Co-founder & COO Sreejith Moolayil talks about the benefits of a flat organisational structure, getting and implementing the best employee ideas, ESOP policy, and hiring plans.
True Elements has no hierarchy structure in the organisation. Please elaborate on what is the order of reporting in the organisation? How does a non-hierarchical structure help the work culture or the problems it solves?
The hierarchy structure at True Elements is only limited to 4 role-based levels:
- Individual Contributors (Associate/Executive/Analyst)
- Lead People who manage a part of a function ( Ex: Lead Category, Lead Brand, Lead Sourcing, etc)
- Head XXX (Function Heads)
- CXO – the one who holds multiple functions
This framework facilitates swift decision-making, and in an empowered organisation like ours, it becomes a valuable asset. Because of this, we are able to adapt to market conditions in terms of launching products faster and course correcting, if needed, even quicker.
The non-hierarchical structure has helped keep job roles more diverse. Employees are not restricted to fixed roles, they get to experience various projects and most importantly, own them. Communication is exceptional due to having fewer management-level processes. Employees are significantly more competent, having more independence and freedom with the absence of conventional hierarchies and divisions of authority which in turn, has made our work culture welcoming and pleasant.
What is the criteria for switching between departments and how has that helped?
Employees must complete a total of six working months in the department they are currently working in, to be able to switch. If they do wish to change between departments, pre-approval from the current manager and the new manager of the other department is necessary. All the pending work, deliverables, and handovers are necessary to be completed prior to the transition so that their process of switching departments does not impact ongoing projects.
Giving employees the freedom to switch gears and accelerate to areas they feel more utilised in, has always benefitted us – their new energy and excitement in a new field have brought in better ideas, processes, and value. It has not only helped in understanding the full potential of our employees and what they can achieve when they are really interested in the particular domain but also helped them keep mentally fresh. After working in a particular space for a while, it’s understandable that it can either get brain-drying boring or the employee may figure that it is not their cup of tea. The opportunity to switch departments helps us retain our people while also helping them build experience, making them feel satisfied with a new job role; a new team and a new environment, and keeping our team vibrant, hard-working, and extremely motivated. “Giving employees the freedom to switch gears and accelerate to areas they feel more utilised in, has always benefitted us – their new energy and excitement in a new field have brought in better ideas, processes, and value. It has not only helped in understanding the full potential of our employees and what they can achieve when they are really interested in the particular domain but also helped them keep mentally fresh.”
“Giving employees the freedom to switch gears and accelerate to areas they feel more utilised in, has always benefitted us – their new energy and excitement in a new field have brought in better ideas, processes, and value. It has not only helped in understanding the full potential of our employees and what they can achieve when they are really interested in the particular domain but also helped them keep mentally fresh.”
1) Our current Lead SCM has worked in Marketing, Sourcing, E-commerce Account Management, and E-commerce ops before moving to his role. Thereby the person is equipped to make decisions with all angles in consideration.
2) Our Lead Sourcing has worked across Customer care, E-commerce Account Management, and Human Resources before taking over sourcing completely.
Any idea from the employees that was implemented as a policy or a product?
Yes, listing a few below –
- Ideas: “No-Added Sugar Muesli” was originally the idea of our employee Mr. S.D. Venkat, Head-Retail/Sales, which was formulated into the company and then launched by us as a product. It is still the bestselling product of the brand.
- Paternity Leave: As most of our employees started at a similar stage and timeline, we saw many employees asking for paternity leave. Seeing this, an employee suggested a paternity leave policy and it was implemented.
- Flexible Working & Sitting Structure: In the Pune office, the working hours are kept flexible. If someone feels like they are more productive at night, they can be a night owl. This was an idea that was broached by an employee. We not only consider work hours/policies but the smallest aspects like sitting structures are also kept flexible so that the employees can sit anywhere they want and wherever they feel comfortable. No desk is owned by anyone. Departments are not divided per se. This was also a suggestion made to ensure we do not have divisions or corner offices for the higher-ups owing to our word for having no hierarchy.
“No desk is owned by anyone. Departments are not divided per se. This was also a suggestion made to ensure we do not have divisions or corner offices for the higher-ups owing to our word for having no hierarchy.”
Describe a bit about the ESOP policy. How many are covered so far and what is the plan ahead? Are new joinees offered ESOPs?
The company has viewed equity-based compensation plans as an integral part of employee compensation across sectors which enables the alignment of personal goals of the employees with organisational objectives by participating in the ownership of the company through share-based compensation plans. Organisations normally tend to have a reward policy that gives either incentives on performance paid out monthly or a long-term bonus that is paid out annually. A larger number of employees at True Elements are long-term bonus eligible and creating a total reward system became the new focus for the company once it attained a certain degree of maturity. The whole intention of creating an ESOP was to reward key talent/critical talent and a few pipeline talent thereby, securing organisation stability while creating an environment of high ownership and a sense of belonging within the company.
We have given 60 of our employees ESOPs which cover 100 percent of the “Enabler” population (white-collar in the outside world) & 10 percent of the “Winner” population (blue-collar in the outside world). This difference is due to the requirement fo more liquid cash for the latter population.
Yes, newly joined employees are also eligible for ESOPs as a part of their compensation.
Q. What kind of appraisals or increments can one expect this year?
We have a bi-annual appraisal system that is based on a continuous feedback mechanism. Our organisation is aligned under the OKR system and connected to KRA for the same. A review of these happens on a weekly basis which becomes a feedback instance for performance. There would be developmental discussion by the manager on a bi-annual basis but the appraisal is purely on the basis of the weekly reviews.
As such, we don’t have a typical annual appraisal filling process and review of the same. Thus, the compensation review which happens in July and December is an exercise to correct the internal gap v/s market gap in salaries. As we are not that big to get industry data to compare, we rely on the job market trends and salary information for roles. On the basis of this, everyone is evaluated bi-annually and wherever there exists a market gap, the same is corrected from time to time.
Also read: Bulk Discounts For Employees And Immediate Families – That’s How Cygni Aims To Achieve 80 Percent EV Adoption
Q. What are your hiring plans and the roles you are looking to fill?
Roles we are looking to fill:
- Lead Brand
- Marketing (various roles)
- Lead Finance
- Supply Chain Management Executive
- Sales officers across various geographies
- Area Sales officer across various geographies
We have a strategic workforce plan where the management discusses and plans all critical jobs and positions we need to close in the year. We assess existing headcount and potential new hires within given budgets for all departments to the extent that strategic workforce planning helps projects which month, which role, and at what level will be filled up. Once this map is approved, it transforms to become a tactical hiring system where HR has a month-by-month structured plan with goals to follow.
Year of incorporation: 2013
Number of employees: Close to 275
Name of the founders: Puru Gupta | Sreejith Moolayil
Name of the key execs: Ved Agarwal, Venkat S, Pavitra K, and Shahnawaz Alam
Business line: It is India’s first food brand to be globally recognised as both clean label and 100% wholegrain certified. True Elements makes healthy breakfast & snacks
Hiring Pipeline: Doubling the headcount in the next 12 months
CAGR of workforce growth in 3/5 year period: +50% (3 year period)
Workforce pie across departments (in percent):
Production: 30; Sales: 21; SCM: 16; Marketing: 8; Facility Operations: 5; Digital Sales: 5; Technology: 4; Quality: 4; Development: 2; Finance: 2; New Product development: 2 Corporate: 1; Human Resources: 1; Sourcing: 1
Key HR differentiating factors:
A culture of ownership with no hierarchy and fixed roles Gender diversity, owing to our 100 percent women workforce in our manufacturing unit, rewarding employees with ESOPs