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Employee Engagement Is One Of The Top Challenges For HR leaders: Naveen Narayanan, VP, Hiring, Sapient Razorfish

Naveen Narayanan, Vice-President, Hiring, Sapient Razorfish APAC talks to BW Businessworld about hiring, recruitment policies with the advent of social media and maternity leave. Edited Excerpts:

Naveen Narayanan, Vice-President, Hiring, Sapient Razorfish APAC talks to BW Businessworld about hiring, recruitment policies with the advent of social media and maternity leave. Edited Excerpts: 

2017 had largely been a slow year in terms of recruitment. How have your recruitment policies been affected?

2017 was the year of digital disruption. Technological trends such as artificial intelligence, big data and analytics were seen across various sectors in 2017. Hiring was a little sluggish in the IT sector, but saw an upward trend in other industries. For 2018, the hiring sentiments are expected to improve, with several people going through upskilling programs to embrace new technologies. According to estimates, artificial intelligence alone is expected to create 2.3 million jobs globally by 2020. With the increased focus on digitisation, the growth in businesses is expected. Companies which have a relevant “digital first” proposition have been winning with clients. Hiring for digital transformation will be agile and a lot different from the era of ERP and packages as transformation contracts are not 5 or 7 year deals or RFP centric. 2018 promises to be a year of momentum for us at Sapient as we continue to help our clients through their transformation journey.

What are you planning for 2018? What are the headcount projections?

Our core offering to clients is the intersection of digital, business and marketing transformation. We build digital customer journeys for our clients. We have announced that Publicis.Sapient will offer market leading digital business transformation solutions to our clients as part of the total Publicis Groupe offering. Our recent wins from marquee clients are a demonstration of the same. Our headcount will grow this year to handle this momentum. We will hire new kinds of people, new skills and fresh thinking.

What about cross industry hiring – which industries do you majorly hire from and for what profiles?

The changing market dynamics are encouraging companies to hire for innovation and this in turn is seeing an increased hiring from cross-industry talent pools bringing in diverse skills and expertise. We focus on several industry groups like FS, retail, telecom consumer products, auto, oil & gas and public Sector. We are always on a hunt for talent who can bring deep industry expertise, individuals who have implemented solutions, have a point of view on the industry dynamics and its near future. We believe a person with the breadth of cross industry experience will outperform someone with an in-depth experience, hence we look for the elusive vector where individuals need to possess deep engineering and technology capabilities, industry expertise and agile learning abilities.

Digital had been in focus recently. What are the key profiles and skill sets you are hiring for?

Digital is the way of business and a way of thinking. Any company which does not have it as a Board agenda probably have written their own demise in the next 5 years. Digital will change how customers engage with brands almost radically. We are always on the look for candidates with deep abilities in AEM, Data, Experience Technologies, Enterprise Mobile, Commerce technologies and many more. Along with the change in skill sets, the process of hiring is also evolving. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already making inroads in hiring, where we expect to see a sharp increase in the uptake of AI-enabled chatbots to match candidates with jobs.

How has recruitment policies changed with the advent of social media? What are the challenges in the HR industry?

Hiring looks very different than what it used to look a decade ago. Social Media happened maybe 8-10 years back. The workforce today is different by generation and the way they prefer to utilise their skills. Employees have far superior technology in their palms than what any company can imagine to offer. There has been an explosion of technology in the HR industry. Nowadays, outbound hiring is being followed where the best candidates don’t apply but they discover new opportunities through personal and social networks, respond to companies that value them for more than their skills, and expect personalized experiences – not transactional engagement.

With the changing workforce, employee engagement in today’s time is also considered as one of the top challenges HR leaders are facing. HR needs to look at their tactics and engagement activities and leverage new age tools in this age of job hopping millennials. Besides, another challenge faced by HR is to create a right balance of organizational culture that attracts potential employees while retaining current ones.

Maternity leave and flexible working hours are gaining prominence. How do you ensure productivity in such cases?

We had introduced the benefits as called out in the maternity bill much before the bill was actually introduced. Having a 6 month break and any additional time off has been a key reason why we are able to retain more women in the workforce. We have a robust support system for women, to help them achieve sustainable careers. Innovative working policies including flexi-working hours and working from home have helped boost retention, recruitment, enthusiasm, loyalty and effectiveness amongst our female workforce. It is interesting to note that flexible working hours in the last 5 years have plateaued globally at 17 percent of the total workforce.


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