Overcoming Challenges in Frontline Talent Acquisition in India

June 12, 2023

Q&A with Director of HR at Licious - Overcoming Challenges in Frontline Talent Acquisition in India

In this blog, we will explore the evolution of frontline talent acquisition over recent years with Rahul, the Director of HR at Licious, India's leading (D2C) meat brand. Rahul, with his vast expertise and experience in talent acquisition across different industries, offers valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities in frontline talent acquisition in India. We delve into a Q&A session with Rahul to gain deeper understanding and knowledge in this area, including the complexities of engaging gig workers and the importance of creating a distinct employee experience for frontline talent.

Krishna: Welcome, Rahul. Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to discuss the evolution of frontline talent acquisition in India and how technology adoption can transform the frontline talent acquisition processes.

Rahul: Thank you for having me here Krishna.

Krishna: Let’s dive in. According to you, what are the key challenges associated with frontline talent acquisition in India?

Rahul: The challenges faced in frontline talent acquisition in India are multifaceted and unique to the emerging gig industry. Let’s focus on the gig industry for the discussion today, and the primary challenges are:

Lack of Employment Security and Growth Opportunities

The gig industry is characterized by informal employment structures that contribute to a perceived lack of job security and limited growth prospects. Many individuals view gig work as supplementary income rather than a traditional employment option. Despite this, millions of people rely on gig work to support their families, fund their education, and fulfil their needs. While gig work offers higher income potential than some formal jobs, it often comes as a trade off to long-term skill development and social security. While exceptions to this trade-off exist, they are relatively uncommon.

Identification with Profession over Organization

Frontline gig workers often establish a stronger identification with their profession, such as delivery persons, drivers, or therapists, over the organization they work for. This phenomenon significantly contributes to the industry’s high churn rate, as individuals prioritize their profession rather than building loyalty to specific employers. Fostering a sense of affiliation with organizations is crucial, and it can be achieved by creating an environment where frontline talent feel welcomed, valued, and well-cared for.

Worker with Same Profession

Lack of Useful Technology in the Recruitment Process Today

The gig industry in India remains largely unorganised and lacks formal employment structures. This informal nature of engagement poses challenges in effectively managing talent acquisition processes. Without standardised practices and systems, ensuring consistent data quality, streamlining recruitment through automation, and delivering a positive candidate experience become more challenging. To overcome these challenges, organisations must adopt efficient and technology-driven solutions.

Krishna: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the same, but how have these challenges evolved over time? And how do you see them evolving over the next few years?

Rahul: Well, gig work is no longer a new phenomenon, but over time, the challenges have evolved due to the shift in contracts between employers and employees. With the transition towards a more contractualised and principal-to-principal structure, a trade-off between flexibility and security, long-term growth and incentives, and affinity with indifference has emerged. This evolution has necessitated a careful balance between these factors to address the evolving needs of gig workers and optimise talent acquisition strategies in the gig industry.

In the evolving landscape of the gig industry, there is a middle ground where the interests of both workers and employers can align. Positive strides have already been made in this direction, including key initiatives to support gig workers' well-being and provide social security. Notably, the inclusion of gig workers in Labor Codes demonstrates a commitment to address their needs. Moreover, individual employers have introduced programs such as education assistance and participation in Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), promoting a sense of belonging and long-term growth for gig workers. These proactive measures signal a promising path towards fostering a mutually beneficial relationship between gig workers and employers

Let’s acknowledge that the frontline workforce has become a differentiator in supply chain, customer experience, and profitability of organisations. Recognising this significance, forward-thinking organisations are making substantial investments in various aspects related to the frontline workforce, such as recruitment, skill development, retention, and career advancement. It is crucial to break away from the traditional apathy and refrain from treating them as mere job workers who can be outsourced to contractors. They are not just a headcount at the fences; they form an integral part of our organisation. They represent the face of our organisation to our valued customers, as they are the ones who directly interact with them. Neglecting their importance would be a grave mistake that we cannot afford.

Team Leaders with Frontline Workers

The future trajectory of frontline talent acquisition challenges will be shaped by the HR practices and policies implemented by organisations for their frontline workforce. However, it will also be significantly influenced by the industry's adoption of technology in talent acquisition processes. Unlike the white-collar segment, the frontline gig industry has been slower in embracing technology, especially for recruitment. Nevertheless, as the challenges in frontline talent acquisition, such as high churn rates, continue to intensify, the need for recruitment technology specifically designed for this segment will become indispensable in the coming months and years.

Krishna: I 100% agree that the adoption of technology in frontline HR processes has been lagging. But let me seek your thoughts on what kind of pain points you think technology can solve?

Rahul: Technology adoption across the lifecycle of an employee is extremely important. Everything from attendance to payout automation and recruitment and onboarding to performance management is instrumental in running frontline gig HR operations.

For example, leveraging recruitment and onboarding technology can address various pain points in the hiring process. It empowers organisations to enhance data quality, streamline and automate recruitment, and elevate the overall candidate experience throughout their journey. With the integration of deep technology and intelligent automations, organisations can efficiently filter out unqualified candidates, distinguish between high-intent and low-intent candidates, align recruiters solely with relevant and high-intent candidates, expedite the onboarding process, and ensure that frontline talent is productive from day one. This technology-driven approach can significantly alleviate the challenges faced in frontline talent acquisition, leading to favourable outcomes for both employers and workers.

Krishna: Interesting. Before we talk more about technology in frontline talent acquisition, I want to touch upon the upcoming festive season and how difficult it becomes to hire frontline gig talent.

Rahul: Sure. During the festive season, the challenges in frontline talent acquisition become particularly pronounced. This is due to the cyclical nature of businesses, where a significant share of frontline talent is not engaged in the industry year-round and instead joins specifically for the festive season sales. This floating population of potential employees needs to be included to meet the surge in demand.

To address this, a vast network of recruiters takes to the streets, spanning cities, towns, and villages, reaching out to a diverse array of individuals, including students, retail workers, and farm workers. In these bustling recruitment efforts, the activation of war rooms akin to tele-caller operations becomes common, with millions of leads being dialed in the pursuit of securing talent and delivering millions of shipments to customers on time.

However, the pool of available talent is limited and essentially floating, meaning that the same individuals could be potential hires for multiple employers. In this competitive landscape, what sets apart winning employers is their ability to swiftly and precisely reach out to candidates and onboard them seamlessly, ensuring they are productive from day one.By embracing efficient talent acquisition strategies, these employers position themselves for success in attracting and retaining the best talent in the market.

Krishna: As per industry sources, the situation of manpower shortage to meet the demand jump is going to be much worse compared to last year, as the labor migration on the back of COVID has not reverted to the pre-COVID era. Can you talk about the role of technology in frontline talent acquisition and how organisations can prepare specifically for this festive season?

Rahul: As I mentioned earlier, swift and precise reach out to candidates and seamless onboarding is crucial to the success of frontline operations. Achieving this requires effective candidate engagement through technologically enabled, efficient, and non-intrusive methods.

Recruitment technology plays a pivotal role in overcoming these challenges in frontline talent acquisition, particularly during the festive season. Employers can leverage the power of algorithms and automated processes to efficiently filter out unqualified or less likely candidates, directing their attention towards those who have a higher probability of joining and making a positive impact. By implementing technology-driven candidate engagement strategies, employers can create a differentiated and engaging experience that not only attracts but also retains the top-tier frontline talent.

Digitisation of all recruitment channels, such as existing candidate ecosystems, referrals, walk-ins, job boards, vendors, and social media, is the first step in adopting recruitment technology. Especially for festive season preparation, organisations should look to digitise their existing candidate ecosystem (leads from job boards and other channels) to be able to use recruitment chatbots for hyper-personalised candidate reach-outs when the demand arises.

The floating population of potential employees requires proactive recruitment efforts and streamlined onboarding processes. By embracing recruitment technology and employing algorithmic filtering methods, employers can optimise their hiring strategies, engage with candidates effectively, and secure the best talent for the festive season and beyond.

Recruiter using technology to find right frontline talent

Krishna: These are wonderful suggestions. I am sure these will help a lot of organisations out there to plan their festive season human resource needs. At Hunar.AI, we have witnessed a growing adoption of recruitment technology for frontline talent acquisition among forward-looking organisations. Considering this, what is something that you suggest organisations should start doing, perhaps something that they have overlooked?

Rahul: Another important aspect is the perception of the employers in the talent market. Each frontline worker has numerous opportunities to choose from, and usually the barriers to exit their current organisation are low. Therefore, it is imperative that we present a proposition to the frontline workforce that stands out, resonates with them, and makes them choose us over others in the market.

The proposition that appeals to frontline workers extends beyond just job-seeking, but also encompasses their ongoing journey within the organisation. While our focus has traditionally been on the white-collar workforce, it is crucial to recognize the importance of addressing the needs of frontline talent. In recent decades, we have institutionalised concepts like "careers," "well-being," "assessment centres," and even the HR department, which were not prevalent before.

It’s time that we switch gears and institutionalise benchmark practices for our new found ‘core’, the frontline workforce.

Krishna: Thank you, Rahul, for spending time with us and sharing your thoughts. It was a pleasure interacting with you.

Rahul: Thank you, Krishna, for having me here. This is a topic I am very passionate about, and I am looking forward to interacting with you and your team over the years to come.