Special Feature – Balancing Expectations & Reality – Success Mantra in Post-Covid Work World  0

Special Feature - Balancing Expectations & Reality
In this special interview with All Things Talent, Mr Manoj Kenadath, Head of Talent Acquisition (India & EMEA) at Atlassian talks about the changing world of work post-COVID-19 and how new-age organisations can use the situation as an opportunity to showcase their commitment towards their employees. He also shares some insights about the role the leadership could play in these testing times, how remote work might be the ‘new normal’, and what Atlassian, specifically, is doing to take care of their employees.

JOURNEY

Q – Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Atlassian. What successes are you most proud of in your current role?

A – After completing my Hospitality Management graduation, I started my career with Taj Hotels – one of India’s leading hotel chains. While my time with Taj Hotels was an enriching experience, I realised I didn’t see myself growing in the hospitality industry long term, which led me to explore operational roles in the ITeS before I landed in recruiting in 2002.

After transitioning into recruiting, I made some decisions that exposed me to parts of the industry and domain that I was most interested in – eventually leading me to a recruiting consulting firm. From there, I moved to high-volume services and product/ enterprise organisation before ultimately leaving to focus on startups and building teams from ground-up.

Later on, I joined LinkedIn, which became my stepping stone to learning the startup mindset and working with global peers. However, Atlassian is the first time I had the opportunity to explore learning and leadership skills as they relate to developing a team and an office.

My proudest moment – as a leader of this team – was surpassing our recruiting goals set for Atlassian’s Bengaluru office during our first year. Reflecting over the last two years, the ability to build a high-performing TA Team stands out as the most significant success.

If you’re among those impacted, first and foremost, take care of both your mental and emotional health. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a victim. If you have the liberty to take time off, use it to invest in yourself, revisit hobbies, and focus on something that you weren’t able to pursue until now. If taking time off isn’t an option, leverage your network and work on building your profile.

Getting the basics right forms an integral part of your success as a company grows and scales. We spend time ensuring we leverage what already exists rather than reinventing during the initial stages. In my opinion, the autonomy offered to us as employees is an instrumental part of Atlassian’s culture and success.

RECRUITMENT

Q – The effects of COVID-19 are kicking in, and recruitment is not the same as before. How do you view the current talent acquisition landscape? In your opinion, how can this pandemic help professionals to turn these circumstances into opportunities and recreate jobs through reskilling and upskilling?

A – Unfortunately, COVID-19 has impacted industries of every size and vertical, without any exceptions. The impact on talent, which is a big part of any organisation, is also real. Different organisations are approaching the situation differently and have tried to tackle what’s most important to them.

For some companies, it’s about slowing down hiring, and for others, it is about accelerating. But in most cases, I suspect this shift is temporary – and once things get back to normal – we don’t know how or when their strategy will change. The companies that stand by their values or culture are the ones that will emerge as real stars. This period is a clear opportunity for many organisations to showcase their commitment towards employees and demonstrate their core values through action.

How can we convert our current circumstances into opportunities? I want to reframe my answer into one fundamental question: What is our long term career aspiration or motivation?

The conventional advice might be to use this time to learn a new skill so that you’re a stronger candidate when things improve. And while I certainly encourage skill building, my additional advice is case-bycase:

If you’re among those lucky ones who are still employed, look for ways to contribute beyond your core skills to help your organisation navigate these tough times; this helps build your credibility and acquire new skills for a more prolonged impact.

If you’re among those impacted, first and foremost, take care of both your mental and emotional health. It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a victim. If you have the liberty to take time off, use it to invest in yourself, revisit hobbies, and focus on something that you weren’t able to pursue until now.

If taking time off isn’t an option, leverage your network and work on building your profile. You can additionally look into part-time or contract opportunities while still looking for a full-time role.

Ideally, the best way to progress once you’ve completed your Journey Mapping is to apply the Service Design principles, but these shifts take time and are complicated because Journey Mapping can aid in surfacing outdated philosophies and values that no longer serve the company or organisation.

For those open to exploring new opportunities, be clear on what you’re looking for in your next role. Is this the right time to start a new journey? Does the opportunity in front of you help achieve your long term goal?

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Q – Journey mapping is slowly gaining traction in the talent acquisition space. Can you tell us how to use a candidate journey map to improve the entire hiring process and ensure the best results? Could service design also prove useful for that purpose?

Journey MappingA – Journey mapping always existed in some way or another. Still, it’s essential to remember that many organisations rely on TA professionals. TA professionals often become additionally responsible for ensuring a great candidate experience/creating a positive brand impact, even when they aren’t necessarily experts in some of those areas.

Journey Mapping became more of a structured process when organisations started realising the importance of having dedicated talent brand teams – looking at each brand touchpoint in the candidate process allows your organisations to drive more relevant and focused actions.

In recent years, the reason a candidate chooses your company over a competitor has evolved. India’s talent market has evolved from being a predominantly compensation-driven market to a more balanced one. What are the company’s vision and mission? What are the culture and values? These all play a significant role in someone making a career choice.

So if these are important aspects for your Total Addressable Market (TAM), then you need to look at how you’re engaging your TAM. Examining your market gives you a competitive edge over others, especially when operating in a highly-competitive talent market like ours.

Often, many don’t realize the number of teams involved in recruiting. Recruiters, Interviewers, hiring managers and back-end operations are to name a few and in the midst of all these, naturally, candidate experience is the last thing one focuses on. So applying service design helps us look at it holistically.

HR TECH

Q – Stay-at-home policies and social distancing have made it a challenge to find candidates to fill the necessary positions. How can companies leverage automated and virtual hiring solutions to minimize the loss of potential candidates? Further, can you tell how SaaS-based ATS and HRIS tools can help HR professionals to recruit effectively, screen, and onboard workers in a decentralized and distributed manner?

A – I don’t agree that COVID-19’s impact has made it challenging to find candidates unless an organisation has failed to evolve. For any progressive organisation that has adopted technology effectively in their hiring process, this transition can make it easier to source candidates and make faster decisions.

While I won’t name any specifically, there’s an abundance of tools designed to help organisations screen and interview candidates. From startups to well-established products that have been in the industry for years – everyone is using AI and ML to facilitate the same level of effectiveness to traditional recruiting practises. At the same time, the human component is still very necessary.

The biggest opportunity for a company to make its brand resonate with potential talent is its digital presence. Are you publishing relevant jobs and roles that attract the desired talent? How seamless is your application process? All of these factors map back to your ability to hire top talent. COVID-19’s impact on onboarding – both positive and otherwise – has pushed organisations to think beyond showcasing their offices, snacks & meals, and leaders welcoming you in-person. It is now calling for organisations to implement and use tooling to supplement in-person training, meet new partners, as well as 1:1 syncs, and more.

TALENT STRATEGIES 

Q – Post lockdown, many companies are planning for a return to the workplace. How can employers set up a support system for employees as they return to work and adjust to new realities and emotional challenges presented by the pandemic? How can framing a ‘COVID-19 Safety Policy’ help employers manage this change?

A – It’s entirely possible we won’t return to physical workspaces like we had pre-COVID, but this potentially will have less to do with health and safety concerns and is more tethered to organisations evaluating how much employees were able to accomplish while working remotely.

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Although no one knows what postlockdown life will look like, the idea of physical workspaces may look very different. This shift will likely be linked to companies assessing employee productivity and less to do with health concerns and safety. If the same or more can be achieved, do we need to continue to invest so much?

Talent Strategies

Alternatively, there is a percentage of employees who are now enjoying the freedom of remote work and these set of employees always considered remote work as an ideal employee benefit, while the others still struggle to find a work-from-home rhythm that works for them.

Successful organisations are those that can balance these expectations. Because of that, they are seen as more progressive and can attract previously unavailable talent.

Organisations have to find new ways to financially support employees so that they have the required infrastructure to invest in mental/emotional health programs and more importantly, train managers on managing teams remotely. And no matter how long WFH continues at this scale, the need for ongoing investment in employee resources will continue to grow.

EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING

Q – More than ever, promoting employee health and wellbeing has become a key focus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How important is it at Atlassian to help people stay focused and mentally healthy in the face of such significant change? How do you ensure it?

Employee Wellbeing

A – Atlassian is a very peoplecentric organisation – for both our customers and the employees who build, support and sell our products and services. Physical, mental, and emotional well-being has always been a priority for us. Remote working isn’t entirely new to Atlassian. Even before COVID-19, about 10% of the workforce was remotely employed.

We look at how to support not just the employee but their entire family. As I mentioned earlier, working remotely throws different challenges at different people, so we ensure that all employees get additional time-off if they have dependent family members who need support. We have also partnered with qualified professionals to educate the importance of mental health and the need to stay healthy. Our key focus has been on how to best remove blockers or distractions for employees as they navigate these tough times – one less thing to worry about means a lot for everyone.

LEADERSHIP

Q – Through this crisis, managing expectations of employees has become even harder. In your opinion, how can we, as managers and leaders, expertly lead and support our teams through this ‘new normal’? What should be an appropriate strategy for steady leadership during such testing times?

A – The reality is, the organisation’s goals and the objectives haven’t changed. So as leaders, it’s much more challenging to balance expectations. The “new normal” applies to everyone, independent of the role they play in the organisation. So the essential attribute, which I feel all leaders need to accept is, not all employees are at the same stage in their journey. Once you accept that, don’t shy away from openly addressing it so that you are seen as an empathetic leader.

Over-communicate. When working and leading remote teams, nonverbal communication is out of the window. Opportunities to have a coffee chat to discuss your personal and professional life don’t exist.

Encourage team members to use their time wisely. We always hear, “I always wanted to do this, but I don’t have the time.” Now is the time to go back and look at what you wanted to complete or take up.

Leadership

That brings me to the most important aspect of what we’re striving towards: The mental and emotional health of everyone. Encourage the team to focus on mental health. These are testing times, more than ever. You don’t need to be an expert, and the remove blockers or distractions for employees as they navigate these tough times – one less thing to worry about means a lot for everyone. expectation is not that you should have solutions as well. Offer yourself for conversations and be an active listener, and you will see the impact.

Organisations have to find new ways to financially support employees so that they have the required infrastructure to invest in mental/emotional health programs and more importantly, train managers on managing teams remotely. And no matter how long WFH continues at this scale, the need for ongoing investment in employee resources will continue to grow.

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Manoj Kenadath is a Talent Acquisition leader with close to two decades of experience with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. He graduated in Hospitality Management from The University of Huddersfield, UK. Manoj started his recruiting journey with a consulting firm and then moved on to being part of large enterprises like Minacs, HP India, and Thomson Reuters. After spending a few years hiring for shared services in technology and financial domains he decided to shift focus towards building a scaling talent acquisition function. Being a firm believer in storytelling and its impact on recruiting, Manoj has played a vital role in building training content and trained recruiters. Over the last few years, he has not only built recruiting teams successfully but also helped scale organizations from ground-up.

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