E-learning to E-placements - Will learning and hiring go virtual in 2021?

With his 10+ years’ experience in operations, investment and consulting in the Indian education sector, and outside India in China, SE Asia, and Latin America, Mayank has been part of investments of over $1B transmitted in the education sector.

If life was a book, then the chapter just completed had all the ingredients and more that make for a page-turner, a strong opening, interesting characters, global conflict, and crisis, a balance of tension and release, and a satisfying conclusion with the approval of the virus and hope as we enter the next chapter the year 2021. The year awaits us with a renewed set of expectations as we enter a new normal with most of our activities shifting online including learning, which has moved to a digital platform across schools, colleges, and universities. 2020 saw e-learning taking centre stage in changing world order. There was a sea change in the way education and learning are looked at. While in the last generation, education was bachpan se yauvantak, it has now become bachpan se pachpantak; truly making its learning a life-long companion.

The shift also led to an increased acceptance of online learning by both students as well as industry and there was an overall recognition of the value of any time, anywhere online learning that is accessible across devices. Online learning in both the academic and industry sectors brings the advantage of versatility and flexibility while being cost-effective. It allows the learning pattern to be customised to suit an individual’s preferences and uses AV tools, which further fosters interactivity aiding learning and retention. We operate in times when technology has taken over the ecosystem to an extent that companies are now scouting for digital-native talent who can work on new-age projects that involves AI/ML, data analysis, cloud computing, IoT, cybersecurity, etc. Therefore, to pursue an online program covering such future-forward aspects will allow a competitive edge to professionals over others in this fast-evolving marketplace.

Industry trends also suggest that employers have hiked salary bands for those candidates who have met the standards of higher technical skills were considered digital-ready. Moreover, such online programs also offer flexibility to individuals who cannot invest enough time to go back to an offline institute to learn a new skill, jeopardising their current job. Recently, I had received a heart-warming message from one of our past learners, Bhaswati Sarkar who after completing our program transitioned from a Project Manager at a tech giant to Assistant Vice President at a global MNC, with a salary hike of 82 percent, said, “More than anything else, upGrad taught me time management while studying and balancing the different roles a woman plays.” Such messages/gestures keep us motivated and help us deliver meaningful online learning solutions to our learners.

In my recent chat with Professor Chandrashekar Ramanathan, Dean (Academics) at IIIT Bangalore pointed out that the graduating batch of 2859 students last August that happened virtually, celebrating the successful completion of PG Diploma programs in Data Science, Machine Learning (ML) & Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Software Development/Blockchain, was the largest convocating batch in 21 years.

Online learning was anyway on a growth trajectory, while the pandemic has hastened the process. The year 2020 pushed large corporates to switch gears to accept online as a viable option to operate amid times when physical hiring was brought to a standstill. We have seen learners with online degrees getting acceptance from recruiters in both, India and overseas. This reminds me of another message that I had received from one of our HR recruiters, Ms. ZS Associates, who wrote, “upGrad has given us access to a large talent pool which is trained on various new-age skill sets.” Such instances and developments across the industry demonstrate that online learning is not momentary but is here to stay and complement the new-normal.

Video interviews have been increasing over time and the pandemic accelerated this rise with research showing a spike in video interviews of 86% according to a survey

The other side of online learning is its impact on the hiring process with a shift to online placements from the conventional process. Recruiters today are switching gears to accept online methods to hire new talent. Virtual hiring is increasingly gaining acceptance as a way to attract, hire, and retain talent. In a world where work from home is the new norm, the human resources teams are taking to virtual hiring in place of the traditional three-stage hiring process that consists of an inperson interview process, on-site psychometric tests, and assessment centres. Companies are reimagining their recruitment strategies to find great talent and create growth opportunities. Additionally, several corporates across the country have been rolling out initiatives like introducing digital induction modules with a twist of gamification; virtual sessions with company leadership; online assistance to help new joiners understand the work/company culture remotely; access to online learning and training sessions, etc. All these efforts are in-sync with today’s new norm that has, practically, taken over the work ecosystem, thus building/developing a new future-ready work-sphere.

The virtual process comes with several advantages starting from being cost-effective to be able to allow recruiters to reach out to a wide pool of talent across geographies. Such techniques are preferred by Gen Z who appreciates and aspire to work with tech-savvy organisations. In fact, they may not even apply for jobs at a company that offers outdated recruitment methods. Moreover, its increased accessibility also allows for an equal opportunity for people who are ‘specially abled’.

Video interviews have been increasing over time and the pandemic accelerated this rise with research showing a spike in video interviews of 86 percent according to a survey. AI technology integrated into the hiring process allows detection of details of body language, gestures, and expressions that may not even be noticeable to the human eye but allow recruiters to discover characteristics important for a particular role.

Nearly 50 percent of employees were hired virtually in 2020, a recent industry survey carried out by suggested. The finding also includes that about 31 percent of employers credited virtual hiring for giving them wider access to talent, while another 28 percent said this approach allowed for flexibility and convenience, a priority for job seekers today. Therefore, the virtual platform has become the method of choice for the recruiting process and the coming months will see both recruiters and job seekers shaking hands virtually to replace the traditional handshake at the end of an interview.