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Exclusive Interview | Vinayak Nair; Chief Executive, Talent Development Coach and HPI Strategist; Gateways Global

Vinayak Nair is the Chief Executive, Talent Development Coach and HPI Strategist for “Gateways Global” a global start up organisation. He has close to two decades of experience in the areas of global talent management and human performance improvement. He is globally travelled and has worked with a very diverse work force of more than 120 nationalities.

In the past 12years he has been associated with two of the largest & finest luxury cruise brands of the world based out of USA. He is a professional specialist, performance consultant, coach and facilitator with comprehensive in depth experience and expertise in managing the learning function, training delivery, improving human performance, facilitating organizational change, consulting, coaching and Analyzing Metrics to support the business.

In his career spanning 22 years in Hospitality, Life Insurance and Cruise lines, Mr. Nair has supported, guided and added value to innumerable people from all over the world to their career successes. He is a certified Human Resources Executive and Hospitality Trainer certified by the Educational Institute of American Hotel and Lodging Association, USA. He also holds various other certifications & memberships from USA, UK and India.

Editor: Tell us about your journey. How did it all start? 
All started by accident or you could say by chance. After my graduation in Physics with average marks, like any teenager would do was walking around aimlessly doing nothing and there was no guidance from anyone on what to do? Looking back I feel there was for sure some guiding force directing me to do something about it.

I started applying for various jobs and was selected for few along with the admission for Hotel Management. My family encouraged me to study further and I took the advice. In to the second year, I felt very strongly that this course was not for me. Unfortunately it was too late to back track and was afraid to voice my opinion. However I completed the course as an average student and again the process of job search started.

There was a bit of entrepreneurial spirit brewing to start something of my own and fast food was a novel concept in my state at that time. That idea was killed in the beginning itself due to lack of funds. One thing I decided, I will get out of my home state to work. It was a scary thought. I am not sure whether it was performance or some would say sheer luck that I got selected as Management trainee to one of the leading Bangalore based hotel chains at that time. I was doing very well on the job. However, the calling to do something different was always there. Though, I was appreciated and encouraged on the job, deep inside I was not happy. I wanted to do something which added value to others. I.e. how I ended up taking a teaching assignment with a leading Hotel Management Institute at that time.

From there, I picked up and realised the passion I had for adding value to people. Once I put that in to practice, opportunities became abundant for me. The passion for Talent Development took me to literally all parts of the world and gave the opportunity to be associated with a diverse workforce of more than 120 different nationalities and various multinational organisations in India and abroad. I strongly believe that “Key to development is value addition”.

Editor: What do you think it takes to succeed in this industry? 
Passion, hard work and networking.

Editor: What are the attributes you look for while selecting or hiring? 
A great smile, passion and the right attitude

Editor: What according to you can trainees do while they are training at hotels to make it a win-win for them & the hotel/unit? 
Keep your eyes and ears open. Mouth shut. Have a plan to learn as much as you can. Build on relationships. Networking is a powerful tool you can use later on in your career.

Editor: Two reasons why this industry is awesome! 
Working with this industry gave me the chance to interact and train a multicultural workforce. This industry gave me the chance to visit almost all the continents of the world and make friends around the world.

Editor: Two things you would like to change about the industry. 
Dignity of labour in India (I see dignity in other parts of the world) and social responsibility.

I will give you an experience of mine with one of my superiors. He is a French American. We were having a conversation about taxes. I was boasting that as an NRI I don’t pay any income tax. He immediately replied “no wonder your roads are so bad”. After that response, I kept my trap shut about paying taxes in India. That response taught me a lesson on social responsibility.

Editor: How can a business leader show / measure / track the efficacy of training? 
This topic is extensively discussed in talent development circles and not many have come out with clear cut and understandable explanation of the same. The bottom line for any business leader is to see the financial impact (both positive and negative) the talent development program/s are having on the business.

Return on Investment (ROI) basically calculates a training programs payback. It is usually expressed as a percentage and is calculated: Net program benefits / Program cost x 100 The relationship between input and output is used to isolate the effect of a learning program. Talent Development professionals should measure and analyse both hard and soft data.

Examples of hard data could be Increases in output, Savings in time, Improvement in quality, Attrition, Wastage, Savings in cost, Profitability etc.

Examples of soft data are Work habits, Work environment, Employee advancement, Initiatives, Employee satisfaction, Innovation, New skills etc.

Data should be collected at all four levels of the Kirkpatrick’s model. ROI is the 5th level which is added by several researchers. HR analytics will play a major role in the future to get more accurate ROI data.

Editor: Do you see the industry evolving to the self-learning mode 
I do see that happening. Effectiveness is yet to be measured in real terms. We need to have a combination of learning modes. Otherwise it will like qualifying as a doctor by googling the symptoms to get the required medication. We all know or would have seen these half-baked google professionals who are more dangerous in the long term.