Article: It's time to look ahead: Q&A with Kamal Karanth

Talent Acquisition

It's time to look ahead: Q&A with Kamal Karanth

In the last three quarters, we have seen an upward trend in the hiring levels across industries. Although the numbers have not reached the levels of those in 2006 but as compared to the second half 2008 and first half of 2009, there is surely a consistent upward trend, says Kamal Karanth, Managing Director at Kelly Services India
 

During the boom times, companies were interested in filling the seats, today they are interested in branding their overall recruitment processes

 

Candidates at all levels are demanding to know more about organization in terms of their growth plans, business outlook, et al

 

In the last three quarters, we have seen an upward trend in the hiring levels across industries. Although the numbers have not reached the levels of those in 2006 but as compared to the second half 2008 and first half of 2009, there is surely a consistent upward trend, says Kamal Karanth, Managing Director at Kelly Services India

What have companies learnt from the previous boom time?

I think that we can describe the ‘learning’ of companies in just one word, and that would be ‘caution’. Caution encompasses hiring what you need, taking time to ensure you are hiring the right candidates, et al. The biggest impact has been in creating solid processes that will ensure that the right candidate is hired. This has lead to the creation of more levels in the recruitment process, more competency based hiring, more technology and tools being used and more complement from human interaction.

Companies have also come to realize the important role service providers play in this process. Companies have also become more cautious about which service providers they use for the hiring processes as they are now demanding higher share of responsibility from the service provider. They look at value addition from service providers than just recruitment support.

What will be the challenges companies will face in 2010 and beyond in the sourcing space?

The challenge that lies ahead for both employees and employers is tough competition. While on one hand, employers are seeking a better fit and more quality candidates, candidates are being more interested in the organization’s growth prospects and opportunities offered on the other hand.

The challenge for candidates is that they will need to upgrade their skills and constantly improve to compete for the positions they apply for, since the requirements of companies have become much more rigid. However, companies, at the same time, will also need to build on their employer branding and be the preferred employer as they need to attract and convince the best candidates to join their organization. Candidates today are demanding to know more about organization in terms of their growth plans, business outlook, et al. These questions normally were asked by mid or senior level employees but today, even entry level employees want to know about these aspects in order to decide the attractiveness of the offer.

Can you throw some light on the trends in industry in terms of recruiting across all levels (executive, mid and entry level) across sectors?

Although at the entry level, there have not been any major changes, this is where the buzz is and where the intensity of hiring is happening. The numbers are at the entry level of industries like Banking, IT and FMCG.

However, interestingly, at the middle level, there is not much visibility in opening or hiring. But I would still maintain that hiring is happening and that too intensively. What is interesting is that companies are hiring but using unconventional ways to let candidates know they are hiring. What used to be pages and pages of job openings in newspapers have turned into the usage of networking techniques, social media, headhunters or intermediaries to reach out to candidates. The reason behind this could be that some of these companies had undergone retrenchment at those levels and today they want to use different means to let people know they are hiring. The sectors in which the middle level management hiring has picked up are telecom, real estate, infrastructure, pharma, healthcare, et al.

At senior level, the numbers have not picked up to the level of 2006-07. There is less demand and more people in the market. On the one hand, companies are cautious on hiring too many senior people in the organization and dealing with integration and management issues internally; and on the other hand, candidates are more cautious in making any shift in their career at this point of time.

What according to you are the best practices that have emerged in talent acquisition space?

The best practices that have emerged from this downturn are that both science and heart have returned to the hiring process. This is a very simple but powerful best practice using processes and ensuring you complement them with the human intuition. That has always been there but we had lost it during the boom times. Another emerging trend is the use of RPOs. Outsourcing recruitment process when the numbers are large was seen as a cost saving option; today it is a very powerful way to streamline processes and create accountability between the employer and the service provider. It also helps the company to focus time and effort on their core competencies. During the boom times, companies were interested in filling the seats, today they are interested in branding their overall recruitment processes. So they care as much for the candidates that are accepted as for those that are rejected and how it is communicated to them. Today the RPO model is moving to a partner model with share accountability and SLA. Finally, an interesting paradigm that we have observed is that companies are changing their sourcing channels to tap niche talent from outside of India.

The Kelly Services View

Organizations now want to hire for the long term and they are looking at creating internal capabilities by bringing on board the right talent. This has the following implications in the hiring process:

Hiring cycle time has increased significantly

Processes that used to take around 4 weeks lead time, today take 6-8 weeks to close. The pattern is very clear-companies want to be sure that they are hiring the right candidate and they want the closest fit. Earlier they used to compromise to a 60% fit but today they are looking at ‘90% upwards’ fit.

Hiring for the organization and not for the role

Companies are looking at identifying roles that will have continuity in the organization in the long run. So they are looking at hiring people who will be able to grow in different roles as the organization evolves. Companies are not hiring anymore for a specific job but more for a required long term role in the company. Focus is on getting candidates to have a cultural fitment to the company than being suitable for a specific role.

Employers are willing to invest more human time in the recruitment process

As a consequence of the above, companies are willing to dedicate more face to face time in the recruitment process. We have observed that there is more personal interaction with candidates and more accessibility to clients.

Tremendous re-hiring taking place

Another interesting trend in the hiring process is that there is a lot of re-hiring happening. Companies that had to let go of employees during the downturn period are connecting with them again to bring them back to their roles.

Temp working on the hike

Finally and also aligned to the first four points mentioned above, there is an increased usage of temporary work arrangements. This is really an interesting trend, as we have not seen these numbers before. Companies not only want to be sure they hire the right candidate (hence they use temporary work as means for de-risking in their choice), but also, they want to hire only for those roles that will have long term continuity in the organization.
 

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, C-Suite

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