Retd. MD at Yodlee
Subbu Subramaniam is a member of:
Subbu Subramaniam's Advice
People are the assets of any company. One of the major challenges companies face while developing a product / solution is the retention of knowledg... more>>
No matter how good your product is and how great the market for the same is, it is very important to have a set of highly satisfied and engaged emp... more>>
Currently, I am an Independent consultant having taken up retirement from full time employment. Prior to retiring in July 2012, I was the Vice President and Managing Director of Yodlee Infotech in Bangalore, the India development and support centre of Yodlee headquartered in Redwood City, CA, USA. Yodlee created the industry’s most scalable and robust personal finance data platform for powering innovation in financial services. Used by over 600 leading financial institutions and companies and more than 40 million consumers, Yodlee’s best-in class solutions remove the friction from financial management, delivering a more insightful, interactive, and actionable experience for consumers while delivering revenue, retention, and engagement for financial providers.The development centre in India was set up in the 2000 and has been focussing on the development and support of the product.
People are the assets of any company. One of the major challenges companies face while developing a product / solution is the retention of knowledge that the employees have gained by working on the product. Attrition in the IT industry is unavoidable and hence it is important that a proper mechanism is drawn up to maintain proper documentation and implement process. No matter, what systematic documentation and processes one may have, the most difficult part is to ensure the transfer of tacit knowledge that one would have gained having worked on the product / solution over a period of time. Retention of employees with this tacit knowledge is a big challenge.
Choosing right people
Hiring people and retaining them in any organization is a continuous process. No matter whether one hires an experienced person or a candidate from campus, some of the basic principles never change, while some parameters will vary depending upon at what level one is choosing to hire.At the manager level, one needs to look out for the candidate’s ability and experience to manage a team of people, motivate their team members, effectively guide the members for collaborative working and delivering quality and on time, revolve team conflicts without being biased to one set of individuals and the like. They must be able to understand the company’s growth plans and map it to their team member’s growth, facilitate the team set smart goals and achieve them. They should be able to proactively identify training needs, training to upgrade them technically and on soft skills.To meet the needs of long term growth plan, one should focus on hiring from campus. Many small organizations do not get the early days at the campus and hence are reluctant to go later as they feel that only the filtrate will be available. My experience has been different. I have visited some campus even after the 10th day and picked up very good people who have really excelled in their career. The main aspect that one should look for when visiting campus is the candidates potential and attitude, their flexibility and willingness to work in any technology and the urge to learn and grow.Companies also should be open to hiring people on contract more so if there are some niche skills that they are finding difficult to hire. This will help not miss the schedule for delivery.Some of the important parameters one should evaluate to choose the right people to be hired are:•Integrity, attitude, flexibility•Core values and how they map to company’s values• Share with them the company’s vision and mission and evaluate how their vision synergize with that of the company• Understand their growth plan and ambitions and see how it aligns to the company growth plans. •How often have they changed jobs in the past and for what reasons•One of the questions I normally ask a prospective candidate is ‘if I were to ask one of your team members, peers and your supervisor to describe you, what do you think each of them will say?’ – one can judge the answer based on the spontaneity with which the answer flows. However, one should understand that there is no right or wrong answer for such questions. This helps in understanding how much the candidate knows of what the people around him or her thinks about them. By experience, one can make out how much the candidate is making this up.
Thought related to leadership
•It is important that you know the pros and cons of your product, operate in the market where you can excel and aim at being number one in that market. •Employees should be oriented to Customer Satisfaction•Regular communication to their employees is very important. Employees want to know how the company is performing, the challenges the management is facing and what the growth plans are. So sharing this with them on a regular basis, at least once a quarter is important.•Company should have a clear Vision and Mission statement that every employee is aware of and can reproduce it when asked. The leader should regularly communicate the vision and Mission statement to its employees and also show them how the performance of the company is aligning to it•Build a Metrics driven organization. Set Measurable metrics as a part of the performance evaluation process – this will help every employee understand how they as an individual, their team and their organization are performing. Helps in course corrections. Discuss these metrics with key leaders and managers and help in course correction at the appropriate time•Have a very strong performance management system. Totally objective and very little or no subjectivity in it. •Define a career growth plan for the employees. Employees leave organizations because they are not clear about what’s next for them. •Do not forget the statement ‘Employees join organizations, they leave their bosses’ - so make sure that a good boss-subordinate relationship is maintained at all levels in the organization•Have a well-defined succession plan for all levels, more importantly at key levels and groom the people to get into that role•Trust is a very important factor. Build a sense of trust amongst employees – you trust them and that is when they will trust you - One of my ex-boss used to say ‘Trust, but verify’ and that helps you in not blindly trusting someone and then paying the price for it, if something went wrong•Learning should be encouraged. Have a well-defined training plan with specified number of days that every individual in the company should have undergone training. Senior members of the team should also conduct training sessions and share their experience. •Story telling is important – constantly tell stories of the past either of the organization or of its leaders, on what challenges they faced, what they did to overcome it. •Celebrate Success.
•Create a culture of openness…. Employees, no matter at what level they are, must feel confident and comfortable to walk in to your room and talk to you about their problems, issues etc. Ask them for suggestions to improve the culture and work environment of the organization. [The employees in the organizations I managed, knew that they could just walk into my office if the door was open and if the door was closed, I preferred not to be disturbed. They also knew that if I was not around, they could send an email to me asking to meet me and I would meet them in 24 hours if I was in town or meet them within 24 hours of my return to town].•Periodically, meet the employees in groups or individually (depending upon the number of employees) and ask what concerns them. Share with them, 2 or 3 challenges that you are facing, and ask them for their thoughts on how to resolve them –you will get a very different perspective to your issues and problems and amazed how many of them can actually give you some interesting thoughts•Be conscious of Work-life balance. It is important for employees to spend good time with their family•Encourage work from home – in fact, today’s technology helps work from anywhere. Facilitate the employees to be productive when they work from home or elsewhere – employees like this very much and is one major factor that would make them stay on in the organization. At the end of it one will find that productivity actually increases.
Advice to young entrepreneurs
No matter how good your product is and how great the market for the same is, it is very important to have a set of highly satisfied and engaged employees otherwise the company’s performance will be affected. Employees are key to any organizations success and that should not be forgotten. Be a role model to your employees. Always set examples and WALK THE TALk.