The competitive labour market, high rate of resignation, and the shortage of skilled talent are some of the challenges facing businesses globally. Companies are working hard to make the new remote and on-site mix function well in the post-pandemic environment. Thendral Rajendran, vice president and regional head - TA, CSS Corp., asserts that to succeed through times of transition and uncertainty, leaders must establish a solid culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion and is receptive to employee feedback. Programmes and initiatives that guarantee employee career advancement, as well as their physical and mental health, are essential. Thendral discusses the hybrid work paradigm, recruiting trends, and skills-based hiring in an interview with us.
Thendral Rajendran is vice president and regional head – TA, CSS Corp. Thendral has over 19 years of experience across talent acquisition, HR business partner, talent management, HR operations, engagement and retention. Her talent acquisition expertise extends over a decade with Accenture and Sutherland.
Here are the edited excerpts.
Is the hybrid work model worth it? What does your return-to-office plan look like?
Yes. The hybrid model is definitely worth the hype. Though at CSS Corp, our workforce is currently working remotely, we are exploring ways in which we can give our employees the best of both worlds. It’s important to understand the current talent pool and their expectations, and the hybrid approach is a blessing in disguise for all organisations. We also believe that maintaining adequate levels of human interaction is still extremely important in workplaces to not lose the sense of real connection. It is also vital for the physical and mental well-being of the employees.
We have teams that have been hired in a 100% WFH model. Currently, this constitutes about 15-20% of our workforce. They will continue to operate remotely even if we decide to return to the office or go hybrid. We have a solid roadmap to invest significantly in AI, automation, and security to steadily improve the remote work experience for both our employees and clients.
How do you envision overall employment and recruitment trends, particularly in the tech industry, evolving in 2022?
IT industry trends continue to evolve rapidly amidst technological advancements and digital transformation, resulting in high demand for skilled talent in the sector. And the global crisis has just multiplied this need by almost five times.
The IT job market is quite competitive. Since technology is a prominent part of a company's day-to-day operations, attracting and retaining exceptional talent is crucial for the bottom line.
This underlines the fact that IT companies must invest in having a rock-solid talent hiring, upskilling, and retaining strategy in place. As companies look to hire the best talent amidst emerging technologies and uncertainties, implementing effective strategies gives them a considerable edge over competitors. No matter what hiring strategy or technology is trending, the ultimate objective remains the same – attracting the right talent in a way that enhances the candidate experience.
What's your take on the shift to skills-based hiring? What implications will it have on the larger corporate sector?
Skills-based hiring is not a new phenomenon that the industry is witnessing; it has always been there. But traditionally, the focus was heavily on educational qualifications and past experience, with skills being just one of the requirements. Now, the difference is that the prominence given to skills is way higher than in the past. The evolving workforce dilemma of occupying hard-to-fill roles and the great resignation are the key factors driving this shift. I remember reading a LinkedIn survey that said, 77% of hirers are focusing on hiring based on skills and competencies, showing a hiring trend in skills rather than education.
By switching to skills-based hiring, companies can hire from a diverse talent pool, allowing them to pinpoint quality applicants for hard-to-fill roles. With this approach, degrees and titles can sit alongside assessments, certifications, endorsements, and other alternative methods for determining the capability of a candidate. Once you’ve hired the right talent, keep them engaged and help them adapt to the changing demands of the industry by creating a culture of learning.
As the spotlight on talent acquisition intensifies, how should talent leaders and TA heads gear up to make the most of it?
With the new financial year comes new strategies, opportunities, and challenges. However, one challenge remains unchanged for IT businesses—finding the right, skilled talent. And it's safe to say that this trend will continue into 2022 as well.
The need for exceptional tech talent in today's cut-throat IT market, the increasing trend of the great resignation, and the scarcity of skilled talent amidst the evolution of remote/hybrid work culture are just the tip of the iceberg. To thrive in another year of change, TA leaders today need to create a strong culture that encourages DEI values, is open to employee feedback, and listens empathetically to employee needs. It’s also vital to have programmes that ensure the career growth, and physical and mental well-being of employees. Therefore, talent leaders must invest in future-proofing their workplaces so they are prepared for a hybrid/WFH/WFA model.
What are CSS Corp's plans for expanding its talent pool? What methods do you use to encourage diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
We have a strategic approach to recruitment that enables us to hire a diverse range of people. We have a dedicated talent acquisition team of experts who constantly work with the marketing team to attract the brightest talent out there. We leverage channels like university hiring, training institutes, alumni hiring, veteran hiring, employee referral programs, internal job postings, candidate referral schemes, community hiring, social media, and specialized partner-connect programs. All these channels help us to hire a diversified pool of talent.
With the help of AI tools, we map the talent catchment area and the best sources to attract them. This has significantly helped us identify a future-ready talent pool. We redefined our recruitment processes by leveraging multi-device User Experience (UX) tools at every phase of the recruiting process to enhance candidates' experience.
Besides, we have automated our talent acquisition process and amplified the use of new-age technologies like AI, AR, and analytics. For screening, we have developed a cognitive search integrated with the internal system, Talent Acquisition Management System (TAMS), that identifies the right candidate by screening through hundreds and thousands of resumes.
As an equal opportunity employer, we have invested tremendous effort in designing a culture where work is a source of fulfilment, trust, collaboration, and a safe place for employees.
What are your top focus areas as you reimagine TA? How are you upskilling your employees?
Talent acquisition strategies are often multi-layered. In the last few years, we have witnessed a radical shift in how the company culture influences hiring and impact the overall talent acquisition strategy. Therefore, at CSS Corp, we have consciously built a culture that promotes a flat hierarchy with a no-door policy, where individuals can voice their opinions openly and often, irrespective of their gender, orientation, or generation.
We take a data-driven approach powered by deep analytics that helps in making efficient hiring decisions. We foster a continuous learning culture and environment that provides employees with easy access to learn new-age technologies and acquire digital skills that are niche in the market.
We have also invested in new-age training solutions and tools like ‘The Lightboard Technology’ that allow us to digitalize training sessions.
Do you think the talent marketplaces so many companies are banking on will stick around? How will it impact the larger talent management landscape?
With technology constantly evolving and priorities shifting, it becomes crucial to have a talent marketplace to not only allow employees to find the best roles that fit their skillsets, but also help in job sharing, identifying gig work, and finding the right people for the job in real-time.
Recently, our internal quality team in India urgently needed a German Language Specialist for a Soft Skills Trainer role. The job required only 40% of their efforts and was short-term. When we posted this requirement internally, we instantly found the candidate for the job from our Romania Centre who had a passion for training and was working on a Customer Experience Project in Romania. This approach helps the employee gain experience being a soft skills trainer in a known environment while benefiting the organization simultaneously. Along the same lines, a gig posted on a small project on employee wellbeing could attract many employees who want to contribute to this space and learn something new.
When the employees' skills are utilized for projects and initiatives, they see more value and potential in their roles. The talent marketplace enables employees to plunge faster and feel more liberated, facilitating cross-functional expertise and collaboration.