SPOTLIGHT – The Recruitment Pivot – New Ways of Working Leading to Newer Ways of Recruiting 0

SPOTLIGHT
In this candid interview with All Things Talent, Avisekh Agarwal, VP - Talent Acquisition, OYO shares his insights on changing paradigms of recruitment function and how the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of HR professionals within organisations. He also talks about the accelerated adoption of digital technologies by several years and India’s growing gig economy.

JOURNEY

ATT: Having worked as an HR leader across diverse industries and functions for many years, how has this journey been so far? Please tell us about your career and how you got up to where you’re at now?

Avi: Human Resources happened to me, I never planned for it. Had I not been enticed by the pre-placement talk of the first organisation I worked with – Executive Access (a boutique retained search firm) at SRCC, I could have probably ended up in marketing or finance. For an introvert, it was a rather unusual and challenging career choice as headhunting requires you to socialize and meet people extensively. While in retrospect things seem easy, I still remember that I froze on the first cold call I made to a CEO during my trainee days, in fact, I hung up the phone on him.

I spent almost a decade on the sell-side of talent with Executive Access helping companies find C-level talent. It gave me an opportunity to interact closely with industry leaders and understand multiple sectors and markets. Irrespective of the industry, the number one priority of every CEO was and continues to be talent.

SPOTLIGHT 2

 

The grass is always greener on the other side. I switched to the buy-side of talent with Genpact and led leadership hiring first for India and then for APAC. The ability to build, execute, measure, and refine is something I learnt at Genpact. Executive search is largely entrepreneurial, at Genpact I learnt how to operate and succeed in a large matrixed multinational.

Genpact is a terrific learning ground for human resources professionals given its focus on employees, processes, and digital innovation.

I spent almost a decade on the sell-side of talent with Executive Access helping companies find C-level talent. It gave me an opportunity to interact closely with industry leaders and understand multiple sectors and markets. Irrespective of the industry, the number one priority of every CEO was and continues to be talent.

Joining OYO was one of the defining moments of my career. A 6-year-old Indian company making strides the world over gave a sense of pride and seemed like an irresistible opportunity. OYO for me happened at a time when the company was looking at rapid global expansion and incubation of several new business lines. OYO’s growth has been phenomenal as we set up one country after another and were soon a global organisation with a presence across India, the US, LATAM, Europe, UK, Japan, China, SE Asia, and the Middle East. Our talent strategy had to coincide with our business strategy. We focused on building an employer brand that could attract the best talent in the world. It was important to go after “what is possible” versus “what is being done”.

OYO today employees the most sought-after talent. Talent attraction here is not just a TA (talent acquisition) function’s job, every leader has to play a part. I have completed 2.5 years, but it definitely seems a lot more due to the sheer intensity and role impact the company offers.

Talent would continue to be our core as we aspire to grow into one of the world’s largest and most loved hospitality brands.

HR STRATEGY

ATT: Today, business leaders are focused on the huge business continuity challenges posed by COVID-19. How has the pandemic impacted people strategies? Also, how has this crisis impacted HR as a whole?

Avi: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of HR professionals within organisations like never before. It has helped highlight the value that HR delivers in keeping employees engaged, motivated, safe, and productive. The new ways of working will demand HR to be in the driver’s seat and define a new lens to recruitment, onboarding, talent development, and employee engagement.

In the new ways of working HR is expected to lead from the front, respond swiftly and partner closely with business on immediate, short term, and long-term decisions. The role is twofold; navigating the organisation through the crisis and taking measures to ensure the organisation is ready for the post COVID recovery and growth. Fostering a trust culture, effective communication, employee engagement, L&D, and employee well-being will be critical areas of focus during and post COVID.

Organisations today are struggling with a set of conflicting priorities which are difficult to balance. For instance, the need of the hour is attentive leadership and frequent top-down communication, however, it’s tricky to achieve as the leadership itself now is remote more than ever. The HR function is best placed to support the business by tapping into the collective wisdom and collaborating with employees at every level.

TALENT ACQUISITION

ATT: What’s different about recruiting in the post-COVID world? Is pandemic a challenge or an opportunity for recruiters? Also, how will recruitment planning look after COVID-19?

Avi: COVID has forced organisations to rethink, remodel, and revamp their talent acquisition strategies. While most organisations have stalled hiring and reduced their headcount budgets to survive the pandemic, organisations with visible staying power are also using this opportunity to hire talent and build capability for both future growth and competitive advantage. The pool of available quality talent has suddenly expanded which can be leveraged upon for post-crisis recovery and growth. Wherever possible, organisations should use this opportunity to make rational long-term talent bets.

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As businesses look to bounce back, they will need to accept the new normal, recruitment will also undergo a paradigm shift both as a function and the way it operates. Some key changes could be:

Broader Lens in Talent Identification and Workforce Planning

Assessment of adaptability and agility will become as critical as hard skills or capability. Organisations will be leaner and hence will try to get more from less. Talent which is fungible and brings in horizontal skills will be in more demand. Companies may start hiring more generalists than specialists. To bring down cost and increase agility organisations will reassess their workforce and bring in GIG and contractual employees. This may open up new channels of hiring and newer ways of assessment. More employers will adopt flexibility in favor of temporary hires as a way to make their business more resilient and productive in an unpredictable environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of HR professionals within organisations like never before. It has helped highlight the value that HR delivers in keeping employees engaged, motivated, safe, and productive. The new ways of working will demand HR to be in the driver’s seat and define a new lens to recruitment, onboarding, talent development, and employee engagement.

Redefined Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

EVP will go beyond the current components of compensation, culture, global career, benefits, etc and include flexibility, freedom, work-life balance, and employee health as strong selling points.

Remote Working – The New Reality

Remote work is no longer viewed as a temporary solution, but one that will carry forward, with added benefits like reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint, changing a firm’s real estate requirements, and opening up access to a bigger and wider talent pool. The “close to HQ” mindset will considerably scale down. From recruitment’s perspective, it implies exploring talent pools which were earlier never a part of the search criteria. Remote working will also help bring in more D&I candidates into the workforce.

SPOTLIGHT 3

EVP will go beyond the current components of compensation, culture, global career, benefits, etc and include flexibility, freedom, work-life balance, and employee health as strong selling points. Click To Tweet
Digital Transformation – Recruitment 2.0

COVID has brought in forced digitalization for all. ‘Years’ worth of adoption has happened in weeks. Recruitment post-COVID will become smarter, with companies continuing to invest in technology and virtually enabled processes across all aspects of talent acquisition including sourcing, interviewing, onboarding, etc. Technology adoption and innovation is no more a choice but a way to stay relevant in the new normal. Having said that, one can never ignore the role of the human touch in recruitment. An efficient TA process is a fine balance between high touch and high tech.

Recruiters will have to pivot quickly to this change. New ways of working will lead to newer ways of recruiting. Organisations will have a long-term and objective view of talent. From a role-based approach, companies may move to a more proactive CRM based “talent pool engagement” model of hiring. Rapid digitalization due to processes shifting online has increased the need for digital skills, recruiters will have to up their game and be more digitally savvy to embrace and understand the tech adoptions across the lifecycle of recruitment. Those who can adapt, learn, and perform will have an edge over those who don’t.

Remote work is no longer viewed as a temporary solution, but one that will carry forward, with added benefits like reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint, changing a firm’s real estate requirements, and opening up access to a bigger and wider talent pool. The “close to HQ” mindset will considerably scale down.

With remote working, it doesn’t matter where one sits, or which country one belongs to. It opens up diverse talent pools, increased productivity, retention, and savings on salaries and facilities. More than ever, recruiters are closest to the talent pools; they know where the talent sits and what it costs and hence are best positioned to guide the company on this transition.

Recruitment Planning Post-COVID-19

Post-COVID, organisations will build and borrow more talent instead of buying. The recruitment function, L&D, and internal mobility will have to work together to solve the talent needs of the organisation. Many companies have silos that people sit in, they need to be dissolved and sub-functions need to fuse in both thinking and action.

Going forward, companies may also start focusing more on “Succession Planning” for all its senior leaders so that they are better covered against future risks and contingencies.

ATT: What challenges have you encountered with virtual interviews, hiring, and onboarding, and how are you overcoming them? Can you share with us any talent strategy opportunities that you uncovered during this time that you didn’t use before?

Avi: The biggest change COVID has brought in is that it has forced all companies to “leap-frog” technology hurdles irrespective of whether they were ready or not. Before Covid, most companies had not yet been able to fully adopt or implement video hiring or remote onboarding, and even if it existed, it complemented the existing in-person processes. This sudden change has been difficult to completely overcome in a short span of time.

Also Read:  Employee Wellness and Organizational Wellness: Two Sides of the Same Coin 

Virtual interviews, no matter how well managed are susceptible to technical snags but more importantly, fall short of the intuitiveness and warmth of face-to-face interactions. It’s difficult to build a connection with the candidate. Also, assessing cultural fitment becomes a challenge particularly in senior roles.

Onboarding is an important event for a new candidate, it’s the first-day experience of the new organisation. Currently, things are just reduced to online document submission and some critical formal virtual interactions.

SPOTLIGHT 4While these challenges will continue, the only way to overcome this is to continue focusing on candidate experience. Recruiters have to demonstrate empathy and be more compassionate. Candidates may turn up late, there could be noise in the background, one could see kids on the screen, etc. It’s important to not get flustered by these or make a quick opinion. Recruiters have been spending more time than earlier on storytelling and conveying the EVP and culture which the brand stands for.

I think today we have a far more holistic and broader view of talent. In most cases, we are looking to borrow or build talent versus going external. We are taking this time to step back and dive deep into diversity and inclusion, building pipelines, and identifying opportunities to create a more diverse and resilient workforce in the future. There is a considerable push towards digital innovation and building capabilities for the future.

From a role-based approach, companies may move to a more proactive CRM based “talent pool engagement” model of hiring. Click To Tweet

GIG ECONOMY

ATT: In India, demand for short duration talent is increasingly gathering momentum, with skilled professionals seeking flexible work arrangements. What does the emergence of the gig economy mean for the future of work? How can it have a positive effect on the hospitality industry?

Avi: According to a report by industry body Assocham in January this year, India’s gig economy is projected to grow at a CAGR of 17 per cent to $455 billion by 2023. While the gig economy has been steadily growing in India and the world over in the last few years, COVID has given it an upward shift. The new ways of working, digitalization and enhanced workforce expectations provide the right setting for the gig ecosystem.

In retaining their competitiveness, some companies are deploying a hybrid working model by using a mix of in-house employees and gig or remote workers. The gig workforce will gain more prominence as organisations will continue to focus on agile and flexible manpower, diverse talent, margin protection, and reduction in fixed costs. Gig workers can help scale up operations quickly while optimizing operational costs. Its reach is slowly expanding from less-skilled services to high-skilled jobs

I think today we have a far more holistic and broader view of talent. In most cases, we are looking to borrow or build talent versus going external. We are taking this time to step back and dive deep into diversity and inclusion, building pipelines, and identifying opportunities to create a more diverse and resilient workforce in the future.

Not just in hospitality but also in other industries, organisations may pivot to hiring freelance or gig workers for business development roles. Creative roles in media, advertising and communication or assignments in transportation, logistics warehousing, etc will be in demand.

ATT: Lastly, stay-at-home policies and social distancing have made it a challenge to find candidates to fill the necessary positions. In your opinion, how can companies leverage automated and virtual hiring solutions to minimize the loss of potential candidates?

Avi: The new ways of hiring have impacted role closures both positively and negatively:

The job acceptance rates have gone down as candidates are not rushing into taking a decision (unless they are without jobs!) Given most companies are still on hiring freeze, candidates are waiting for the markets to open up so that they have a wider choice.

Since companies are still following remote or hybrid ways of working, the candidate pool has overall expanded. It does not matter which part of the country one is based in, as long as there is a skill match one could be in the longlist. This aspect has opened up talent pools which earlier never existed because of the location criteria.

Right communication, empathy, and thoughtfulness would be the most important aspects to consider as we engage with the candidates. The virtual process should be comprehensive, detailed, and seamless so that it delivers a great candidate experience. Candidates mostly drop out if they don’t connect with the brand or the role. It is critical to get the storytelling right so that there is complete clarity.

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Avisekh has around 14 years of experience in global talent acquisition and management. He currently heads the global talent acquisition function for OYO and leads teams across countries and product lines. He is responsible for delivery, strategic direction and excellence of the overall function. Prior to OYO he was the APAC head of leadership hiring for Genpact across all business verticals/service lines in India, Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, China and Japan. Before Genpact he has spent a decade with an international executive search firm -Executive Access in both market making & delivery roles. Avisekh holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi and an MBA in Marketing & Strategy from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. 

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