The globally-distributed workforce is taking shape, and gig economies are developing fast in the pandemic era, thanks to HR tech.

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the growth of the ‘gig economy’ in India and other parts of the world. Independent workers, contractors and freelance professionals are now in high demand for signing short-term commitments and temporary assignments called gigs.

With this career landscape shift, the role of the HR recruiter has also had to keep pace. Freelance talent are no longer restricted to traditional job boards when seeking opportunities. On-demand staffing platforms are also proliferating worldwide to compete with HR recruiters stuck with legacy ways of headhunting.

According to Raghav Poojary, Head of HR Technology and Process Automation, FirstMeridian Business Services, emerging tech-enabled sectors like e-commerce, e-retail and e-pharma are relying on contract jobs with task-based payments system. That is why his human resources investment platform has invested in technology and innovation to provide consultation for HR automation, staffing and managed services.

“Gen Y prefer working on multiple projects for several companies at their own convenience. While it offers flexibility, the earning potential also gets maximized. On-demand platforms take up various HR and staffing tasks, including recruitment and merchant on-boarding. South-east Asian markets like Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are far ahead of India in this aspect, and countries like Bangladesh are closely following suit,” remarked Poojary.

Influential gig factors

Raghav Poojary, Head, HR Technology and Process Automation, FirstMeridian Business Services

In the past two years, the Millenials’ unconventional approach towards work, coupled with the emergence of the ‘start-up’ culture, plus the growing demand for contractual workforce by MNCs have contributed to the over-20m subscriptions to on-demand staffing platforms, according to Poojary.

However, mixed reactions are common when workers ponder whether to join in the gig economy in India. The gig workforce comes with many challenges that are not evident to the general public. Nevertheless, at the macro-level, there is visible growth in this new job pathway, powered by social media and gig economy platforms.

This approach enables immediate deployment of ‘flexiwork’ staff for all kinds of menial jobs and gigs, Poojary said: “Gig platforms leverage different mediums and platforms, such as WhatsApp campaigns, chatbots, advertisements and sponsorships at college fests and sports meets. All said and done, 90% of gigs are posted and filled through social media, and only the remaining 10% are through internships, radio programs and other channels.”

The digital push for gigs

To offer better outcomes for job seekers and hiring firms alike, firms like Poojary’s use technology to save time and work smarter. In particular, bots can schedule meetings, engage with candidates and act as personal workforce assistants to recruiters.

Some key technologies changing the way gig platforms source for candidates include big data; blockchain; AI/ML; Natural Language Processing; Robotic Process Automation, collaboration platforms; cloud computing; edge computing; Internet of Things (IoT); Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).

For instance, recruitment chatbots can perform a range of functions, including résumé parsing and screening of candidates. Poojary explained: “They can also complement or even replace the traditional job application process. A SmashFly report had recorded a whopping 74% of candidates who dropped off without completing the job applications. Chatbots can come in handy in such situations and prompt the candidates to complete their applications or supply the remaining information through an online chat.”

Tedious on-boarding paperwork and manual interventions can be reduced with digital on-boarding tools that gather and store candidates’ documents and personal info on a central database, thereby automating Aadhaar, KYC and background checks.

Due to such digital efficiencies, many organizations in India are outsourcing staffing and HR-related functions to subject matter experts in the HR space, who add value in managing them and setting benchmarks. Owing to this emerging trend, leading players in the HR outsourcing industry are trying innovative means and platforms like social media to transform key HR processes, by automating routine tasks, eliminating redundancies and cutting operational costs.

Virtual HR technology gathers steam

According to Poojary, 70% of Indian companies have picked up virtual HR procedures over the last year: “Keen on digitizing their recruitment processes, they are collecting documents through apps and conduct e-induction of recruits. The investments on such processes have increased over the last three years and the tech adoption rate among companies with over 200 headcount is around 85% now.”

Meanwhile, matchmaking outcomes depend on gig workers’ client appraisal ratings, job-fit, experience levels and track records. With virtual HR platforms, employers and their hiring managers can rate and appraise every gig worker’s performance, and vice versa. Such platforms simplify and automate administrative HR work from demand management, sourcing, candidate assessments, interviews, shortlisting and formal job offers to documentation, on-boarding, attendance, payroll, invoicing, compliance and employee self-service.

Concluded Poojary: “We are seeing a strong push for recruitment and HR tech adoption in India, with industry leaders in the staffing and HR space embracing many tech solutions: integrated ERPs and CRMs as well as ‘point solutions’ targeting specific functions — bringing operational efficiency to business processes.”

For the Asia Pacific region, a Sierra-Cedar Report projection that 70% of organizations there will spend more on HR tech is ringing true, albeit not to the high levels of organizations in the US and Europe.

What is heartening to note is that adoption of mobile HR technology is no longer an emerging trend in the region, as over 50% of companies have already started embracing it.