We are looking to build talent in addition to buying it
As part of the India Hiring Outlook Week, we spoke to Prashant Bhatnagar, Vice President- Hiring, Sapient, to seek his insights on the future of hiring for the year. Below are excerpts from the interview:
What is your outlook on hiring for 2015 and how will it affect hiring in your sector?
I call 2015 the year of candidates, so it means more opportunities for candidates, more jobs chasing them as opposed to companies having a lot of applications. It essentially means that companies have to stand out. I think three macro trends are driving this. First, if you look at the macro environment from a business perspective, North American and European economies are opening up. As a consequence of that there is more work which the clients are sending. I expect some of that work should come to India as well.
Second, in the Indian market, with the change in government, there is a lot of optimism. I expect a lot of jobs to get created here. This will also create more opportunities for candidates which could lead to higher attrition. So, not just to fill growth, but also to fill needs, you may see some jobs coming to India this year.
Any challenges you think hiring managers will have to meet?
There are no new roles being created now. Specialization is getting to the next level of detail. For instance, jobs for data scientists didn’t exist three years back; now we need experts in data science. How do we use the amount of information and make some meaning out of it? Or look at the marketing mix: how you advertise, where you market, how much digital and how much print expenditure. Many of these are emerging disciplines for which there isn’t enough talent from an experience standpoint. As a consequence, there’ll be a push for these specializations and a lot of people will be going for these roles. And I expect these challenges to be hitting a lot of people because there is not enough supply, but there is a huge amount of demand.
How has your hiring strategy evolved with the changing workforce mix (Gen X, Gen Y)?
If you think about the hiring strategy, the phenomenon of SOMOLO (social, mobile and local) has come into play. Social is no more just for engagement, but is now also an attractive engagement tool though which hiring managers are tracking hires that come through some of these channels. A lot of activities are happening through mobile, be it buying tickets, writing reviews and so on. Why not sending job applications as well? This phenomenon of SOMOLO will start influencing hiring strategy very soon.
On the other side, companies will start investing a lot more in branding initiatives, sharing what is unique about the organisation: what is the culture and what is the way they recognize people. These two trends will start to dominate the hiring trends. Also, technology, as a foundation to making hiring decisions, will start playing an even more active role.
When you look at your own industry, what are the steps you’re taking to attract new talents?
Work is still in progress and none of these are definitive, but I would like to discuss the general direction. In terms of emerging specialization, we are looking to not just buy talent but also to build talent. For instance, look for core capabilities in a person that are required for someone to be successful in that discipline, even though they may not have all the expertise in that area. So we look to invest in cross-skilling and capability development in that direction.
Now for some borrowing of talent: we are looking to not just buy and build people but also to take contractors. Today the subcontract market is roughly at 8-9 per cent and growing at an exponential rate. So, the differentiation in building and investing, buying and hiring and lastly borrowing will become prevalent soon.
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 the foundation. It is the backbone which is enabling some initiatives we want to do. We are developing apps which allow candidates to self-select when they want to come for an interview. Another thing that technology is enabling is giving out real-time information in making a decision instead of waiting for a period to get over. Some of this crucial information is becoming real time and therefore, calibrating your processes along the way will become a key element.
Mobile is still an emerging field as far as India is concerned. I’ve certainly seen a lot more adoption outside of India, but I think mobile is emerging here as well. I spoke about how we are developing a mobile app which allows candidates to select dates when they can come for interview. I think that’s an example of it. A lot of mobile apps are still informational in nature as opposed to being transactional. For instance, I can pick a date for an interview and know my status in real time. These are still very asynchronous in nature. But I think some of the interesting stuff which we are seeing happen in mobile is using them even for doing video interviews. Instead of using desktops and PCs, how do you use small screens and devices to do video interviews? It offers candidates a choice and opportunity. Some of these things are the options in the landscape of mobile hiring other than the usual dashboards, reports and so on.
If you look at the professional networking sites or other social platforms, I think they’ve been around longer. Therefore, the case for them and the adoption level is higher. One of the most sought-after or talked about professional networking sites, LinkedIn, is growing at a tremendous pace in India. They have in fact launched products for India, including India pricing. So a lot of senior or passive talent is being quoted from such sites. It’s no joke, but many of the HR heads have their profile on these sites but not in any other job boards and this has always been the case. Therefore, that continues to be the trend with the senior passive talent. What’s happening is you’re now having these segments being created. So when you have to hire a large set of foot-soldiers, from entry level to mid-experience level, maybe LinkedIn may not be where you go because there are other channels available with far greater access and ease. But when you talk about niche, hard to find, more passive talent, such professional networking sites become more vital.
Beyond LinkedIn, other such sites are still trying to work effectively. They are still mechanisms to broadcast your culture, open positions but there is no integrated tool to your hiring process infrastructure. We look at them as an opportunity to talk about things and engage with our audience. So, whether it is through contests or hackathons, through communication or newsletters, we use all these channels to build a cohesive employer brand story.
With the changing demand and supply gap of talent, what is the salary trend that the industry is looking at? How is it affecting the employee-employer relationship?
I expect salaries for roles which are being commoditized at the level of innovation — and for which new thinking hasn’t occurred — to be flat, or even decline. But for some of the roles where there is clearly a mis-match, where demand is ahead of supply, I expect craziness at the salary level. Some pockets are very specialized and there will be extremely high pressure on being able to attract some talent which doesn’t exist in any scale.
What is your advice for hiring managers?
You have to think beyond the current role to what that role will do for that individual and organization in the future. So start articulating that and not just focus on the current role. People join for the current role but they don’t stay for that role beyond a certain period of time. I think they have to start looking at build, buy and borrow strategy. It’s not just the job of a recruiter to be the recruiter. Everybody is a recruiter, right from the interviewer to the hiring manager and even the person who greets the individual at the desk.