The fast-moving consumer goods segment is the fourth largest sector in the Indian economy. Transformation and disruption have been primaeval actors in this sector’s journey, yet it remains one of the few which was fast to climb up the recovery ladder during Covid-19. The growth of the economy always gets reflected in the performance of the FMCG industries and the pulse of the economy can be determined by the efficacy and functioning of the major players in this category. Simply put, these are just two sides of the same coin—if one performs well, the other is bound to hold its momentum in place and vice versa.

Nielsen India, in its annual report, had predicted an optimistic growth of 9%-10% this year for the sector at the beginning of 2020. Production in the economy was at its peak and so was consumption until the eventful evening of March 24—when the government announced a complete lockdown (starting from the next day) to curb the novel Coronavirus. The sector that was once considered relatively immune to economic recessions, was hit by the lockdown (and Nielsen India later downgraded its growth forecast to 5%-6%). Yet, over the last few months, the FMCG sector has kept its demand and supply chains running and continued to grow its portfolio. In these trying times, FMCG companies have been one of the few sectors to turn around. If one looks at the recent results of most leading firms in the space, one can already see the green shoots.

Designing strategies and building a strong portfolio of products that address the current and future needs of consumers is driven by the people that make the organisation. People make the backbone of this large and highly competitive industry. Weighing upon the responsibility of pushing the economy, one of the key investments of organisations has been on people. Strong leadership and an innovative workforce are the key agendas of these companies, and hence the role of HR teams is more profound now than ever before.

The pandemic has been a game-changer on the organisational front. Work from homehas emerged as the new normal. People are migrating to their hometowns, to be with their families, enjoying better lifestyles. There have been reports of a startling increase in efficiency while working remotely, and as businesses adapt their strategies and their workforce to the changing needs, HR teams must customise their talent management practices and maximise opportunities presented by the new hiring landscape. It is important to adapt their approach to talent acquisition in the present landscape, thereby improving business value, and positioning their organisations to attain their objectives.

To build a successful talent pipeline, there should be no single pool from which these talent teams can draw the latest skills. Hiring should be uniform, and across all levels. With due credit to the relaxation of lockdowns and the multifaceted unlock phases, the FMCG sector has seen a significant uptick in hiring in recent months, as compared to earlier. Organisations should be looking for people who are active listeners, naturally curious and inquisitive, detail-oriented, relatable, and trustworthy, and who display empathy and compassion towards others, while upholding strong discretion and confidentiality. In addition, as localisation begins to gain dominance in the current scenario, there would be hiring for expertise in the digital space, which is equipped to gather valuable insights of this new demographic.

Preserving the right combination of skills in an organisation is the need of the hour. Talent teams need to look at existing talent and find out how it can be upskilled through tailored initiatives to meet both the needs of the business and the knowledge bases of employees. Employee engagement activities, rewards, and recognition go a long way in maintaining their trust in the organisation. This has a proportional relation to their efficiency, and there are many examples of how these measures have been fruitful in the overall performance of the company.

There is an opportunity to develop skills uniquely suited to the roles needed by organisations going through transformations. Identifying how existing experiences can translate to new roles and being clear on how aptitude can support the development of new skills can help a generation of job hunters build new careers.

The economy is going to lose redundant job roles. That has always been the case and, sadly, the pandemic may accelerate their demise. But what grows in their place is still going to demand talent, and therein lies the opportunity for both businesses and individuals to create meaningful careers.

There is still much that is uncertain. Nobody fully knows what the post-Covid-19 world will look like. However, by assessing what companies have done to keep customers and staff safe while ensuring operational continuity, it is possible to predict what roles are going to be in demand.

With so many sectors in flux, ensuring a talent pipeline with the right skills is going to be vital for recovery. And with the kind of contribution the FMCG sector has in the Indian economy, HR teams in this sector have a critical responsibility to uphold to continue its contribution towards the nation’s GDP.

Views are personal. The author is director-HR, GSK Consumer Healthcare.

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