In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Sonia Sahgal, University Recruitment Leader at Microsoft India explains the importance of Employee Referral Programs and the evolving role of Agile recruitment. She also talks about various initiatives Microsoft is undertaking to keep its employees productive when working from home.
Q. Having worked as an HR leader for many years, how eventful has been your journey? What were some of the opportunities, challenges and important decisions that helped you evolve into a leader?
A. With over two decades in the HR industry, I have had the privilege to work with some of the well-known corporates and some awesome, inspirational leaders who have helped me emerge into what I am today. While each experience was unique and elevated me as an HR professional; I have to admit that at home it was my family, my husband, and kids who kept pushing me for more.
I have taken breaks, re-started my career, done different roles, and questioned the status quo – all of it helped me emerge stronger, better, and more efficient. During these times, there were some who believed in me and mentored me; while some wrote me off as well – I can only express my gratitude to them all for helping me evolve into an all-rounded human being with each experience.
It was not easy to make a comeback after having my kids – there were questions on my capability, commitment, and efficiency – and it was also not seamless to make the transition from recruitment to consulting and then back to University Recruiting. However, I have learnt that every time you do something new – you will walk out richer with experiences and learnings and that is all that I have accumulated over the years as I continue my learning journey.
Q. Employee referral programs are gaining popularity worldwide as a means of reducing recruitment costs. How can HR design and manage successful Employee Referral Programs? Also, amid the COVID-19 crisis, when businesses are working on a tightened budget, how can employee referral programs become a key recruiting strategy?
A. Employee Referral (ER) is a great source of recruitment as it taps on the existing talent potential who exactly knows the requirement. Also, a well-implemented and successful ER program can be a competitive advantage for any organization as it not only attracts the top talent but also helps in reducing recruitment costs.
As we continue to strengthen this source of hiring, it is crucial to feed intelligence to create clarity between references and referrals. Ideally, one should be able to spot the person who will do well in the company culture considering they have worked there – the more awareness and insight we create around it will help the program to be successful. The other aspect to look into it is, building a robust communication system around the ER program.
Most of the initiatives do not make it through due to the lack of visibility around it and hence various myths get bubbled up around it. It is hence crucial to let the employees know what is the hiring need, how can they contribute, and most importantly – what is in it for them? And what is not necessarily monetary benefit along – it can be multifold and effectively threaded to encourage, motivate, and nurture the need.
Q. Furthermore, due to stay-at-home policies and social distancing employers are turning towards virtual hiring solutions and onboarding to hire potential candidates. How is Microsoft tapping into the power of the online ecosystem to keep the recruitment funnel firing on all cylinders during the crisis?
A. Microsoft has been able to leverage the digital online platform to effectively reach out, engage, and communicate with our target pool of candidates, future and prospective hires. In these unpredictable times, the engagement has been able to demystify some of the presumptions which have, in turn, helped individuals to focus effectively. The virtual internship program has also helped us bring the thought around the effectiveness of not an in-person engagement and be intentional about the same.
The pre-onboarding connects, onboarding assistance programs and post onboarding learning interventions have all not only helped the employees but have also helped the team at Microsoft think innovatively while practising inclusion.
“Employee Referral (ER) is a great source of recruitment as it taps on the existing talent potential who exactly knows the requirement. Also, a well-implemented and successful ER program can be a competitive advantage for any organization as it not only attracts the top talent but also helps in reducing recruitment costs.”
Q. In this era of constant disruptions, Agile management has emerged as a vast global phenomenon. Can you tell us how ‘Agile Recruitment’ can help in prioritizing hiring projects, improving visibility for both recruiters and hiring managers and carrying out an iterative recruiting process?
A. Agile recruitment removes complexity in work processes—makes it simple, adaptive, collaborative, and innovative—for teams to work and deliver results, and effectively respond to change. With roles evolving and constant disruptions happening, modern recruiters need to make changes to their recruitment process to stay agile and at a competitive edge. Developing an agile hiring process doesn’t have to be difficult.
Agile recruitment simply focuses on using continuous planning, a predictive hiring process, and talent-focused design. So, instead of diving into the sea of a lengthy recruitment process, the Agile methodology integrates short cycles of work called sprints, which helps the hiring manager to fine-tune the job requirements and carry out tasks as efficiently as possible.
These short cycles increase more opportunities for feedback, learning, empowering employees to be autonomous in the tasks they are assigned, collaborate efficiently, and adapt when faced with unexpected changes. Thus agile recruitment empowers employees, encourages collaboration between stakeholders while increasing flexibility and efficiency to the recruiting team, and visibility to hiring managers.
Q. In these unprecedented times, how is Microsoft India ensuring its employees remain productive when working from home? Also, how are you increasing your focus on supporting the wellbeing of your employees?
A. These turbulent times have come wrapped in uncertainty, ambiguity and a constant ask to feel better. The importance of mental health cannot be stressed enough in these challenging times and hence as an organization, there is enough focus on it as we respond to the needs of our employees and their families. From awareness sessions to employee assistance programs to customized help interventions – we endeavour to better understand the impact of remote work and help our employees adapt to this new working model.
We understand that remote work can create challenges to maintain a healthy work culture and manage change, therefore we are ensuring that every Microsoft employee has the right technology, tools and resources to be productive, creative and secure as possible, working from any location.
To retain a collaborative team environment, we have established team practices like using Teams daily for chat, meetings, calls, and collaboration, virtual lunches and coffee breaks, virtual “water cooler” hangouts, etc. The leadership at Microsoft is frequently connecting with colleagues and maintaining a collaborative and productive culture to ensure everyone at Microsoft stays productive and best practices are shared.“Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation have become valuable resources in HR functions and will become the new normal and define the pace of our growth.” Click To Tweet
Q. According to you, what important role will advances in digitalisation, artificial intelligence, automation and identity verification play in creating growth opportunities and urgent hiring amid COVID-19 pandemic?
A. The Covid-19 pandemic is reshaping the recruitment process and has been revolutionizing the entire human resources experience. Predictive Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotic Process Automation have become valuable resources in HR functions and will become the new normal and define the pace of our growth.
Many organizations have already invested in customized applicant tracking systems (ATS) and human resource information systems (HRIS). These resources and systems provide the necessary tools for their HR professionals to enable the quick and easy extraction of data, automate voluminous, manually intensive tasks, and recruit effectively, screen and onboard workers in a decentralized and distributed manner.
If this is how the future looks like – the digital revolution in our process and practices is inevitable. In these times, more than ever, we have realized the need to make required advances in our virtual presence and intentionally work on making it deep-rooted and well-oiled machinery.