Indian firms are gearing up to turbocharge post-pandemic growth by expanding and investing in the workforce, a survey by HSBC Bank India on the future of work has revealed.

The report reads that hiring was a key focus for 80% of the 219 businesses surveyed, for economic recovery. They expected to increase their full-time employee base over the next year.

“With the impact of the pandemic ebbing away and an economic recovery on the cards, businesses are gearing up for growth,” tells Rajat Verma, Head of Commercial Banking at HSBC India.

Of the 10 countries covered by HSBC’s research by Washington DC-based FTI Consulting, India led the charts (along with Mexico) when it came to plans to hire new people as a strategy for expansion after the lockdowns left the economy in a parlous state, the study says.

Around 89% of Indian businesses saw a ‘strong’ relationship between investment in the workforce and profitability over the long term, as they seek growth.

Further, 80% of those interviewed said they were already investing in their workforce in some way, the highest across all markets surveyed, the report reads.

Tech hurdles will have to be overcome to meet new challenges as offices change and a need for digitisation across business processes needs to be met.

“The evolving business environment in the post-pandemic era will present challenges as well as opportunities and businesses will have to adapt to grow,” says Verma.

Indians also said flexible working will be the ‘optimal working arrangement’ with 43% opting for it in a post-pandemic environment, the highest across all markets surveyed across 10 countries.

Work will be altered in the future as remote or hybrid working (a mix of work-from-home and in offices) will increase profitability (84%) and employee wellbeing (83%).

Given the direction the changes are taking, more emphasis will be laid on management and leadership at companies helping and enabling employees to collaborate effectively and for these modifications to be seamless through digital skills training, it emerged.

As companies compete to hire the best talent the emphasis is not only on financial incentives but also work-life balance and wellbeing centred around flexible working policies, 42% of those interviewed tell.

Slightly more than half (52%) said the top three things they offered their employees were flexible working hours. Nearly half (49%) said they had given their employees better health insurance, with the same number offering guidance and resources for well-being.

Positive sentiments were evident as businesses invest in hiring and up-skilling their workforce but the emergence of concern for sustainability in businesses was most encouraging, Verma says.

But only about a third (38%) of the businesses said ‘sustainability’ was on the cards as an additional factor to attract talent. However, about 60% of the businesses said aspects of environmental conservation, social consideration and governance standards, or ESG, will remain a focal point in training and educating the staff. This is the second-highest after China at 62%.

More than half of the firms are keen to have a social purpose at the heart of their functioning over the next 12 months, at 58%. And almost the same number—57%—will seriously explore implementing policies and targets to spread awareness regarding integrating sustainability aspects across their business.

The findings come from HSBC’s Future of Work report, a survey of 2,130 business leaders globally, including over 219 firms in India, a mix of privately held and publicly listed businesses.

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