There is a huge bump in hiring of cyber security people as many companies adopt work from home (WFH).
The second wave of Covid-19 that worsened in mid-April has dented the upward hiring momentum seen in India since December. While the fall in hiring numbers is not as severe as last year, the situation is nevertheless grim, with HR consultants unwilling to give an outlook for the rest of the year. Sashi Kumar, managing director, Indeed India, tells Shubhra Tandon that 2021 has made it clear that the future of work is hybrid and that companies will need to invest significantly in the mental health of employees for better work environments. Excerpts:
How is the mood in the HR fraternity when it comes to fresh hiring given the ferocious second wave of Covid-19?
The situation is grim. With either you, your family, or people around you falling ill, you are not always going to be in the best frame of mind. But the silver lining is that today we are better prepared to handle this as compared to last year. Lot of companies have figured out how they can operate and how the economy can continue to function, even in these times. Also, unlike last year, when the national lockdown shut down every single avenue of the economy, this time it is more or less scattered. So, we are seeing a dip in hiring, but it is better than similar period last year.
Are you able to gauge how hiring is going to be like in the next two-three months?
We are unable to make a prediction on how things will be two-three months down the line, as situation is evolving and there are very few data points available. There is definite uncertainty and that is impacting hiring decisions. However, unlike the previous wave, we are seeing that some sectors look immune to this crisis.
Which are the sectors and roles that show promise for jobseekers?
There is a huge bump in hiring of cyber security people as many companies adopt work from home (WFH). There is an increased focus on digital economy, which supports WFH culture. So, we are seeing increase in demand for digital marketers and business development executives. Also, a trend that possibly started before the pandemic but has picked up in the last one year, is the significant increase in the number of freelance jobs. We have also seen significant increase in remote teaching jobs. In April 2021, for instance, it grew by 517% compared to last year. Gaming jobs have picked up in the range of 13-15% over the last few months. Some real estate jobs also jumped up compared to the past.
What sort of change are you witnessing in hiring in India now?
Remote work has now become strong and is influencing the ability of companies to hire talent irrespective of where they are based. For example, if a company is based in Bangalore the biggest limitation to hire was that I can only hire people who are based in Bangalore or are willing to move here. But that inhibition is gone in the last few months. So, even a great data science person based in Bhubaneswar can now work for a Bangalore-based company, even if it does not have an office there.
According to CMIE, there were over 7 million jobs losses in April. Your comment.
Yes, it is worrying. However, I think a significant part of that job loss is not a permanent job loss and driven by the fact that various parts of the country are in lockdown. In my mind, some of these jobs will come back as lockdowns ease and there is some sort of return to economic activity. It may not be in the same shape and format as earlier, but definitely there will be a return. So definitely, shops will open up, some of those retail jobs will come back, but how people engage with retail will change. Also, given the demand for delivery personnel and professionals required to deliver at-home services, some of these people will be absorbed in those roles.
There have been debates about what the future of work is going to be — whether it will be fully WFH or if offices will open, or a hybrid system. What is your take?
The year 2021 has made one thing very clear, that the future of work is hybrid. While companies may wish that once the pandemic is over, 100% of their employees will come back into the office, the reality is that is not going to happen till 2022. Also, the experience that the companies and employees have from 2020 to 2022 will define how companies and employees engage beyond 2022 as well. It will be unfeasible for a lot of companies to keep those huge pieces of real estate vacant for two years, because that is the horizon we are looking at.
What sort of change do you expect in the attitudes of companies and individuals in this new job scenario, which will have minimal physical interaction?
There is going to be a leap of faith for a company as well as a potential job seeker. Job seekers should be able to now willing to take up a job with a company whose premises they have not visited and colleagues who they have not met. Employers have to be prepared to hire somebody and trust them to do jobs that are critical to operations without having even met them once. Companies will also have to make a leap of faith that businesses can thrive without people having to come together, and rather working and connecting remotely. Also, there is real bad news all around and all of us have been affected by this. People’s mental health has been affected. I think more than ever, companies need to invest in their employees’ mental health because while you want your employee to do well and feel supported, you would want them to be able to focus on getting the work done. We will see companies making significant investment in the mental health of their employees.