Adapting to the new hybrid normal of remote and office work, cautiously optimistic corporate are looking to hire more people and provide better appraisals in the new year as they step out of the pandemic-ravaged 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic emerged as the biggest inflection point for the Indian job landscape.
For the corporate, work-from-home and remote workers became the new normal and for the professionals, online learning and digital skills took centrestage.
In 2020, most companies "deprioritised" their hiring plans amid uncertain economic outlook while industries like travel, hospitality, retail, aviation, real estate, construction and automobile were severely hit.
Nevertheless, there is a cautious optimism among corporate and it is getting reflected in their recruitment plans for the New Year.
"Yes, the market is showing positive signs of recovery with almost all industries showing growth in hiring but with caution.
"Overall, the intent to hire recovered smartly from 11 per cent during the lockdown period to 18 per cent for HY (half year) and this number is growing," Deval Singh - business head, mobilization (hiring) at TeamLease Services.
While there is caution in hiring, the market is displaying optimism.
According to Singh, there is a 50 per cent increase in employment opportunities from the lockdown days.
Pay cuts have been reversed since Diwali in most organisations and bonuses were issued in few.
Some technology companies even declared early appraisals, Singh noted.
The latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey, that covered 1,518 employers across the country, showed that corporate India is showing "healthy signs of recovery" and plans to hire more people in the first three months of 2021 compared to the quarter ending December.
"With encouraging results of vaccine efficacies and the market largely back to how it was, there is a positive sign of recovery in the job market.
"Today, with emergence of the hybrid work model, I believe there will be a big push for Agile Talent.
“'Remote working' as an employment category is going to open up many opportunities for both employees and employers for niche skills," Krishna Prasad, senior director of HR and operations at Skillsoft India and APAC said.
Experts believe there is no going back to the pre-COVID-19 world in its entirety and the digital transformation that changed the very fabric of the Indian workforce in 2020 is likely to accelerate further in 2021 and beyond.
The year 2020 was also a great year for Indian organisations to evaluate, pilot and adapt technology based solutions for hiring and on-boarding.
"Solutions such as video interviews, artificial intelligence (AI)-based facial recognition tech, data driven on-boarding - which were being talked about as being futuristic as early as 2019 were quickly adapted by many organisations in 2020," Nishith Upadhyaya, Director - Advisory Services, SHRM (APAC and MENA) said.
Further, Upadhyaya said the pandemic forced corporates to adopt a remote workforce model.
But, most companies will be inclined to retain this practice in 2021 as well as remote work opens up the talent pool wider than ever for most businesses.
"Instead of only looking at candidates in the immediate area who have the ability to travel to and from an office each day, they can consider pretty much everyone.
"Hence, we feel that most companies will be inclined to retain this practice in 2021 as well," he said.
Experts said 2020 has been a year of great learning for the HR function.
It rewarded the people who evolved and hit hard those who did not.
"In 2021 we will see lot of focus on automation and data driven hiring by use of analytics and AI, hiring will increase in locations wherein companies may not have physical presence, freelancing and fixed term hiring will rise in numbers," Sunil Goel, managing director GlobalHunt, a leading executive search organisation, said.
On labour reforms, wherein 29 legislations have been consolidated into four labour codes, Goel said, "It was much needed from a long time for ease of doing business and will encourage businesses across industry."
The proposition of fixed term employment will help in further boosting the job market by more formal hiring of workers and broadening of social security benefit is also a positive move, he noted.
Goel is also bullish about the job market going forward.
"Recruitment will increase and people will start getting appraisals as most companies are planning to expand and will go for fresh recruitment and also expected to float the appraisals from first quarter onwards in year 2021," he said.
According to a survey by leading global professional services firm Aon, organisations in India have shown tremendous resilience despite the COVID-19 challenges and are betting on recovery.
As many as 87 per cent companies plan to give salary increases in 2021 compared to 71 per cent in 2020, it showed.
Also, the survey said that companies in India gave an average pay increase of 6.1 per cent during 2020, the lowest since 2009 when the average was 6.3 per cent.
The latest Salary Trends Survey in India also noted that companies in India will give an average pay hike of 7.3 per cent in 2021.
Experts also opined that in 2020, the share of women hiring increased across almost all industries as corporate adopted flexible work models.
Manufacturing and e-commerce industries opened new opportunities for women.
Moreover, this year, most organisations invested in upskilling or reskilling their workforce through learning programmes.
This trend will continue even in 2021 for this helps increase the employee longevity and productivity on the ground.