Indian IT companies are seriously inducting gig and freelance workers to the mainstream hiring process. This can radically transform the talent market
As the Great Resignation triggered by several pandemic-induced factors hit the IT industry hard, Indian IT companies seem to have found a workaround. They are seriously inducting the “gig workforce” into the mainstream hiring process. This includes independent freelancers, project-based contract workers, temporary workers, and part-time hires. It is an interesting development that can radically transform the talent market.
Numbers are looking up
An Assocham report released in June this year estimates India’s freelance workers deployed on tech projects to total over 15 million. The report also forecasts that by 2024 the Indian gig economy will gain 17% to reach a value of $455 billion. In another parallel projection, the India Brand Equity Foundation estimated 350 million gig jobs in the country by 2025.
Even when the world was into the first year of the pandemic, an earlier report released by Nasscom and Aon India Consulting in December 2020 had reported that over 50% of IT companies were already hiring gig workers. Although the actual numbers being recruited were still decidedly low back then, that 2020 report had predicted an upswing over the next five years.
And that’s exactly what is happening now. Barely two years later, the numbers of gig workers being hired by Indian IT companies are considerable. The combined recruitment numbers of such workers by IT services firms, IT product firms, and global in-house centers have shown QoQ growth between 2% and 19%. TeamLease Digital, the leading talent provider organization, confirmsa5-6% rise in contract workers over the past year. It expects 8-10% growth within the next five years. Since March 2020, tech giant Wipro has seen 60% more registrations in their TopCoder platform – which is a freelancing hiring portal, currently with 1.5 million coders. Another gig IT recruiter, Tech Mahindra, puts serious focus on hiring gig workers for niche skills. To create a robust talent pipeline within the industry, the company maintains an external portal called BeGig that enables other recruiters to hire freelance and contract resources.
This rush to recruit the gig workforce has effectively countered the attrition rush that the industry had been encountering until recently. Infosys, TCS, HCL, and Wipro have announced high attrition rates this June. Over the last one year, TCS had a 19.7% attrition rate. Wipro recorded 23.3% during the last quarter. HCL Technologies’ attrition rate stood at 23.8% in Q2 this year, compared to 21.9% in Q1.
Efficiency at par
Such demand reflects the fact that the long-held skepticism regarding a gig workforce’s efficiency and dependability has been shaken by the pandemic-induced remote work. The industry now recognizes that gig and freelance workers are equipped with specialized technical skills that can enable IT companies to complete pending digital projects or fill in new roles that demand new-age capabilities. TCS refers to its gig employees as the “talent cloud”, which symbolizes a virtual talent pool available across locations to meet client demand and project needs.
The IT industry generally agrees that the emergence of a multitude of digital technologies over the past few years – like Cloud computing, DevOps, Artificial Intelligence (AI), data analytics, product engineering, cybersecurity, and UI/UX design – have created new roles. And gig workers have proved to be competent in these domains. A greater focus on “transformational” projects is another strong reason to induct skilled gig workers as they can be hired and deployed faster compared to full-time recruitments.
The time is right
The greater evolution of the hybrid work model and the recent focus by the Union Government on policies to support India’s knowledge economy are expected to provide further impetus to the gig workforce. NITI Aayog’s first-of-its-kind report on India’s gig and platform economy is a high-level attempt to estimate its size and potential, and also offers several recommendations for formalized growth of the sector. It is a good starting point for the government to address longstanding issues in unorganized sectors.
Additionally, most IT companies already have robust infrastructural modifications in place –keeping both hybrid model and gig workers in mind. These include employee monitoring, talent management, compliance, and data security policies –as well a stronger legal framework to manage non-compliance incidents. With necessary controls in place, gig and freelance workers would not be any different from regular employees.
As the start-up ecosystem is currently facing difficulties in finding investors, experts predict that the rush to join start-ups would somewhat cool down. As a result, the traditional IT companies will again be the preferred destination for talented gig workers. This would also stem the attrition rate.
Either way, it is a win-win situation for all!
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