Related HR hiring: Boon or bane?

Facts and figures may say it is beneficial; anecdotal evidences paint a different picture

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Career progression has never been easy for middle-level HR. Hurdles are far too stiff when it comes to growing organically. Fewer positions at the top and a crowded middle rung make the competition really fierce.

Ambitious HR professionals typically move up the career ladder as companies expand in a growing economy. Some enterprising professionals even switch industries. Alas, the present situation is not favourable for such a switch anymore. The economy is growing at nail’s pace. Expansions are few and far between. Even the option of switching the industry is fast fading out, as entities now are more firm than ever that HR should be from the same industry as they are, say some of those facing mid-career blues.

“In today’s hybrid new economy, people are more focused on skills and capabilities. It has become easier to change jobs and sectors”

Priyanka Bijolia, head- HR, Zimozi Solutions

Related HR hiring

“Companies prefer new people from the same industry…. I have had major disadvantages due to this restriction. I was working in the real-estate sector and wanted to shift to another sector as the realty segment wasn’t performing well. However, job consultants always said that clients did not want people from other industry segments,” says Amita Malhotra, deputy director, human resources, with a private university.

Malhotra is not alone. Many others like her who were actively looking out for a break agree with her. Companies preferring to hire related HR is an evolving phenomenon, and it is acting as a rigid barrier to career progression, especially of those facing mid-career blues.

“Yes, I have experienced it. I have faced many obstacles while switching jobs from one sector to another, specifically with the IT industry. I faced several rejections — responses such as ‘we need candidates only from the IT industry’. Despite my good track record in manpower recruitment, my skills were questioned. They assumed I would not be able to do the hiring for IT profiles. It was always a straight ‘No’,” recounts Priyanka Bijolia, head- HR, Zimozi Solutions.

“Companies prefer new people from the same industry. I have had major disadvantages due to this restriction. I was working in the real-estate sector and wanted to shift to another sector as the realty segment wasn’t performing well. However, job consultants always said that clients did not want people from other industry segments”

Amita Malhotra, deputy director, human resources, with a private university

The experiences of Malhotra and Bijolia, however, do not find resonance across the spectrum. More seasoned professionals offer a different perspective. Rituparna Mandal, general manager, MediaTek, a chip-design company headquartered in Taiwan, says it is now easier for professionals across sectors to change jobs and grow in their chosen fields. “In today’s hybrid new economy, people are more focused on skills and capabilities. It has become easier to change jobs and sectors, especially given the thrust on reskilling and upskilling.”

While the jury is still out on the emergence of related HR recruitment, let us delve deep into the subject.

Talent acquisition

When asked why companies insist on related HR hiring, Sudhir Dhar, executive director, human resources, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, explains that it depends on the vacant role. “In talent acquisition, same-sector hiring makes sense because people know the competitors, they know the competencies required and the skills needed.”

Talent acquisition is different from pure HR. Yet, 80 per cent of the time in HR is spent in hiring, he underlines. “Business understanding is always a must and helpful,” he adds.

“Hiring from varied sectors helps organisations inculcate diversity and inclusivity, while also bringing in a plethora of ideas and experiences, benefitting the entire team and the company”

Rituparna Mandal, general manager, MediaTek

It is for these reasons, perhaps, it looks difficult to break into the more promising tech or IT sector for a role that involves talent acquisition.

However, no sector is impregnable. “One needs to just gather the details of the sector one wants to switch to, study how it operates, the products there, how companies earn, find out their clientele, etc.” advises Dhar. He adds that it does not take much time to cope with required technological knowledge either.

Perseverance is the key, says Bijolia, who has worked in multiple sectors, ranging from a stock broking firm to an IT company.

“In talent acquisition, same-sector hiring makes sense because people know the competitors, they know the competencies required and the skills needed”

Sudhir Dhar, executive director, human resources, Motilal Oswal Financial Services

At the same time, Dhar believes that changing the job or the sector for the sake of it is not going to make much of a difference.

Other side of the spectrum

For the growth opportunities they present, besides the glamour associated with them, software companies and tech firms are, of course, alluring. However, what if the HR in the IT sector want to switch to other areas?

“HR, specifically talent acquisition from IT services companies, get a higher preference in tech startups or BFSI or telecom domain, because of the scale and complexity handled,” says Gaurav Vasu, founder & CEO, Unearth Insight, a market-intelligence firm.

On the other hand, Vasu also informs that HR business partners from FMCG/retail /e-commerce find it easier to land jobs in software products or IT firms too.

Generic HR

For a generic HR professional, sector specifics do not mean much. Requirements are the same across sectors. Normally, the employees need to be developed, motivated, retained, and in some cases, retrenched. The process will remain the same in all sectors, feels Dhar.

Why the urge to switch sectors?

When the learning curve hits a plateau in the present sector, the inclination to seek out new sectors for growth opportunities is only natural.

“HR, specifically talent acquisition from IT services companies, get a higher preference in tech startups or BFSI or telecom domain, because of the scale and complexity handled”

Gaurav Vasu, founder & CEO, Unearth Insight

Also, there are many downsides to sticking with the same sector. Lack of exposure can be one big snag. Mundane job profile is another drawback. Yet another disadvantage is that those working in the same sector come with the same mindset, and therefore, same limitations.

“Hiring from varied sectors helps organisations inculcate diversity and inclusivity, while also bringing in a plethora of ideas and experiences, benefitting the entire team and the company,” says Mandal.

Diverse HR recruitment helps integrate best practices and adopt new models too. Citing an example, Vasu says, “Talent management professionals from tech sectors have helped startups, manufacturing and banking firms in India adopt HR bots/ self-services tools to consumerise employee experience.”

Citing another example, he says that talent acquisition experts from IT services firms successfully help financial services firms scale and control cost of hiring.

Research and facts may present a comforting picture about diverse HR hiring trends, but can we ignore the anecdotal evidence? Perhaps not.

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