‘Overqualified’ does not necessarily mean ‘smart’

There is always a risk of counter productiveness if you hire overqualified employees at the workplace.

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An overqualified employee is as bright as a button, but is this button hanging loose and ready to fall? Highly educated people possessing a degree in each pocket consent to take up jobs that do not require much in terms of qualification, simply because there is a dearth of job opportunities in the market.

HRKatha had reported a few months back that in Uttar Pradesh, a surprising number of PhD holders (3700) had applied for peon vacancies. These posts, for messengers, were advertised by the Uttar Pradesh Police, stating the required qualification as Class V.

“Today, even for a constable’s post you will have a PhD holder applying because it is easily available in some universities for a sum. People are misguided into thinking that higher and multiple degrees will improve their job prospects,” remarks S Ramesh Shankar, EVP, head-HR, South Asia, Siemens.

Overqualified employees often compromise and settle for low-paying jobs that are not challenging. They are too big for the pond size and that makes them restless, unstable and a threat. A company is unable to exploit their potential, which leads to increasing stress levels and frustration in these employees. They don’t stick around for long and are responsible for taking the attrition rate up.

Ramesh Shankar S

“Today, even for a constable’s post you will have a PhD holder applying because it is easily available in some universities for a sum. People are misguided into thinking that higher and multiple degrees will improve their job prospects”

If the highest qualified resources develop without differentiated performance, companies harm themselves. These resources develop negative attitudes, such as a sense of entitlement with regard to their skills, or resentment through boredom. “Their hubris will become initially self-congratulatory and subsequently self-destructive. Their negative attitude around those less qualified will trigger an air of discontentment that further leads to disengagement. This is bound to adversely impact the organisation’s health and happiness,” says Adil Malia, COO, The Firm.

They also suffer from financial crises because their salaries are not enough to repay the loans they have taken for higher education.

The chances of failing for the ‘highest qualified resources’ is as high as that of the just qualified employees—knowledge not being the only success criterion of performance. However, if the mental makeup of the ‘highest qualified resource’ is such that it expects a premium in compensation, benefits and performance merely by virtue of additional qualifications, without displaying differentiated performance, it is the start of a problem,” opines Malia.

Most good organisations will not shortlist overqualified candidates, but refuse them politely. “In our company, we have employees who pursue higher professional studies, but we do not promote them directly on the basis of just that fact. However, they are free to apply if vacancies arise for senior roles,” says Shankar.

In the last decade, there has been an extraordinary upswing in the number of individuals opting for higher education in India. The motive behind this is the belief that more the number of degrees, the higher the chance to be financially secure and professionally successful.

Adil Malia

“Successful enterprises, therefore, focus on acquiring CRT — compositely right talent and not HQR — highest qualified resource. For successful performance in a role, intellect and intelligence must align. Certification from any knowledge adding factory does not matter!”

We wonder if this trend is favourable for the employers. Do they benefit from hiring smart, academically qualified individuals or does this result in a backfire?

“The problem is with our education system. It stresses upon academic prowess rather than skills required for a job. For instance, in countries, such as Germany if you are a carpenter, you take pride in being one. In India, however, being a graduate or a post graduate is a must if you want to make it in life,” opines Shankar.

“To be able to successfully perform a role, the resource must be ‘competent’ and not necessarily ‘qualified’. Academic knowledge is only one part of competency. There are many other aspects,” reiterates Malia.

“The relationship between qualifications and jobs needs to be redefined. We need to focus more on vocational education rather than generic education, such as BA/ BSc/ BCom/ MA/ MSc/ MCom. In an engineering company, do we need engineers by qualification? No. We need individuals with application skills who have learned out of passion,” reasons Shankar.

“Academic qualification is not a true test for talent acquisition. We are slowly gearing up towards putting a ‘test-method’— ‘job-wise screening mechanism’— for the selection process,” continues Shankar.

“Successful enterprises, therefore, focus on acquiring CRT — compositely right talent and not HQR — highest qualified resource. For successful performance in a role, intellect and intelligence must align. Certification from any knowledge adding factory does not matter!” stresses Malia.

“Certainly, companies loose out big time when they hire only ‘HQRs’ and I seriously doubt if any company does that,” adds Malia.

While it is not easy to change the mindsets of people, we are slowly and steadily moving towards differentiating talent from academic prowess.

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