Amid The Great Resignation, how start-ups can retain talent

Nearly 40% of workers in India could switch jobs this year, according to the Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experiences Trends Report.

By Priyadarshi Nanu Pany

2021 was an exhilarating year for the Indian start-up ecosystem. We added 42 unicorns, cementing our credentials as one of the fastest-growing start-up hubs. Behind this dazzling start-up success story is the unprecedented funding spree. At the end of December 2021, our start-ups had raised $38.4 billion, creating unicorns and even decacorns (start-ups valued at over $10 billion) across categories.

I can sense that some of our start-ups are well-capitalised. However, the same start-ups today have to compete with an MNC or a biggie like Google or Amazon with deep pockets to get the best hires in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) talent pool. But more than onboarding the best talent, the bigger worry is retaining them. My concerns stem from the phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’. At first limited only to the US markets, The Great Resignation has struck India lately.

Nearly 40 per cent of workers in India could switch jobs this year, according to the Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experiences Trends Report. A new research done by LinkedIn corroborates the forecast – it says 82 per cent of India’s working professionals are considering a job reshuffle in 2022.

The job market dynamics have changed drastically after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees are sovereign and call the shots in a market plagued by a crunch in the supply of quality talent. Start-ups should realise that retention of premium talent is not easy. Offering an alluring compensation and a flurry of perks isn’t helping much. So, how can start-ups turn the tide?

The initial challenge is at the stage of onboarding itself. The workplace ambience in a start-up differs from that of an established industry. Here, employees need to don multiple hats, juggle many balls, and show readiness to work beyond the mandated hours. These terms of work need to be told upfront to candidates while hiring. Else, many start-ups would end up as turnstiles.

One way of keeping the employees motivated and engaged is by offering them equity ownership. Employee Stock Option (ESOP) is a tactical perk that induces a sense of ownership among employees. Companies like Meesho, PhonePe and upGrad have gone beyond stock options to offer extra enticements like quarterly promotion cycles, cross-functional movements, incentives, parental leaves, mental health breaks and more.

Next, start-ups need to focus on building a constructive and open work culture where top management is not impervious to employee suggestions. ‘It’s my way or the highway’ attitude will only worsen the attrition rate. It’s not unwise to run anonymous feedback on how employees feel at their workplace. This activity can stem the dropout rate by probing the reasons for employee discontent. Giving your employees ample opportunities for reskilling is another incentive to keep the talented folks glued to your organization. No less important is ensuring work-life harmony for your work pool. This may sound clichéd, but that’s still a big challenge to navigate. Work from Office or Work from Home (WFH), companies should let the workers take the call.

I feel start-ups have much to contribute to our nation’s aspiration for a $5- trillion economy. With the right talent mix, they can be digital accelerators. An immersive talent acquisition strategy that puts Employee Experience (EX) on top is a must in the start-up HR toolkit.

The author is founder & CEO, CSM Technologies. Views are personal

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