The deep tech industry, especially the electric vehicle (EV) space, is facing a talent shortage - like many other business sectors.
While the fundamentals of recruiting remain the same, Raman SR, Chief People Officer at advanced battery technology and deep-technology startup Log9 Materials, says there are a few key factors that human resources (HR) should emphasise while hiring for deep tech startups in the present war of talent.
And this is true for his company. Having amassed 35 industry-defining patents, Bengaluru-based Log9 Materials, backed by leading venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Exfinity Ventures, as well as strategic investors such as Amara Raja Batteries and Petronas (Malaysia), is fuelled by its innate capability around nanomaterials. This enables it to offer batteries that can be charged 9 times faster, can last 9 times longer and offer 9 times higher performance and safety.
During an interaction with People Matters, Raman talks about strategies to attract, engage and retain employees in the war of talent and the role of HR in talent attraction, management and developing next-gen leaders.
Here are some excerpts.
What HR should look for while hiring for deep-tech start-ups
HR needs to emphasise on two key aspects while hiring for deep-tech start-ups -
Understand that the technologies are changing rapidly which, in turn, are leading to constantly evolving job descriptions. Hence, the emphasis should be on hiring individuals who have:
- Been upskilling themselves and can pace their learning as per the job requirements.
- Displayed agility to move across roles with shifting demands and new generations of products being launched.
- Showcased a problem-solving and detail-seeking mindset by applying ‘first principles’ thinking.
Approach job descriptions and roles with an "always growing" mindset and set expectations with candidates that they may be required to shift or pivot to newer domains and skills, as and when required.
Address candidates’ preferences during recruitment process
While the fundamentals of recruiting remain the same – that every candidate is treated like a customer that companies need to sell their value proposition to – the candidate’s preferences also need to be accounted for.
For example, in addition to career and financial growth, many candidates are now looking to work for start-ups that offer a people-centric culture.
The recruiters need to act as consultants who can address the candidates’ preferences while keeping the companies’ best interest in mind.
Here at Log9, we speak extensively about our purpose which is focused on climate action, our people-centric culture, and our potential for two-pronged growth (the company’s and the candidate's).
Manage pipelines for sourcing talents with niche skills
Today, many talented people having niche skills are not seeking jobs actively.
Start-ups need to start building pipelines for active and passive job seekers. A pipeline of active jobseekers can be built through some creative approaches like building a top 100 talent pool by scanning for top talent in the industry both locally and internationally.
Job platforms like Hirect and social platforms like LinkedIn can be used extensively to tap into both active and passive candidates. Passive candidates can be engaged through interactions to exchange ideas with senior leaders and network building which can, eventually, lead to active candidates.
Actively encouraging employees to refer their ex-colleagues and other people within their network is a strategy that also works.
The quality of talent is always high when hired through employee referral. It also reduces the overall turnaround time and recruitment costs, while increasing employee engagement and retention.
Strategies to attract, engage & retain employees in the war of talent
We have enabled growth of employees through a culture of trust.
Culture is a major differentiator for us at Log9. We’ve realised that to develop a co-founding mindset, it is imperative that we trust all our people as extended members of the founding team itself.
Log9’s purpose of "pioneering responsible energy" is possible only when all our people act responsibly, and trust is the foundation that helps us give people more responsibility, while expecting them to act responsibly.
All Log9ers are communicated the company’s goals in the form of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) which they need to deliver as a team, or a squad.
We have empowered our self-organised teams (called squads) which work towards solving problems and leading projects. The squads work together and bring the organisation’s goals to life. They have complete freedom to create, execute and deliver on their own goals in alignment with Log9’s objectives.
We openly share our culture code, the 9isms which help all our people understand how we operate. They are:
- (1) Ask Why, and (2) Apply First principles, always
- (3) Be Direct, (4) Respect others, (5) Have fun
- (6) Always be Ethical, and (7) Inclusive
- (8) Debate, and (9) act Swiftly
We also have a quarterly 360 feedback process which helps Log9ers develop each other. We are trusting them to provide constructive feedback to each other to help propel their growth, as opposed to making the feedback just driven by the manager.
At Log9, we say that growth can be infinite when Log9ers grow both professionally and personally.
Role of HR in talent attraction, management and developing next-gen leaders
HR is designated differently in different companies – sometimes as the Personnel Department, sometimes as Human Capital, and sometimes, Talent. However, who HR prioritises at the end of the day are the people. Therefore, HR needs to be addressed as the people function.
So, the people function needs a different approach to attract and develop next-gen leaders:
- Being a growth steward instead of a skilled recruiter: Helping people grow and identifying growth opportunities for them as opposed to boxing people with pre-defined job descriptions.
- Being a people advocate instead of a policy expert: Listening frequently and actively to the people and acting on their feedback to improve overall people experience instead of creating and enforcing standalone policies.
- Being a development catalyst instead of a performance management specialist: Spending time with employees to help them transform so that they can role model the company’s values and become ambassadors for the organisation.
The role of the people function will determine the success of the organisation.