10 Workplace Trends in India for the Year Ahead

By Shefali Anand October 1, 2019
10 Workplace Trends in India for the Year Ahead

​A fast-changing business environment and rapid developments in technology mean HR professionals have to be on their toes to prepare for changes at the workplace. Here are the major workplace trends that will impact HR teams in India over the next year.

1. Prepare for the Workforce of the Future

Companies world over, and in India, are starting to use more artificial intelligence-based tools, including robots, to improve productivity in all spheres of business. This will mean some jobs will become redundant, and some new ones soon will be created. HR teams should be asking themselves: "What kind of people would we need?" said Rajiv Kapoor, group HR head at Uno Minda, an automotive parts-maker in Gurgaon. At the same time, HR will have to strike a balance with automation such that it doesn't take away human interaction. "Both have to co-exist," Kapoor said.

2. Bridge the Skills Gap

While India produces tens of thousands of university graduates every year, a large number of them don't have the skills that make them eligible for jobs. One study of graduate students found only half of them were ready to be employed. "Employability has been, and is going to be, a huge challenge for India," said Rituparna Chakraborty, Bengaluru-based president of the Indian Staffing Federation.

Meanwhile, companies in all sectors face a persistent shortage of skilled staff. While the government has initiated several skilling programs, these haven't been enough. So, organizations are taking steps to bridge the skills gap. Companies and associations in industries like automobiles, banking, insurance and information technology, have set up learning centers and industrial training institutes to impart skills relevant to their industries.

3. Upskill the Existing Workforce

Employees already in jobs, at various levels, should be adding to their skills or acquiring new ones, to be relevant in a dynamic workplace. Experts say companies need to provide incentives and motivation for employees to acquire knowledge or undergo training. "It has to be a culture of lifelong learning," Chakraborty said.

4. Assimilate Gen Z

An army of individuals in their twenties is entering the workforce in India and they come with a different approach to the workplace. They care less about job security and hierarchy, and more about getting challenging tasks and flexibility in how and where they work.

Companies are already tweaking policies to attract this generation of workers.

However, to retain them, it won't be enough to just install a juice bar or treadmill, or bean bags in the office, Kapoor said. Ultimately, these workers also want all the same things that have long driven employees of all generations, including responsibility, recognition and a sense of purpose. "We have to strike a balance," Kapoor said.

5. Be Flexible 

More companies in India are looking at whether they should be more focused on getting the job done, rather than the hours put in by an employee or her physical location. Some large companies, for instance, are offering employees the option to work from different office locations. By doing this, "your talent net actually gets wider," said Mohit Mathur, head of HR, Solutions Business, Sterlite Power in Delhi.

6. Manage Morale

Amid the ongoing business slowdown and cash crunch in India, companies should be stepping up focus on employee engagement. HR needs to keep morale high and keep staff motivated so they are ready to take on more responsibility and do whatever is necessary to help the company flourish.

7. Tap Into the Gig Economy

New platforms are becoming available in India for companies to find and contract temporary, freelance or "gig" workers, who work without the frills and collars of a traditional job. These include blue-collar workers, such as those who do food deliveries, as well as white-collar workers with specialized skills in various fields including architecture, banking and technology. As companies incorporate more of these gig workers, HR will need to frame policies and set up systems to integrate them within the company's ecosystem.

"With its pool of professionals with high-end specialized skills, the gig economy presents a distinct strategic opportunity for the organizations of the future," said Sukhjit Pasricha, Mumbai-based Group CHRO of Kotak Mahindra Bank. But for the gig economy to flourish, Pasricha said companies need to have an open mindset and well-defined expectations.

8. Go Beyond Gender Diversity

Women hold just 20 percent of the senior roles in Indian companies, according to a report by Grant Thornton, a consulting firm. That's an improvement from the score in 2014, when women held 14 percent of the senior roles. To boost these numbers, some large companies in India are asking for more resumes from women for their open positions.

At the same time, experts say for India, diversity needs to go beyond gender, to include employees from diverse ethnicities of India, from diverse socioeconomic status, those with disabilities and with different sexual orientations.

"The bigger and long-term challenge lies not in achieving a numerically diverse workforce, but in building an inclusive and positive environment," Pasricha said.

[SHRM members-only how-to guide: How to Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Initiative]

9. Invest in Mental Health

Around half of the workforce in India suffers from some form of stress, including many from depression, according to a report by industry body Assocham.

Corporate India is starting to take note of these issues, with some companies offering counseling services and helplines to staff. Others are looking at how to go about this. "It's now being looked at in a much more refreshed way," said Sushil Baveja, executive director HR at DCM Shriram, a conglomerate based in Delhi.

10. Focus on Soft Skills

While the importance of having "soft skills"—like a positive attitude, ability to work in a team and ability to lead—is well known, few companies in India pay attention to these while hiring someone.

But that's changing, and companies are looking beyond just degrees and grades. "There is a drift of awareness," Chakraborty said.

Shefali Anand is a New Delhi-based journalist and former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal. You can follow her on Twitter.



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