Aug 22, 2011

Startups and the Talent Challenge

The Symbol of Indian Rupee approved by the Uni...Image via WikipediaLast week I attended the TiE-NHRD Network HR Summit. Unfortunately, I got ill during the session so missed most of the day. However I caught an interesting panel discussion moderated by Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Co-founder of

The discussion was on the similarities and differences between the HR practices and the Talent management challenges that they face. There were HR heads from a media company, a large MNC, another MNC which just entered India, and an Indian SMB.

There was an interesting discussion around the point of when does an entrepreneur who is leading a startup feel the need for a formal HR function. Sanjeev shared that it was when he and his partner Hitesh realised that they did not know all the employees of their company (when the numbers crossed 400) that they realised they should have a HR person. Another person who heads the HR function at NDTV said that his firm focused on HR 18 years of being in the media business.

A related discussion was on how entrepreneurs who are focused on cost-optimization, would know how to value the contribution of HR. The discussion meandered over the place from ROI of training to outsourcing HR to third party providers but never really came to a conclusion.

The really interesting discussions were about the attraction of talent to a startup. Sanjeev channelised Guy Kawasaki saying "hire missionaries, not mercenaries". The entrepreneur has to be the chief recruiter and recruit people to the vision of the future and not get hung up over people from large companies or grade A institutions. Someone made a point that there are some people who are more likely to work at startups (creative people, who can deal with more ambiguity and risk takers) compared to people who would be successful in large firms.

Then there was a discussion on why firms whether big or small focused on HR professionals from B Schools like XLRI and (this point was made by a HR professor from a Delhi based B School) why they did not hire in many numbers compared to other functions. There was an interesting discussions how brands are made and what they convey to recruiters - and how the numbers in India impact the filtering process. A HR head also shared how the HR curriculum at the second and lower level B Schools is woefully out of date and needs to be revamped.

Are you an entrepreneur? What are your biggest talent management challenges?
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