The Great HR Debate: When the dust settles, which organisations will attract the best talent?

There will be some key changes in the talent-management strategies of companies

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Evaluation of trends and data show that India is on a recovery trajectory in terms of the number of new cases. An analysis of the last 28 days shows that the country is witnessing fewer cases now.

Globally, while some countries are still struggling to control the spread of the coronavirus, many are on a recovery trajectory suggests last month’s data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control and John Hopkins University.

With this recovery in the number of cases, we are hoping that things may get better and things will start to open up. However, businesses are still in ambiguity. Since the second wave took us all by surprise and came after we let our guard down, people are very cautious. With reports of a possible third wave, nobody wants to take any chances.

So then, how will the talent acquisition strategy change in India? What will be different in terms of industries attracting the best talent?

The topic of the first session at the The Great HR Debate, Talent Special —‘When the dust settles, how will organisations attract the best talent?’ — was aptly chosen to help answer these questions.

The virtual event that took place on June 11, 2021, saw debaters Paneesh Rao, chief people officer, Mindtree; Lokendra Sethi, VP & HR lead India, DXC Technology; Manu Wadhwa, CHRO, Sony Pictures and Maneesha Jha Thakur, president & CHRO, Emami putting forth their views.

The session was moderated by Ganesh Chandan, CHRO, Tata Projects. He started the session by saying, “Clearly the dust has not settled for most of us but we all have learned to live in this new normal.”

He wanted the view from other panellists as well, who came from different industries, had different views on this.

“We will see a lot of technology enablement in the hiring process from now on which will remain forever. Policies around work from anywhere and having a mindset towards becoming a caring employer will play a big role in positioning oneself in the talent market.”

Ganesh Chandan, CHRO, Tata Projects

Has the dust really settled?

As is known to all, the IT sector was the least impacted in terms of business and some IT firms saw a major boost in their profits, which also made them the largest employers in the private sector.

“The business really continued for us and we learned to live in this new normal. The hiring also continued and we tapped almost 75 campuses last year. In fact, the pandemic gave us access to a new talent pool because the recruitment process was all virtual and we were able to hire people from different geographies, even globally,” shared Sethi.

Though the work-from-home model was not a new thing in the IT industry, it was still challenging to adapt. “At Mindtree, we were used to working from home but for a limited period of time. We had the infrastructure in place but still it was not enough for long term,” said Rao.

In fact, Rao also responded to Sethi’s point that it is not as if the talent reach is unlimited — there are boundaries because ultimately the situation does not remain constant. Companies would want their employees to resume office.

“A big part of the hiring process will remain virtual as it expands opportunities for employees and employers, and we will see some automation in the talent-acquisition process. Also, as part of our talent-management process, most of the learning programmes will remain virtual because it increases scalability.”

Lokendra Sethi, VP & HR lead India, DXC Technology

Wadhwa drew attention to the fact that on one side where many businesses are continuing and even thriving, she works in an industry which makes revenue from sectors where growth is questionable this year too. “It is a myth to think that all businesses have recovered. Yes, in my case, the viewership of our content went up but the monetisation opportunities were very limited. Our revenue comes from the ROI which other industries make and their investments on marketing initiatives and ads. So, we are still in the dark,” mentioned Wadhwa.

Thakur revealed that being in the FMCG sector, Emami came under essential services, and therefore, the business was not impacted. The Company grabbed the new opportunities by introducing a new line of products, such as sanitisers. Still, it is determined not to let down its guard and remain conscious. “In the month of January, we got complacent thinking that everything was back to normal, but the second wave took us by surprise. The dust is yet to settle,” said Thakur. And that seemed to be the general opinion for most companies.

The panel then moved on to discuss how the hiring strategy will change and what is going to be different this year.

“It is a myth to think that all businesses have recovered. Yes, in my case, the viewership of our content went up but the monetisation opportunities were very limited. Our revenue comes from the ROI which other industries make and their investments on marketing initiatives and ads. So, we are still in the dark.”

Manu Wadhwa, CHRO, Sony Pictures

Talent acquisition

Most people agreed that a large part of the talent-acquisition process will be virtual forever now, as it saves time and is also very cost effective.

“A big part of the hiring process will remain virtual as it expands opportunities for employees and employers, and we will see some automation in the talent-acquisition process. Also, as part of our talent-management process, most of the learning programmes will remain virtual because it increases scalability,” opined Sethi.

Sethi cited an example from his company where they conducted a women’s leadership programme virtually and saw great success.

Adding to Sethi’s point, Chandan said, “We conducted a lot of campus hiring virtually and tapped talent from all top ranking B-schools, including the IIMs and tech institutes, such as IITs sitting at one place.”

Thakur believes that people’s ability to adapt to the hybrid working model will play a big role in talent acquisition. “We would want to hire people who are fit to work in a hybrid work model. They should be comfortable in working from home as well as office and be emotionally prepared too,” pointed out Thakur.

“Attracting and retaining the best talent will only happen when companies start caring about their employees, helping them in these difficult times and fulfilling their needs. From now on, attracting talent will depend on how you treat people rather than giving them fancy facilities.”

Paneesh Rao, chief people officer, Mindtree

The panel predicted that there will be a change in how companies will brand themselves as employers and position themselves in the market to attract talent.

“Attracting and retaining the best talent will only happen when companies start caring about their employees, helping them in these difficult times and fulfilling their needs. From now on, attracting talent will depend on how you treat people rather than giving them fancy facilities,” opined Rao.

Wadhwa adds that a lot will depend on how employers position themselves in front of people on social media. “There will be a change in how people feel the employer brand. Companies will now need to look back at their social-media strategy in terms of employer branding. Another thing would be focusing on adapting to an ‘employee-first’ mindset. These are the two key things for this year,” said Wadhwa.

Apart from vaccination drives, companies will also have to think about the physical, mental and social well-being of employees. “Social wellbeing is about how people interact and connect with each other and outside. In fact, the focus will also be on financial support, not just to the employees but to their family members as well, through policies,” explained Wadhwa.

“At Emami, we have not introduced any kind of policy around not taking calls or stretching meetings beyond a certain period of time, but we have sensitised people about being conscious of each other’s working schedule.”

Maneesha Jha Thakur, president & CHRO, Emami

‘Work from anywhere’ and ‘work-life balance’

At the end of the session, the two questions that came up from the audience were – What policies do companies need to make ‘work from anywhere’ possible? Will providing work-life balance become a USP in attracting talent?

To the first question, Sethi answered, “Organisations will have to support employees in terms of providing the right infrastructure, such as comfortable and ergonomic chairs and tables. Employers will need to enable working from home and also give other technological support to facilitate access, which maintains productivity.”

To the second question, Thakur responded with how Emami has tried to strike a balance to a certain extent. “At Emami, we have not introduced any kind of policy around not taking calls or stretching meetings beyond a certain period of time, but we have sensitised people about being conscious of each other’s working schedule,” answered Thakur.

The panel ended with the consensus that things are still far from being normal, and therefore, there will be a huge focus on employee well-being. A significant role will be played by the positive alterations in policies, to ensure support to family members of the staff and to enable work from home.

“We will see a lot of technology enablement in the hiring process from now on which will remain forever. Policies around work from anywhere and having a mindset towards becoming a caring employer will play a big role in positioning oneself in the talent market,” Chandan concluded.

(The event was powered by UpsideLMS)

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