New challenges in the Indian IT industry: Employer-employee changing dynamics - Hindustan Times
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New challenges in the Indian IT industry are changing the employer-employee dynamic

ByHindustan Times
May 26, 2023 10:52 AM IST

This article is authored by Vineet Nayar, founder chairman, Sampark Foundation and former vice chairman and CEO, HCL Technologies.

Indian IT has been a poster child for India not just because of its size and scale but, more important, for its continuous innovation in response to changing market dynamics. In my book, the core reason Indian IT has gained mindshare and market share at every turn of crisis and opportunity is because of its employees.

Information technology(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay )
Information technology(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay )

The unanswered question now is, at this vast size and scale, is that appetite to innovate and run ahead of the curve still intact? In its pursuit of growth and margins, is Indian IT missing a connection with its employees? Are employees as excited as they were in the past about the purpose, policy and vision of the companies they work for? Are employees its biggest challenge today and not i's most significant opportunity as it has been for decades?

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To answer these questions, let's look at three that are forcing a change in the status quo.

First, fast growth in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence is making many old low-tech jobs redundant and creating massive demand at the very top end, which the industry cannot meet with its old model of hiring freshers, training and deploying on a large scale. The pyramid model has served us well for decades, where the employee will start at the lower end and move up the technology ladder over time by working on customer projects. However, that model is breaking because the entry-level job numbers are reducing, and the speed of creating high-end technology talent is too slow and out of step with demand.

Second, this talent shortage at the top end is shifting power from employers to employees who ask questions about share in profits, job satisfaction, purpose in life and how organisations treat their employees. This is a short-term trend till the scarcity lasts and prevents Indian IT from growing as fast as it would like to. This talent is not just moving around based on the highest bidder but also seeking higher-risk returns in a start-up environment that are more exciting and hopefully more rewarding. Thus, the available talent pool has more options than it ever had before.

Last, customers and investors are becoming more socially aware and conscious of their responsibilities resulting in a push for higher transparency around environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to assess Indian IT’s business practices on sustainability and ethical practices. Thus, a push for much needed diversity in the workplace, more employee and environment-friendly policies and an inclusive workplace that works for the good of society and is not taking advantage of it. The goal can no more be just profits and growth -it is much more than that. What is done is essential however, how you do that is also sharply in focus.

Indian IT readiness and response to these changes is a mixed bag. Great in patches like building a digital practice in front-end geographies rather than the backend, creating products and frameworks to drive digital adoption, early identification and partnership with upcoming platform providers, pushing diversity, and more transparent reporting on ESG. However, unfortunately, we still have a head in the sand in other areas like its approach to moonlighting, firing people behind the excuse of performance, comfort with Indian teams and leaders, not being able to push diversity in the workplace, and not making significant, bold risk investments in creating products and platforms of their own.

These trends will only grow. The response to them is an opportunity, and I hope it accepts, adapts and grows with a hope that others are slow to do so. It is just a matter of time before some in the Indian IT industry race ahead and show the way. However, one thing is certain, you cannot ignore the employee anymore, and your strategy has to shift gears and be much more than looking at them as just numbers.

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