Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jobs are back in India- Cherry picking though!

It is hard not to notice. As I picked up the latest business magazines for the weekend reading -the headlines are very much the same- "the jobs are back"!

Business World's cover story harps on 'Companies are adding new jobs, campus recruitment have picked up, and salaries are headed north once again'. Business Today Teamlease report highlights that the 'finance jobs are back'.

Business Outlook has a shorter report echoing the same. Dailies say "mid tier IT cos on prowl -to hire upto 30k"

I quite suspect the Mercer survey predicting a 8% hike in the coming quarters is the 'tipping point for the above sentiment, even as the Dataquest IDC (Q IDC)salary survey 2009 -just last fortnight, revealed the ugly face of recession.

One must appreciate the limitations of the surveys too-for eg- only 31 of the 200 IT companies contacted by DQ-IDC while Mercer did cover 93 companies across at least 7 industries!! So, one can actually be looking for some trends-more than optimistic predictions.

I am quite tempted to go into some of the finer prints.

Business World's report relies on Naukr'is monthly Job speak - an index based on the number of job listings each month. Please note, Sept09 index of 729 -the reason for the bonhomie, is better compared to the base of July08 being 1000!! I might sound as a broken record as I repeat the opinion that listings ( Naukri has annual subscription packages for corporates and recruitment consultants) aren't the best of indicators- unlike perhaps as much as paid advertisements in the print media. Most of the experts interviewed too talk about numbers that "they expect to hire "-save Unitech Wireless who have been hiring about 70 per week for the past quarter. One has to take the numbers of the campus hires with a pinch of salt-there are thousands still clutching on to offers made in 2008/09 -awaiting their date of joining...

The DQ-IDC report-though restricted to the IT industry has a few revelations, even as many of the big names refused to participate in the survey:

-that close to 29% of the respondent confirmed that either their salaries were reduced by 10% or had zero increments last year.
-Substantial drop in salaries of employees with 10-15 years of experience.
-The non-engineer component increased to 63% of the total workforce as the percentage of engineers hired -a reduction of 2% last year 37%.

As a recruiter-I feel that most in the industry-the corporates and the commentators, feel that the worst is over, and seem to think that there is indeed some light likely to be soon. We have examples of fellow recruiter firms -downsizing to the bare minimum, only retaining those who can continue to add value. Corporates too, after a period of denial, have now started reviewing their sources of hiring, and are embarking on various plans to put new systems in place. We at Options, have seen sudden interest in clients to review their panel of partners-in the last month or so. There are enquiries trickling in -more than the earlier quarter, but the bandwidth is being tested-hence the need to explore hiring that one is ready when the boom happens!!
Moreover, we are not sure if there are any triggers for adding large numbers of people. Unlike in the West, there were no large scale layoffs in India. If one were to look back at the downturns in 2001 or 2003-04, key sectors like telecom, BPO, insurance and retain banking absorbed loads of jobs. Most of our MNC clients looking to enter India as a market-do make investments but in 'start-up' kind of modes. Retail and infrastructure continue to be in correction mode-and unless there is a government regulations-eg 3G launch, change in land acquistion norms enabling large scale investments in road & power-companies would stick to strategic hiring!!

Outlook Business captures the situation very succinctly.

Most companies wear a lean, toned look, having gone through a crash diet of cutting costs and shedding excess manpower flab on the way. Companies are beginning to hire again, but their hiring patterns would be different from what was witnessed during the boom years.
  • Over 50% of hiring is for replacements left vacant during the slowdown.
  • More stringent screening processes-as companies have lesser tolerance and so performance matters more than ever.
  • Expect modest salary hikes with change in jobs.
  • Focus is on hiring people who value the job and stay on, rather than those who jump jobs frequently.
  • Communication and managerial skills are given more weightage as skill sets and work experiences are a given.
I have a feeling that the Oct-Nov-Dec would be the quarter which will show us -who all are 'walking the talk'. It would be interesting to note

-which companies are the first off the block to reinstate the deferred salaries/increments. And how they go about it! Would they be giving selective increments and bonuses to key talent? Would they dole out next year's increment in advance? Would some plan mid-term hikes to prevent poaching?

-the speed of finalising the hire. In the heydays of 2007 and 08, companies used to roll out 'offers by the end of the day'! Now, the hiring processes extend to over 3-4 months -even as the number of screening levels remain the same-as caution had taken over!

-Companies have been depending a lot on employee referrals and social networking sites - as 'quality' had taken preference over the 'quantity' or 'just in time' hiring modes ( walk ins, ads, third party recruitment firms, campus) in the last 12 months. With an increasing interest in hiring all around, how would companies optimise the hiring mix?

-At senior management levels, the compensation packages are getting linked to the company performance-and as a result the variable component would be increasingly important. With the improved stock market, do we see ESOP plans being re-introduced-to tie down professionals for a longer stint ?

At Options how are we gearing? We have used this time to put our back office in place. The automated resume management system is well oiled now. Our collaborative network with fellow recruiters ( not just in India, but also abroad) is much more closely operated now. We have had the time to review our client mix-and invest in those who have value our time and efforts more.

Yes, we are hiring for ourselves. But people with a difference. Who can add value to middle and senior management. Professionals who can not just track great talent, but also reach out to them, listen and engage them. Get reconnected to the topnotch candidates who have been in touch in the past-and provide reasons for them to be sticky this time around. We are banking on some of the social media tools to help build and manage relationships better...

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