Why we need to build and scale a large pool of tech talent in India

Industry leaders share their mantras for success when it comes to hiring, scaling, and retaining quality tech talent in the country to ride the next wave of technology.
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India is considered to be the largest sourcing destination for tech talent in the world. With this large pool of resources available, companies are looking to scale up in India to ride the next wave of technology. Industry’s top leaders decoded what scale means to them at ‘All things tech and talent at Atlassian’, with Mike Cannon-Brookes, Co-founder and Co-CEO, Atlassian, sharing some valuable insights on the challenges and strategies that worked for scaling tech talent in India.

The speaker line-up included Karan Agarwal, Vice President Of Engineering, Delhivery; Divakar Gupta, Director, Global Product Management, Expedia Group; and Shalu Ganotra Chadha, Director Software Engineering - Cloud+AI, Microsoft. The roundtable discussion was steered by Kavita Chakravarthy, Head of Talent Acquisition, India and EMEA, Atlassian.

With the ongoing wave of scaled tech hiring, companies like Atlassian have successfully created a wide base in India in the last four years. Having started their India journey in 2018, the company managed to power through the pandemic and is Atlassian’s fastest growing R&D centre.

Navigating the challenges of scaling

One of the biggest challenges while scaling in every organisation is striking the right balance between hiring quality and the speed of hiring. As the demand for quality talent is extremely high, a longer and more tedious hiring process often results in an opportunity lost for the employers. Divakar of Expedia Group offers streamlining of the recruitment process as a solution to this problem. Setting up an interview panel which can recruit for any role – in accordance with the set standards of an organisation – not only makes the process quicker but also helps in keeping an overall quality check on the new talent.

“We have a system that works towards standardisation of how we take interviews, of how we constitute panels, competency checks at each level of role that we hire for, and that has contributed to our velocity and quality of talent in scaling,” he explains.

Another major contributor in accelerating quality hiring can be the use of internal resources and using references from existing employees. “The trust factor increases as your existing employees are already aligned with the organisation’s purpose, and if they are referring a candidate for an opening, it automatically increases the match probability,” says Shalu.

How to retain and develop talent?

A large part of retaining at Atlassian, says Mike, is done at the very first stage of finding talent. If the organisations are transparent about their work culture, ethics and goals, the probability of finding the right candidates who can be retained for a longer time is highly improved.

“We are extremely open about what it's like to work for us, guided by one of our values ‘open company no bullshit’. This really helps on the retaining side of things as there is a higher likelihood that we're a match for them as much as they're a match for us,” he says.

Speaking about the allowance of autonomy and freedom to develop skills, Mike highlighted how employee retention automatically increases if they feel valued in a team, are given some autonomy to make decisions for their teams, and are provided with suitable opportunities for growth and development. “The most autonomous teams generally have the highest retention rate in terms of talent as the employee feels they are being invested in by the organisation,” he adds.

Providing employees ample opportunities to follow their passion acts as another incentive. “Microsoft fosters a culture where everyone can realise their passion. Once their purpose is aligned to what they are doing, the productivity levels go up and a deeper connection is formed,” explains Shalu.

Managing the skill gap

Industry experts have been speaking at length about the talent crisis in tech, wherein a gap exists between the skills that emerging tech talent is learning and the market demand. Organisations are undertaking various measures to ensure this does not act as a barrier.

While there’s enough focus on maintaining talent density in the organisation, it is also imperative to keep changing what that talent is focussing on through employee rotation. “If you have the luxury of having multiple business lines and products, you keep rotating people across those products, and make sure that there is always a very high focus on value creation,” says Karan of Delhivery. Employee rotation not only provides a great platform to learn new technology and widen the knowledge base, but also provides an opportunity to experiment with a new skill within the safe environment of the organisation.

Internal learning and development initiatives is another tool that can help in bridging the skill gap, wherein strategic skills and competencies can be identified for each role at every level and can be worked upon. “We rolled out courses that have a very strong focus on internal learning in development throughout the year, which people can take up according to their convenience. This helped us balance the supply and demand gap and skill gap both at entry and mature talent levels,” explains Divakar.

With scale, it is important for an organisation to always stay ahead of the curve. Agility and the vision to compartmentalise according to the changing scenario and to have short-term goals is something that has worked for Delhivery. The right kind of investments in researching, data analysis, and calibration helps in identifying and compartmentalising focus on short-term goals. “Building something for the short term, and not hesitating in going back to the drawing board once the short term is over and thinking about how to build midterm and long term has always helped us stay ahead of the curve,” shares Karan.

Diversity at leadership levels

With organisations growing and scaling at a rapid pace, another challenge is that of including the underrepresented groups, especially women, in the tech community.

With AI, a major part of gender bias has been automatically removed. Hybrid workplace policies provide women more autonomy in choosing when and where to work from. “It doesn't matter where you are, only the work that you're delivering matters. I think these are the things which can really allow growth and can enable a diverse workforce,” says Shalu.

At the same time companies are putting due stress on being sensitive towards women employees, understanding their needs, and giving them the much needed flexibility to manage a family while continuing to excel at work. Along with this they are also focussing on educating their male counterparts on how to function as better allies in the workforce.

“We made a dedicated effort to reach out to and hire back those women who had to leave our workforce either for caregiving, or for maternity, or any other priorities in their own personal or professional lives,” says Divakar.

Creating future leaders

“It's very hard to be a leader and to grow as a leader without admitting that you're wrong at some point,” says Mike. Encouraging vulnerability and appreciating those who make the hard decisions helps in creating more ‘real’ leaders. “As soon as your leaders look like they're perfect, you start thinking you have to be perfect. And it creates this really negative loop that goes down the organisation,” he adds.

With this new wave of providing room to experiment, make mistakes and undo them at higher levels in an organisation, the current crop of leaders is paving way for a generation of strong future leaders.

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