Hire For Capability And Behavior Vs Skill: Narayan Thammaiah, CPO At Accel

In the corporate world, we always end up using jargon. One such jargon extensively used is workplace culture. The term workplace culture is interpreted differently across various organizations. However, the right interpretation of workplace culture is ‘How things get done in an organization’. With this interpretation it is evident that workplace culture cannot be copied or replicated, thus making it unique to an organization and a differentiator vis-à-vis competitors. Culturro’s team was in conversation with Narayan Thammaiah, Chief People Officer at Accel to understand his view on workplace experience and the secret to attracting & retaining talent in an organization.

Narayan Thammaiah has close to 20 years of experience in Strategic Transformational People Practices and is actively involved with Accel portfolio companies consulting them on an array of talent-related issues. According to Narayan, “In an early-stage startup, the focus is always on the product, profits and then people. Most often founders don’t realize that as you stabilize on the product you should quickly switch your focus to people and the order they should be people, product, and profit”.  Companies that fail to make this switch more often become siloed and not culturally focused.

Employees are the core of any organization. Their experiences directly translate to the overall workplace experience in a company. Culturro’s research shows that the right workplace experience is not only a strategic enabler but also a support system in the time of crisis for an organization. However, to create the right workplace experience, it is important for founders to understand human capital needs and hire the right people for their organization.

Hiring the right talent is a challenge for the majority of startups in India. Narayan says, “A primary reason why startups fail is that they don’t hire the right talent that fits in their scheme of things”. Most startups have a short-term vision for their talent needs and are not aware of what exactly they want in an employee. Hiring decisions are mostly need-based and hence startups end up hiring for skill vs. capability. Narayan adds, “Capability is scalable, skill is not. While hiring talent look for capabilities & behavior rather than skills.”

Narayan believes employees with the right capability and behaviors are perfect for startups, which are constantly undergoing transition. He says, “If you want the right people for your organization, you need to plan at least 6 to 8 months in advance. This way you can ensure people with the right capabilities and behaviors join your organization, are oiled into the system, and are ready for all future transitions.”

Attracting the right talent is difficult but retaining talent is even more difficult for a startup. Narayan draws an analogy of retention with parenthood. He says, “A child never leaves his parents because they have invested their time in his upbringing. Similarly, if you want your employees to stay, founders need to invest time in their growth & development in the organization.”

An emotional connection with employees is key for retention. In the initial years of the startup journey, the team is close-knit and the bond between the founders and employees is very strong. However, once the team grows, the emotional connection fades away and the retention problem starts. Narayan Thammaiah adds, ” 60 to 65% of an organization’s cost is on people. However, founders don’t spend even one hour in a day talking, connecting, and communicating with employees. Take care of this and your retention problem will be solved.”

In summary, the golden rules for attracting and retaining talent are

1.    Hire for capabilities and behaviors vs. skills
2.    Know what you want in an employee beyond the job description, know how they will fit in your culture
3.    Plan for your talent needs in advance. It takes time to find the right people for your organization
4.    Understand your employee needs and cater to them
5.    Connect with employees on an emotional level
6.    Invest in the growth & development of your employees

Right workplace experience has a profound impact on employee sentiment. Organizations that focus on HR as a strategic tool, care about employees’ Wellbeing, have transparent Communication channels, and prioritize the Growth & Development of employees rarely face the problem of attracting and retaining talent.

This article was first posted on the BW Businessworld platform on September 19, 2017, as part of Workplace Experience Ranking 2017 knowledge series.

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