Sunny days await job seekers as economic recovery hopes energise companies

The pandemic, which hit the country hard in early 2020, adversely impacted the job market, both formal and informal segments, in most sectors.


Employment in India | Economic recovery | Indian job seekers

Better days are ahead for job seekers as companies are projecting a positive outlook on business revenue riding high on post pandemic economic recovery and there is also an increasing buzz about newer opportunities as well as better pay packages for professionals.

Notwithstanding the fears over the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, corporates believe the rebound of the job market could be the harbinger of good days ahead, unless an intense third wave derails the economic recovery.

The pandemic, which hit the country hard in early 2020, adversely impacted the job market, both formal and informal segments, in most sectors. While the aftermath of the pandemic-induced disruptions have not fully ebbed, the overall employment scenario is looking more positive now.

“Omicron or not, we have reason to believe that the days of complete shutdown are behind us. Everyone, be it employees, employers or government bodies, have realised that a fine balance between lives and livelihoods will have to be struck,” Balasubramanian A, Business Head (consumer and healthcare) at TeamLease Services, said.

The back-to-office trend is in full swing and companies are optimistic about their recruitment plans aided by robust economic growth, rise in consumption levels and expanding vaccination coverage.

“We are also witnessing an increased investment in private equity and M&A deals. The vaccination coverage is expanding and the shortage of skilled talent across sectors only indicates a buoyant job scenario in 2022,” Nitya Vijaykumar, Sr. Knowledge Advisor at SHRM India, said.

Striking a note of caution, Vijaykumar also said, “Only time will tell if the worst is behind us but clearly almost all sectors seem to be prepared for the future.” The growth that the white-collar employment space has been witnessing is expected to continue, he said, adding the hiring sentiment across conglomerates, large companies and startups is also very positive, he noted.

According to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey, hiring sentiment for the January-March quarter in India is the strongest reported in eight years, with 49 per cent of companies planning to add more staff in the next three months.

As per the survey, hiring sentiment in India improved by five percentage points in comparison with the prior quarter and by 43 percentage points when compared with this time one year ago.

As we march towards 2022, candidates with specialised, niche skill sets will be more in demand than ever. Technology will continue to be in vogue and pay a significant wage premium.

“The key ‘theme’ for hiring in 2022 will be specificity — hiring for specific roles, focusing on the right profile. Recruiters will prioritise the ‘who to hire’ rather than ‘what to hire’. 2022 will be the year of data-driven recruitment,” Siddhartha Gupta, CEO of Mercer|Mettl, said.

“The combination of the pandemic, ‘Great Resignation’, and the digitisation process has forever changed the way we define ‘work’. The era of ‘9 to 5’, ‘Monday to Friday’ is coming to an end,” Gupta said, adding that “the notion that productivity equates to the number of hours is outdated”.

In 2022, employees will have leverage in the employee-employer relationship and recruiters will need to rethink their strategy to attract top talent. Companies will focus on transparent diversity, equity, and inclusion policies, and will implement a ‘Listening Culture’ — the formation of workplace guidelines and policies based on employee feedback.

Moreover, as talent attraction and retention remain a challenge, companies are ready to go beyond just competitive salaries and are increasingly focusing on a wider range of benefits, wellness, upskilling and the overall employee experience.

As companies are facing mounting challenges of attracting and retaining employees, they are planning to give employees larger hikes, around 7-9 per cent on an average, and top performers can expect about 1.5 to 1.8 times the increments given to average performers, experts said.

According to the ‘Salary Budget Planning Report’ by global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson, salaries are projected to see a median salary increase of 9.3 per cent next year compared to the actual median salary increase of 8 per cent in 2021.

India’s projected salary increase is the highest in Asia-Pacific for the next year as optimism returns over improved business outlook in the next 12 months, the report added.

The sectors that are likely to be in focus in 2022 are IT, technology, telecoms, communications, media, hospitality, BFSI and real estate. Fintech, Edtech, NBFCs, FMCG and Pharma are some of the other sectors to watch out for. As capex picks up, manufacturing firms are also likely to join the upswing.

Experts believe that overall recruitments may reach pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, unless Omicron or any new coronavirus variant hits hard. However, this rebound in the job market will remain deeply uneven sector by sector. The industries that are impacted by the permanent shift to online activity and remote work will continue to feel the aftershocks of the pandemic.

Going ahead, organisations will continue to invest in technology and continuous reskilling of their employees. A large part of hiring across sectors is likely to happen within critical functions such as engineering, information technology, technically skilled trades, sales and finance, experts said.

Amidst the pandemic-uncertainty, both employees and employers have their concerns for the future world of work but they are sure about one thing, the workplace will never quite look the same and they must evolve together.

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