. With proper job simulations and contextual learning methods, it is nowadays very easy to equip new candidates with the basic structure of the work that they are supposed to do.

Sachin Narke, chief learning officer- group and head-HR (CIG), Forbes Marshall, says, “I have personally gone through several assessment sessions where I witnessed that it is very easy to teach a certain set of skills to a new employee. Given the technology apparatus that we have at our disposal nowadays, we can do wonders. One can go for job simulations, video calls and group interaction with multiple people at one time to encourage the new employees to learn the required skills.”

Experience in an organisation is also valued because it shows that the employee was loyal to the wider purpose of the organisation and its emerging business needs. While working for an organisation, there is a degree of wisdom that comes with facing challenges in one’s real life as well. A tenured employee may be more weathered with the experiences and the rough sway of targets and deadlines, and even more goal-focused in nature. However, this is something so subjective that nowadays organisations are not relying upon the age or work experience factor as a proven determinant of loyalty or perseverance.

Tewari echoes the same idea saying, “It has been noticed lately that soft skills matter the most. Infact, most of the employees leave their organisations because of conflicts that arise from a negative or toxic outlook, such as lesser perseverance, being too emotionally attached with the outcomes, such that they get extremely discouraged by failure to achieve the set goals. Now, most organisations hire candidates after a thorough selection or screening process meant to filter out the ones who fail to exhibit the soft skills required for that job. Whether a person is tenured or not, hardly impacts their possessing the right attitude or not.”

Are we reaching there with the hybrid work model?

A work model where there is a heterogenous presence of employees — with some working remotely and some working inside the workplace — there are chances that work efficiency and productivity may be affected. Skill sets required by employees can be easily imparted through face-to-face interactions and one-on-one sessions. So how are companies heading towards the path of skill-based hiring in this scenario?

“I believe the pandemic has hardly anything to do with the shift that had already taken place in the organisational functioning. We have always depended on training programmes, with the manager often distributing modules, that are supposed to be grasped in a limited time span. Real-life applications of those training programmes were also a common phenomenon. The only difference in this work model is, that the manager may not be able to interact one-on-one to map the progress. I believe this can be easily done away with, given the newly-developed tests and review processes available now. Infact, many organisations are investing on realigning and training programmes that are enriching candidates’ skillsets, by reducing the front-line supervisors and line managers. The reduced real-estate costs have also led to a transfer of investment in generating creativity and innovation in the Gen Z employees,” says, Tewari.

Upskilling and reskilling employees has been a common trend in this unprecedented situation. Though it took time to adapt with the immediate needs of the market, organisations took it in their stride to deal with it gracefully. They came up with new technologies and application infrastructure to resolve the issues.

Some logistics services organisations tied up with food-delivery or online-shopping platforms to ensure that the customers got proper and updated information, on where exactly the product had reached. When this commute was cut due to the pandemic, a panic took over. However, these logistics services organisations came to the rescue with expanded digital capabilities and AI systems taking over the training programmes. With such instant upskilling and reskilling and incorporation of coders, developers, machine and deep learners, these problems have been overcome effectively.

Tenured employees, although accustomed with the work culture, seem to somewhat experiment less and bring in ideas with a traditional approach

Rajani Tewari, HR Director, Viking Ventures

In fact, the hybrid model requires immense contribution from the coders, developers and programmers to come up with the best, engaging technological minds that would solve the imminent and contingent problems easily. Companies, such as Ernst & Young Global are conducting Techathons and Hackathons to invite university students from all disciplines to participate in enabling the vaccination drive all over India, eliminating challenges that are posed by the demographics, geography and lack of infrastructure in India. Looking at the tremendous potential harnessed by the developer community of India, that comprises mostly students studying engineering and coding, Ernst & Young, plans to expand its network. Moves like these are implemented by organisations to unleash the creativity and innovation in people from all walks of life.

Are there relevant assessment tools to reach this stage?

“I personally prefer the psychometric tests like the SHL OPQ, which help predict talent potential and fit while identifying behavioural styles for engagement throughout the employee lifecycle. The employee lifecycle continues to evolve as business environments rapidly change, influencing the importance of talent performance to drive business results,” explains Narke.

Tewari, on the other hand, emphasises on the need for a test that focuses on the functional domain, more than a psychometric test. According to her, psychometric tests may not be effective for the likes of analytics candidates, who are bound to be judged as eccentric by the traditional methods.

She further adds that, it is important to understand that these assessment tools just provide us with the basic indicators required and are not necessarily the parameters for a particular job profile.

“No assessment tool is foolproof. It is bound to bounce off for some of them. While these tests bear results that are closest to the purpose or the specific need, we must not be absolutely dependent on these. Gut instinct has a bigger role to play always.”

Does this encourage internal movement of employees?

Yes, it does. However, the needs of an organisation may vary. Some of them may implement cross-functional training to enable teams to multitask, become leaders and resources at the same time, cutting down their direct investment on salaries. And some of them may look for a blend of talent pool, ideation and thought orientation.

“This is my personal opinion that one must always look for a blend of work attitudes and thinking processes. The more diverse the work culture is, more are the chances of innovation through new, rainbow-like synergies,” points out Tewari.

Tenured employees, on the other hand, are accustomed to the workplace. The managers are familiar with their pace and work-attitudes. “Trust is important and an experienced tenured employee is always better for positions where the skills demand a high degree of trust and understanding of work procedures. Training the tenured candidates proves to be less costly than hiring processes too. However, for an active growth of the organisation, freshness is always sought after. After all, while productivity matters, revolutionising strategies change the game,” enunciates Narke.

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