With the onset of the pandemic, organizations have had to adapt to a lot of unforeseen challenges stemming from the hybrid workplace and the rising concerns of talent management. For both of these critical areas, which determine the future of any organization, the solution rests in leveraging technology-based solutions to innovate strategies that can aid in better business outcomes by bringing in the best talent available in the market. In this Q&A, Sameer Penakalapti, Founder and CEO of CEIPAL, shares his insights on this critical topic for anyone who works in the field of HR.
Sameer is a serial entrepreneur who is dedicated to advising and investing in technology startups, specifically in the HR Tech & AI space. In the past 10 years, Sameer has founded and acquired over six companies, including two large staffing firms, multiple SaaS platforms, and a digital marketing agency. He has served hundreds of thousands of customers around the world. His key interests include talent acquisition, talent engagement, and total talent management.
Here are some excerpts:
Q. The pandemic has raised a host of challenges for organizations all over the world. What have been some of the biggest challenges in the field of HR and what are your thoughts about it?
The field of HR is as expansive as an ocean and we have so many areas in the HR space that have presented challenges. But, at CEIPAL, we focus on helping hiring organizations discover, curate, onboard, and manage talent for today and tomorrow. Talent acquisition is one of the greatest expenses of any corporation, representing between 60 and 70 percent of an employee’s salary.
Q. What are your thoughts on the hybrid workplace?
The hybrid workspace is here to stay. Before the pandemic, more than one-third of global corporations were allowing employees to work from home one or more times per week. Now, it’s estimated that two-thirds of the global workforce spend a portion of their time working from home. That's a big shift. Over time, companies will make choices about what’s the right hybrid model for them based on business models. As circumstances evolve, some hybrid models might remain, while others disappear, depending on how difficult it is to carry out given tasks remotely. So, ultimately it's about the business model.
Q. As a tech-based company, could you share a few examples of the HR Tech innovations carried out by your organization for positive business outcomes? How has it impacted customer service?
Our mission is to find the talent an organization needs at the time they need it. We do this by using AI to find the best candidates based on required job skills. A recruiter may spend days going through countless resumes before even making his or her first call to a qualified candidate to talk about availability for a given engagement. What if we cut through all of that? What an AI algorithm search engine does is find suitable candidates based on a number of criteria, such as recent experience, that we can’t process through naked eyes alone. AI automation helps you find the top five to ten most suitable candidates for the job in a fraction of a minute. Once you have these top candidates, you can pick up the phone and spend more time with them to actually build a relationship.
The biggest challenge today are the dropouts. The most qualified talent is the most in-demand, so engagement is critical. If you have the best technology, you can find the top candidates more quickly and therefore engage more quickly. This gives you the time you need to build the relationships and trust you need to make placements.
Q. What are your thoughts on the increased use of people analytics in talent management?
Without technology, it's very hard to drive volume. We’ve built a technology that helps to identify the candidate’s perspective. 99% of the time, we look into the candidate's skills, but what about fit? For example, has she worked in this kind of environment before? So, the people side of the data is also very important, particularly in terms of long-term retention. You must know a candidate will fit well given team dynamics and product managers. That’s where people analytics comes into play. I think it's time for companies to take a serious look at that.
Q. What are some of the strategies that HR leaders can devise for better talent recruitment and management?
Although each firm has its own unique challenges, if I had to pick the biggest one, it would be timing-- i.e, finding the talent they want when they want. The second greatest challenge these firms face is compliance. Finally, there’s candidate engagement and workforce management. But, again, timing is most critical. So, while I do understand urgency, candidates are not a commodity that can be shipped overnight by Amazon. This is one reason the entire talent management lifecycle must be considered. By leveraging AI-driven staffing technology, you can evaluate top performers and expand your talent pipeline by finding similar talent that’s well matched to your team fit and organizational requirements – all while meeting compliance requirements too.
Q. Finally, what are some key lessons that you learned when navigating this new world of work?
In today’s hybrid workforce, there are two sides of the coin to consider. One is that teams are more productive working from home – perhaps because they’re more motivated. However, the other consideration to keep in mind is that they’re not necessarily as innovative, because there’s no collaboration or engagement at the level there was in the office. So, how do we balance these two things? How do we encourage flexibility and also create a virtual space for thinking outside the box? At CEIPAL, we have the same challenge, which is why we just opened a 30,000 square foot space that’s colorful, inviting, and hopefully hip – right in the middle of Hyderabad. I want to ensure innovation continues as we journey together to the other side of the pandemic. I want people to come to the office, be excited about it and work through our biggest challenges as a team. I think that's the most important message I can give to staffing leaders: it's good to keep your eyes on productivity, but we must never lose sight of innovation. Ultimately, that’s what drives us forward and defines progress – even in the face of adversity.