IT Sector, Prepare for the 3rd Year of Disruption: 2022 Is Coming

Noida, Dec 29 – Going forward in 2022, experts say companies that create an environment for greater employee commitment and engagement will enjoy significantly improved top-line growth rates.

Several trends in the Information Technology (IT) sector proved that it’s a general practitioner of all experiments. You name it, firing in bulk, it’s IT. Hiring in thousands, it’s IT. Announcing permanent work from home (WFH), its tech sector, among others.

And if you thinking, what new things we can expect in the upcoming 2022, we need to trace back to the source of such hits and trials – the pandemic. Experts say the “new world order” we are all going to see in 2022 will not only be driven by what we learned from the previous year, but it will be an amalgamation of both the years 2020 and 2021.

What Can We Have in Hiring Trends?

The IT sector saw a drastic change in its talent management strategy – from mass layoffs In 2020 to mass recruitment in 2021. As per Monster Employment Index data, compared to June 2021, July 2021 witnessed an overall monthly growth of 4 percent in hiring. While overall job postings have also improved by 8 percent year-on-year.

According to the report, the IT – Hardware, Software industry witnessed the highest growth year-on-year with a 39 percent increase in the hiring of professionals, with notable growth in metropolitan cities.

To tackle the surge in the demand for resources, companies are investing in fresher hiring, and also upskilling existing talent, feels Shyam Verma, Global HR Head at JK Tech. “Multiple reports talk about a 12 percent surge in the HR market in the next 6 years,” he said.

Verma said there was an expedited demand in 2021 for specific capabilities and skillsets across the IT job market, due to the massive digitalization wave that was felt globally. “Adapting to the digitised trends was not difficult for the IT Industry. But HR operations also had to be made the demand and unique skill set,” he added.

As reported a few months back, TCS, Infosys, HCL and Wipro together expect to hire 1 lakh people this fiscal year. Cognizant alone planned to hire 1 lakh experienced professionals and onboard 30,000 freshers this year, and also make 45,000 offers to campus recruits who would join the company next year.

Following up where Verma left, Arun Batra, Client Services Leader – EY Global Delivery Services, pointed out that India is faced with a situation of mismatch in demand and supply.

“And this demand-supply situation will continue for some time,” Batra said.

For Batra, it’s difficult to put a timeline to it, but, he said, “some people say two years, some people say three years, but it will take some time for a new supply to be created.”

Batra points make sense when we see data. While there seems to be a war for talent in the sector, it will not easy to fill in several roles.

To identify the hardest-to-fill IT roles, Indeed compiled a list based on the percentage of jobs unfilled after two months, such as Support Escalation Engineer (69.6 percent) Business Objects Developer (63.4 percent), Microsoft Server Engineer (60.8 percent), among others.

While the graduate pool is immense, the employable graduate pool is always a challenge. Batra said that requires a significant amount of investment in rescaling, and upskilling. “And that will take time, right, that will take between 18 to 24 months to make the current pool,” he said.

Thendral Rajendran, Vice President and Regional Head – Talent Acquisition, CSS Corp, is of a different view. She believes the market is employee-driven now and attracting top-notch talent, increasing their knowledge and skills, retaining them becomes a key factor for any organization which strives for growth.

In October 2021, CSS Corp announced it is looking to hire 3,000-odd employees this financial year, out of which approximately 60 percent will be for its India footprint. A majority of the hiring is to be focused on engineers. The company is also looking to hire non-engineering graduates.

“We are no different as we continue to put in our efforts to sustain our 25-30 percent YOY growth. With new engines of growth emerging, we will definitely look to sustain hiring for some time,” Rajendran said.

Further, given the changing lifestyle preferences, the team at Sabre Bengaluru Global Capability Centre felt customer needs have diversified as well, owing to which product organisations have struggled to keep pace.

“This meant that organisations had to hire or upskill for new skill sets that they required. While most of them chose to play safely in 2021, we will witness increased hiring in 2022,” said Rahul Jain, Senior Principal – People Team, Sabre Bengaluru Global Capability Centre.

Organisations will move forward with their hiring plans, Jain said, especially to add a quality talent who can support niche skills around Data Science and AI/ML. “The scale of hiring across other functions and skills will continue to increase as well, thanks to the gradual economic recovery across the world,” he added.

Sabre will look to add more employees in 2022 to support its expanding customer base and drive innovation.

What Will Happen to SOPs?

Going forward in 2022, experts say companies that create an environment for greater employee commitment and engagement will enjoy significantly improved top-line growth rates.

“This is probably the most opportune moment for organisations to relook their concept of workspaces, reimagine work, and the very definition of productivity,” said Michele Nyrop, Head of Employee Success, Salesforce India.

Nyrop said it is imperative to create the right environment where your employees feel valued by giving the employees what they most want, i.e., flexibility, autonomy, and choice about where they work, when they work and how they work. And what about the “out of the box” talent attraction and retention strategy?

Yes, 2021 saw companies, both startups and multinationals, waging war to attract and retain talent. For instance, digital insurance platform RenewBuy announced that it would offer Royal Enfield (worth over Rs. 2 lakh) or MacBook to tech leads, DevOps leads and senior development managers if candidates join within 30 days.

Biz2Credit, provider of an online marketplace for small business funding, announced bonuses, BMW bikes, cash rewards and other perks for its employees for the appraisal year 2021-22. And, fintech firm BharatPe is offering BMW bikes to new joiners. There are other offering iPhones and Flexi-working. The list goes on.

The question arises: Will this continue?

Arvind Laddha, CEO of Mercer India, feels organisations that have been using monetary incentives to retain employees in 2021 may have been more transactional and not respect the fact that “money may not have been the only reason that there is employee attrition”.

“With the significant acceleration in economic activity expected in 2022, and attrition increasing with newer work options opening up, now is the opportunity for organisations to review their talent and workforce styles in a world where being hybrid and flexible is the new normal,” he said.

For Batra of EY, the answer lies somewhere in between. “What attracts people is your culture. What is the vision of your company? What is the long-term vision and sustainability of your company, what are you? What is the positioning of your company?”

“Of course, one needs to be competitive? But being competitive does not mean one needs to pay top dollars continuously? Attracting talent requires a much more practical, sustainable approach,” he added.

A similar thought runs through CSS Corp’s Rajendran. She said while 2021 focused on extending massive benefits to the workforce, it was more to do with incentivizing them for adapting to the changing environment seamlessly.

“2022 may see specific areas of interest by the workforce. As quoted in some of the HBR articles, research proves that employees will look for flexible options in which they start prioritising their work-life balance even if it means taking a pay cut,” she said.

In a nutshell, Rajendran said attractive incentives may phase out in 2022-23 and the Gen Z will expect a variety of qualitative experiences in their careers.

A similar approach can be seen at Fujitsu. For the information and communications technology company, 2022 will be the year of evolving the quality of work and life. Sumit Sabharwal, VP – HR, Fujitsu Global Delivery Centres (GDCs), believes it will be a year of building a sustainable work environment where employees feel a ‘sense of belongingness’ and have choices to explore.

“How do you make that happen is by creating opportunities for our people to explore and find their true aspirations!” he said.

Fujitsu’s key focus area will be skilling and reskilling by taking bets on believing in employees to choose career paths, supporting them to ensure learning happens at a reasonable and desired pace for the employees.

What Will Happen to Remote and Hybrid Work Demand?

The rebound for office space demand by IT companies has been strong in 2021 as, by the end of the third quarter, the IT sector had leased a total of 8 million sq ft. The steady space take-up by the IT sector is continuing as both global and domestic companies have picked up large office spaces in the past few months, signaling a comeback of leasing momentum, Knight Frank said.

But as per Atlassian’s second annual ‘Reworking Work’ study, 93 percent of Indian workers have updated their remote workspace over the last year and 94 percent of Indian workers feel well-prepared to work remotely, which is also the highest globally.

In 2022, Verma from JK Tech opines even if most organisations will continue with the hybrid work model, the priority will still be to maximize employee safety, where organisations will invest heavily in employees’ wellbeing initiatives.

“The hybrid work model will remain not just in 2022 but beyond that too,” he said.

Recently, JK Tech introduced a Hybrid Work Policy for all its employees across India, The US, and the UK. According to the company, all its employees will be considered for hybrid work scheduling on a case-by-case in situations where creative work schedules have been shown to accomplish both work and personal goals.

Also, the policy includes ‘Compressed Workweeks’ under which the employees can work nine hours from Monday to Thursday and four hours on Friday. The policy is formulated to improve the collaboration amongst employees.

But what about the challenges in implementing it?

Batra said a hybrid model does not necessarily mean that one has to come to the office compulsorily – one day a week, four days, etc. “A hybrid model means that depending upon the type of work that you are doing, with the type of client that you have, you may need to come to the office, maybe once, maybe for an entire week, maybe in a month, or maybe three weeks.”

According to a recent Nasscom – Indeed report, employees and employers are equally interested in returning to the workplace in a hybrid setup, with around 50 percent of the workforce likely to return to offices for up to three days a week by January. Nearly 60 percent of organisations are expected to reach readiness to re-open office spaces by January.

Taking the conversation further, Jain from Sabre said permanent seating will soon be an outdated concept, with more and more organisations choosing to adopt hot seating or hoteling arrangements for reserving seats.

“Organisations will also look to negotiate arrangements will co-working spaces in different cities to make sure that remote employees can work from a make-shift office occasionally.” Jain said.

For instance, EY has adopted a co-working space model and Sabre too has a Work-from-Anywhere approach, which enables its team members to choose to work from the office or from home (within the base location or non-commutable distance).

The company also has various blended options for its employees choosing to work from the office, which defines whether they get a permanent seat and on which days they need to come to the office.

Conclusion: Hybrid with hybrid – flexibility will be the key.

Looking Back to Move Forward

Anjali Rao, Senior Director – HR at Intel India, would call 2020 ‘the year of reimagination’. She said, “The pandemic necessitated the industry globally to rethink and restructure how we do business at every level, starting right from how teams could function remotely and in hybrid settings, and how businesses could support their employees through these difficult times.”

In 2021, she said, “we have cemented and expanded upon those positive changes, so I would call it ‘the year of reinvention’.”

And as we look forward to 2022, for Rao it’s becoming clear that technology will accelerate positive changes in the workplace.

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