Talent Acquisition After the Pandemic in India: Tips for HR and Recruitment

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We discuss talent acquisition and retention strategies post-pandemic as companies in India deal with shifts in work attitudes and employment priorities. As employers around the world confront trends like ‘quiet quitting’, we take a look at the recruiting landscape in the post-COVID era and discuss smart strategies for enterprises to benefit from the shifts in work attitudes and employment priorities.

Flexible hiring practices, customized work assessment policies, and effective employer branding will allow enterprises to attract the best talents and achieve staff loyalty. Companies may also need to opt for a more distributed workforce and adopt telecommuting. While retaining their traditional workforce, this new flexibility in recruitment policies will help enterprises cast a wider net for skilled and “compound” talents, who may have previously been unavailable due to mobility and location challenges or time constraints.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a serious impact on every part of the world. As the crisis unfolded, it brought unprecedented challenges to the production and operation of enterprises and the management of human resources.

However, as we transition into a post-pandemic era, companies in India are being presented with a host of new opportunities in the field of recruitment. If your HR team can overcome some of the newfound challenges, you can successfully craft teams made up of an excellent and diverse group of people.

In this article, we discuss talent acquisition in the post-pandemic era, and what the future of recruitment might look like.

The impact of the pandemic on recruitment and employment

Change in hiring priorities

The biggest change in hiring since the 2008 recession has been the shift to a largely virtual recruitment process. But the hiring priorities of many companies have also changed. Now, hiring managers no longer only pay attention to candidates with the requisite skills. The talent that enterprises really need are “compound talent” with skills and professional knowledge that is adaptable to market development and economic progress. Compound talent refers to a type of person that has one main professional skill as well as expertise in another field that is in short supply in the talent pool and which the enterprise is in urgent need of.

Employer branding becoming more important

Company culture is playing a bigger role in recruitment, so the importance of employer branding is growing. Currently, many companies do not have their own employer branding strategies, a concept some people may even be unfamiliar with.

Employer branding is composed of external and internal branding. External branding establishes the company among potential employees. It includes messaging on why the company is a good place to work and explains the reasons why employees choose to work at the company and why existing employees choose to stay at the company.

Internal branding, meanwhile, establishes the company’s value among existing staff, and can act as a kind of commitment by the company to its employees. It represents not only a means of establishing a relationship between the company and its employees, but also a way to communicate the unique work experience that the company provides for both existing and potential employees.

Growing demand for more flexible work arrangements

The development trajectory of work will naturally be accompanied by some tension between employees’ judgment of future employment trends and the current available options. We may not know exactly how work habits will continue to develop in the next few years, but the shift to more flexible work arrangements is already well underway.

Although the current challenges that HR departments face – such as demand for more flexible work hours and better work-life balance – have been many years in the making, they were considerably exacerbated by the pandemic.

This has a lot to do with the psychological changes of workers in the post-pandemic era. First, the diversification of current social employment forms has impacted the traditional eight-hour working day. Under the same salary benchmark, personal free time has become increasingly important for workers.

Secondly, psychological adjustment during the pandemic has intensified workers’ reflection upon planning their lives. In the face of a global public health emergency, people have become more cognizant of the shortness and fragility of life, and this has forced them to take stock of the things that matter the most to them and how to live a more fulfilling life.

Distributed workforce becoming more common

One of the most exciting changes to the hiring process because of the pandemic is more and more employers are adopting “telecommuting”. Through telecommuting, a company’s workforce is distributed across a country or region and do not work in traditional offices. The distributed employees may telecommute for long periods of time or may choose to telecommute only temporarily.

Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, globalization trends and advances in office technology were driving the steady growth of telecommuting. The pandemic sped up this trend, which in turn, benefited hiring capacity.

Thanks to telecommuting, the talent pool has greatly expanded irrespective of the location of the enterprise. Recruiters can adapt their hiring practices and expand their search far beyond the traditional geographic boundaries they might once have adhered to. This strategy also provides job opportunities for people with disabilities and mobility problems. The model also has appeal to people who need to work flexibly, such as parents with young children.

Strategies for talent acquisition in the post-pandemic period

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, it is becoming increasingly important for HR professionals to understand how to improve the employer branding of the company to cater to the trends discussed above. Below we provide some strategies.

Building employer branding and cultivating company culture

Employer brand value is increasingly gaining widespread attention and recognition and has become one of the best indicators of a workplace culture for job seekers. Establishing a strong employer brand will therefore help your company stand out in the job seeker market and ultimately help you attract and retain better talent.

Company culture is an indispensable part of any company. It can create a positive workplace environment, improve the staff’s cultural exposure and ethical standards, and allow internal employees to naturally form a cohesive and tightly knit team. Company culture is an indispensable spiritual force for the development of enterprises – it can help enterprises play a positive role in the work lives of their staff as well as assist in rationally allocating enterprise resources to improve competitiveness.

To effectively build a good company culture and a positive employer brand image, we suggest adopting the “4P” strategies, namely: People, Product, Position, and Promotion.  These concepts can be understood as follows:

  • People: Identifying the type of people and desired skills and expertise your company wants to attract – to inform the development of your brand image.
  • Product: Regarding the company as a product and identifying your company’s unique selling proposition, such as what experiences and benefits your company can offer employees and prospective employees.
  • Position: Identifying your company’s brand positioning in the employment landscape and refining your brand message using concise and effective language.
  • Promotion: Promoting your employer brand – remember, your current employees are your most effective advocates and the best resource for promoting your company as an employer.

Adopting strategies to retain talent

Retaining talent, especially excellent talent, is a top priority for any enterprise.  Keeping employees loyal, productive, and employable is an important skill for every leader and HR department to have today.

The first tactic to improve employee retention is to increase flexibility and set boundaries. Flexibility is one of the things most employees will focus on. Younger workers prefer to be measured by performance rather than time. A flexible schedule that includes the option to work from home, flexible start and finish times, paid vacations, company support for upskilling, career breaks, choice of location, and shorter weekly working hours are among attractive perks that companies can offer to seek and retain top talent.

The second tactic is to make work fun and give good feedback. Whether they are at the office or at home, the company management can have a big impact on their employees’ work. People who are happy at work will stay longer. Managers should provide good, actionable feedback and motivation in a timely manner. Feedback is crucial for employees to learn and grow and helps to foster loyalty and retain employees. People also need to receive respect and approval for their work, which can come from constructive feedback.

Employee incentives and a positive work environment can stimulate the enthusiasm for work, so that staff are able to fully explore their potential. This will not only improve the efficiency of the company itself, but also empower its employees to achieve professional progress and achievements.

The best employee retention techniques, after all, include a mixture of both external benefits like salary and bonuses and internal benefits like work-life balance, training and mentorship, and career growth prospects.

Developing a talent retention strategy

According to a study by the Saratoga Institute and published by the American Management Association – on average, the loss to a company of an employee leaving is around the employee’s annual salary.

Other visible costs include higher compensation and benefits for replacement, recruitment costs, and training costs. Invisible costs pertain to things like severance pay, low efficiency, and loss during the vacancy period.

Therefore, investing in employee retention strategies is not only a huge value-add for the company, but is often a financially prudent decision as well.

Tips for HR managers

Retaining talent can pose challenges for firms in highly competitive markets like India, where the labor pool may be large but specialized workers and skilled talent are relatively concentrated. It is thus important to consider both the internal and external motivators for an employee in a workplace when determining any HR strategy.

Here we discuss four actions that can assist employers in creating an effective HR retention strategy.

I. Conduct an internal HR audit

First, HR managers should review their existing policies, procedures, and documents to ensure that they comply with industry best practices and labor regulations and re-align with their broader HR strategy and enterprise culture, if required.

A questionnaire or townhall meeting can often be a useful way to gather information that is not available and can be vital in gaining insights that inform key decisions.

This can assist in finding the root causes of employee discontent, gaps in the operation of a company, and improvements that can be made within.

II. Identify your competitive edge

Next, it is important to consider where your business sits among your industry competitors. HR managers are advised to conduct a salary benchmark of similar roles in the industry and ensure that they are competitive.

In addition to this, it is important to recognize the strengths of your company in the market and utilize this in attracting talented employees – whether by offering a flexible and independent work style, competitive salary, company benefits, career advancement, and/or training.

III. Optimize individual roles

Once you have evaluated the company’s overall HR strategy, it is important to analyze individual roles and positions. Conducting a position evaluation is a good way to improve position descriptions, which can help optimize the search for quality employees and will clearly pinpoint the expectations, rewards, and benefits distribution of the role.

A thorough evaluation will consider the ways to effectively measure the position’s value, how to provide equitable internal pay to employees, and ways it can optimize an employee’s impact, communication, innovation, and knowledge in the performance of the role.

IV. Active recognition

Finally, it is important to ensure there is a system in place where there is active recognition of employees.

Given the volatility of the job market, an agile goal setting is an important variation on traditional performance criteria as it ensures that key priorities are always kept at the forefront and goals and adjustable at any given time.

Some reliable and proven methods that employers can adopt to establish practical goals, include KPI (Key Performance Indicators), OKR (Objectives and Key Results), and the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) principle.

These should be complimented by a clear job progression ladder and salary variation for each level – which can form an important motivator for employees and is an invaluable way for management to communicate expectations. Such a system will also improve the working relationship and experience for both high and lower-level staff.

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India Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices across the world, including in Delhi and Mumbai. Readers may write to india@dezshira.com for more support on doing business in in India.

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