Hiring trends in India amid the COVID-19 crisis

As the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll across the globe, major world economies have begun to show signs of being under pressure due to the steep and sudden drop in economic activities. In its wake, the Coronavirus crisis has left many people struggling to make ends meet as supply chains have come to a grinding halt. However, a couple of months into the crisis, countries are finally settling down with their governments, citizens and organizations adjusting to the new normal.

The pandemic has taught everyone a lesson in adaptability. Individuals and big corporations alike are following social distancing protocols allowing employees to work from home. This has spurred the need for rapid digitalization for many organizations as their employees need to demonstrate flexibility and agility to plan and execute projects remotely. For those who work onsite, the focus on their health and safety has become of paramount importance. With new demands on the horizon, it is crucial that an organization’s hiring strategy reflects the immediate needs from its workforce.

Key Hiring Trends in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic

We can witness some novel trends in hiring already. Let us look at four hiring trends being observed during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual remote hiring using technology

One of the earliest trends in the hiring process was the use of technology for virtual hiring and onboarding. Due to the pandemic, most offices are shut down or are working with a bare minimum workforce in offices. Recruiters, managers, and prospective employees are also working from home. While many companies have interviewed candidates virtually from time to time, COVID-19 has forced them to handle the entire process remotely. Some may lament that there is no in-person interaction, but many companies are benefitting from the agility and flexibility it has brought to the hiring process. According to Liz Keyes, SHRM Certified Professional and Director of Human Resources at CoalMarch, with no conference rooms to book and zero travel time, companies can speed up the hiring for urgent roles.

A slowdown in hiring with a spurt in specific sectors

COVID-19 outbreak is not merely a healthcare crisis, it also has a significant economic impact. In India, the hospitality and tourism industry is looking at 4 to 5 crore job cuts. Travel bookings portal MakeMyTrip is laying off about 350 employees and also handing out pay cuts to their managerial staff in order to stay afloat. Other industries have panicked as well. For instance, Indian food delivery start-up Zomato laid off 13% of its staff owing to the lockdown induced business slump.

It is not all bad news. While many companies have lost business revenue, there are some who continue to be stable or are raking in the money owing to a sudden jump in consumer demand for their products. For instance, with Coronavirus forcing employees to work from home and students to study online, the video conferencing app Zoom has reported nearly 300 million daily meeting participants in April 2020, compared to 10 million monthly participants in December 2019. With an increase in demand, such companies are likely to offer more job opportunities.

With people staying indoors and markets shut down, online shopping has seen a surge in recent times. The lockdown had inundated e-commerce companies with customer orders. Companies like Amazon are on a hiring spree to cope with this increased demand. The company is hiring an extra 50,000 temporary workers in India for their fulfilment and delivery network.

Online job portals have taken note of the surge in hiring in specific sectors like e-commerce, healthcare, etc. The world’s leading job portal Indeed has tied up with SHRM to create a platform where job seekers can access the latest job postings that need quick closure. Launched exclusively to help the candidates who have been laid-off, the SHRM-Indeed tie-up is also prepping them with online videos curated by recruitment heads of featured employers.

We can effectively say that COVID-19 has impacted hiring needs very differently across industries. For instance, Service based organizations with a large frontline force are delaying their hiring processes due to the pandemic. Even leadership hiring has seen a drop of 50 % as a hiring freeze has been declared in many organizations. The campus recruitment process has had to bear the brunt too. For example, prestigious business schools like Faculty of Management Studies in Delhi had some of its summer internships cancelled by recruiters. Other top-league colleges such as IIT Delhi  have received a deferment in the joining dates for their students by as much as 3 to 4 months from the companies which hired them during placement season.         

'Onshoring' - Recruiting at home turf

For the year 2020, investor information and credit rating agency ICRA has predicted a growth rate of 3-5% for the IT services segment, which is a significant drop from its pre-COVID days’ prediction of 6-8% growth. Since the beginning of this pandemic, it has become logistically difficult for clients to manage their offshore centres and back-offices in India. For many clients from sensitive industries such as banking and telecom, customer data is sacrosanct and needs to be accessed securely. In such a scenario, allowing offshore workers to work from home could pose a security threat to the clients. Another issue is the lack of good internet connectivity at home, which in turn slows down the entire process flow.  

To address these concerns, some companies like Vodafone India have provided for the living arrangements of its staff within their campuses. But not every offshore partner can do this. As a result, many companies are choosing to move out. For example, Australia’s Telstra and Britain’s Virgin Media have decided to ‘go onshore’ or recruit new workers within their home country. While it is more expensive to hire a workforce in their respective home countries, these clients prefer it due to the ease in monitoring and controlling of their process flows.

Looking for prospective employees with specific skill sets  

Industries like supply chain logistics and procurement have seen a surge in consumer demand during the lockdown period. Supply chain and procurement of essential services such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals are much too critical at this point and require employees with specific skill sets. This has led to a ramped-up hiring phase in these industries.

When lockdown resulted in containment zones across Indian cities, network mapping became crucial. Logistics and retail companies have utilized software to keep track of COVID-19 containment zones and streamline their operations across the country. Knowledge of such software is the desired skill set. Similarly, when COVID-19 disrupted various businesses, it became necessary for many organizations to renegotiate contracts. This led to contract management becoming one of the most desired skill sets for recruiters.

The above hiring trends show us that organizations are aligning themselves to changing workplace dynamics. They are doing so by laying emphasis on the use of technology, a focus on specific skill sets and a penchant for hiring closer home. Even employees need to be aware of these hiring trends to keep themselves relevant for the post COVID-19 landscape. They should focus on skill development in relevant work areas as well as look for stable organizations prepared for the new ecosystem.

While the full impact of COVID-19 is yet to be seen, it is evident that the organizations are preparing themselves to work according to the new rules.  Their hiring strategy will be an important element in the mix, as it allows organizations to build workforce capabilities that can withstand the new challenges. Clearly, the current trends bear testimony to the importance of hiring in tackling the COVID-19 crisis.


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