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We need skills, we have resources, but never the twain shall meet

Samiran Ghosh, CIO, Asia , Dun& Bradstreet | March 30, 2016
The talent shortage in governments is not because of the lack of people but due to the lack of people with the right skills to take up such jobs.

Government is a far more complex organism than corporations so, in reality their need for talent should be even higher. So the need to innovate on the talent acquisition process should be even higher. However, across the world, there is still only one method known for the last 400 years and that is the civil services. This in turn draws from the education system geared to feed it which is 300 years old. In the meantime, the world has changed and we are in the midst of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

While there are some systems in place to attract freshers from colleges, what we really need is people with real world experience. The target should be people with 15-20 years of experience looking to do something else with their lives - possibly give back to the country

What is needed is a way for anyone to choose to join the government through a formal, clearly understood, easy to follow transparent process. The person behind the wheel is the most critical component of any project success. If more projects like Aadhaar are to succeed, we need to find and put in place these right people before we can even begin to initiate the work. Nandan Nilekani in his book "Rebooting India" talks about addressing the 10 grand challenges for India with a 100 people. We need to make it possible for him to find the correct 100 people and deploy - drawing from the entire universe of the Indian population and not just the civil services.

In the past, the government in India has experimented with getting experts into the system to work in specific areas. They have been through the following methods

  • Sabbatical from current work
  • Invited by PM - OSD
  • Hiring SMEs as consultants into ministries
  • National Institute for Smart Government and NIC possibly

All of these efforts, though commendable, lack adequate visibility / public awareness, seem sporadic, un-coordinated and un-sustained to make any lasting impact. They cannot scale to fill the gap we are trying to address.

We may yet manage to fill lower skill positions but the experience and skill level we need to make initiatives like Digital India, Skill India and Make in India (to name a few) succeed cannot be got by these means. The target segment needs to be regular people with significant experience (not just celebrity technocrats and academicians) looking to do something else with their lives - possibly give back to the country. Money would not be their sole motivation - they need to be given a purpose, a clear mandate and a 3 year window in which to accomplish the task set out for them. Most importantly, the process of socialising the need and streamlining the intake needs emergency fixing.

Will people take up the offer if given a chance? I think so. If the responsibility is correctly defined and the right authority is delegated. Will the government benefit? Undoubtedly.


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