INDIA--Companies are using latest technologies to train and re-skill employees, which are proving to be more cost-effective, flexible and convenient compared to traditional methods.
The U.S. economic slowdown, spiraling inflation and growing demand for skilled manpower is encouraging companies to adopt the latest technologies for corporate training. These include the use of videoconferencing, online learning modules, collaborative Web casting techniques, as well as a host of other innovative, technology-driven teaching methodologies.
Corporate training programs in India have long been synonymous with elaborate itineraries and jamborees. Large local and multinational companies were known to take employees to exotic locales, putting them up in up-market hotels to attend corporate training sessions. This involved much logistics and heavy expenditure.
Today, all of that is passé.
Training must still proceed
High economic growth and the country's outsourcing boom have created an increased demand for skilled manpower, leading to acute skills scarcities. However, inflation and the economic slowdown in the United States and Europe have put tremendous pressure on training budgets.
"Companies today can't afford to ignore corporate training," Muralidhar Rao, president and COO of NIS Sparta, told ZDNet Asia in an interview. NIS Sparta is a Reliance ADA group organization and a leading training, education and learning solutions provider in India.
"Competition does not recognize inflation," Rao said, noting that technology-driven training modules have proven handy in the current business climate. "We are using multiple media for corporate training. These include media like Web, video, audio and broadband."
Ashok Zutshi, senior vice president of training at New Horizons India, said in a phone interview: "While offsite programs have not totally disappeared, they definitely prove to be a lot more expensive and time-consuming."
Using technology, therefore, proves not only more cost-effective, but also offers a lot of flexibility, Zutshi said. New Horizon India is an IT training company, and a joint venture between New Horizons Worldwide and the Shriram group.
Rao said: "We are on the threshold of a revolution in the corporate training industry. Today, there are several innovations taking place in this space."
New Horizon offers a proprietary corporate training product, called Mentored Learning, which is designed to help people acquire new skills in their free time, without disrupting their daily schedule.
Each workstation at the center contains two computer monitors, one of which allows access to the course content: video, text and audio. On the other monitor, they have access to the production environment so they can put their skills to practice. Instructors are also present to provide ongoing coaching, support and guidance.
According to Zutshi, New Horizon's corporate training business is growing at 100 percent per annum.
For NIS Sparta, while its overall business is expanding by 25 percent per annum, the company's employability solutions business is growing at 100 percent. This business unit operates The NIS Academy, which aims to create and enhance employability of individuals through a number of short and long-term educational programs.
On their part, enterprises are also going the whole hog in adopting new training methodologies. For instance, Cisco Systems has an online learning system called Education Management System (EMS) that includes extensive courseware on technical and engineering, management and leadership areas, which are open to all its employees.
"The key attraction of this system is that it allows an employee to become aware of various options, and plan and pace their learning as per their choice," Aravind Sitaraman, vice president and managing director, Cisco Development Organization India, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.
Cisco also has ongoing classroom learning programs developed based on individual, team and business needs. Apart from the usual training methodologies, the techniques used for training at Cisco include on-demand video, Web-based training, online virtual lab programs and virtual classrooms.
Piyush Dutta, associate vice president for human resources at HCL Comnet Systems & Services, said in a phone interview: "When the whole industry is growing, we have to be more innovative in building our skills." HCL Comnet is a player in the remote infrastructure management (RIM) industry, and like Cisco, the company also uses a mix of corporate training methodologies to train its employees.
In addition, to fill the skills gap, Indian tech companies such as Infosys Technologies and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), have built their own training campuses in Mysore and Thiruvananthapuram, respectively.
Similarly, in the banking industry, the ICICI Bank partnered IT education services provider NIIT, to set up the Institute of Finance, Banking and Insurance (IFBI), which provides training in the banking, insurance and allied services.
According to Rao of NIS Sparta, India continues to face an acute skill shortage and more needs to be done to resolve the issue. "Corporate India is not doing enough insofar as training employees is concerned. Companies often find it difficult to identify skill set gaps of their employees," he said.
Swati Prasad is a freelance IT writer based in India.