Top grades not everything

Top grades not everything

Having good grades is not all it takes to succeed. It is important to widen the definition of talent beyond educational performance and to include individuals with different and diverse skill sets and expertise.

This was the view shared by DBS Group CEO and director Piyush Gupta at a public lecture organised by the Young Sikh Association (Singapore) on Nov 29 at the Singapore Management University. "If DBS hires only toppers, then I would not be here today, because I certainly wasn't a topper in school,"

Mr Gupta said at the event titled The Issue of Talent and Integration - Global Competition, Local Challenges, which attracted about 130 participants.

When he first took over at DBS, Mr Gupta said he told his human resource management staff not to hire top educational performers for the next year so as to change this cultural mindset and to introduce more diversity into the organisation.

However, he added that there needs to be a balance between having high academic performers and people with different expertise and work experiences.

Mr Gupta also shared his thoughts on the dynamic and evolving workforce, where artificial intelligence and technology will further change the nature of work.

He predicted that employers would focus not only on academic qualifications when hiring, as people with the ability to connect things and find ways to solve problems would be much more valuable.

Mr Gupta shared the four "I"s that he looks for in employees - initiative, innovation, inspiration and impact.

These require having a change in mentality, thinking differently and inspiring those at all levels around you. He said DBS always tries to bring in talent that can embody these types of skills, who can be change agents and make a positive impact at the organisation.

Mr Gupta also stressed the need to build a platform to support development and integration of talent.

While the Government can introduce policies to promote integration, society too should engage and integrate newcomers into the country, he said.

At the same time, it is important for new arrivals to adapt to their new environment and assimilate into the system.

This creates a responsibility for them to give back to society. The focus then shifts from shareholder value to shared value.

Said YSA president Malminderjit Singh: "It was important to have one of Singapore's most prominent business figures weigh in on this public discussion on qualifications versus skills.

It is refreshing to note that Mr Gupta focuses on a broader definition of talent, which is in keeping with the demands of a modern workforce.

As he alluded, knowledge these days is available at the touch of a button via Google, so the new corporate executive will need to offer something more to succeed in the workforce."

The lecture was the seventh in a series titled the Khwaish Lecture (khwaish means "aspirations" or "hope" in Punjabi), in which YSA invites eminent and distinguished personalities to speak on local and international affairs.


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