This article is a lightly-edited summary of the key takeaways from our speakers’ appearance on our podcast, “The Shape of Work.” If you haven’t listened to our show yet, be sure to check it out here. These speakers have an incredible stable of startup experiences to draw from, the kind of stories that are unbelievably helpful for HR/people managers to hear.
In this episode of The Shape of Work podcast, we welcome Sourabh Nigam, Vice President-Human Capital at Omidyar Network India. He has worked with several early-stage startups and truly understands the entrepreneurial DNA. He knows what goes inside the mind of an entrepreneur.
GUEST AT A GLANCE
Name of the guest: Sourabh Nigam
What he does: The Vice President at Omidyar Functions Network and an expert on the HR function and early-stage startups
Find him on LinkedIn for an unconventional take on HR practices
In this episode, you will get valuable insights into:
1) Why is hiring right always a top priority at a startup?
2) When should a small business or a startup make its first HR hire?
3) The Businessperson’s Hiring Dilemmas: restricting first set of hires to their close networks vs getting out of that ‘inner circle’ bubble while expanding
4) How to set up powerful employee career paths to help retain high-performers?
5) Saurabh Nigam’s thoughts on people switching paths to establish their career in HR
Why is hiring right always a top priority at a startup?
Every business, whether a startup or established business entity, needs people. According to Saurabh Nigam, hiring is an integral part of operations and function. Hiring correctly is always the topmost priority.
The right candidate brings value to the organisation. It is vital to consider how new hires fit into the company’s goals, aspirations. Several founders manage several roles themselves and hire people from networks and relatives.
This is basic human behaviour to test new ideas with people in contact. Startups get their internal team or first couple of recruits from relatives and networks.
When should a small business or a startup make its first HR hire?
The founder or entrepreneur needs to understand where to draw a line and take the support of expert HR managers to hire and manage a relevant pool of people. A small business or startups follow a two-pronged approach generally.
First Level: Hire HR people for operational and functional management. In the initial days, the founder might manage everything by themselves, but with the evolution of the business and especially when the entrepreneur feels that the idea is ripe enough to share with people outside of the inner circle, the business needs expert support for operation management, employee selection, and more.
Second Level: With HR looking after the operation part, an entrepreneur can don the hat of a strategist. With enough time, founders can think and devise plans for business growth.
Saurabh Nigam pointed out that every hiring process requires science-based instinct. It is the founder’s responsibility to think about how to select the right candidate for the specific job through their gut feelings.
Though there are several tools and methods, such as psychoanalytic screening, AI and ML-based ATS, the best decision comes from inner instinct.
The Businessperson’s Hiring Dilemmas: restricting first set of hires to their close network vs getting out of that ‘inner circle’ bubble while expanding
Founders find themselves in the dilemma of inner circle and friction among employees while expanding. Sourabh Nigam provided resolution in the three-step evolution process of early-stage startups.
An entrepreneur starts a business with an idea. At the first stage, the most basic human instinct is to try selling the idea with relatives and friends. Here probability of acceptance is comparatively higher because people know the founder and can trust easily. Another reason to hire from close contacts is time constraints.
The crux of the second stage of evolution is coming out of the comfort zone. The inner circle is great for the initial years. After a couple of years, when the founder believes that their idea can communicate with a wider audience and geographies, businesses should expand beyond the inner circle of employees.
Staying with the inner circle restricts diversification of thought and, in some way, it hinders business growth. So, it is essential to understand the business personal evolution and take the business to the next stage because the ‘’easiest path is not always the right path.’’
It is a crucial stage for early-stage startups where inner circle people and new recruits come together. If the founder does not streamline the smooth flow, this causes friction, stress, and other workplace issues.
Here the business owner has two choices:
- The founder can manage by themselves and ensure open communication between two sets of teams
- Hire an experienced HR person to manage operations, hiring, and internal communication.
How to set up powerful employee career paths to help retain high-performers?
Early-stage startups should consider the following points for a powerful career path to retain high-performers:
• There should be a balanced approach between the employee’s expectation from the job company and the company’s expectation from the employee.
• Company’s communication should be clear about job, salary, and perks.
• There should be ample opportunities to grow and share ideas in the workplace.
• Consistency of behavior with new and old employees
Saurabh Nigam’s thoughts on people switching paths to establish their career in HR
Saurabh Nigam said about people switching jobs from other fields to HR that it is never late to explore different career options if the person is confident about it. The person should be well aware of the nuance, job responsibilities, operations, hiring, etc. The person should do justice with the job and be honest with the organization.