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'A Lot Of Demand For Niche Talent'

August 11, 2022 12:03 IST
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'Generic skills are in abundance, but technological advancements have left staple skills redundant.'
'It is why employers are now looking for alternate sources of hiring -- deploying gig workers, looking at Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities for relevant talent.'

Why are companies struggling to retain talent

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

The global workforce changed significantly during the pandemic.

COVID-19 has disrupted the world as we knew it. The new normal, that we believe is here to stay, is not clearly defined.

The struggle is real too for organisations across the world. It, among other issues, posed a major problem for them to both attract and retain talent.

According to the Willis Towers Watson's 'Reimagining Work and Rewards Survey' [external link], 'more than three-quarters of employers (78 per cent) currently cite problems attracting or retaining digital talent. Roughly half also report difficulties hiring or keeping on employees in salaried and sales positions'.

The survey carried out among 51 companies and 723,000 employees across sectors, worldwide -- including IT and telecom, manufacturing, general services, financial services, energy and utilities, and healthcare -- between October 28 and December 10, 2021 revealed that while fewer employers reported problems attracting (29 per cent) and retaining (26 per cent) talent in 2020, these figures rose to 68 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively, in the second half of 2021.

"Sectors which have technology-heavy population are facing the maximum challenges. Digital roles are experiencing maximum attrition, especially ones with niche skills," Rajul Mathur, consulting leader India, Talent & Rewards at Willis Towers Watson, tells Divya Nair/ in an e-mail interview.

Mathur, below, left, has a BTech in chemical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad.

Rajul Mathur

Why are companies struggling to attract and retain talent?

With the rebound in economy and increase in demand for talent, especially digital talent, and not as much supply, we are observing a lot of attraction and retention in the market.

Employee expectations are fast evolving -- from flexible work models to customised total rewards offering. This is not common for most organisations.

While few companies have been able to balance the work model flexibility, most are still working towards creating a holistic Employer Value Proposition with tailored offerings to the diverse employee population.

Another reason is the rise of start-ups and unicorns in India which are ready to disrupt the rewards space to get the right talent.

Which sectors and jobs are experiencing this shift and why?

The sectors which have technology-heavy population are facing the (most) challenges. Digital roles are experiencing maximum attrition, especially ones with niche skills.

What are some of the major reasons why people quit good organisations? What are they really looking for? What are their expectations?

The definition of 'good' organisations is very subjective. Various employee segments have varied expectations from their employers.

There is a need for employers to figure a Total Rewards proposition which can cater to the diverse population.

This requires for them to listen to their employee base and identify their expectations to draft a strategy that helps fulfil these, or at least most of these.

How are companies dealing with the consequences? And what can they do to improve retainability?

Companies are trying a mix of monetary and non-monetary methods.

Monetary methods include: Sign-on bonuses, skill premiums, higher salary, better designation/grade, etc.

Non-monetary offerings include: Opportunity for higher education, fast-tracked career growth, better upskilling/re-skilling opportunities.

A few things companies can do:

  • Connect their Total Rewards strategy with broader business commitments around DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).
  • Adapt their pay programmes to the new ways of working.
  • Clearly differentiate their Total Rewards offerings from those of competitors.
  • Effectively communicate their Total Rewards strategy so employees appreciate the complete offering.
  • Have a dynamic Total Rewards portfolio to meet employee needs and address changing business conditions.
  • Redefine the meaning of careers while adapting new ways of working.
  • Tailor the Total Rewards programmes to the preferences of diverse employee population.
  • Connect the Total Rewards strategy with their commitments around climate, net-zero policies, etc.
Key highlights from WTW's survey
54 per cent organisations believe that they have not yet reached a new normal.

61 per cent see a need to create a holistic employee experience, while 58 per cent view strengthening their work and rewards framework as the most important capability over the next three years.

65 per cent believe that the use of AI, and 57 per cent believe that the use of skills-based placement of work, will drive the most change in how we work.

67 per cent are building leader and manager capabilities around engaging talent with flexible work arrangements.

How can companies redesign job roles and responsibilities to attract and optimise talent?

Focus on skills is going to be key.

Breaking jobs into skills required and then reconstructing them to create logical skill combinations is going to be a way forward.

Organisations strongly believe that there will be significant involvement of skills framework in placement of key jobs.

What will the new normal be in 2023? What changes can we expect in the future of workplaces?

This will imply (differently) for different companies and will be driven by the sector.

Typical trends that are emerging is that hybrid working models are here to stay (depending on the nature of role).

Alternate work models are also emerging, where companies are involving gig-workers (contract workers) or outsourcing work.

Also, now companies are withdrawing the one-time/ temporary policies that were introduced at the time of the pandemic.

Companies are now focussing on more sustainable policies and practices that can be offered to manage the hybrid/diverse workforce.

If hybrid/flexible workplaces are a permanent fixture, how will this impact employees and businesses?

Yes, the positive impact on business would be optimisation of real estate for example.

There will be a need to focus largely on the value proposition and employee engagement.

The positive impact amongst employees is flexibility. Building relationships with colleagues could be a challenge.

How can employees and professionals prepare themselves for the future?

By being agile in thinking, and being open to learning new skills and competencies and adapting to the new reality.

Your survey mentions the inability to attract and retain talent. In stark contrast, India is grappling with employability, the lack of job-ready talent -- only 15-20 per cent graduates are employable. In your opinion, how do these two distinct situations co-exist?

This is primarily due to the skill gap. There is a gap in demand and supply in the market when it comes to required skills.

The generic skills are in abundance, but technological advancements have left the staple skills redundant.

Also, it is one of the critical reasons why employers are now looking for alternate sources of hiring as well -- deploying gig workers, looking at Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities for relevant talent.

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