4 min read

What Founders Expect From HR Leaders In 2021

If you missed the event, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! The entire event can be watched on our Youtube channel (video embedded above). Also, if you prefer, here is a summary of the hour long event.

The event started out with a round of introductions for our esteemed panel.

Satheesh, the founder and COO of Spottabl, shared that his experience of scaling Flipkart’s HR processes from 700 to 12000 employees informs his mission to build a recruitment solution for startups. In addition, he takes pride in his cooking skills and enjoys the peace and quiet greenery of rural India, having grown up in a small village in Kerala.

Kartik, the founder of Springworks, is building background verification and employee engagement products for companies. He plays Badminton for exercise and reads crime fiction after work.

Abhimanyu, the founder of Scaler Academy and Interview Bit helps Engineers become the best versions of themselves, and helps startups acquire the best Engineering talent. In addition, he maintains a kitchen garden which can supply 15 days’ worth of vegetables.

Saransh, the founder of Nova Benefits, shared that as a very early stage founder he is having to currently double up as HR, and in the process, discovering the gaps that an HR needs to fill even at the earliest stages in a startup. He also maintains a morning routine of running, meditation and journaling.

Following this, the panel was put on the spot by the Host, Meena (HR Lead at Airmeet) in a rapid-fire round.

The first topic was “Work From Home or Hybrid system”

Satheesh, Abhimanyu and Saransh opted for Hybrid, while Kartik chose Work From Home.

The second topic resulted in some free advertisement for Slack. The question, “Email or Slack?” got a 100% endorsement in favor of Slack, with Satheesh pointing out that he would be open to further improvements to Slack.

The third topic saw the founders split 50-50 when they were asked if they would prefer “A bold HR or an expert HR”. Kartik and Saransh opted for an expert, while Abhimanyu and Satheesh opted for “bold”.

The final topic brought out the diplomatic side of the founders, as 3 out of 4 picked “Employee well-being” over “Business Outcomes”, while Abhimanyu refused to pick, emphasizing that both reinforce each other.

Following this, we moved into a more freewheeling conversation about the first of our two topics- "How do founders see the role of HRs evolving in 2021

Here is what the founders had to say.

Satheesh:

The fundamental role won’t change. Hybrid work has become more acceptable, but not all companies will be remote- especially for an early stage, there is value to brainstorming in the office.

HRs need to understand the business, and tailor solutions based on that- 80% of the time should be spent in understanding problems, and 20% in identifying solutions

On hiring- more and more people are open to working in startups- the challenge now is to ensure that people outside the company know and understand the story of what the company is trying to build. This has to become a part of candidate engagement- and helps create more demand for working in your organization.

Finally, to overcome the challenges of remote work, HRs need to find a way to use digital solutions while maintaining a human connection.

Kartik:

The role of HR needs to be redefined- HR should report to the board, not the CEO to ensure transparency and accountability. This requires Business understanding but facilitates advocacy for employees.

On Talent: There will be Indian talent attracted by Europe and US companies- and we can’t compete purely on money. As a result, we need to design new incentive structures, perks, etc. We need to continue organizing off-sites for engagement. Our branding in the talent market becomes critical to our success.

Tech savviness needs to be improved- HRs need to leverage technology to engage employees and the talent pool.

Abhimanyu:

Understanding of Business context is key to HR success- The same HR processes won’t work for EdTech and ECommerce.

There is a need to treat employees as customers- measure NPS- are they going to recommend your organization as a place of work to their friends, etc.

(Later, Satheesh mentions that a lot of his work at xto10x revolved around designing an employee NPS system called 10x people.)

High performance requires psychological safety and camaraderie- which needs to be designed for- won’t happen on its own. Companies are a collection of people on a common mission- success depends on buy-in. Need to actively measure these metrics and work towards improving them.

Saransh:

Recruitment, Onboarding, Engagement- Employee lifecycle management - these are the gaps that we face at our current stage. Managing this is a full-time job and the top area of focus for HRs at early-stage startups.

Meena mentioned that Airmeet optimizes its own platform for these challenges- virtual office, engagement, etc. and that companies should explore these options.

Kartik recommends having a custom quiz for new joinees- an ice-breaker to get to know them better.

This created a natural pivot to the 2nd major topic of the day: “How to win the talent war in a borderless marketplace?”

Here is what the founders had to say.

Satheesh:

Limited supply, high demand- was true even before the pandemic- and will continue or get worse

One solution could be to be more open to a gig economy for part-time white-collar work. This gives people and companies a chance to evaluate each other and then sign up long term.

Secondly, not enough people understand how to build a brand- branding requires authentic employee stories. What your employees say about you, unprompted, goes a long way in establishing credibility in the talent market.

Finally, it's important to spend time in the interview process understanding the people applying- what matters to them. Current interview processes over-emphasize the competence checks- not enough time is spent trying to build rapport and testing culture fit, resulting in lots of dropped offers.

Karthik:

A 4.9 Glassdoor rating has been the largest source of candidate supply- even been the reason why candidates with multiple offers pick Springworks. We have focused on Glassdoor and LinkedIn reviews from the beginning.

One of the ways to reduce “No-Shows'' (candidates not showing up after accepting offer letters)- is to roll out a welcome kit alongside the offer letter- a goodie back with Company swag. This, he said, was inspired by Kunal Shah’s CRED sending out a laptop with the offer letter. “Leading with trust” usually results in candidates joining, or informing well in advance about other offers. The joining day surprises almost disappear.

Other steps include creating a Whatsapp group to keep candidates engaged after acceptance of an offer letter, to build up excitement for week 1- and if they stop being responsive, they are probably not joining.

Reference-based hiring- The HR function needs to work on leveraging the networks of existing employees, especially on LinkedIn.

Abhimanyu:

Largely agreed with and re-emphasized the points made by Satheesh and Kartik. Also, he added that

Hiring the right people is a full-time job for founders. For top tier talent, you need to have 1 on 1 conversation, often multiple times, to convince people to join your mission at an early stage. This is not something that can be outsourced.

Saransh:

Talent War is an opportunity- Nova has found excellent engineering talent from tier 2-3 cities which we wouldn’t have had access to without a Hybrid setup.

All founders agreed on the need to hire “believers”- who will own the mission and not need to be told what to do.

After this, the session got wrapped up with a brief discussion on best practices to improve “Employee Motivation”- a question from the audience :

Karthik: Weekly updates and transparency

Satheesh: Random 1 on 1s with employees- not work oriented

Saransh: Empathy- reaching out and making sure people are taking breaks

Meena: Trust and avoiding micromanagement

And with that, we wrapped up the session. We hope you found this summary useful, and we look forward to seeing you in the next session.


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