Scarcity of Talent : Hire from Adjacent Industry

Anuj Roy, Longhouse Consulting

One of the biggest challenges that business leaders of any new industry face is to identify the place to look for the right talent. In the Indian context we have had a similar experience in the past when Telecom and the Retail sector mushroomed leading to a huge gap in demand and supply of talent. The usual hotbeds of talent like Consumer goods, durables and retail banking were looked at to bridge the gap and this helped create a new pool of business leaders in these sectors. In last couple of years online/digital as a sector has gained significant momentum fuelled by a new bunch of entrepreneurs and supported by the VC/PE’s. The challenge is how to build teams as these businesses scale up. The ability to scale is contingent on the ability to attract and retain the right talent. Given that the industry is new in Indian with a limited number of global players who are present in India in this sector makes it even more difficult to find the right talent. Most large organizations across the globe have looked at multiple ways to address this issue including moving staff from other countries or enhancing the training set up or hiring from adjacent industry with neither strategy emerging as a clear winner.

The approach of hiring from adjacent industry has been very common and has been used successfully in the past. The ability to identify the kind of roles one should look for in adjacent industries followed by ensuring that the right structure is put in place to attract and retain people from adjacent industry requires a lot of experience. Professionals usually prefer to continue in their area of interest and like to leverage on the depth of understanding they have built in an industry to look for better career opportunities, so HR leaders need to figure out the reason that should incentivise professionals to evaluate career opportunities in a new sector.

Quite often we have seen CEO’s and Board talking about how the shortage of talent is impacting the ability of the firm to evaluate new business opportunity, delaying new growth plans and eventually impacting both the top line and bottom line of the company. What we have experienced from building teams in new age sectors like Online and digital is that people have identified specific functions and then looked at the options of evaluating adjacent industries.

Marketing leaders are bought in from consumer goods companies and are picking up the nuances of online/digital aspect of marketing in addition to the traditional brand and marketing needs. Leaders in Finance, HR and other enabling functions are being bought in from technology or specific industry segments in which the company is operating. The positions of CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and CPO (Chief Product Officer) are slightly complicated and organizations are taking mixed approach of either looking at returning Indians or people from enterprise technology background to fill the gap.

As any sector matures the talent gap start to bridge and till that time it might be useful to look at adjacent industries to plug the gaps and move forward as the cost of not doing that can be substantially high.

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