Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
January 4, 2023

4 Talent Trends in India for Those Hiring Right Now

Hiring leadership talent is getting more and more difficult in India. Even as every company vies for the strongest and brightest digital talent, leaders are seeping out of the conventional market, partly in order to enter the startup ecosystem. This is driving compensation higher and lowering the mean length of career stability. There’s increasingly more attrition and less loyalty — more opportunities for aspiring leaders, but fewer certainties for HR.

To compete in this ecosystem, Indian companies need to understand how expectations are changing and what top talent is looking for. When it comes to choosing an employer, culture is one of the biggest differentiators, particularly with the influx of millennials into the marketplace. Here are the four top trends we note for those charged with hiring leadership talent in an increasingly challenging Indian market.

Trend #1: Indian millennials have specific priorities

While millennial talent now prevails in the worldwide market in general, in the Indian ecosystem specifically, there’s a tremendous gap between their expectations and the expectations of previous generations. General managers who are out of touch with what Indian millennials value professionally are at a great disadvantage when it comes to attracting, retaining and engaging the best talent.

This generation grew up with the message through their upbringing and schooling that they should be aspirational and always expect more: more money, better roles, higher positions. COVID shifted expectations: millennials emerged from the pandemic with additional desire for flexible work and greater autonomy.

This is a group that is comfortable with risk and values flexibility over order and safety. They gravitate to professional environments that are more agile, inclusive and structurally flat. It’s also worth noting that the Indian millennial generation specifically places a high value on title.

This is an ambitious and aspirational generation that focuses on the value of what they do and how it contributes. Millennials want to work for companies that give them opportunities to learn and apply new skills, as well as embracing a mindset of innovation for complex problem-solving. These are all things to consider as you try to attract and retain leaders for your company.

Trend #2: Purpose is a powerful draw for the most in-demand talent

Universally, millennials see little separation between business results and societal concerns. Frankly, they believe that great companies must address both well. They want to work for companies that are purpose-driven to their core. Similarly, they want to work for companies where diversity isn’t just paid lip service, but truly valued. The organizations that will have a recruiting advantage will be those that have inclusive and equitable work environments, are responsible stewards of the environment, and contribute to a more stable and just society through their HR and business practices.

Trend #3: Talent recognizes options beyond multinationals

Historically, multinational companies were considered the best places to work for Indian professionals, but that’s now shifting to Indian companies, which are able to attract better talent because they have a different sort of value proposition.

Most Indian companies are family run, which gives professionals who’ve previously worked for multinational public companies a chance to gain a different type of experience. The increase in private equity backing now allows mid-sized, family run Indian companies to compete for top-tier talent. Family-run businesses have their charms and their challenges. Learning to work within this particular domain creates a valuable and unique skill set — and likely means more growth opportunities going forward.

Along the same lines, we’re seeing a movement away from working at conventional companies toward more “new age” companies and startups. This is partly where the growing “high-risk, high-reward” mentality comes from.

Trend #4: The general manager role is fading at multinationals

As for the multinationals — still an important entity as far as Indian talent is concerned — there are fewer and fewer general managers (GMs) these days, which has a downstream effect on Indian companies. Multinationals used to be considered “GM schools,” but that’s no longer necessarily true, as multinationals have increasingly moved to global leadership roles. This opens things up for Indian companies to step in and create GM/CEO opportunities within India for rising leaders. This is also a good time for Indian companies to consider how they’re offering the experiences and opportunities to develop future GMs through their own internal pipelines. Multinationals, on their part, have to reconsider how to differentiate their own value proposition with fewer GM roles to provide critical developmental experience and career opportunities for aspiring leaders.

The opportunity inherent for Indian companies

India has been exporting its brightest talent for years, but that’s shifting as “talent exports” run up against slow growth in global markets, as well as global restructuring and layoffs, and look to return to their homeland talent pool. This talent can be expensive, but it’s an opportunity for Indian companies to tap into a fresh pool of high-performing global talent.

That’s important, because the demand for talent has never been higher across levels, sectors and functions, even as India’s talent pool remains tighter at senior levels. It’s time for Indian companies to take stock of their talent strategies, their cultures and their pipelines, and to take a long-term view at giving their internal talent marketplaces the right types of exposure, experience and cross-functional opportunities.

Indian companies that have long thought they had little chance of landing the best talent are now realizing that they can — with effort.