Globally-recognised certification programmes help learners stay relevant in a volatile career landscape
By MATT NAYLOR
In the words of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. When Dylan wrote these enduring words in 1963, he could not possibly have known just how much the times were about to a-change with the invention of the Internet that altered the course of human history like so few creations before it.
With this, the ubiquity of the smartphone, the instant-gratification era and the introduction of tech-savvy millennials into the workforce, companies in Malaysia face an unprecedented number of problems to tackle, according to K-Pintar’s RA Thiagaraja.
As chief executive officer of the Malaysian training powerhouse, Thiagaraja knows better than anybody what companies should be doing in order to keep up with the times.
“Any industry today is largely automated and driven by technology,” he said in an interview with Leaderonomics.
“The market is constantly changing because the nature of jobs in the future is changing. Even now, universities and colleges are producing graduates without giving them the skills they need for the future.”
When Thiagaraja made the jump from the pharmaceutical industry to start K-Pintar in 2002, he recognised that organisations need to be doing more for their employees’ development than merely teaching them “competency skills”.
This might interest you (featuring Dave Ulrich, Thiagaraja and Roshan Thiran): The Leaderonomics Show: How Is The State Of HR In Malaysia Today?
Equipping employees with implementable skills
The onset of the “Google generation” means employees today have every fact and figure in the world available at their disposal but, unless they know how to convert such statistics into making effective business decisions, the numbers mean nothing.
“Universities and colleges teach competencies that can help solve problems by teaching structured thinking skills, but when it comes to the real world these problems are often not so black and white,” he added.
“Skills can be taught but, in the end, there is no substitute for experience in applying these cultivated competencies and thought processes.”
These perceived flaws in the modern education system have led to a huge shift in the way K-Pintar and their elite trainers organise their hands-on training sessions.
In Thiagaraja’s words: “The biggest change that has happened in the training industry is engagement – how do we engage the new generation and help them achieve their goals?
“In the past, training was very interpersonal, with a trainer offering a lot of knowledge and input. Today, the technology has made a huge difference in the way we engage the trainee through various methods.
“Concentration skills have waned with the advent of the technological era, so classroom training alone no longer works like it used to.”
Now, the training needs to be more interactive – with more discussion, more activities and more simulations.
The next generation
There is perhaps no greater hot-button topic right now than that of the millennials – a generation that grew up in the technology-infused era and now brings a new wave of thinking into offices all over the world.
Expecting rapid career progression, needing to engage with company values in order to achieve job satisfaction and famously fickle consumers, there are no shortage of studies nor opinions on how the 20-somethings of today both help and hinder modern companies.
As Generation Z – those born after the year 1997 – prepare to enter workforces and marketplaces, the need for companies to assimilate with the times is far greater than ever before.
This might interest you: Make Way For Generation Z
At K-Pintar, the needs of each specific industry or job function is taken into account when developing solutions for clients, whereby Thiagaraja exercises a unique level of expertise to handle the different challenges companies are facing at the moment.
While much has been said of what organisations need to do to retain top millennial employees, trying to build consumer retention through brand loyalty and constant innovation presents itself as one of the biggest challenges today.
“Because of the Internet, customers have so much information about different products right at their fingertips and they are more aware than ever of what the newest and best products are in the market,” said Thiagaraja.
“Customers value online reviews and word of mouth more than ever, so the decision-making process itself has changed. Previously, a customer would walk into a shop to find out more information about a product,” he said adding that today, customers can get the same details through their phones today and know exactly what they need when they enter a shop.
While the exact extent of what the future holds for companies in Malaysia, and all over the world, remains very much to be seen, the one constant is change and, unless organisations understand the needs of their employees and customers, they will forever struggle.
Plenty of reform is needed across every industry, but for a company that moves with the times, the future holds no shortage of opportunity.
Skills and knowledge – the gift of growth
R A Thiagaraja speaks about the vision that motivated him to start K-Pintar
How did you come to start K-Pintar?
Back in 2002, I was working as a product manager for a French pharmaceutical company. Despite the job being extremely exciting and challenging, I felt an emptiness inside me. I felt a calling, if you must, to give back to society. Even during my university days, I was highly involved in helping underprivileged children, who could ill-afford education or books.
With this deep-rooted belief that imparting knowledge is more valuable than mere monetary donations, I was inspired to start K-Pintar.
How have K-Pintar’s programme offerings evolved since your first started out?
When K-Pintar kickstarted in 2002, we were very much a market follower – a training outfit offering supply-driven courses just like every other training company. It was very competitive.
We wanted to break away from the pack; we were also keen to provide better solutions to our customers. After extensive research and studies, coupled with the World Bank report in 2010 – dismal statistics that noted Malaysia only had a 25% skilled workforce – we realised there was an almost negligible availability of demand- and needs-based programmes.
From 2010, K-Pintar’s offerings evolved, and will continue to evolve, to address today’s career landscape in Malaysia.
What are some of the biggest challenges Malaysian companies are facing today?
Getting the best talent and getting the most out of them is key. Secondly, retention of customers is becoming harder and harder – the needs of the customer are changing and building that loyalty has never been a more pressing issue.
You may have a talent that is good at their job, but they can sometimes stumble when it comes to making a business decision or conceptualising a strategy. A lot of employees in an organisation have access to all the information and facts and figures in the world, but unless you know what to do with that, it is meaningless.
What kinds of skills are more easily taught than others?
Technical competency and anything that is very job-centric can be taught. Management skills, as well, can be taught. The development of internal behaviour and inner drive can be coached rather than taught, but must also essentially come from within.