Dinesh Weerakkody, Chairman, Commercial Bank of Ceylon in this interview talks of some of the challenges faced by our policy makers, and the need to mould our younger generations into a way of thinking that is geared suitably to engage in a global talent war. Excerpts:
Q: Given the challenges our policy makers face, how should developing countries like us set about building the right skills and competencies of their workforce to attract FDI ?
Firstly, lessons learned from other successful countries in attracting FDI indicate that a nation’s ability to create a skilled human resource base is crucial to attract FDI. This means, we must continue to invest in our human resource, since the high growth industries of the future such as information technology and biotechnology industries, require an increasingly skilled labour force. Secondly, the further we move into the current decade the more pressing becomes the need for high order skills and also for a new way of understanding what skills education really means.That calls for a new way of understanding the relationship between practical skills and knowledge management. Therefore, developing our work force skills would be in my view one of the best means to achieve our future FDI goals.
Q: What were some of the strategies adopted by countries like Singapore to develop world-class talent and attract highly skilled people in to their countries?
Singapore had many initiatives in the education system to support the national strategy for competing globally for talent. For example the government had Partnership among industry, and the education sector to have training or learning centers that provided globally recognized certification programs. Then the government had targeted investment in talented students. They sent them to top universities around the world and then brought these people back to train others and run their top institutions. Also comparatively higher salaries were given for government employees to attract top talent to government positions. The philosophy in general has been to nurture its most talented, whether local or foreign to achieve their full potential while educating them so that they are conscious of an obligation to help level up the rest. For example Silicon Valley could not have become the key centre for start-ups, just based on the population of Palo Alto. Silicon Valley thrives on top talent from all over the world, especially from Asia.
Q: How did they roll out innovation programmes?
The Singapore government has invested a lot of capital to create the most conducive environment for innovation. As a result they have been quite successful in producing a complete eco system of research and development and innovation. That has helped them to raise productivity, cut costs and improve efficiency. Big productivity gains in my view can come only from innovation.
Q: Can public - private partnerships help?
Government can set policies that encourage investment in talent. The private sector then can offer opportunities for talent to learn and grow. Also when a government underwrites learning and development opportunities; private sector can invest resources with out fear to support a national strategy to compete globally for talent.
Q:How have top learning institutions in the world ensure their curriculum is current and relevant to business?
Some learning institutions focus on research, which codifies what people have done. The best learning institutions also discover the challenges their students are likely to face, then create deliver mechanisms to respond to those challenges. These institutions have permeable boundaries between industry and academia so that teaching focuses on learning solutions not just reporting of research.
Q: What impact will technology and social media have on talent and managing talent?
Technology enables information move fluidly so that boundaries of organizations are changed. Traditional one goes “to and from” work and geography is the boundary of where work is done. With technology and transient information, geographic boundaries are removed and people can be connected anytime and anyplace. Work boundaries are common values and commitments more than geographic space. This logic allows people from around the global to be focused on common problems without having to get together. Social networks redefine where and how work is done.
Q: Impact for business?
I believe the growing prevalence of technology will be everywhere and will continue to challenge several industries and jobs. But also create a lot of new industries and opportunities. For instance mobile phones with near-field communication technology will mean mobile wallets can potentially increase the total customer experience at check out terminals at retail stores. So companies need to spot the opportunities that are burgeoning in the present time to ensure they can survive and thrive in the future economy.
Q: Lastly, what should developing countries do in general to improve governance in the private sector?
In short, very simply, create policies that encourage transparency, innovation, and accountability.