India, human resources and honesty

It says I am one of the “very first few” to visit the site. But surely that’s not the intention. This is supposed to be the beginning of something big – really big, and depending on how it grows it could be as popular as eBay or Amazon.com. Especially if you want to build the next eBay or Amazon.com.

It’s called the National Skills Registry, and it was launched in January by India’s major IT industry association, NASSCOM. It’s a place where the credentials of all IT professionals and call centre workers can be verified. The system is being run by a private firm, NSTL Database Management Ltd. (NDML) and looks sort of like Workopolis, only with fact-checkers who would authenticate the educational, personal and work history of those who voluntarily register their resumes to be viewed by prospective employers.

“Increasingly, the foreign clients, especially, government or public bodies, are insisting on background check of an individual before recruitment,” an explanatory note in the registry’s FAQ page states. “As more and more ITPs join the database, Industry may decide to recruit only such candidates that have registered in the database. If you are already registered, you will be in a better position to avail of the new opportunities.”

NASSCOM isn’t simply investing in this registry to justify its own existence. It’s a reaction against allegations that Indian IT workers have committed fraud, concocted phishing schemes and abused their access to various e-commerce transaction systems. Sure the same thing happens here, but we accept those internal IT security breaches as part of our failure to create appropriate policies and implement the right protective technologies. India, which has flourished as an outsourcing destination, can’t afford to act as a collection of independent entities. People may know about individual success stories such as Tata and Infosys, but when they talk about outsourcing, North American IT executives refer to the country as a whole. Just as a corporate enterprise would move swiftly to protect its damaged reputation, therefore, India’s IT industry is acting in unison to, as the FAQ puts it, sustain its competitive advantage.

Will it work? Could it happen here? Probably not, and absolutely. As Thomas L. Friedman argued in his bestselling book The World is Flat, globalization is creating a ripple effect that transcends national boundaries, but that doesn’t mean boundaries cease to exist. The appeal of individual organizations as outsourcing providers will depend in many cases on the local economics in which it is operating (which relates directly to wages and compensation) along with the cultural and educational backgrounds of employees in a given geography. If India is any example, Canada and other countries will be positioning themselves not so much as nation-states but as nation-industries, and we’ll want to look at least as good as India’s IT sector. ITAC and other industry groups are forming close relationships with NASSCOM to exchange best practices. The registry is an interesting, if dubious lesson.

Although Canada’s Software Human Resource Council could probably create a similar database – and has the links to academic institutions that would encourage new entrants to the industry to sign up – this is still a system which is highly prone to human error. After all, you can outsource a lot of things, but you can’t outsource due diligence. Recruiting talent is a process of combining intuition with trust. No one hires on the basis of a resume. They probably wouldn’t hire on the basis of a database full of them, either.

Shane Schick is the editor of ITBusiness.ca
sschick@itbusiness.ca

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