With the physical distancing norms becoming a pre-requisite in the current pandemic scenario, the future of work will be a combination of Working From Home (WFH), in-office facilities at limited capacity, gig-workers, and Talent as a Service (TaaS) model, writes Vikram Ahuja, as he sheds light on
COVID-19 has not just brought with it a health and social emergency, but also a massive economic crisis to the world. With thousands of people losing their jobs during the two-month-long complete lockdown, India is likely seeing the biggest recession since 1979. Rampant job losses have gripped the economy, and the IT sector has seen an immediate impact. Startups and mid-sized companies now have to make a tough choice between business sustenance and their workforce. So, recruiters have held back on rolling out offers, and laid-off employees.
In this unprecedented scenario, job seekers are understandably devastated about their next step in an unstable market. Overall, this is a gloomy time for job seekers and companies alike. Yet, great companies were born in times of recessions and slowdowns. So, there is certainly a reason to be optimistic! Certain sectors like healthcare, ed-tech, and media and entertainment services have remained strong.
As we transition to a post-COVID era, we are seeing that large enterprises and MNCs are already picking up on their recruitment efforts and are transitioning to remote hiring and video interviews. The belief is that since business is slowing down globally, there is an opportunity to utilise their Global Capability Centers (GCCs) in India to be more efficient in the long-term.
The current scenario
With the supply of applicants higher than the demand, job seekers must focus their efforts on standing out from the pack. What this means for them is that they need to invest more time on themselves and hone their people and communication skills in order to put their best foot forward in the interviews.
In our recent survey, we found that nearly 67% of applicants want to be helped with mock interviews, and a whopping 73% would like to focus on the softer aspects like resume writing to market themselves and their capabilities better. While most schools and courses train engineers to code and help them up their technical know-how, there seems to a big gap in coaching them on how to present themselves in a way that helps them get noticed in the first place and open doors to great opportunities. Simple things like being prompt and curious, how to dress for an interview, how to engage with the recruiter, etc., have a great deal of impact on hiring decisions.
Companies that are ramping up their hiring efforts are migrating to virtual platforms to remotely interview, onboard, and engage with employees. This online ecosystem not only eliminates location restraints but provides the benefits of speed and scale too. Since the pandemic, all public events like job fairs, conferences, and networking events have been canceled. Some employers are now relying on online events like hackathons to source the best candidates.
In the case of first-level filtering, bot-based screening is gaining popularity. Employers can filter out candidates with a set of pre-defined questions. This significantly reduces the time and effort taken to manually check the basic requirements. An uptick in the usage of online skill-based assessments and virtual whiteboard interviews for technical roles also seen. Therefore, the focus remains on educating enterprises regarding the best practices for video interviewing and emphasising on seamlessly replicating their current processes while working remotely to ensure a better candidate and recruiting experience.
One thing that job-seekers must be mindful of is that businesses have suffered too in these trying times, with some looking at a setback of anywhere between 3-12 months. In this environment, companies are slashing pays for senior management while protecting their junior employees. However, we do expect an overall market salary drop of 8-12%. This could possibly be the normalisation of inflated salaries that we have seen as a result of the startup bubble over recent years.
Future of work
With the physical distancing norms, the future of work will be a combination of Working From Home (WFH), in-office facilities at limited capacity, gig-workers, and Talent as a Service (TaaS) model.
Many IT companies in urban locations have transitioned to a WFH model rather seamlessly focusing on business continuity without affecting their productivity and output. With a successful trial period, many industry leaders have recognised that home is a viable option and provides some productivity benefits. We think companies will post-evaluate the cost-efficiency, productivity, and practicality of office versus WFH and implement new structures accordingly. A hybrid model is what seems to be the most expected.
Certain sectors, like manufacturing, F&B, hospitality, and retail, require physical presences and there is not much room for adjustment. Whereas in tech, the question looms now more than ever on whether an office is required at all. Nothing can replicate physical collaboration especially when innovating but the show must go on and we must adapt. In such cases, companies are also testing a 33% model, where only one-third of the workforce will be expected to work physically from the office.
Companies are also likely to leverage the gig economy in the coming months due to an increased acceptance of working with peers remotely. Companies can now bring in resources who are experts in their tasks on project-basis. This will allow them to get work done faster, better, and cheaper than hiring a full-time resource. We found that, given the right opportunity, nearly 55% of software engineers in India would consider becoming a freelance developer or consultant.
Another emerging trend among businesses that are stretched for resources is TaaS. After Software as a Service and Platform as a service, TaaS is the latest disruption in the recruitment world. Just like cloud-based solutions changed the way enterprises used software, the ‘talent cloud’ infrastructure looks at transforming the way top enterprises think about scaling their teams. TaaS is a highly cost-effective and resource-rich substitute for internal recruitment efforts. The model offers a higher velocity of work with talent-on-demand — available anytime with multiple engagement models including full-time, remote, and project-based. TaaS isn’t a new phenomenon per se, as many seasonal businesses have been functioning using this model for years. However, sustaining and growing a full-time business in an uncertain economy in the post COVID19 era is adding a lot of pressure on mid-large sized companies, who are now embracing the contingent workforce strategy.
These new working models not only provide flexibility and a larger pool of opportunities for job-seekers and gig-workers; it is also a big leap towards a more accessible and inclusive workplace. Remote working is no longer a lifestyle choice. It is opening doors for candidates to an array of jobs that weren’t available to them before due to geographical limitations and even make jobs accessible to candidates with special needs or chronic illnesses.
Workplace enters home: the flipside
But even as we usher in a new era for work, we must be cognizant of the opposing effect of a perpetual WFH mode — blurring of work time and space. The reduced physical boundaries between the two otherwise separate settings could make it difficult for some to unplug, thereby impacting ‘life-work’ balance and family dynamics. It can also be demanding for high-pressure roles, sometimes pressuring people to be ‘on’ for longer hours, thereby leading to higher levels of stress and eventual burnout.
It could potentially also take away the focus you are expected to give to work. There are certainly a lot of distractions at the office, but it could be a lot worse when working from home. Especially when you are not a self-starter. Staying motivated and focused on work while catering to the demands of the family calls for extra effort.
Women are especially concerned with working from home set-up because of the extension of gender norms, attributing care roles to them in the domestic spheres. Women are often responsible for housework and childcare and are more likely than men to spend time on chores. Amidst the lockdown, many women have quit jobs or have taken sabbaticals in order to meet the demands of their families and home-schooling requirements for their children. Parents are now managing round-the-clock childcare while trying to meet work-related deadlines. It is an unfair truth that event today, women with caregiving roles are viewed as less committed to work. It is up to employers to pay extra mind to the motherhood responsibilities at play.
Long-term flexible working hours can relieve work-to-family conflict, giving women more control over their schedules. This trend has been picking up in Nordic countries in the past few years with 90% of employees benefiting from flexible work schedules. Employees can tap into their most productive and creative hours while also ensuring they can step away from work to prioritise persona tasks.
Today, focusing on increasing the number of women-hires has been a priority for many companies who have started to think about diversity as a big part of their talent strategy. Increased flexibility in WFH roles is giving them an opportunity to encourage more women-candidates to apply for these roles. Owing to this, we have seen a 40% increase in female applicants.
Other challenges like lack of real-time collaboration, lower levels of motivation and productivity among teams, personal distractions, departure of social elements we associate with corporate lives, and even finding a reliable wifi need some serious consideration. But challenges done have to be a ‘bad’ thing. It’s only a matter of time before we think up solutions. After all, necessity is the mother of inventions!
There’s no doubt that remote work is on the rise. And these emerging working models are not just helpful for the employees, but also benefit employers who are looking to hire and retain the best talent. So, essentially what started off as a stop-gap solution to a crisis, is now a sine qua non.
The writer is the co-founder of Talent500 by ANSR, a talent acquisition enterprise for Fortune 500 companies and founder of Byond Travel