Bangalore: When sales professional S. Raghavan interviewed for a job with an information technology (IT) firm in November, he asked most of the questions. Raghavan wanted to know about the relevance of a new business unit the firm was creating, its importance in the larger scheme of things, strategy and road map.
“I wanted to know how serious they were about the business,” says Raghavan, 35, who moved out of a sales role at his previous employer when his team lost its prominence in the aftermath of the global economic crisis.
Raghavan, who joined a sales role at the company after the interview, didn’t always ask such questions. His chief concerns during his 12-year career, in which he has changed jobs four times, had been compensation and job profile, he admits.
The once jumpy, job-hopping Indian professional, restless to keep pace with a booming economy and happy to switch employers for every raise, has become more sensible and circumspect after the crisis, human resource (HR) managers say.
Interviews have become a two-way process, says D.K. Srivastava, corporate vice-president and global head, HR, at software services provider HCL Technologies Ltd. Srivastava says candidates now ask him and his team about job stability, career growth, training, projects in which they would be deployed and post-project plans, among other things.
India may have been spared the worst effects of the global recession, but the country did feel its impact as companies put expansion plans on hold, froze hiring, cut jobs and pared salaries. The Indian economy grew 6.7% in the year ended March, the slowest pace since 2003.
In the boom years, when the economy expanded at 9%, businesses had been hit by a shortage of skilled and trained staff as employees jumped from job to job. Attrition was as high as 15% in the IT sector and 40% in the business process outsourcing space, according to a May study by Bangalore-based HR services firm Global Talent Metrics Pvt. Ltd, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
With the job market beginning to look up—companies such as Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Technologies Ltd, the country’s second and third largest IT firms, have announced hiring plans—attrition may rise again in 2010.
Still, the downturn created an element of job insecurity that young professionals hadn’t experienced, and money alone may not be a sufficiently attractive blandishment.
“Earlier, money was the only driver,” says Cherian Kuruvila, director of operations at Manpower Services India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian arm of US-based Manpower Inc. But nowadays employees feel, “an known devil is better that an unknown devil”.
The fallout of all that wariness is a talent crunch, especially for new firms. “Newer telecom players are finding it too difficult to get talent,” says Manish Kharbanda, chief HR officer at Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd, the Indian mobile services arm of Russian conglomerate Sistema Group. He says it takes a lot of convincing to get people on board. “Prospective employees ask about business plans, which was unheard of.” Kharbanda says he was lucky to have hired 3,500 people last year when the firm entered India; he plans to hire an additional 1,000 in 2010.
That may not be easy.
“I would really think twice before joining any of the new telecom players,” says a senior-level telecom executive passively looking for a new job. “In a short span of less than a year, I have seen the new telecom players retrench people.”
The executive, who did not want his name to be disclosed, says none of the new crop of telecom operators have the financial stability of the established lot.
Many HR executives welcome the new-found caution, but Rajiv Srinivasa, marketing and sales director at recruitment firm Talking Heads Pvt. Ltd, says he is not sure if the sobered progression of career growth and salaries will last. “There are chances things could well reverse, say, in the latter half of 2010, once demand for people really picks up.”