In a candid interview with All Things Talent, Gracy Tavamani, Head of HR at Kinara Capital talks about the challenges of retaining talent, the future of work, and how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the job market and changed the hiring process forever. She also shares some valuable insights on how Adaptability Quotient (AQ) has emerged as the new competitive advantage in the post-pandemic world.
Remote work has opened up a new dimension for many job seekers, especially women, that wasn’t available to them before. Since there is a provision of working remotely, several women are now coming forward to take up jobs. This flexibility means that they can balance personal and professional responsibilities, which is a high priority for many.
Q: What’s been your challenge over the last two years in retaining talent?
A: Over the past 10 years, Kinara Capital has grown to become an employer of choice. In particular, the pandemic did not cause any significant change in our attrition rates, if we compare the last two years of data against the earlier years. Of course, what we did see during this time was that people were motivated to be closer to family more than ever before and many wanted to live away from the large metros. Some wanted to make a drastic professional change as the pandemic affected everyone’s lifestyles.
Overall, we at Kinara Capital supported our employees with new initiatives, vaccine cover, paid Covid leave which helped to boost morale and we didn’t conduct layoffs or salary cuts. In particular, we didn’t experience a massive employee retention challenge due to the pandemic though we had a bit of a difficult time recruiting in some locations due to on and off lockdowns.
Q: With COVID-19 becoming the accelerator for one of the greatest workplace transformations, what do you think the future of work looks like?
A: The future of work looks certainly very different from what we might have predicted pre-pandemic. In my opinion, a hybrid workplace and workforce will be the way forward. Since the pandemic compelled most companies to switch to a work-from-home model, the efficiency of this model of work has now been established. Many people now value and would like the flexibility that the hybrid model brings so that they can maintain a work-life balance, and cut down on longer commutes in some cities.
Q: With organisations undergoing constant change, Adaptability Quotient (AQ) is becoming increasingly prevalent and emerging as the new competitive advantage. Do you think AQ will be critical for the future of work? How? Also, how can modern learning and technology help thrive?
A: As they say, adaptability is the secret to survival. Especially in the face of a rapidly changing environment, the one way to ensure that you stay on top of things is to stay flexible and open to learning. AQ is perhaps one of the most important skills to bring to the table at this stage. While we always were digital in our processes, the pandemic pushed digitization in all aspects of our basic communication and interactions so employees had to adapt quickly to this shift.
Interviews were now being done online, short check-ins that used to be a casual conversation in the office now required to be scheduled as a virtual meeting, and processes had to shift to adapt to the remote working model. This aspect must be identified in interviews so that recruitment favors those candidates who are willing to learn even if their credentials don’t match word by word with the job requirements.
One way that organizations can estimate the AQ potential of a candidate is by proposing “What If” scenario questions to them during the interview phase. A person with a high AQ is likely to indulge in the ‘What Ifs’ and come up with scenarios, possible suggestions, or answers to the question versus someone who is unwilling to consider alternate reality or a change in the process of ‘how things have always been done.’
Q: Given that it will not be business as usual, the agility of organizations will be tested in how they keep their remote employees engaged and productive. How important is it at Kinara Capital to help people stay focused and mentally healthy in the face of such significant change?
A: We have always prioritized employee well-being, and this has become even more critical in the wake of the pandemic. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, we began planning ahead and gave certainty to our employees during an uncertain time by reassuring them on job security and safeguarding their physical and mental wellbeing.
The first initiative we took was to establish a ‘Covid Cell’ – a special group to specifically help employees with any sort of assistance required during the pandemic – be it hospitalization, medical supplies, as well as counselling for mental health related issues. To this end, we are providing Covid insurance and paid recovery leave to employees who contracted the virus and extended it to cover their families as well.
We also organized Covid vaccination drives for employees and their families. During the first wave of covid, we conducted a confidential ‘stress survey’ to help us understand and help our employees who were undergoing distressing times and thus their mental health was being impacted. Based on the results, we offered free and confidential mental health screenings as well as kept in close contact with employees to check in on them.
To bring in some levity to this new work format, we also began a series of virtual classes, games, coffee chats that kept our Kinara employees connected with each other despite being in different geographies. We have also started virtual introductions for new team members across our head office and 110 branches so that their onboarding goes smoothly. We also conduct regular wellness checks and make counseling available to employees who need help with stress management.
To bring in some levity to this new work format, we also began a series of virtual classes, games, coffee chats that kept our Kinara employees connected with each other despite being in different geographies.
Q: In your view, how can remote work improve workplace diversity and inclusion?
A: Remote work has opened up a new dimension for many job seekers, especially women, that wasn’t available to them before. Since there is a provision of working remotely, several women are now coming forward to take up jobs. This flexibility means that they can balance personal and professional responsibilities, which is a high priority for many. At Kinara this has worked wonderfully for us.
Remote workers, part-time employees, and gig workers have provided us access to a wide range of talent. We now have talent working from various locations remotely. We are working with multiple organizations that help find suitable job placements, including FlexiBees and JobsForHer. We have also teamed up with PeriFerry to offer members of the trans-community opportunities to join our team, further increasing the inclusion and diversity at Kinara.
Q: Has the rise of several unicorn fintechs disrupted the job market for financial services in any way? How do companies address the talent crunch, particularly in IT and finance?
A: Financial services is a burgeoning industry, and while it’s great that it’s growing in leaps and bounds, there are some growing pains. Unicorn fintechs have the spending power to recruit the talent they need at any cost. And since the pandemic, the value of IT professionals has gone through the roof. However, the talent is out there and many are looking for more than a payout, they are seeking a company that is impacting lives, a place that offers flexibility. In a place like Bangalore, we are even attracting expats who bring in unique perspectives and the desired skill set.
Sustainability is the cornerstone of recruitment and retention, and that is what we focus on. While the current talent crunch does affect everyone, the value we provide lies in our mission, our stability, and our consistency. It all depends on what the potential employee is looking for in their new role and many want to be part of a company that is changing lives.
Q: Lastly, what are the biggest trends, both positive and negative, you foresee HR adopting in the post-Covid era? How can HR find new and sustainable ways to insulate the workforce from further disruptions?
A: The most prominent trend is the increased focus on employee well-being. This has been accelerated by the pandemic and will continue to be a cornerstone of HR models going forward. Another significant trend is the move to a hybrid workforce, which is also overwhelmingly positive. It brings in more diversity and opportunities. But employers have to be careful about the models applied and be cognizant of what roles and circumstances they can be applied to.
The way forward is to adapt to the digital transformation across the board and focus on change management. As this is the way of the future, adapting to these factors will help us protect the workforce from major disruptions going forward. By managing the recruitment and lifecycle of an employee efficiently, and providing them with value at work, we can ensure that they stay invested in the best interest of the company.