Learnability is Going to Become a Hiring Buzzword: Bhavesh Patel, MIG CGI
Magazine, Special Feature

Learnability is Going to Become a Hiring Buzzword: Bhavesh Patel, MIG CGI

Bhavesh Patel, Head Talent Acquisition, MIG CGI 

‘Upskilling’ is the buzzword for recruiters going ahead, and for candidates, it’s ‘learnability’. Bhavesh Patel, who heads talent acquisition for CGI’s multi-industry and government vertical, tells All Things Talent.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the past, it’s that the future of human resources will require adapting to constant digital change. The pandemic drove that point home by really testing the adaptability of HR teams, who had to innovate to find ways to enable hybrid working without losing out on efficiency—and to do this in record time. 

And while, as Bhavesh Patel, who heads talent acquisition for CGI’s multi-industry and government verticals, points out, “Everybody is still trying to grapple with what the future is going to look like,” this much is clear: Going forward, HR professionals will see even more innovative trends in the areas of hybrid/remote work models, digital workplaces, data-driven DEI strategies, and so on. Learning how to optimise new tools and reskilling will, thus, become vital not just to retain relevance in the job market, but to help steer company growth. 

Also read: One-Size-Fits-All Approach Doesn’t Work With a Diverse Workforce: Santosh TK, Dell Technologies

Patel illustrates how rapidly the recruitment landscape can shift by looking back at the challenges posed by the pandemic.“I think every organisation, irrespective of the industry, faces similar kinds of challenges,” says Patel. 

“The first challenge was, obviously, to ensure productivity wasn’t impacted by the shift to online work. Data security was another top concern, as a lot of proprietary client-centred information had to be hosted on our platform. Securing all this information was paramount as individuals would now access this from their homes – that took about three months, but the rest [of the transition to WFH] was pretty smooth. “Perhaps the most important challenge concerned work culture and ensuring that new hires understood this”. 

At the same time, HR has had to accommodate changing perspectives on work. Concepts like moonlighting and gig work posed – and continue to pose – another set of challenges for recruitment professionals who must ensure gig work does not pose a conflict of interest. “Obviously, there were also a lot of infrastructure-related problems,” Patel recalls. 

Everybody is still trying to grapple with what the future [of work] is going to look like. But a few things are very clear: that data is going to be at centre-stage, for example. Our acclimatisation to data, understanding of numbers—I’m talking about HR specifically—has to increase significantly now.”

The perks of being proactive

For example, a former employer had already tested out online meetings across geographies; the organisation had also worked with freelance gig workers on some projects, which meant it could draw on experience to manage flexibility. “The challenge, of course, was to do this across the board, to get all 210 thousand-odd employees across the globe to get into that virtual mode,” Patel recalls.  

The firm relied on Superset’s virtual campus hiring software to recruit engineers. “We ended up evaluating about seven-and-a-half lakh students across the country [through the pandemic],” Patel reveals. Assessment tools were required too, and thus ‘eye in the sky’ (EITS) was introduced to proctor candidates from remote settings. Assessment providers and applicant tracking systems (ATS) were used to replicate the hiring mechanism. Naturally, HR teams had to be trained to shift to this model, and at the time, the whole training process had to be expedited. This transformation of hiring processes, triggered by the pandemic, has continued to gain momentum. There’s no doubt that going forward, tech tools will reinvent HR entirely. 

Also read: Tech Sector’s Compensation to Increase by 10-11% for Niche Skills: SV Nathan, Deloitte

Technology can enable meaningful engagement

Though this can streamline processes significantly, it also poses various challenges, not just from the training point-of-view, but also because, historically, HR has always been somewhat tech-averse. This reluctance is not driven by a fear of job cuts alone; but also by the fact that, for the current crop of recruiters, the physical aspect has always been central to their roles. Their training has involved in-person meet-and-greet sessions, with an emphasis on eye-contact, body language, and so on. 

“There is an innate fear [of technology],” as Patel puts it, “so it’s important to emphasise that the adoption of these tools will take away repetitive tasks and thereby allow you the bandwidth to explore more meaningful engagement.  Technology has the potential to free up your time and mind-space so that you can use this towards something more productive, concrete, and human-centred.” 

Also read: Quiet Hiring, Gen-Z Skill Gaps – 9 Trends That Will Alter Future-of-Work in 2023

The future of work

In the face of all these changes, Patel says, “Everybody is still trying to grapple with what the future [of work] is going to look like. But a few things are very clear: that data is going to be centre stage, for example. Our acclimatisation to data, our understanding of numbers—I’m talking about HR specifically—has to increase significantly now.”

Patel also points out that ‘flexibility’ will be the keyword. “Gen Z wants flexibility: with respect to the location of work, the kind of work they do and even the organisations they choose to be a part of”.  Patel says it’s not uncommon for candidates to say they don’t want to be limited to a single organisation and that they’d rather take on gig work. “Right now, that’s a big challenge that HR faces: how to incorporate this sort of flexibility in contracts while ensuring that data remains secure.”

Meanwhile, the process of hiring is itself, transforming rapidly. “A lot of automation will come into play. And one of the many challenges this poses is how to ensure that there’s no impersonation and that the person who applied for the position is also the person being assessed. A lot of assessment tools will thus become very important; AI is coming into the picture in a big way,” says Patel. 

The good news is that by enabling WFH models, automation allows organisations to tap into talent in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities like Bhubaneswar and Coimbatore. This lowers costs for organisations and, importantly, also prevents a brain drain from these places, which can have tremendous significance for society at large. 

Candidates must understand that we [recruiters] cannot really go by skills alone, because what is an important skill today may not be important tomorrow. It’s important to hire for ability.

Becoming a part of the solution

Given that this shift is ongoing and unstoppable, upskilling is no longer an option. Recruiters must explore ways to partner with IT, to use tech to complement their skills.

“Recruiters may want to look at how they can make use of business intelligence technologies like Power BI, Tableau, or other dashboards to make a case in front of business leaders. This is important because the data is going to talk about productivity, about how you are looking at performance, how you are assimilating surveys, and how you are engaging with your talent pool, which isn’t even there [in person, at the office],” says Patel. 

It’s a big change for teams that have, traditionally, been used to engaging the workforce with physical events and activities like making festive Rangolis and so on. Therefore, upskilling is vital. 

Also read: Goldman Sachs’ Deepika Banerjee Suggests Differentiated Employee Experience Strategy for 2023 

Learnability, the buzzword in hiring

These changes will affect job applicants, too, of course. How they align with the company culture will be significant. “Because a job-seeker might get, let’s say, three times the number that she’s looking for from a compensation perspective to join a small company. But tomorrow, if times are bad, the same candidate might be asked to move on. So it’s important for candidates to understand the organisation’s culture and maybe read up on it before coming in for a discussion. Candidates must also understand that we [recruiters] cannot really go by skills alone, because what is an important skill today may not be important tomorrow. It’s important to hire for ability. Learnability is, therefore, going to become a hiring buzzword: are you capable of unlearning everything you’ve learned, of jumping into a new technology altogether, and learning it from scratch? That’s going to become very important.”

Ultimately, while there has been no concrete measurement of how efficacious changes in HR practises have been, a simple metric can be used to gauge success. If, even in the current slowdown, the bench—the number of employees who have been offered jobs but have not yet been absorbed into the workforce—has gone down, it’s proof that things are working well. “Your bench coming down, obviously, is a positive on your employee cost, whereas your revenue numbers for large organisations haven’t come down. So while there is growth, which is slow, there is a bench that is getting reduced, and a lot of marginal performers are being asked to move on, which, again, results in savings from the perspective of overall wage costs,” says Patel. 

He adds: “There are a lot of savings on infrastructure cost [because of hybrid work], too, as organisations need less physical space and can save on facility management and all of that. So while there have not been reports of, let’s say, a 5%, 7%, or 9% increase in productivity by organisations as a result of changes, the fact that costs have reduced and margins have gone up is clear proof of the fact that it is really working and it will continue to work.” Patel, therefore, has no doubt that CEOs will continue to turn to technology and embrace tools and newer processes with a view to steering performance and achieving growth.

About the author: Bhavesh Patel has extensive experience in talent development, TA, talent management strategies, and retention, among others. At present, he heads talent acquisition for CGI’s multi-industry and government verticals.


Registered Name: CGI Information Systems And Management Consultants Pvt Ltd
Year of Incorporation: 1976
Number of Employees: Over 90,000 consultants and professionals globally. As of Feb 2022, in India, it has over 18,000 consultants in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and Pune, providing support to over 400 clients around the globe.
Business Line: Largest IT and business consulting services firms in the world
Serge Godin
André Imbeau
Key Executives:
George Mattackal, President of CGI’s Asia Pacific Global Delivery Centers of Excellence
François Boulanger, President and Chief Operating Officer
Workforce Growth: A 12.5% global growth from 2021.
Key HR Factors:
The culture of ownership.
Besides compensation, employees are eligible to invest a set percentage of their salary in CGI shares, called the Share Purchase Plan (SPP), which is matched by CGI dollar to dollar
Focus on the future digital workforce
Access to a wide range of online learning platforms
Varied experiences through proactive rotation to new assignments.
Open and transparent discussions with leaders on performance, opportunities, and challenges.
CGI Leadership Institute
Inclusive workplace that prioritises, supports and accelerates gender diversity.
Source: Company Reports


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