Saturday, December 28, 2013

Low attrition in startups comes with high exit barriers

College placement coordinators in India, would have found a trend of startups signing up, to participate in the college placement round up. Especially in cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, and Delhi startups are not hesitating a bit to try recruiting freshers from colleges in these cities. Is it because startups suddenly got richer? Certainly not. It is because startups found the secret sauce of bringing down levels of employee attrition in their companies.

Bringing down the levels of employee attrition is getting real with some startups. Observations made over a few startup case studies revealed that these new firms are getting smarter in sustaining their business by cutting recruitment costs. So, what do they do?

Recruitment formula of startups

What is  the reality behind startups choosing to hire students from engineering colleges. Over the years, engineering colleges multiplied and also the number of takers for their courses. In the meantime, technology startups have also started making a visible presence in the market. The timing was just right for engineering graduates because they don’t see the threat of unemployment.

Recruiters started hunting for technical talent, with a conception that toppers would add more value to the organization. But eventually these small brands keep such talent and had to run multiple cycles of recruitment. They also could not find enough the toppers who could fit their budget.

Then, there was an Aha! moment when they found the next set students who could fit their bill. After recruiting them, the startup owners realized that with some training and direction the so called average students remained committed to company and stayed longer than the toppers of the college. While the toppers insisted higher salary and gave no guarantee about their stint with the firm, the average students were found more promising in terms of loyalty to the company and cost to company (CTC).

As time passed, it was proved that engineering students with an average mark sheet suited the small budgets and at the same time became loyal employees bringing down the employee attrition rates and hence recruitment costs. Startups also noted that when they run into a tight budget mode, they need to rise the exit barriers for their employee keeping the hiring and retention costs low.

This hiring trend spread like fire among startups which were stringent on expenditure and which experienced high attrition rates in their organizations. The problem found the solution by itself!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recruiters stereotyped as postmen

“Hi! I shared 23 resumes. Hope someone suits the job.” is what is typically heard from an associate in the recruitment department. HR role in an organization is shared by a manager, consultant and assistant which is influenced by the scale of HR operations in a firm. A HR manager’s scope of work has neither been given due significance nor has it been addressed as value addition, ensuring cost efficiency in the organization. The role of a HR manager or consultant is stereotyped as those who deliver smart resumes onto the desks of various department heads.

This is not a complaint, but an effort to reorient towards the definition, scope of work and crucial role of a HR consultant. This is a reorientation exercise for HR consultants and their colleagues who set expectations around this role. To address this diverted orientation I would like to lay focus on the attitude and self-expectations of HR consultants and the lifecycle of the company.

Attitude of HR consultant and their peers

HR consultants are not mere messengers who deliver bio-data sheets from a prospective candidate to a vacancy holder. They don’t find ‘jobs for people, but people for jobs’ and hence have a more responsible task of filling the skill gaps rather than just announcing job openings. It is simple to accept and understand that HR consultants offer hiring solutions and not messenger services.

Upon freezing this thought, we need to delve upon what is their actual role and scope within an organization. Let me address this in a separate section below.

Company’s lifecycle

The involvement and role of a HR consultant grows and changes with the growth of the company. The consultant could be associated for an exclusive set of tasks, when HR needs arise or when a firm is in its early years of business operations. Eventually as a firm grows in size, scale and vision, the role of their HR consultant gets inclusive to an extent that hiring people for a client’s firm would be as good as hiring for one’s own firm.

Hiring people now would be motivated by getting the best talent for a given job and negotiating the best price to bring maximize value for an organization.

Keeping these two aspects on the table, I would like to mark these words in bold, “Recruiters are not mere postmen, they are valuable resources who grow with the firm.” This will help us to set smart and viable expectations from the HR fraternity as well as the ecosystem being built around it.

Friday, November 08, 2013

How to manage your brand?

My advice to job seekers is always, “Instead of looking for jobs, be found by one!”. To stand out in the crowd, is not that difficult. All you need is a strong personal brand but, to possess a personal brand that commands attention is the challenge. It requires you to align all your professional activities with your personality, the personality you would like to showcase before the headhunters and talent finders.

Aligning professional activities with your personality

To raise your career to the next level, one needs to constantly plan and align their professional activities with their personality. What does that mean? It means that when you are involving yourself in a professional activity like participating in an event or leading a project or working with a team, it has speak about your traits that make you a better fit in the market for a given job.

While planning our career we work on multiple aspects but we fail to showcase them. On an informal note, we help many people and we get help from many of them. These interactions may seem mundane but when aligned with your career aspirations, they are the real things you are good at. It could be as simple as finding new talent for someone, helping in fundraising for a cause, networking with people or bringing in a sponsor. These need to be highlighted in your abilities and skills section because they truly are going to add value to the organization you choose to work with.

After choosing what to showcase and what not to, the next step would be to position them in the right channels. Are you someone still sitting down preparing lengthy resumes and expecting people to read through them completely. Then, you are expecting too much. People have very little time to make decisions and are getting social!

Here, is how we can leverage on little time and getting social.

Build a social brand

Resumes are being replaced by Linkedin profiles. Background checks are done on your Facebook profile. Your knowledge is scrutinized over your Twitter handles and followers. Your expert advice can be tracked on Quora discussions. Your next interview call would be over Skype or Facetime. What is this all about? You are living in an era where social recruiting has replaced traditional recruitment methods.

Social recruiters focus on how you are positioned across all these channels. Such positioning translates into your personal brand. Here branding can be subtly coined to messaging. What is the message being shared by your social profiles? Being social is not as easy as it sounds because it requires commitment and a genuine interest to network and know people.

It is a long journey to evolve from an entry level candidate to someone who has a brand of his own. Someone, whose brand represents his skills and whose skills are recognized by his brand. To build a personal brand, a person does not have to participate across all social media channels. Some of them are good enough to communicate about one’s persona. Someone who participates in tumblr may not feel comfortable to be in Pinterest and some others involved in flickr may not want to stumbleupon.
Your social brand is built across the channels you choose to stay active in. Each of the channels chosen communicate one quality about yourself after studying the activity you are involved in. This just explains why social recruiters are emerging and why they prefer people with social presence working towards creating a personal brand.

Today, these channels help as recruiting tools and tomorrow it could be something else. What remains as a critical criterion in the recruiter’s checklist is the effort made by a prospect to shine out with a personal brand.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Middle level jobs are getting extinct

Middle level jobs are getting extinct.  Trends speak that teaching, community service and construction and admin jobs are losing sheen.Is this true? Before I provide a direct answer to this let me share some of my observations drawn over the years, as a HR consultant.
  • In the last two years India has seen middle management jobs vanishing from the organizational hierarchy.
  • The recruitment sentiment tends to be that “I am happy hiring 2 smart guys and pay them Rs. 8 lakhs each, rather than pay Rs.20 lakhs one super smart guy.”
  • US has seen loss of jobs in segments like teaching, construction and community service.
  • People with all-rounded experience are preferred versus highly skewed or monotonous skill sets.
Does all this mean that jobs are getting extinct? The answer is precisely ‘No’.
We are moving into a new era seeing the emergence of new types of jobs. The jobs which require people to have medium level skill sets are the ones which lack employability. The aspect we need to address here is whether the jobs lack employability or the job seekers. Jobs lack employability because to perform them, a new set of skills are required. Job seekers lack employability because they don’t have the necessary skills. Middle segment job seekers are not being employed because here is where, skills need to be enhanced at a faster rate than the high and low paid jobs.

There is a skill transplant required to these middle level jobs where job aspirants need to spend time in updating and equipping themselves with the new set of skill sets. This makes us delve further into a thought whether the skills acquired during college or in a professional course are insufficient for job seekers in these categories. Gap between the skills demanded by industry and those provided at college persists as long as both these ends don’t work towards enhancing skill relevance. Such gap leads to skill obsolescence.
The skill obsolescence occurs due to
-Lack of proactive learning within the industry: Colleges do not structure educational programs and degrees in a way to compel the student to develop proactive learning. These students who turn as job aspirants are struck hard by the surprise of proactive learning and adaptation demanded by industry to survive in a job.
-Replacement of jobs by technology: Jobs which are process driven are being replaced by tools and applications offered by technology. The accuracy of monitoring and administering the flow of such processes is higher when compared to a traditional sales or admin process.
-Need of new skills for existing jobs: An instance of modern marketers stands as an apt example. Traditional marketers were involved in hard selling and direct marketing. With the advent of digital marketing marketers are expected to hone their soft selling skills and other skills like writing, ideating and graphics.
-Industry demand: Each industry has different expectations from a single role. A tutor or a professor needs to deliver different skills to his students, to the university, to academia and to industry. Similarly a CIO would have different roles in the media industry versus healthcare industry.
-Cost advantage: This is the most obvious reason for skill obsolescence. Firms do not maintain room for skills which do not provide a cost advantage or any kind of value to the organization. Such skills are bid farewell.
Also, while being extremely involved in executing the job, the employee does not look into inherent inefficiencies in the execution process. These process gaps lead to invention of new skills that become the norm for the same employee to survive in the same job. Traditional teachers, salespeople and admins are being replaced by new process driven jobs like social media managers,content marketing, online tutors and trainers, virtual consultant and so on.

These new jobs are a revamp of old jobs with new direction and newer roles.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Slowdown in economy: An Opportunity in disguise?

It is a wonderful read- with several examples of how some companies have take the 'road less travelled' and actually are well on their way to increased profitability and faster than industry growth in an otherwise conservative sentiment driven economy!
For instance
- Lowe Lintas & Golin Harris marriage of two partners with complementary strengths of research & consumer insights to leverage on the ever increasing demand for digital media!
-Companies like KPMG, E&Y, Cognizant and TCS kept hiring (IP assets!) aggressively at the middle level management- and wooing good talent at higher salaries- when most other competitors were tightening belts under the garb of cost cutting.
-Subway and Costa Coffee went on a rapid expansion of their distribution network capitalising on the availability of a cheaper real estate, more available prime locations and more agreeable innovative/unconventional locations !
And of course, a bunch of other companies that shopped around and acquired weaker competitors to emerge stronger and be more prepared in the new environment.
In fact, in a survey conducted by Careerbuilder in the US -interviewing over 2070 hiring managers, we come across a very interesting observation.
When faced with equally qualified candidates (ie skills & experience being similar), some were more equal than the other because those who got eventually hired had
-a better sense of humour!
-been involved in community service/development
-more physically fit!!
So, that brings us to a very valid concern.If this is what the demand side has been transforming into..what do you think the changes that we in the supply side need to be wary of?
Here is a crystalgaze in to the future...where are the jobs going?
-The highest jobs in demand are
a)those with highly technical skills (Software engineers, network systems analysts/administrators and the like)
b) those with lower skills that are hard to automate! (Personal and home care aides, medical assistants, computer system analysts etc)
Which means...that highly routine jobs are vulnerable to automation (Transportation , production labour and Administration support like Secretaries, stenographers, cashiers,bookkeepers, typists, pharmacists, bank tellers etc)
That means so low skill workers will need to re-allocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerisation -ie tasks that require creative and social intelligence!
A slowdown is a great time for us to take stock of our marketability..and hone those (dormant?) creative & social skills!! Howzaat??

Friday, August 30, 2013

Is recession an opportunity?

Falling rupee and rising opportunity

Prima facie, Recession is not an interesting era for job seekers. This period, is most of the times attributed by a general slowdown in business sentiments/activities, loss of jobs, rise in rupee value and devastation of investor interest. Can life get any worse?

However, I would like to recall the ‘half full and half empty’ perspective. While the entire world is mourning about the slump, I would like to throw light on the rising wave for job seekers. There is a huge demand for 'gamechangers'!

No, it is not a great time for job seekers as they are do not see fat salaries I see it as lack of gap fillers; who can match the job seeker with the job, like Cinderella with her glass shoe. With this analogy, you can smell the opportunity close to you. However, let me elaborate why this is doable.

My focus is on a country like India where there is abundant supply of job seekers -compared to the demand presently for people with a certain set of skillsets & mindset . With this huge gap it is quite evident that  one needs to change the way one is looking for an opportunity.
Marketing is key to turning the tables

There is a huge opportunity for those in the service sector, focussed on training and bringing policies to India Inc  & ensure availabity of ‘market ready candidates’ in India. This is applicable to sectors, right from the agricultural to tertiary sectors.

Here are a few things I feel job seekers should tune into:

Candidates marketing themselves: Job seekers need to master the art of selling personal brand at such grim times. In this digital era, candidates should be using social media platforms  and other networking websites to get in touch with those who hunting for talent.

With the launch of social tools, employers would also find the task of screening and recruitment a lot easier than before. Apart, from working towards scoring high in exams and bagging degrees, final year graduates should start exploring networks and associations relevant to their course and subsequent profession.

Rise in entrepreneurship: Innovation and entrepreneurship is still a struggling trend in India. Graduates should consider entrepreneurship as one of the career options in their field of study.Accelerators and incubation centers are prevalent in urban and tier II cities. A couple of internships would also help orient one-self with the real time expectations at the work place.

Choose the right consultant: While freshers and mid-career job aspirants can bank on the above options, employers seeking for leading roles and executives seeking for a career leap should be extremely picky in choosing their recruitment consultant. An experienced consultant would be a good bet  to help  with the insights..and a pulse on the hiring mood.

During recession, industries always have requirement to hire someone who can help them with innovative and turnaround solutions. More about the next post!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Selection : More than a Hobson's Choice?

It is quite unnerving to think , that most arrive at a Selection, by rejecting till we cannot reject further-and hey presto-we have a shortlist!!

Selection is serious business. And in a country like ours where we have abundance of applicants for any level of hire, we tend to succumb. A la Type II error in statistics.

Surely rejection is easier. We reject applicants based on age, qualification, the number of years of past experience, or the institute they graduated it is more tangible* than selecting ..on merit or competency?

Let me explain about a time we didn't beat the trodden path. A particular experience that I had about 7 years ago when an UK based client was setting up a product development centre in Mumbai. The briefing was simple: Find me candidates from the best schools to work for this new company.

This often happens, because as humans we use shortcuts to make decisions most of the time.

best school = best candidates

We found plenty of candidates that fit the bill and some that were no exact match, but had potential. The list was big and the client pressed for time.

So in the end we decided not to go through the motions of a typical interview. Instead candidates were asked to build a game using certain technologies. Ones that were relevant to the job, of course.

And here is why I thought back about this experience: the candidate who got the job, was not a match against the original profile (not from a top school at all). Yet he went on to become the head of this company after starting out as a developer. His Linkedin profile indicates he is today driving 2 of their companies presently-"Responsible for setting up and supporting IT infrastructure, setting up a core team in place (technical as well as non technical), recruiting top talent, forming technical teams on different technologies (.NET, Flash, iPhone)"

best school ≠ best candidate

Focusing on past indicators, puts us at greater risk of not fully understanding the context of how this performance will translate into future performance. Every recruiter will of course ask question in person to see how well a candidate will flourish in the new environment.

However I feel uncomfortable with the thought that had we followed the standard brief of my client, he would have missed out on this amazing talent who went on to become an amazing employee.

Now I understand that any of the other candidates could have turned out to be as good, or even better. And I am OK with that uncertainty.

What I am not OK with is the idea that we are missing out on great talent to begin with, because we are trying to find them through narrow definitions.

In an age where education is becoming more available to more (diverse groups of ) people,  should we be moving towards a better model ? A model of self selection and attraction.

With our networks and information streams ever growing, but our capacity to manage it not growing as fast, looking for people who fit a profile might not be as good as allowing people to show you that they can do the job.

I will go into the model of self selection and attraction a bit deeper in the next posts, but for now let me end with the question to you dear reader:

What do you find more attractive : being screened by checklist of requirements to see if you fit, or knowing what the company stands for and then deciding if you want to prove that you are a fit?

PS*: Most companies too are so focussed on the 'cost of a hire' that they tend to miss out the larger picture..'the opportunity cost' or the 'quality of the hire' that could make the difference ..and perhaps even on those game changers?? Well, that calls for another post for another day!!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Listed in SHRM India's 'Top 20 Indian #HR Influencers Active on #SocialMedia'

When my pal Gautam Ghosh tweeted, and pointed me to this article, I didn't quite believe it!! I was pleasantly surprised at the honour of being bunched with some of the best known professionals.."influencers" I have been following..
(Here is the detailed report.)
It was an awesome feeling..being among a handful of recruiters to make it to the club, and that perhaps emphasises the importance of Talent acquisition and talent management-and the power of social media in attracting, engaging and influencing the eco-system.
Social media to me..has been the window to the global world-keeping abreast with the trends and best practices-
Well, I spent the last evening, basking in the sudden sense of recognition-though I must confess, I was a little embarrassed for I was aware of the vulnerability of the situation.
-The specific study was focussed on Twitter as being the platform of choice given its fast pace and real time interventions. The number of followers..and the impressions generated..being the parameters being ranked.
-I must consider myself lucky as I have been among the early adopters of Twitter-and have about 2500+ followers...but at the same time-have been more a passive listener-more than a great engager or an influencer. And quite often conscious of the fact..that perhaps I have been spamming by broadcasting too many jobs..too..
-And as recruiter by livelihood- finding 'people for jobs', I have been less active engaging -and focussing on 'finding jobs for people'.
-Yes, brevity isnt one of my I often find myself difficult to focus beyond jobs...and at the simultaneously restrict myself into 140 characters..and forever in awe of folks who can come with smart one liners..and promptly at that :)!!!
-And so have been more active on Linkedin & Facebook!!
The Morning After.With recognition comes responsibility. And most importantly the opportunity of staying relevant !!
I hope to be more regular blogging -and not just curating information -but also become a little more active -trying to engage and interact -more often.
Must create a social media calendar. And yes, increase my present strike rate of 1.3 tweets per day-and truly leverage on being the new entrant..
Well, I need to be rushing off now..back into the real world- as I am due to be engaging with a bunch of MBA students in a local college-and help them understand how to plan their careers in this fast changing interconnected world.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jobs in India- The New Normal?

We live in interesting times!

Almost everyday, one is drawn into discussions about the 'job market in India'. And the more one dwells on the various aspects - it is quite obvious that there is something amiss in the entire ecosystem!
At a personal level, I have been getting more enquiries from job seekers, employers and recruitment associates -all equally anxious for the right solutions. However, the 'busyness' isn't really converting into business.
-The skills available simply do not seem to match that of those desired by the employers.
-It is almost as if people are window shopping (both hiring managers & aspirants) with no real sense of urgency-as corporates display low business confidence.
-Companies are paying differential annual hikes to key performers-and doling out lesser amounts to others!
- However the disturbing news -is that companies have stopped investing in freshers (even if it were in past -to build a pipeline of talent for the future- and bring down the overall cost !)-
Surprising -for a nation happy to hoard for future ( recall companies used to lap up third year engineering students -in a bid to offer jobs on a later date), and hire more than necessary ( as they built in a certain percentage of attrition & drop outs to be sure), right?
And what's worse is that most glamorous of employers, in the IT and auto industry, are open to looking at laying off people!! What lies unsaid..are the layoffs in lesser known companies -mostly third party service producers-who lose their jobs well before the snipping tool come down on the  headcount!
Can we draw some insights from these symptoms? I would love to have your observations.
Does the future look bright? Are those likely to enter the workforce shortly-equipped to be relevant in the context?
Here are some show stoppers -in my opinion.
-Almost anyone who wants to get higher education now-can get it. In the past 5 years alone, the intakes of Engineering & Management students has gone by 3x !! Is there some tab of the quality of the input? Am not sure.
-Has the quality of education improved? There is huge clamour of the 'output'  not just being industry ready. Disturbing -as the Education loans have gone up by 10x in the last 7 years-which means the aspirations of the pass outs..include a decent quality of life-after paying their EMIs. Can the campus offers keep in pace and ignore the ROI of a entry level hire??
- Are so many highly qualified professionals required ? And yes, after paying the EMIs, (which could be a third of most qualified professionals)..what would be the disposable income? Isn't India - an economy that promises to grow.. by increased consumption by a specific contribution from a segment of the demographics?
Am I over reacting to a small passing phase? Am I trying to read too much between the lines? I shall be glad to be corrected.
Or indeed, are we missing the woods from the trees?

PS:  Meanwhile, should you want to know specifically what kind of jobs keep us busy @ Options presently, please visit our career site-where some of the not-so-confidential positions are listed!!
Happy hunting!

Will the twain ever meet?