Growth & Jobs | Invest in human capital: HGS upskills BPO workers
As Jamaica seeks to keep pace with the changing work landscape caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the global digital services industry, the Government, and stakeholders are developing educational programmes for the workforce to acquire advanced digital and technology-based skills.
Individual companies, including Hinduja Global Solutions Jamaica (HGS), has taken on the charge and is upskilling its staff to meet the demands of today’s world through the training and job experience it provides for persons employed at the enterprise.
HGS Jamaica, which is the Caribbean arm of HGS, is currently supporting workers who enter the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry at a basic level to receive knowledge that will lead to greater marketability within the job market.
The company’s senior vice-president and country head, Anand Biradar, and learning and development senior manager Ingrid Marshall are convinced that on-the-job skills training for employees within HGS has made their workers better prepared to advance their careers.
“I have seen quite a number of people who have started in the industry at the basic level and have gone up to being managers, now looking to become directors, and that’s because of the activities they are engaged in,” Marshall revealed.
HGS provides business process management services, including voice contact centre services, digital marketing solutions, and back-office services to a wide variety of clients in different industries, including banking, healthcare, insurance, media, telecommunications, retail, technology, consumer electronics, and more.
This means that employees develop business communication and problem-solving skills that can be applied within a wide variety of fields.
“Because the job requires you to be resolution-oriented, you find that employees develop certain skills that they’re not taught in university,” Marshall stated. “They develop these skills through their experience and interactions with clients, and they are able to see how theories learned in school are applied in the working world. The HGS team also works with diverse cultures and they become more flexible.”
This experience increases their staff’s value within the organisation, but it also means that they can seek opportunities beyond HGS to continue their career path.
This is not a scenario that worries HGS country head Anand Biradar, as the culture of HGS is built around employee experience, client experience, operational performance, and giving back to the community. Improving the organisation’s workforce, even if they move on to other areas of the Jamaican economy, is part of that commitment of giving back to the community, Biradar says.
“A lot of people are fearful about investing in their own employees for fear that someone will pay more and they will go away,” he said. “Not training people means that the future will be bleak. If you invest in people and they have given life and loyalty, they get better and find opportunities elsewhere, and then it is time for celebration. A lot of them grow within the company, and if they find something outside, then it is a success story.”
Marshall elaborated on how job experience within HGS has allowed employees to make use of a platform from which to broaden their horizons and learn about the different career opportunities they can seize.
“Some people develop technical skills, because we have had some programmes where you come in as a novice and are trained,” she disclosed. “You get basic exposure, and people develop an interest in these areas and go on to do further studies in these areas.”
HGS has a programme that facilitates staff to pursue higher education at discounted fees. Those who complete their studies may be rewarded with a rebate of up to 50 per cent of their educational expenses. Efforts are also made to accommodate the schedule of employees going back to school.
EMPHASIS ON TECH
Biradar believes that if the Government and stakeholders such as HGS are to prepare Jamaican workers for the advancing global digital economy, then the emphasis must be on technology.
“Technology has historically been a vertical option, where you choose between finance or information technology or human resources, etc,” he explained. “The future will require us to see things differently. Technology cuts across everything – healthcare, banking, HR – everywhere that technology is pervasive.”
He went on to say that tremendous investment has to go into building a tech-intensive workforce. He underscored, “Imagine, five years from now, we have people who are a lot more tech intensive. We can do IT outsourcing, we can host data centres, digital labs, market research, tech analytics, and focus on work that can pay more than twice what BPO pays and a lot more. It goes up the value chain quickly.”
To create this reality, the Government has signed on to advance Jamaican workers through the Global Services Skills Project (GSSP). Over the course of five years, steps will be taken to revolutionise the training system geared at increasing the cadre of skilled workers in the higher-value services.
Additionally, the country will be repositioned to attract international investments to absorb the newly trained workforce, and increase Jamaica’s exports of global digital services.
The GSSP’s executing partners, JAMPRO, the HEART Trust/NSTA, the Global Services Association of Jamaica, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, are now working with industry stakeholders to create training programmes in areas like robotics, data analytics and IT tech support that will transform Jamaica’s workforce.
Biradar has been a part of the efforts recently started through the GSSP Council to begin providing skills training for workers within the sector. Marshall stressed the importance of these initiatives.
“I see GSSP in partnership with the BPOs and HGS making the effort and moving ahead to equip staff for these future skills,” she stated. “I call them future skills because they are changing and they keep changing. We have to be prepared. It requires a change in approach in how we think and deliver training.”
Noting the potential that will exist as companies continue to train their staff, Biradar said, “I see a lot of opportunities. I would urge focusing on building IT and technology and data-support capabilities more than anything else, because they have a higher bang for the buck.”