Article: Our hiring and engagement mechanisms are ahead of the times

Talent Acquisition

Our hiring and engagement mechanisms are ahead of the times

Deepa Chadha, Head HR- Bharti Airtel spoke to People Matters during the India Hiring Outlook Week, 2015
Our hiring and engagement mechanisms are ahead of the times

How we create that empowering and innovative environment for Gen Y to experiment and create new solutions becomes a core question


Fifty to sixty per cent of our entry-level hiring takes places through sites like LinkedIn and Monster


What is your outlook on hiring for 2015 and how will it affect hiring in your sector?

I will link my outlook on hiring for this year to the economy of the country, which is looking very bright and optimistic. If you see the economy from a macro perspective, all the key metrics — the FDI going up or inflation climbing down and the equity market trying to touch the aspirational mark of 30,000 — are adding to the overall business and consumer sentiment. On the micro side of it, we’re already seeing an impact in the hiring numbers, which have doubled. The effect will largely be at the entry and middle-level management right now

What is the hiring challenge that you’re expecting this year?

It’s different at different levels, so it’s actually about attracting the right talent. First you need to get the hang of defining what that right talent is for an organization. Brainstorming and building consensus within the organization to streamline the definitions of exactly what one is looking for. One is of course Gen Y, which is very challenging to attract from the hiring pool, employ and also engage. Second, within that Gen Y organization building which we have to do, what are those functional traits, behaviours, values and cultural alignments which need to be done. And also how sharply we define these while looking for the right people and locating the right places to find them, I think that’s a challenge we’re going to face at the broader level.  Knowing what you’re looking for and finding a way of measuring it at a macro level is going to be a big challenge.

Senior management becomes fewer in numbers, so that’s a very specific issue. But if I have to consider Gen Y, we may have three different kinds of segments: Gen Y for technical roles, Gen Y for management roles who will take on leadership positions and Gen Y to capture your mass roles. So, in Gen Y, these are three talent segments that you’ll be scouting for. At a macro level, all three will be very similar in terms of having flexibility and work-life balance. But at a micro level, the drivers in all three will be very different. So for Gen Y, for the leadership roles which you’re looking from the likes of your premium campuses or your recruitment strategy, they’re looking for the right match with their aspirations. How we are able to cater to this is the big question.

And then there are your technical roles for Gen Y. Since ours is the telecom sector, we are looking at innovation and creating new-age technology solutions and experience. How we’re able to create that empowering and innovative environment for them to experiment and create new solutions becomes a core need to cater to. For the third segment (mass Gen Y), their driver has more to do with compensation. They may be more price sensitive. But at a macro level all of the drivers will be very similar across these segments.

How has your hiring strategy evolved with the changing workforce mix (Gen X, Gen Y)? What are some of the new initiatives that your organization has taken to attract this segment of the population?

The strategy is different for all three segments that I just spoke about, whether it is technical role Gen Y, mass Gen Y or leadership role Gen Y. The strategy for all the three segments, from the compensation, engagement and also from campus branding perspectives is different. The campuses for all three are very different. The compensation which you will offer to all the three categories will be different and so will the engagement and induction programs for them. What is interesting is that attrition and the market are looking even more aggressive. So we have become far more aggressive in turn with our compensation options than what we have been traditionally.

For instance, for the mass role Gen Y category, we have looked at compensation very differently this year. We have an offer salary, a six-month compensation offer and we also have an eighteen-month compensation offer. So for the first two years, you have complete visibility in terms of how your compensation will look like. This is something we’ve done for the first time. This is not a contract. For the entry level, we have a probation period as well. So your offer salary is X, then you salary becomes Y, then you have your compensation offer and after eighteen months you have another compensation offer, all of which is presented very transparently in the offer letter.

This year we have also introduced a bit of a differed income plan for the entry level because early attrition was becoming very high. The plan is still at an experimental stage. At present, all this is being applied to just a few segments and not universally.

What are some of the biggest technology influencers when it comes to hiring? How are social media, mobile apps and networking websites affecting the recruitment process?

Technology is different and social media as a source pool is different. Technology for leveraging is more for our internal processes and that has been a big focus for Airtel all along. We, being a telecom company, standardized our process from 2009. Very early on, from 2010-11, we launched our first USST-based application and we branded it internally as MHR services. It was not only about hiring but also about giving transparency to internal staff about a whole lot of things concerning themselves in terms of their compensation, PF details, their eligibility, dues and so on by using a short code-based application. In 2011, we also launched our internal employee app, which we branded as ‘Alive’, which gives complete transparency through internal policies. You can go through HR tips, opt for leave or arrange car hire and so on through this app. For MHR services, we got an award from NHRD. So, technology has been our big driver internally and we have been leveraging it fairly exhaustively.

In hiring, specifically, it’s more about the application cracking system which we have been using internally. I am a big believer of bringing the whole world on mobile. So HR processes in mobile is not something new. But now it’s the reality and it is about bringing the HR role on mobile. Being a mobile company, we try and build an edge in terms of developing solutions much ahead of their time on mobile.

How is social media affecting your hiring metrics?

In Airtel, we have always believed in doing things in advance. Four to five years ago, we had created our own internal HR plan for 2015 as to how we would attract workforce in the future and how we will build our internal processes for Gen Y. So, we kickstarted it that time and now it’s at a very mature stage. So if I go back to social networking sites, whether it is LinkedIn, Monster or Naukri, 50-60 per cent of our entry-level hiring happens through these sites. So it is not a recent phenomenon for us and now that’s like a way of life at Airtel.

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, #IHOWeek

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