61% Indian Employers to continue Flexible Work Arrangements beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

India's distributed workforce may be a result of the COVID-19 restrictions, but employers are keen to maintain these flexible working arrangements even beyond the pandemic. Although remote working arrangements were previously not as widely popular in India, 93% of employers have since embraced the option, and 61% intend to continue with them, ahead of Indonesia (47%), Vietnam (55%) and Greater China (47%).

This is according to RGF International Recruitment's latest Talent in Asia 2020 report, which is based on a comprehensive analysis of over 4,600 survey responses about hiring trends across 11 Asian countries and markets. The aim of this research was to better understand the needs, demands and expectations of both candidates and employers in Asia.

Employers in India are also quickly adopting digital solutions to overcome telecommuting limitations, with 63% doing more frequent video calls to keep staff motivated, and 48% of companies choosing to accelerate online interviews.

Remote working options have not seen a huge decrease in productivity, with only 14% of employers reporting less than 50% productivity, while 14% have reported higher than usual productivity rates. These numbers are good news for companies that plan to continue flexible work arrangements, and also for employees in India who consider flexible working hours (66%) and remote working (65%) to be the two most important factors for work-life balance.

However, work-life balance comes in at fourth place as an overall motivating factor when employees are looking for a job, with opportunities for career advancement being the most crucial driving factor to 50%. This is a significant difference from 2019, where salary & compensation came out on top (64%). This is especially prominent amongst Gen Z and Gen Y employees, where 55% voted it the top factor, compared to their Gen X and Baby Boomer colleagues (43%). Unsurprisingly then, the number one reason cited by Gen Z and Gen Y employees for a change of job is wanting to expand their knowledge and skills (27%), which came in second place for Gen X & Baby Boomers (24%).

Of course, competitive compensation is still a large motivator for changing jobs. In fact, 47% of employees considered it part of their top three reasons to consider a new employer - but employers should note that the average expectation of a pay rise across India has risen significantly in the last year, from 21% in 2019 to 38% in 2020.

For the 87% of Indian employees who indicated a keenness to change jobs in the next 12 months, take note: the top hard skill Indian employers are looking for is industry knowledge and experience (76%), while the top soft skill identified is accountability and responsibility (29%). This is especially noteworthy as only 22% of employees considered accountability and responsibility to be their strongest soft skill.

Nonetheless, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, new soft skills already on the radar may become increasingly relevant to employers, including being a good team player (28%), innovation and creativity (22%) and adaptability and flexibility (19%). The lack of such candidates with necessary work experience, skills and knowledge is the top reason (65%) given for the talent shortage faced by 52% of employers in India.

Besides talent shortage, employers struggle with building a strong employer brand (39%) and also a more capable HR and talent acquisition team (33%). About a third (31%) of employers also find company culture mismatch to be a hiring challenge.

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing the importance of future-proofing employees to the fore, employers in India are embracing the need to build an informed, adaptable workforce. In addition to providing more frequent and clear communication on business strategy (70%), they are also investing in enriching employee engagement programmes (37%), internal and external training (36%), and technology to improve processes and efficiencies (36%).

"COVID-19 brought a huge disruption to the Indian workforce, but it also brings a great opportunity. Companies keeping pace with the fast-changing digital world have leveraged their distributed workforces to experiment with new approaches to communication and productivity. How companies pivot and manage work structure in the post-pandemic period will be instrumental in establishing a strong employer brand to remain attractive to new talent," said Sachin Kulshrestha, Managing Director, RGF Professional Recruitment India.

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