Experts want more debate on moonlighting before it’s completely avoided

Wipro laid off 300 employees to do it; TCS COO NG Subramaniam said it was an “ethical issue”; Tech Mahindra CEO CP Gurnani backed him up; and Infosys said it would terminate the contracts of those found guilty.

Moonlighting is not a new concept, but the pandemic has given it greater visibility. When thousands of IT professionals in India started working from home, they found more time to take on a second or third assignment. The main reasons for doing so are extra income, the opportunity to prove their abilities in different jobs, non-recognition by employers and the use of free time.

As employees started working from anywhere during the pandemic, managers could not supervise them. “IT companies have seen huge demand during the pandemic as every industry sector wanted to digitize their processes,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, MD and CEO of CIEL HR. “The demand for IT professionals increased, but the supply was not sufficient. As a result, companies were desperate to recruit employees without doing due diligence. »

A few experts THE WEEK spoke to said moonlighting cannot be bracketed one way or the other. “It prevails due to the shortage of talent in the market, supported by the growing demand for niche skills in the IT sector,” said Arjun Ramaraju, CEO of software company Conneqt Digital.

Experts pointed out that the concert model was also viewed negatively, but has now become an accepted way of doing things around the world. Therefore, rather than limiting it altogether, it would be fruitful to discuss whether moonlighting can be explored in a transparent, compliant, and secure manner.

Sarita Digumarti, head of learning at online learning portal Unext, said: “I think the definition of moonlighting is currently vague. Is it moonlighting when a software developer takes gigs as an artist or musician after hours? Before implementing strict laws and being downright dismissive about it, clarifying what moonlighting means would be a good start to developing new policies for the future workforce.

She recalled a recent report by Kotak Institutional Equities, which indicated that, of the approximately 400 respondents, almost 65% knew professionals who “moonlighted”. “It’s also an inference to understand why 42% of them prefer telecommuting,” Digumarti said. “Dual income is obviously a good sign from an employee’s perspective. But if we ask at whose expense, many more dimensions would open up.

Prerna Kohli, Human Resources Manager at Cyware, an IT company in Bengaluru, said: “Under-reporting has attracted attention as it is a breach of employment contract and [creates] a reasonable degree of risk to confidential information and the employer’s operating model. Companies should deploy security tools and techniques to detect and prevent risks associated with undeclared work, such as data leaks and intellectual property abuse. Beyond political measures, HR managers must maintain clear communication with all employees to avoid conflicts or a drop in performance. Recruitment practices should also be reassessed to highlight high-risk profiles during the hiring process.

HR experts estimate that around 30% of IT employees have moonlighted at some point in their career. “Given the intensity of the messaging coming from the IT bigwigs, it’s likely that moonlighting as a phenomenon is prevalent in some pockets and growing,” said Alok Shende, CEO of Ascentius. Consulting, based in Mumbai. “However, slandering all individuals engaging in moonlighting might not be appropriate. There might be people working on opportunities that might not be available in their 9 to 5 day jobs. Companies need to… provide avenues for undeclared workers to co-opt them into the formal process.

Experts say employers should develop a clear policy that helps employees be open about side jobs and choose those that don’t harm the organization. “Employers should conduct stay interviews and regular feedback sessions, provide career progression plans to employees and give them challenging work to make them feel confident and create a sense of belonging,” added Mishra. “It will increase employee retention rate and improve business performance.”

The question now is whether moonlighting will have a long-term impact on the industry. “Overall, this could have a big impact on IT businesses and also people,” said Sathya Pramod, CEO of Kayess Square Consulting Private Limited and former CFO of Tally Solutions. “Attrition, which was already high, will increase. This will lead to the quality of work being compromised. On the other hand, it will also increase costs since these companies will have to maintain one more bank than was previously the norm. Employees will initiate a “try and buy” program where they will moonlight and determine if the new place is better. In the long run, it’s not great even for the employees. There will be mental breakdowns and the greed for money will lead them to overvalue themselves and when the demand for professionals drops, it will be impossible to adapt to the new normal.

However, a few HR experts said it was too early to predict the impact. “HR managers need to put corrective policies in place and talk to their employees to proactively prevent this issue…rather than reacting with hasty action,” Kohli said. “In the long term, the entry points into the screening process must be strongly regulated to eliminate the risks of moonlighting. [The practice] prevails especially among employees with three to six years of experience.

It is also expected that the industry will eventually settle down. “An effective way would be to review employment contracts,” Ramaraju said. “For businesses, security and privacy should be treated as non-negotiable, while for employees, transparency, flexibility and an encouraging environment are key to maintaining harmony. Needless to say, there needs to be more debate.

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