Editorial Team

Hiring and retaining the best brains available in the market is essential for the companies to stay relevant in the changing times. However, the competition is fierce and the ‘war of talent’ does exist across the industries. In an exclusive interaction with the Higher Education Digest, Anil Ethanur, Co-Founder and Talent Specialist of Xpheno – a specialist talent solutions provider for Engineering Services, IT Staffing, Sales Staffing and Direct Hire – talks about the current job market and hiring challenges.

Anil has over two decades of experience in working with leading Indian and Multinational Staffing companies. At Xpheno, Anil leads the People and Culture building initiatives. He supports his leadership team in Customer Relationships, Finance and building Operational Efficiencies.


  • What according to you is at the core of industry 4.0? What should HR leaders need to know before embarking on this journey?

At the outset, lets understand the buzzword, Industry 4.0. The transformation that is underway is a blend of advanced analytics, Big Data, Robotics & Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and Process Digitisation across the business value chain. This technological shift has always had far reaching impacts and this phase won’t be any different.  Jobs will undergo a big transition in all of its dimensions – content, character and location of delivery. Many of the current day jobs will disappear giving way to new ones, many of those that we haven’t yet imagined.  As Machines increasingly compliment (and or replace) human effort in the workplace, we will all need to adjust to reap the benefits and deal with the challenges that come with it.  A McKinsey report suggest that 15% of the global workforce, or about 400 million workers, would be displaced by automation during the period 2016-30.  At the same time, 550-800 million new jobs will be created, more than offsetting the number of job losses.


  • In this era, what are the major challenges companies face while recruiting Indian talents?

The Indian labor market has forever been in this constant state of paradox – an excess (manpower) it can’t employ and a (talent) deficit it cannot seem to address. The war for talent continues as the job market dynamism accentuates many fold and skills will become transient.  This makes it not just a hiring challenging but also an upskilling huge task for companies.

  • What are the key skills that every HR Leader must consider when hiring fresh graduates?

At one end of the spectrum there will be a demand for ‘Specialists’ from the STEM background while at the other end we need ‘Generalists’ with cross functional experiences. Social, emotional, and higher cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, and complex information processing, will be critical.

  • Tell us about the opportunities available for fresh graduates in your industry.

Speaking about the staffing industry, a 6 billion USD sector, the entry point has typically for recruiters and operations talent. These entry level roles can graduate to roles in leadership, sales, marketing, technology, compliance, finance and so on. Since it has been an under-rated sector, not many people seek careers in this sector, which is expected to touch 20 billion over next 8-10 years.

  • How do you keep employees motivated and engaged in this digital era?

Employees look for flexibility, opportunities to learn and hone new skills, jobs that create impact and an enabling culture. Money won’t be the driving force for the millennial and Gen Z employees. Companies are forced to let go of some of the traditional HR practices and appeal to this new age worker. Flat organizations are in and bosses are being replaced by mentors.

  • What is the one big change in talent acquisition you are looking forward to in the near future?

Companies continue to face talent shortages and will need to build a strong employer brand to attract candidates in a super competitive market.  AI may to an extent solve candidate sourcing challenge but candidate hiring challenge shall remain.

  • What is your advice to the students?

If you have the luxury of choice, pick a field of education/career that you are deeply passionate about. While your college/university tenure is capped, your career is akin to running a marathon. Experimenting in early part of your career is fine to arrive at a point you have clarity.  Work itself will undergo transformation making way for opportunities as contractors, freelancers and solopreneurs. Continuous learning will have to be the way of life which such rapid technological changes. So, be prepared for a roller coaster ride!

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