Winning talent and creating an attractive employer brand remains a top challenge for startups, SMEs and unicorns alike. In India, 80% of SMEs have experienced extremely high levels of resignations over the past 12 months as the global Great Resignation phenomenon has impacted the region, as per the What’s Next in E-Commerce survey. Furthermore, in the latest research by Keka and People Matters, respondents highlighted Talent Acquisition and Retention as among their top challenges for the year.
In a recent live panel discussion, Anju Kurien, Chief Talent Officer, Omnicom Media Group India; Sudeep Ralhan, CHRO, Upstox; and Priyank Jha, Product Manager, Keka came together to discuss how organisations can rethink their recruitment and employer branding strategy to respond to the changing employee preferences and hire candidates that can stick around for the long term.
Current talent and recruitment landscape
With the economic slowdown, most organisations have frozen hiring. Sudeep Ralhan, CHRO, Upstox shares, “Cycles do happen, and we must see the human impact.” He believes organisations are reflecting not just on productivity and efficiency but on what is the core purpose, values, and business proposition. It is not the what, but the how, that matters. Taking actions in the most respectful way possible, is the true show of organizational values and will drive fundamental systemic changes in the long run. For example, companies need to think about why they are doing what they are doing, and be transparent about it, believes Anju Kurien, Chief Talent Officer, Omnicom Media Group India. Priyank Jha, Product Manager, Keka, shares, “Post-pandemic, businesses and hiring expanded at a rapid pace, without strong business fundamentals”. He proposes that the slowdown will continue, and hiring will slow down for companies that do not make a correction in what value do they offer to their customers.
Hiring talent for the new-age landscape
Given the different generations and demographics of the workforce, longevity is no longer the hallmark. Sudeep explains, “It is not the length of relationships, but the quality of relationships that counts”. Tech and start-up organisations, therefore, need to use rigorous hiring and performance practices to encourage a high-performance culture. Anju advises, “Listen, listen and listen. Hearing what our people want and authentically responding with solutions, is the glue that will work for organisational stickiness”.
Employee-first culture: Employee experience is about building relations and making people feel heard. “Have deep and honest conversations around people’s values, what they want to do, and where the organisation would want to take them”, shares Anju. Know the target group, define desirable talent personalities and align values with the company culture. Social media is helpful; it has helped portray culture naturally, with people talking and sharing in public forums.
Performance and feedback: Continuous feedback at the right time and in the right way is critical. Create managers who can give feedback to groom and grow. Anju shares an initiative called ‘Tough Love’, which is centred on the philosophy that if you give love, you have the authority to be tough too, as you would with a child. Recruiting feedback is equally important and training hiring managers and recruiters to respectfully close the loop and get back to candidates with meaningful feedback can make or break the culture.
Learning and career growth: Sudeep believes that designing the right kind of exciting work and creating end-to-end ownership shall keep the adrenalin flowing. Priyank agrees, “Individuals want to be part of an organization which can offer holistic, complete experience and exposure where they feel they can grow”. Employee stickiness arises from alignment between what people want to bring and what employers expect. organisations must define business-critical roles and build proactive profile pipelines, not just for today, but in anticipation of future skills.
Digital-first: Automation is the key to a great EX. “Think about how you can make things simple for people,” suggest Priyank. A good starting point is a personalised self-service portal for people to engage with colleagues with a personal touch. Priyank shares how a smart ATS offers a good way of not limiting communication to one career site but enables jobs to be distributed across multiple forums. It also helps communicate the WIIFM to potential job seekers, creating employer brand recall. A great pre-onboarding experience with tech and gamification can engage people from the pre-hiring stage.
Candidate & Employee Engagement: Employer branding is no longer limited to outbound marketing campaigns; employees themselves are the best brand ambassadors for the organisation. For example, when a future manager connects with his new hire in the pre-onboarding stage, it shows a genuine interest in the person coming on board, and they may not drop out in the notice period. As Anju says, “It is a courtship; how attentive you are during courtship defines how marriage will be.” Another way ATS can aid retention is by using data of just-miss candidates for recruiters to engage for upcoming opportunities. “It makes a person feel they are getting personal attention even though they are not part of the process”, shares Priyank.
DEI: Priyank adds that diversity is the cornerstone of innovation, and with people coming in from different backgrounds, it is important to establish frameworks for DEI, hiring people for attitude and skills than just for functional expertise.
Amalgamating all these elements into a holistic EX requires the help of the latest tech.
Technology as an EX enabler
Sudeep believes that tech plays a critical role as we deal with a different generation and demographic and need new ways to communicate and engage differently. “Emphasize the EX using basic tools that improve productivity, but also engage further to drive social media footprint”, says he. A case of tech usage is ATS with AI systems which can help identify people who are potential offer reneges, thereby reducing offer dropouts. Tech also enables connect and engagement. For example a simple task of going out on coffee with a recruited person, is automated and sent to managers to action and reflect back, shares Priyank. HR data and HR analytics yields interesting analysis for increasing every social footprint, and can help define lot of strategies, agrees Anju. However, she suggests to never forget the human element. “Think of HR as a marketing function, and people as consumers, and accordingly react and engage”, agrees Sudeep.
An out-of-the-box recruitment strategy stems from leaders asking themselves the tough questions on core agendas such as retention, hiring, etc. and accordingly devoting time, attention and resources for success. Leaders must understand that not every job or organisation satisfies all people. So leaders must deep-dive and rethink:
What are we all about, and what are we not?
Is what we are doing, reflective of us as an organisation?
If what we are doing is not sustainable, why are we doing it in the first place?
and many more…
These tough questions will help figure out the value proposition to the workforce and what is truly important for business. Going back to the basics shall ensure transparency. “Try and hold up a mirror to your leaders- how active are they on social media, how often do they share posts or write thought-leadership articles?” suggests Sudeep.
Ultimately, what differentiates one company from another is leaders; leaders become talent magnets.