Amid The Great Resignation, how startups can retain talent

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Nearly 40% of workers in India could change jobs this year, according to the Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report.

By Priyadarshi Nanu Pani

2021 was an exciting year for the Indian startup ecosystem. We added 42 unicorns, cementing our credentials as one of the fastest growing startup hubs. Behind this dazzling start-up success story is an unprecedented wave of funding. As of the end of December 2021, our startups had raised $38.4 billion, creating unicorns and even decacorns (startups valued at more than $10 billion) across all categories.

I can feel that some of our startups are well capitalized. However, the same start-ups today have to compete with a multinational or a giant like Google or Amazon with deep pockets for top hires in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) talent pool. But more than recruiting the best talent, the biggest concern is retaining them. My concerns stem from the phenomenon called ‘The Great Resignation’. Limited to just the US markets at first, The Great Resignation has hit India as of late.

Nearly 40 percent of workers in India could change jobs this year, according to the Qualtrics 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report. New research by LinkedIn corroborates the forecast: It says that 82 percent of professionals who working in India are considering a labor reorganization in 2022.

The dynamics of the labor market have changed drastically after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees are sovereign and make the decisions in a market plagued by a crisis in the supply of quality talent. Startups need to realize that retaining premium talent is not easy. Offering attractive compensation and a series of benefits is not helping much. So how can startups turn the tide?

The initial challenge is in the onboarding stage. The work environment in a new company differs from that in an established industry. Here, employees must don multiple hats, juggle lots of balls, and show a willingness to work beyond mandated hours. These terms of work must be disclosed to candidates in advance during recruitment. Otherwise, many startups would end up as turnstiles.

One way to keep employees motivated and engaged is by offering stock ownership. The Employee Stock Option (ESOP) is a tactical benefit that induces a sense of ownership among employees. Companies like Meesho, PhonePe, and upGrad have gone beyond stock options to offer additional incentives like quarterly promotion cycles, cross-functional moves, incentives, paternity leave, mental health breaks, and more.

Next, start-ups need to focus on creating a constructive and open work culture in which senior management is not immune to suggestions from employees. The attitude of ‘it’s my way or the highway’ will only worsen the dropout rate. It’s not unwise to submit anonymous comments about how employees feel in your workplace. This activity can reduce the rate of attrition by investigating the reasons for employee dissatisfaction. Giving your employees ample opportunities for retraining is another incentive to keep talented people attached to your organization. No less important is ensuring harmony between the work and personal life of your work group. This may sound like a cliché, but it’s still a huge challenge to navigate. Work from the office or Work from home (WFH), companies must allow workers to take the call.

I feel that startups have a lot to contribute to our nation’s aspiration of a $5 trillion economy. With the right mix of talents, they can be digital accelerators. An immersive talent acquisition strategy that puts employee experience (EX) at the top is a must-have in a startup’s HR toolkit.

The author is founder and CEO of CSM Technologies. views are personal

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