What: WSJ article “India’s Workforce Revolution” by Vivek Wadhwa (this article is adapted from a report titled “How the Disciple Became the Guru“)
Posts to which it is related: Welcome to LeadingVirtually.com, The Leading Virtually Digest, March 14, 2008
Bottom Line: This article highlights why India is becoming (and will continue) to become a major global player in high-value added, white-collar work. While this article suggests increased deployment of virtual teams in which one or more members are from India, its greater value is in helping us understand how Indian companies are able to overcome a not-too-strong educational system to create a globally competitive workforce that is shifting from playing a support role to a key strategic role. Because of this shift, companies like GE and Cisco now have their second-largest research centers in India. The article offers lessons that US and other countries could apply to maintain their competitive edge. Salient lessons include:
- Hiring for general ability and aptitude;
- Investing substantial time, money, and effort to train new recruits from scratch in the domain of their work;
- Continuing employee development (after initial training) in not only the areas of technical and domain knowledge but also in the areas of soft and management skills;
- Fast-track programs that provide management training and mentorship to high-performing employees;
- Transparent performance management and appraisal systems; and
- A high level of interaction with private colleges and universities to develop customized degree programs from which graduates are hired in bulk without job interviews.
What: WSJ article “Outsourcers Hone European Savvy” by Niraj Seth
Posts to which it is related: Implicit Communication and Culture: What it Means for Leading Virtual Teams, Culture Matters in Virtual Teams, It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Hear
Bottom Line: This article describes how Indian firms are training workers to handle European clients. While U.S. clients have been a major business for Indian outsourcers due to Indians’ facility with the English language, European companies constitute a small part of the business. Now Indian companies want to expand to Europe and have hired instructors with doctoral degrees in cross-cultural studies to train their workers about European cultures. For instance, workers are taught that Germans expect clear, explicit communication and don’t like implicit communication, something which is common in the Indian culture. To counter Europe’s diverse cultures, Indian companies are also hiring local employees in European countries to offer a more familiar face to clients there.
What: WSJ article “Work at Home? Your Employer May Be Watching” by Sue Shellenbarger
Posts to which it is related: So You Think You’d Like to Telecommute?
Bottom Line: A lot of work in virtual teams is carried out by independent contractors who work from their home office. Now these contractors are coming under increased monitoring by those who pay for their services. Companies such as oDesk.com, which link up independent contractors with clients, take random photos of contractors’ computers, count keystrokes, and snap photos of them working on their computers. Clients can now see whether contractors are working, what they are doing, and how long they are taking to accomplish their work. They may use this information to question inflated bills. If the contractor is employed to field telephone calls, clients may deploy sophisticated tools to detect anger, raised voices, or children crying in the background; supervisors may jump in on the conversations right away if the tools detect trouble. Elance.com, another outfit like oDesk.com, has also implemented a monitoring system, but this system is for freelancers to document their work electronically and does not send any information to the client. The article provides anecdotes about oDesk.com’s service from an independent contractor who lists himself at oDesk.com and a buyer of oDesk.com’s service. According to the contractor, none of his clients has tried to micromanage his work even though they have the tools to do so. The buyer claims that she has saved as much as 25% using oDesk.com’s freelancers because they are more productive than contractors she has found on her own. The article argues that the use of monitoring tools is likely to increase telecommuting and remote work by reducing managers’ fear that remote workers may slack off.