03 January 2022 04:09:18 IST

Kamal Karanth is CoFounder of Xpheno, a specialist staffing company he has been building since 2017. Before turning an entrepreneur, Kamal worked as MD of Kelly Services and as Director APAC for Randstad, where he built teams that grew and created extraordinary results. Today, his team members are making an impact as leaders across the talent acquisition, HR, and staffing domains. A movie buff and cricket enthusiast, Kamal is a believer in relationships and has been writing monthly columns for The Hindu BusinessLine since 2016. LinkedIn ranked him among the top voices of India in 2020 for his consistent influencing blogs and vlogs around workplace dynamics. He is a talent specialist in RPO, IT staffing, and executive search.

Will the employer be able to strike back?

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Year 2021 belonged to the employee. Year 2022 may see enterprises wrest control again.

Many employees changed jobs last year and smiled their way to the bank, with all the riches the new workplace gave. As an employer, we winced, but were forced to hire talent at an exorbitant pay. Moreover, what hurt our ego more was having to entice our leaving colleagues to stay with huge counteroffers, bonuses and promotions.

Enterprises keen to get staff back to the office struggled to convince them. Those who stayed back with their employers are now struggling with the FOMO or hoping that whatever happened last year was unreal.

Wounded tiger

“This is home to me. There will always be a comeback,“ wrote a departing colleague of mine. “This is a one-way ticket”, I texted, not wanting to hide my disappointment. Similar have been sentiments by some enterprises that lost precious talent to their competitors. But will 2022 be a year where the employer can regain control? The demand for talent suggests that employers will have to wait before any equilibrium with employee relations can be achieved.

However, it is evident that our colleagues, especially in the technology sector, will continue to hold the aces in 2022. A correction is waiting for some of the employees who switched in a hurry. The talent that got hired at double their salary or got retained with massive hikes needs to live up to the high price tag they set for themselves. Employers under duress threw money to attract employees. They have no choice but to scrutinise these employees for elevated performance.

Even BCCI ran out of patience with an out-of-form Virat Kohli. The monitoring and higher expectations will increase the attention on this set of employees and cause burnout or early attrition. Enterprises should know that higher productivity isn’t guaranteed by paying a higher dollar for some skills. It’s no secret that many of these talents were hired in a rush by crunching the recruitment cycle, and hiring managers must bite the bullet by letting go of some of the wrong hires.

Boomerangs

Employees who switched in 2021 due to FOMO or attractive opportunities would discover that the grass may not be greener on the other side. Some of the social media farewells indicate that employees are keeping a comeback door open while leaving. Performing at an elevated level in a new place overnight isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. 2022 is likely to witness a fair percentage of disappointed employees return to their former employers. One of the lessons learnt from the year is the lack of sufficient talent pipeline amongst the pandemic-hit enterprises.

The just-in-time workforce mindset has hurt organisations. Many of them played the zero-sum game of hiring from each other. Enterprises need to live up to the reality of building an organic workforce by training freshers. It’s a long-term old-fashioned model, but relevant to the current expensive model of shopping for ready-made talent from competitors.

The hire-train-deploy model would earn more opportunities for first-time job seekers. The build model will need a wage correction at the bottom of the pyramid in all industries, as most freshers have been paid meagre wages for a very long time. So, 2022 may well be an excellent time to enter the workforce, even if one isn’t from a premier institute.

We have witnessed what was considered unacceptable short tenures from new entrants to the employment world. The funded start-up world has thrown off this stability template, and we can expect more leaders to have shorter stints. CEOs need to get comfortable hiring. CXOs with short stints and can no longer frown at CVs with too many job changes. They should not look at a distant future but hire for immediate impact.

Relationships upskill

The workspace has become completely transactional, and relationship skills will be more premium. Despite attempts to get people to off-sites and offices, we will still spend more time away than together. The only skill that will make the workforce collaborate and be productive will be connecting and relating to the manager and team.

It's risky to be a workspace soothsayer for 2022. After all, none of the salary surveys said we had to pay 100 per cent hikes, nor was 50 per cent attrition rates in tech predicted. One thing we have learnt from 2021 is that all great changes are preceded by chaos. I am hoping the chaos is behind us.