2020 was a tough year to navigate through, for employers and the working population alike. The pandemic has brought about irreversible disruptions, and the trends accelerated by the pandemic is likely to reshape the employment space in the long term. The impact of COVID-19 on Work, The Workforce and the Workplace has been tremendous and will persist even after this health crisis has subsided.
Let’s look at some important trends we will see in the Indian staffing landscape in 2021.
The Shift from Perm to Temp Staffing
Any macro-economic downturn such as COVID-19 always urges companies to turn to Contracting Business or Staff Augmentation, including offshoring – a trend that was also seen during the financial recession of 2008. Today, we are seeing increased demand for Contract Staffing across industry sectors, including BFSI, IT, ITeS, Telecom, Infrastructure, Engineering, Pharma, E-commerce and Logistics.
HR leaders are realising the advantage of hiring a contract workforce as this gives them flexibility to scale their workforce as per project requirements, without the compliance and cost risks associated with hiring a permanent workforce. They are leaving behind their traditional hiring practices and are turning to HR solution providers to employ contractual workforce. Roles such as Product Management, Project Management, Brand Strategy, Go-to-Market, Financial Modelling, Talent Acquisition, UI/UX and more are being outsourced to external consultants, independent contractors and freelancers.
Pharma businesses are also realizing the benefits of hiring employees on contract, especially on-field and remote medical representatives, workers in their manufacturing unit and counter sales personnel, as contracting gives the business the flexibility to target specific geographies as they deem fit.
Remote/Hybrid Work Model
COVID-19 has given wings to the aspirations of organisations going “digital” across the globe, many having already implemented a hybrid working model and more to follow suit in 2021.
Especially, the IT industry in India has become more receptive towards building a hybrid work culture. A lot of perm and contract positions are for candidates who work from home. Employers are getting more comfortable with WFH culture and are slowly hiring more. Moving forward, we can expect at least 35–40% of a company’s total workforce to be working remotely, with some companies even willing to expand their remote/WFH workforce to 50% of their total headcount. Also, more captives are likely to establish their footprint in India given that remote working has really worked in the Indian context with measurable productivity boost.
With the rise of start-up culture and amidst the growing demand for contractual workforce among MNCs, we are seeing a rise in gig platforms. Outcome-based work delivery platforms are becoming more popular in eCommerce, Field Sales, Marketing, Telecom, Human Resources, Hospitality, Tourism, Supply Chain/Logistics, and even in IT for roles such as Content Design, Web and App Development, IT Recruitment, etc. HR leaders are realizing that gig workers are attracted by career experiences and to attract the best talent available, organizations are offering enriching experiences and growth opportunities by investing in training for them.
The gig economy in India will continue to grow exponentially and it may not be just limited to the millennials. Organizations will continue to rely on gig workers for quality work. HR leaders will focus on talent management strategies for gig workers. Regulations will also change bringing gig workers under the social security umbrella. And for workers, it is an exciting time to be part of the economy, provided they are prepared for the uncertainties.
Demand and Supply of Talent in IT
Supply of sought talent in the IT sector will be a continued issue, foreseeing which many organisations are turning to “Hire-Train-Deploy” model for new hires and “Upskilling/Reskilling” of existing workforce to bridge the skill gap among consultants. Secondly, demand will increase for tactical Individual Contributor roles who can perform self-management, rather than strategic team management roles with higher experience and wage bracket.
Speaking of IT skills that are in demand in 2021, more than 75% requirements will be for niche skills, especially in Cloud, AI/ML, Cyber Security, Big Data, Full-Stack/UI/UX, besides ERP upgrades of Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.
AI/ML is one of the most sought-out skills today. Just like our neural pathways, AI is becoming an essential mechanism in business operations. AI will be used in 2021 to predict market trends, detecting frauds, forecasting sales and financial outcomes and analysing risk.
Cloud computing is at peak now, and it has gone beyond goodwill and reputation. Azure and AWS are competing fiercely for market share. Creating, testing and managing apps on the cloud will be a prime skill IT firms will seek in 2021.
Python being the fastest and the most versatile programming language, it is on high demand. Python has set a benchmark to be the most optimal programming language and will continue to evolve in various fields.
Adoption of HR Tech a Priority Across Industries
COVID-19 had accelerated the adoption of HR technologies by 30 to 40%, compared to the slow growth rate seen over the last three years. HR tech tools have made people processes more efficient and centralised. Recruiting/Staffing firms are constantly integrating new technologies into their business processes to design and execute a world-class talent management strategy. While adoption of complete ERP-based systems that automate the end-to-end HR process is not so popular outside of the Staffing/Recruitment industry, point solutions are quite popular and are digitising key HR processes in businesses of all scale.
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to automate the recruitment process, from demand management and sourcing to screening, interviews, selection, offer management and digital onboarding, and even vendor management, real-time analytics and reporting
- Integrating AI & ML into the ATS to enable the system to learn from the recruiters’ shortlisting pattern for each requirement and recommend candidate profiles from the internal database (and rate them for relevance) whenever a similar/same requirement is sourced for in future
- Chatbots with NLP for employee engagement & query resolution, acting as the primary employee self-service platform and providing them with the instantaneous attention they seek
- IVR-based interest screening of candidates for volume hiring
- Contactless, mobile-enabled attendance management for in-office, remote or on-the-field workforce
- Mobile microlearning platforms that optimizes on-the-job training by delivering learning in short, bite-sized, interactive and gamified multimedia courses that doesn’t require the learners to take out much of their time out of their work, helps to increase knowledge retention and creates a culture of continuous learning at work
Growing Need for Upskilling/Reskilling
Lastly, there is a growing need for upskilling/reskilling of blue/grey collar workers as disruptive technologies and changing market trends pose a risk to their employability. Workers are expected to learn new skills and stay current with trending automations that are changing their jobs. Workers will need to acquire more social, emotional as well as technological skills to apply for advanced roles or jobs in higher wage brackets. Some workers may need to transition to new occupations in e-commerce or other emerging jobs, as demand for older occupations may decline over time.
Added Focus on Employee Experience
With more millennials moving up the management and Gen Z starting to occupy a major portion of the workforce, HR leaders have renewed their focus towards employee experience. The employment market isn’t the same anymore, and employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain top talent. Jobseekers, from entry-level to senior executives alike, have become picky about the organisation they work for. Right from the first contact with potential candidates to onboarding them and throughout their employee life cycle, it is critical for HR leaders to implement practices that help to instil in their employees a strong sense of belonging, in line with their organisation’s vision and goals.
Today, with hybrid/remote work culture having become a new norm, HR leaders are pushed to plan the entire employee journey, so they can be ready to face new challenges that a distributed remote work model will bring. In the new normal, the HR department is tasked with ensuring adequate enablement and engagement of teams while also preparing for some hard decisions. This includes modification of recruitment practices, rewards and recognition policies, employee engagement, learning initiatives and internal growth opportunities, employee productivity and performance management, exit processes and everything in between.