My Learnings from Talent Acquisition
I have been in the space of people practice for long and have had numerous experiences of Talent Acquisition (TA), which are worth sharing as lessons.
Extend the Campus feel
I have been hiring freshers in large numbers over many years and it has taught me that it is important to extend the same campus feel for the first couple of years for Graduate Engineer Trainees & Management Trainees. This makes it an easy landing where they trade-off good learning environment mixed with fun and camaraderie against a formal corporate environment. Employee retention does improve with this kind of approach, and they value this extended campus feel, more than growth and money.
Catch them young
I am picking this up from my hospitality stint, where it was difficult to attract high-quality talent as a career option. We went into the basics of “when a career decision is made by an individual” and then took the best decision of supporting them at a stage in life when they are young and their minds could be shaped. We introduced a program of 3 years in Hospitality training post 10+2, fully loaded with on-the-job training, great staying facilities, and classrooms. Additionally, we backed it with an offline radiation program from a renowned university. So we had all the ingredients of shaping and developing a career when the mind is vulnerable to confusion, readying them for a career. This proved to be a masterpiece as it ensured a great pipeline of high-class talent, gave us stability, helped us with the fulfilment of our needs and above all exposed the prospects to the world of hospitality which is usually not a preferred option. This was culturally demanding too, as the family would get involved along with the candidate, as is typical in our Indian society. It brought new learnings and turned out to be the biggest disruption of a successful TA strategy in the industry.
Leadership hiring through social media (SM)
Leadership hiring, conventionally in the IT Services has always been through search firms. No one dared to approach candidate directly on SM platforms. Being one of the early users of social media, I brought the team together to put an effective team of sources who would contact senior industry colleagues and build a relationship. The myth was broken over 6 months, and I learnt that every single leader whether stable in his current role or otherwise, realized the fact that he/she is a worthy asset in the marketplace. They were approachable, easy to deal with, and were keen. They were easy to direct approaches, which is a second mindset change. In fact, they loved it, which was a new learning. My team of sources loved this new experience and built the most credible network of industry leaders who were waiting to be approached. I carried a brand in the marketplace, and with this disruptive and bold approach backed by fantastic relationship skills and conversion ability of prospects to hire, we turned out to be the biggest hirer of leaders through the SM platform. We became a competition to the top 5 executive search firms in this space, and received accolades for the approach of ‘dare to do different’ from all across.
Big Data in T.A.
I knew that the days of database were over, and it was necessary to do something different for a difficult profile hunt of advanced business intelligence. Conventional database were of no use and I thought of mining the industry, using Big Data. I speak after having done this a decade ago, with the benefit of BI technology practice group which helped me set up a pilot with analytics. I mined using Big Data into research papers, thought leadership articles, tweets, Wikis, special features etc. and dug out the names of few experts in the space. We then built a community of techies using the CTO as an anchor. We incubated a program to tap this emerging space and ignited the mind of this community. Very soon, a lot of people in the marketplace started leaning towards our intent and took a close look at our value proposition. It was here that we swept in with the convergence of minds and converting them from learning prospects to hires. This never tested practice of using social learning platforms to hire has now evolved into a medium of higher scale. This was massively satisfying and brought in great excitement of an innovative approach to leadership TA.
A backfill hiring mandate would normally specify a level. I challenged this mindset of hiring at the same level as it is an industry practice to get lateral at a higher cost than existing median compensation. Something had to be done as this affected internal morale, makes it an expensive proposition and sometimes an unviable option. By educating and cultivating a culture of hiring backfill at one level lower, we open ourselves to creating opportunities for cost efficiencies, create more headroom for growth and make it a more stable organization of preserving parity amongst teams. These are all not easy ones to push but the line function sees it as a huge business-aligned move and over a period of time realizes the benefit and supports the drive, which is a win-win for all.
It is all about delivering an experience
Candidates look at roles through the lens of learning and growth that translates into an experience. It is the quality of this experience that is the differentiating factor. Therefore, right from the start of the exercise, it is critical to set up as a perfect experience. The infancy fall-outs is a piece where TA folks can play a good role along with the line to ensure stability and converting the experience to a long-term retention. We do not sell careers or jobs anymore. It is all about an experience and this needs to be played out well and truthfully for a great convergence of lives between the employer and employee.
Every hiring leader needs to ensure that there is broad-basing of the talent pool that is offered for selection. I have worked tirelessly in the space of Diversity and Inclusion and ensured building up a diversity set being brought up for hiring and broad-base the selection pool. It included gender diversity, differently abled and deprived sections of society. Giving back to the society is an important agenda for building an inclusive employer and TA is the biggest entry gate where the difference is made. Recognizing this and making it happen worked wonders for me and the team to build the best-in-the-class inclusive workplace.
TA process and the end customer
In the world of IT services, getting the customer into the process is the biggest strategic differentiator. This is demanding and can cause enough anxiety and stress but also becomes the winning difference. I remember a situation where I deposed before a Fortune 100 customer for defending a large multi-million dollar deal. My team and I had done all the pre-work and knew the dimension that the customer is likely to assess us against in talent hiring and ensuring the stability of the key account. I played out like a King on that day using everything we had to give them a view of talent in the marketplace, industry strengths, competition analysis, capability building stacks and above all a reliable fresher hiring plan, ensuring retention resulting in customer account stability. This called for tons of data to be churned but it was worth it, as it became a guideline for the customer to evaluate us against bidding competition. This was possibly one of the best business-aligned TA strategy which leads to a massive win of key global account. The customer acknowledged publicly to the CEO that it was our proactive performance, which made the difference in winning the deal.
I have come to realize that flexible staffing option would be the order of the future and conventional hiring needs to be challenged. People look for shorter work lives and we must recognize this as a potential medium of change and adopt our entire hiring needs and strategies accordingly. With most of the businesses going through ups and down, the design would help it, if conceived well and executed in close coordination with the business.
India is still not seen as the front-end hub of the consulting world whether it is the pure strategy, business or technology. We tried out a fly-in/fly-out model after hiring a bunch of top business school graduates. This gave us a new strategy of keeping the cost structure low and at the same time allowed us to make an entry into the global consulting business dominated by purists. The entry barriers were high as if it was the extremely opinionated customer, where India was branded as a back office hub and not a front-ended consulting office. This strategic approach challenged, proved and sustained as a viable business option. The fly-in/fly-out option brought in the concept of a radical approach to right scoring when the world was divided between outsourcing and offshoring.
Above examples are some of the TA recaps, experiences and stories which helped me succeed in this space across 6 industries. Every industry gave a perspective and a learning which I built as experience stacks.
More to learn!
More to experience and potentially disrupt for a sound business future creation, with an enviable people-centric model and an inclusive world in all aspects.