In the relentless pursuit of success, fast-growing companies face the monumental challenge of managing their exponential growth. Scaling at such a rapid pace demands constant innovation and adaptation. To thrive amidst this ever-evolving business landscape, these companies must embark on a continuous journey of digital transformation. One area that requires particular attention is the people function, which plays a vital role in shaping exceptional employee experiences.
By leveraging cutting-edge technology and forward-thinking strategies, these companies can craft a work environment that fosters creativity, engagement, and fulfilment.
In this interview, we delve into Simpl's top talent priorities for 2023, including their focus on building high talent density, capability development for existing talent, and continued emphasis on holistic wellbeing. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:
We’re nearly halfway through 2023 as a fast-rising organisation; what are some of your top talent priorities?
2023 is an exciting year for us, filled with opportunities. We are looking at growing our business, strengthening our merchant relationships, and providing the best-in-class experience to our customers. We are also heavily focused internally as an organisation. The three key talent priorities this year and the year after would be:
- Building high talent density: Our aim is to increase our talent density in the organisation which is high on ownership and entrepreneurial spirit. We are doing that by hiring the right people aligned to our values and culture. Once the right people are hired, nurturing them to help them deliver their best is a quintessential priority for our talent management strategy at Simpl.
- Capability development for existing talent: The post-pandemic world is a BANI world ('brittle', 'anxious', 'nonlinear' and 'incomprehensible'). Hence, the skills needed for business sustenance and rapid growth are very different from what they used to be a few years back. The ability to quickly adapt & iterate is more important than ever before. Our talent priorities this year will revolve around preparing our leaders and employees for succeeding in this BANI world and preparing for the future.
- Continued focus on holistic well-being: Navigating through Covid has put wellness on centerstage for all of us. It also made both employees and several organisations realise that the construct of wellness is not limited to physical safety at the workplace. It covers the entire gamut of mental, emotional and financial wellness. At Simpl, we are focused on ensuring that our efforts of introducing policies, benefits and other enabling programs for our employees are rooted in ensuring that their holistic well-being is taken care of. We will continue to monitor our insurance offerings, leave policies, flexible benefits, mental wellness programs, etc to ensure our employees get all the support they need.
- Digital transformation: As an organisation, our focus is also on setting up a strong people function, which is tech-led and data-driven. In today’s world, for HR functions to be most effective - there must be people-centricity and empathy at the centre of everything we do. This people-centric mindset combined with strong processes which are tech-enabled & a data-led approach helps create experiences across the employee lifecycle to meet the unique needs of a diverse workforce at scale.
For a fast-growing organisation in a niche business, how is Simpl creating its unique employer brand?
We are committed to the simplification and democratisation of digital transformation in the payments space. We empower merchants to build trusted relationships with customers through an easy, secure, and intuitive user payment and checkout experience. It is definitely a fast-growing, niche space for us. While we have fairly established ourselves as a brand in the merchant and consumer community, our objective is to cascade the same principles of ‘trust’ and ‘fast growth’ to our employer brand. We are consciously investing in building an employer brand which is at par with our business brand.
We believe in the 3Cs approach when it comes to building an employer brand - Consistency, Clarity and Character.
- Consistency: Employer Value Proposition (EVP), as we all know, is internal facing, where we highlight the unique proposition we have for our employees, whether in terms of benefits, working conditions or an overall culture that we have at Simpl. Employer Brand, on the other hand, is external facing. We are very conscious of ensuring that what we build as a brand is consistent with our culture and values. Ultimately the goal is to attract like-minded people who could be a great cultural fit for us. Also, in today’s day and age, employee advocacy matters, and our strategy relies heavily on building great experiences for our employees so they become our brand ambassadors.
- Clarity: We are very conscious of our messaging to the external world in terms of how we create awareness about Simpl as a talent brand and who is our target audience. We have curated the right channels to make the target audience aware of our organisation and continue to share authentic stories to let them decide if they relate to our set of values.
- Character: We are a people-centric organisation, and we try to bring this out by sharing content that is relatable on our social media channels. Our community events, such as D2C unlocked also which have a conversational touch to them. The idea is to keep our brand real, interactive and as humane as possible.
What are some innovative ways of hiring top talent you have adopted in recent times?
Building a high-performing team and increasing our talent density is a top priority at Simpl. We truly believe that our people are the real assets who have built and scaled our business and teams to this level. Hence, we genuinely value our people, who not only take pride in the ‘Simpl brand’, but also take ownership and responsibility to continue to take the organisation to the ‘next level’. We have grown 3x in the last year itself, while keeping the bar high in identifying the right talent. Some of the practices which have helped us in hiring the desired talent are:
- Employee referrals: Our employees know us the best. They know what we are trying to build and what skill set and intrinsic we are looking for. We rely heavily on our employee referrals and have a well-defined program to encourage referrals. Around 43% of our hires are presently sourced through direct or indirect employee referrals. We have also observed a positive shift in quality of hire, coming through reliable employee referrals.
- Hiring is a ‘two-way’ street: We understand that ‘fitment’ is a two-way street. When an organisation is evaluating a candidate, the candidate is also evaluating the organisation at the same time. This becomes even more important when the hiring is for critical positions. We have a ‘coffee chat’ session as one of the early rounds of discussions, where for the critical roles, our leadership invites the individuals to meet for a cup of coffee, sometimes in our office, sometimes in a coffee shop. Even our CEO does this quite often. The objective of such a casual conversation is to make the candidate comfortable and give them an opportunity to know us better. This is a channel where we chat about our industry, company, aspirations and our day to day challenges. It gives the candidate the ‘real picture’ of how it would be, working at Simpl. They can then accordingly make an informed decision.
- Preboarding experience: Our learning has been that not only hiring and onboarding experiences are important, but pre-boarding is equally important. We have various touch points with the candidate, from offer acceptance to onboarding, to ensure we are continuing to stay in touch, making the new hire feel welcome and readily available for any questions or clarifications. Our cultural integration hence begins even before someone comes on board. This has helped us reduce offer declines and last-minute dropouts.
- Build long-lasting, mutually beneficial university relations: We are striving to build a strong university/ college network in major tech colleges in the country. We nourish this network by partnering with the educational institutions in multiple ways. We have started to participate in their tech fests, conduct guest lectures, and workshops, and facilitate case studies to share our learnings for the benefit of the upcoming talent in the country. Some of our existing employees have a presence in these institutions as their alumni, who keep visiting their alma mater. Through such activities and by ‘genuinely’ offering help in building learning opportunities, we are able to establish ourselves as a desired employer brand.
What are the big challenges you continue to face as you build an inclusive workplace?
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work” - Andres Tapia.
Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion in its true sense happens when as organisations, we start moving from diversity numbers to building an inclusive, equitable culture where everyone, irrespective of their identity of gender, race, generation, or backgrounds can reach their best potential. This journey of building an inclusive workplace has its own set of challenges and unique opportunities for us. While it’s critical to coach our managers to develop an inclusive mindset in their day-to-day behaviour, in my view, there are two challenges very relevant to today’s workplace:
Building an inclusive workplace for a hybrid working environment: We are operating in a hybrid set-up, where teams come into the office for a few days a week and operate from home on other days. Regular working from the office offers the benefits of constant interaction with each other, including with leadership, where more opportunities for coaching and direct communication are available to drive an inclusive culture. In a hybrid setup, these opportunities are relatively limited.
Also, more frequent interaction with employees, taking their feedback, and understanding their needs & operating with empathy is relatively more challenging in a hybrid environment. Our leaders need to be a lot more cognizant of how to effectively lead a diverse and distributed workforce. We also have, over time, devised platforms like a weekly town hall with our CEO to stay connected as an org and various other platforms such as employee feedback surveys to keep listening.
Designing experiences for “intersectionality”: Intersectionality in the context of a diverse workforce could be a Hindu millennial woman employee who identifies as a queer or a Christian male employee who could have low vision. People have so many different identities, and it requires organisations to think about each person as a unique individual with unique needs. The earlier approach, which more organisations took of having cohorts such as women, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, generational diversity, etc., has limitations.
This means as an organisation, we have to embed inclusion as a first principle while thinking about any policy to address a unique workforce while also driving the right balance in terms of focus on certain employee cohorts which need special focus. One example is our new leave policy, where we launched wellness leaves for all employees for physical, mental and emotional wellness, and at the same time, introduced menstrual leaves for our women employees. We extended our parental leaves for surrogacy, adoption, and also for our LGBTQIA employees.
While the above two challenges are something we are working on overcoming constantly, we are cognizant that building an inclusive workplace is a ‘journey’ and not a ‘destination’. Our workforce is unique, and their needs also keep evolving. Thus, as organisations, it is important for us to listen to our employee’s feedback closely and respond accordingly with agility and empathy.