Organizations should not be prescriptive about career development: Sankalp Saxena, Nutanix
“We look for believers and dreamers and thinkers on an ongoing basis. That’s an essential ingredient of success in the product space that we play in,” says Sankalp Saxena, SVP and MD-Operations, Nutanix India, when questions about how Nutanix goes about looking for skilled talent.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Sankalp speaks about the evolution of the TA function, the role of technology, and why Nutanix avoids hiring in haste.
How have you seen the Talent Acquisition function evolve over the years?
The traditional methods like employee referrals or the buddy system have been in vogue but now some of the new-age systems have come in such as the AI-based engines. So applying technology to the potential of applying great candidates is something we are trying too. So instead of writing a job description, for example, we have tried different solutions that can provide that engine a series of successful profiles of candidates that have been hired for a given role and then see what does the engine suggests.
The other change is going beyond the traditional methods wherein we started encouraging a greater element of diversity in the workforce. For instance, if you look at the return to work program for women who have taken time off, it wasn’t as prevalent a few years ago. So the focus is on building a more inclusive workforce versus one that is monochromatic. We don’t want to hire the same cadre over and over and value the diversity of thought brought in. In line with this, one of Nutanix’s culture principles is hire often and hire diverse.
Under the impact of the above-mentioned changes, what are the top three metrics that TA professionals should track to measure the impact on business performance? What key indicators are you measuring?
The first one we look at is the individual’s profile and experience and not just from an academic or work perspective but also how do they fit culturally into the DNA of a high growth startup like Nutanix. They have to have that ability to think at the speed of thought, innovate and imbibe knowledge-so beyond the credentials, there has to be a cultural fit. That leads us to our second attribute wherein our TA team is looking for inventors.
We want to hire people with very curious minds that are not afraid to experiment and not let the fear of failure be their paralysis. Rather try and embrace it and fail fast as opposed to doing something predictive and tired.
The third parameter, if we look at our dashboard for talent acquisition, is velocity. Are we hiring with directionality in mind or are we just hiring for the sake of hiring?
What are some of the human capital trends/challenges you are currently facing at Nutanix and how will they inform change to transform your business strategy going forward?
The challenge for us is to keep the bar at a high enough level where people joining the team can run at the same speed as their colleagues not only in India but across all our global centres. We don’t hire in India just for India-we hire for the global cadence in mind. For instance, we have launched a new B2B program where we are driving rotation program from Bengaluru to Berlin and Bengaluru to Belgrade. This is so that we can give our team members based out of India a global multicultural kind of immersion so that tomorrow when they have to lead global teams, they are much better equipped for it.
The other challenge that we are keen on avoiding is hiring in haste.
I would rather keep a position open for the right individual to come fit those shoes rather than hire for the sake of hiring to claim that we have met the hiring numbers. For us, it is more a capability game than a number game or a cost game. So how do I drive capability and not cost and how do I drive quality and not quantity-those are some of the challenges that we need to be cognizant of while hiring.
Recruitment marketing is quickly picking up in organizations. According to various researches, candidates are more likely to apply for a job if that company actively manages its employer brand. How can organizations become a brand that people want to work for?
We have a very active program across the tier 1 institutions in India to attract talent. We have a very robust internship initiative where we onboard interns for two months and 6 months period and we invest in them very heavily and challenge them with real-world problems.
Secondly, given the fact that we end up converting 70% of the interns into our team members, therein lie our brand ambassadors in all these universities. We have a very active alumni network program and a very active engagement with universities on the R&D side with both faculty and students. So for us, the brand equity lies therein in involving people in solving real-world problems. Also, when it comes to our lateral hires, we tend to have a strong network across some of the companies that we attract talent from.
Hiring skilled talent is a challenge. What solutions would you recommend for HR leaders of various sectors when they are looking for talent?
Organizations need to make sure that they have the right mix of technical capabilities in the organization. Organizations should not be very bottom-heavy with only freshers onboarding. You need to augment the value chain of hiring by making sure you have tenured tactical leadership also available in each of your development centres. The second one is that post joining, make sure you are aligning with the aspirations of the team members and don’t be prescriptive about their career growth.
For instance, a lot of organizations believe that engineers three years later should become managers. But we are very cognizant that we want to provide our team members a true career path-one of which is not managerial but tactical. And there should be no compromise on your rewards and remuneration no matter what task you chose. So that’s the second element- that we are not prescriptive about career development and we give choices to talent. And lastly, organizations should make sure they value the diversity of thought and inclusiveness of thought.