The retention hassle is rampant due to competition in the tech jobs market. Hiring cycles have extended and recruitment costs have gone up in a market which is already inflated. It is no longer enough to deliberate on hiring tech talent; ensuring that they stay on in the company is key to driving long-term growth and innovation. To take this conversation forward and gather expert insights from HR leaders, this session moderated by Abhimanyu Saxena, Co-Founder, InterviewBit and Scaler and joined in by Abhishek Mehrotra, CHRO, Yubi; Shyam Krishnamurthy-Country Head, airasia Super App; Akash Chauhan-Head of HR, cure.fit (cult.fit); and Sameera Singh, Head Director-Learning & Development, Razorpay dives deep into empowering retention in the blazing tech skills market.
Key retention challenges
In a skill-based industry like tech, skill waves come and go leading to a struggle with talent for hot skills. Abhimanyu believes that so much has also to do with a massive growth in role opportunities in tech which is definitely a sign of a growing economy. However, securing talent for the long term will be critical to creating impact. For Abhishek, that very retention boils down to a few core questions- “Are we able to articulate clearly what we are expecting talent to do?”, “What is the organization going for and what and why are people working for?” and “What is the impact they create on the ground?” Also, organizations must understand that reduced tenures are a reality, and hence focus on making the next 2 years fruitful for both the parties involved. “Plan the talent supply for continuity”, says Akash. Shyam shares that a talent mix of senior experienced folks plus campus hires for internships works well.
The organization listened and understood the problem when Covid struck the travel industry, HR partners manoeuvred policies for changing times, and people were provided with a happy workspace environment. “People need to come to office feeling they are doing something impactful for customers, build that story into everything you do, and the HR function must work as a cohesive unit”, says Shyam. Cohesion across functions is a must to build an entire employee experience. Sameera believes that there is a basic need for people to do rich work and live a life of fulfilment through their work with autonomy, mastery and purpose. For example, exit data shows that people would have stayed back given opportunities within the firm. Weaving different elements such as L&D, career pathing, internal mobility, performance process etc. in the employee experience, proactively preparing employees for upcoming opportunities and embedding this in a talent-first culture is necessary. “We have conversations, understand the overall strategy and how we can be advisors and add insights proactively to attract-engage-retain”, says Sameera.
How to retain effectively?
A series of internal and external facing interventions work together in retaining top talent effectively:
- Onboarding: Bridging the skill gap requires hand-holding. At AirAsia Super App the remote tech-onboarding program creates breadth and depth of know-how and helps faster assimilate the fresher talent. Combined with a buddy system, it gives tech support and collaboration for freshers to help them start contributing. “We have KPIs to measure their first pull-request in the system to signify if employee can contribute”, says Shyam.
- Capability Building: Sameera believes that people managers are the most important link to employees, so understanding the tenets of people manager success, and equipping them with the capabilities to handle, engage, and be accountable and responsible is crucial. She shares, “We introduced managerial journeys for different times such as first-time-manager, seasoned managers, leadership levels, etc. and defined upskilling opportunities for these different personas, because they are the connectors to the teams/people”. The right know-how and experiences must be built through learning programs, communication, peer learning, pods, representation in forums, etc. so that people can translate these learnings into experiences for their respective teams. At Yubi too, a strong team feedback mechanism links to development inputs through regular check-ins. “We track it top-down right from leadership to the last person”, shares Abhishek.
- Wellbeing: Organizations are partnering with industry leaders and content providers to give a holistic understanding of what wellbeing means i.e. physical, emotional, psychological, financial etc. At Razorpay, there is a cultural prerogative to make everyone responsible for their own well-being. It is about collectively creating psychological safety, trust, and support in a VUCA world. “Creating moments of awareness to impact the culture to create a success story around wellness”, says Sameera.
- Culture and communication: Culture stems from how leaders and managers maintain connections with their people. Leaders must clearly articulate the what-why and seek feedback with transparency and openness. For example, Yubi conducts weekly town halls to make people feel involved in the journey of the organization by getting them to share and ask questions, and contribute with feedback and ideas.
- Performance management: Organizations must articulate clearly what their people will contribute as an individual, and how it links back to business. OKR performance management helps provide clarity amidst moving targets and ambiguity. Abhishek shares, “We are interlinked as an organization from leadership to everyone and we track performance quarterly through conversations as transparently as possible to disclose trust”. At AirAsia Super App too, well-defined quarterly OKRs tie into an acceleration program which gives employees a career path to grow within the organization within 2 years with guaranteed level-ups.
- Employer Branding: Fancy offices, flexibility, and transparency are all BAU; employer maturity today is about ‘what shape are you going to leave the world in, if you succeed?’. At cure.fit (cult.fit), branding communication centres on two tenets, namely, ‘what happens if the organization is able to deliver on its promise?’ and ‘what is the uber thing I am going to fundamentally get as self-satisfaction if I contribute?’. “In effect, cult fit is not about making people fit, but about impacting peoples’ families through positive experiences”, says Akash. Moreover, in a candidate market, every touchpoint is a brand-building exercise. Organizations must continuously think about what more can they offer, vis-à-vis what their prospective candidates are looking for. This will help position the smaller bits of purpose, culture, and experience. Sameera shares, “We humanize what it means to be at Razorpay to establish a direct connect. We train our leaders to offer the best conversation experience for our target pool’s engagement”. Bringing stories to the limelight means organizations must go back to candidates and ask them about their experiences using tech. After all, as Abhimanyu shared, branding is core to the product-building process and rests on strengthening the internal work culture.
Measurement is critical to gain leadership buy-in. But it is important to define what you are measuring, looking at leading indicators such as EMPS, and attrition, and relating it back to the success of the organization, emphasises both Abhishek and Abhimanyu. At cure.fit (cult.fit), seeking employee feedback on services, similar to customer feedback is the go-to way. Akash shares that the key aspect to look at is whether the effort is directed towards the right outcome. “Break down the journey and measure outcomes on specific aspects to remain fair and objective”, says Akash. Sameera points out that some elements such as culture or inclusion cannot be measured when starting off on a journey. Leaders must outline the uber strategy for people and the big buckets to move the needle on. Measurement can come later in the game, but communicating this to leadership is critical. Shyam believes that reviewing the measures, being transparent about what went wrong and course correcting are important. Organizations must create a culture of asking tough questions to uphold feedback and transparency.