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Kamal Karanth

The Side Effects of Hiring from Competition

The Side Effects of Hiring from Competition

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Ever budgeted for your competitors' reaction when you pinch their talent? 

The reasons to hire talent from rivals are obvious, right? You get a trained talent with some trade secrets who can hit the road running. It’s a great bargain for the talent too as they get a premium salary while they switch over to their rival. Win, Win? Not without its share of headaches though! Ever thought of the reaction of some competitors who might be sour with you for ripping off their prized possession? What do you expect them to do?

Does your opposite number buy you coffee or sent a legal notice? I got variants of both.

Let us start with coffee ️. I was pleasantly surprised that I would be called to Starbucks for a meet just after hiring a couple of talent from them. In hindsight, it was far 'two' many. Five minutes into the meeting, I was told that skeletons were found after they left, and he was glad that I cleaned up their dirty closet. Then came the threat; if any of their clients were contacted, their lawyers were ready. It ended on a hostile note, and we paid only for our coffees and drove away!

Their CEO ensured that his meeting with me went viral with his staff so that they think twice before accepting another offer from competitors. I think it worked, and I did not recruit from them for another year.🤫 Thereafter every time I bumped into him in a coffee shop I looked over his shoulder to see who he was meeting. I knew many of his team members were joining the competition and he soon built a reputation as somebody who goes after his ex-staff and peer group. You can say he was a possessive & passionate CEO or somebody who had time for all these distractions!

On another occasion, another country, the competing CEO, sent a legal notice to our new hire within a month of she joining us. As she was privately dealing with her ex-employer through her lawyer, I got a call from her ex-CEO saying there were integrity issues that we need to be aware of and highlighted about the legal notice sent to her.   When we promptly asked for proof he said its confidential. The employee stayed with us for five years and we heard nothing really got achieved/proved except for some bad blood between the employee and the employer. Yes the competing CEO did put some doubt in our minds about the integrity of the person we had hired during the first 6 months and our antennas were up all the time.

In the world, we live in its quite possible that we will be hiring from or joining the competition 90% of the time. So, Whenever competition hires from you, is it a compliment, or should you feel cheated?

You like to visit the coffee shop and have a quite word with your competitor or prefer to frequent lawyers' office and get some sadistic kicks?

Freelancers: The life of a poet with the pay of a banker

Freelancers: The life of a poet with the pay of a banker?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
That’s the freelancers dream – but how often does reality match the vision?

Two companies in the global talent world are enjoying their moment of sunshine despite the pandemic. No, they have not pivoted to manufacture PPEs. They are in the right place, right time as freelancer platforms. On NYSE, Fiverr, and Upwork both have seen their stock prices rise by 400% and 66 %, respectively. That’s not all – they returned the faith of their investors by reporting stellar results last quarter.

Back home, we know the gig train has left the station, propelled by the pandemic. However, multiple frictions in the ecosystem inhibit freelancing from becoming mainstream for talent and enterprises.

Enterprises Utopia

60% employees, 20% contingent workers, 10%t freelancers, 5% interns, and 5 % projects to IIT students – that would be my ideal workforce distribution of tomorrow,” declares a CHRO of a large IT MNC.

In a crisis like this pandemic, such a flexible talent map would have been ideal. But, it’s easier said than done. Organisations do not have the technology, process, or structural support to execute such a plan. Already, there is a struggle to hire full-time employees on time. Culturally integrating full time and contract workers is a continuing challenge for HR. Throw freelancers to that mix, and it becomes more complicated. Even if enterprises are keen to get freelancers, sourcing them in time is going to be their Achilles heel.

The Talent Dilemma

In a recent survey of freelancers, when asked why they opted for gig work, a respondent said, “To be the master of my own destiny.” However, does the reality match? Of 1,000 freelancers surveyed recently, 46% admitted that they had lost their work/clients during the current pandemic. A study by Dinghy, an insurance provider to freelancers and self-employed, says more than 50% freelancers felt they over-served their clients, and 30% said they don’t get paid by their customers at all.

38% of the freelancers said getting new work and customers were the most significant challenges. Unlike full-time employment, income continuity is not guaranteed as a freelancer. Moreover, as a single point of responsibility, 98% of freelancers admitted they were working even during time off as they are in charge of everything.

The ‘back to office’ rush — is it wise?

The ‘back to office’ rush — is it wise?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
Are corporates adequately geared up to be back at the office or making a hash of it?

Quick Base, the 1 billion $ SAAS company, hired Ed Jennings as their new CEO this May. However, he is yet to visit their Massachusetts headquarters. That shouldn’t be surprising anymore. But still, I need to ask you this!

How many of you are itching to go to the office, sit in the cafeteria, and have a cup of coffee with your favorite colleagues? I am sure many of us are raring to go depending on the roles we play and the trust levels we have with our employers and colleagues. But the tone of the majority of employees globally and in India is of caution. Almost half of the employees polled by PWC in the USA recently said safety measures like mandatory testing and temperature checks before going onsite still don’t inspire confidence. Back home the survey by FYI recently highlighted that more than 93% of workers were anxious to return to the office on fear of their health being compromised.

Safety or Normalcy

So, where do we draw the line between the safety of employees and the enterprise need to declare a return to normalcy? Employers who house a large number of office workers are thoroughly confused.

When I heard that one of my entrepreneur friends had terminated their office lease, I thought the business must have been affected severely. However, when I spoke to him, he said, “I don’t want to risk the lives of my employees and their dear ones just because I feel there are advantages of being at the office. After all, in the work we do, most of us are still productive, and our work can still be done out from anywhere.”

However, not every enterprise can carry out its work in the remote model. From Textiles to many manufacturing units where hands and legs do the job, physical presence is inevitable. However, for knowledge-based organisations and roles which can be worked from anywhere, what’s driving the rush back to the office? The recent outbreak of Covid, some even leading to death at a few large Indian enterprises, begs the question. Is India Inc making hash out of the return to the office? What’s playing out inside the enterprises which otherwise can continue WFH but still preferring to come back to the office?


The Real Estate angle

In the USA, Amazon and Apple have invested billions of dollars in sparkling new facilities that can house thousands of employees. Large Indian cities have also seen large enterprises and real estate companies making significant commitments to constructing huge sprawling offices. These investments will be weighing on the CFO’s mind when they are advising their CEOs. Some of the Enterprise facilities are so large that social distancing in the office might be possible by working in shifts or rostering of employees. Employers sure will take care of the hygiene and safety of employees in offices, but they might be ignoring a critical angle, the commute. Most employees have to use multiple modes of public transport to reach their place of work, and that increases the touchpoints. How will that safety be accounted for, and who shall be responsible for that?

Caught in the past

“Our CEO thinks all the leaders coming to the office give the right signal to our staff said a Technology company CXO. So, in the last few weeks, we are in the office and conducting our work from the confines of our cabins, he said. Even with my EA, I speak on skype, all my DRs are in their own offices, and we communicate on Zoom he continued.”Can these video interfaces not happen from home?” I asked; He smiled and alluded that “our CEO believes that working in the office increases collaboration and we have limited voice in this matter.  In our internal surveys, most employees still don’t want to come but are forced to sign declarations about their willingness to report due to the nudge.” The point here is not about who is calling the shots but how we are caught in the past about work processes.

What’s your managerial hack?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
In your team do people respond better to

1. Engagement?

2. Rewards and Recognition?

3. Competition?

4. Pressure?

5. Naming and Shaming?

We can argue 2 and 3 are the same as in a way we recognize only the winners and leave out the also-ran. In my view, we use all of them interchangeably, depending on how motivated or frustrated we are about our teams!


I wonder if it’s our individual make up that drives our managerial behavior…Meaning if we are wired to respond better to competition, that’s the tool we possibly use more? Many of us are used to the competition thanks to our education system, and maybe it has become part of our DNA.

What’s your interview wait time?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

“All the 3 rounds of #interviews, the average wait time was about 45 minutes” when she brought that stat out, I wondered, is Interview Wait Time (IWT) a metric worth measuring?

We already measure many things like time to hire, quality of hire (still fuzzy), cost per hire, and not to forget how many we hired.

Let us say #hr gave hiring managers a score on

1) The average time to respond to a CV

2) Time taken to allot an interview schedule

3) Number of reschedules per interview

4) Average waiting time per interview

5) Number of days taken to give feedback post-interview

Don’t forget the numerous follow-ups in between to nudge for each of the processes to take place.

We do take post-hiring feedback on a scale of 10 on different parameters. But, the ‘experience’ of getting hired is often ignored when we get the salary, title, role of our choice, and some of us might be generous or forget things like wait time.

Let’s do an average waiting time for an enterprise if they

a) Interviewed 4 people for every each hire

b) Recruited 200 people a month

b) Did 3 rounds of interview

c) Had an average wait time of 30 minutes

Thats 4 x 200 x 3 x 30 = 72,000 Minutes per month 🤐

Jugding colleagues

Recency Effect! How do you judge your colleagues?

800 371 Kamal Karanth

How do you judge colleagues? Would it be based on

1. Their recent performance/behaviors or

2. Their strengths based on which they got hired/stayed/promoted?

3. Your relationship with them?

It’s safe to say it’s a combination of all three. In fact, recent behaviors may have a significant impact on the relationship? I think so.

I once launched a new initiative (what else do you do when you get bored and want to distract your teams?

I realised that couple of them were not interested in it nor pulling their weight around it. Both would not have done the project work or would skip the update calls calling themselves busy. One of them was a top performer, and the other was struggling with his team’s productivity.

I am sure they must have had their reasons for not interested in the initiative and maybe also lacked the courage to flag off that they cannot participate. Either way, their lack of interest and application was conspicuous. These were people I had hired, were talented and experts in their space. But, as their supervisor, I felt they were not pulling their weight on what was a crucial project (so I think even today).

My subsequent interactions with them suffered, and I guess whenever our paths met, I judged them based on those recent behaviors I had of them.

Employer vs Employee

Employer Vs Employee during the Pandemic

800 371 Kamal Karanth
They say timing is everything and so is the context, Is it time to examine the employer vs. employee equation once again?

If you are an employee is this a good time to be unhappy with your employer for

1. Pressurizing you to do more?

2. Asking you to do a different role? Even if you did not like doing it or can’t do it?

3. Cutting your salary?

4. Laying off some of your colleagues

5. Not increasing your salary though you had a great year?

Let’s say you are the employer, You think it is justified now to

1. Blame your poor performers and put them on PIP

2. Ask your team to do a different role & expect them to be equally productive

Meet the new interviewer and job seekers

Meet the New Interviewer and Job Seeker

800 371 Kamal Karanth
As layoffs become common, will we find more honest job seekers and empathetic interviewers in days to come?

Layoffs have been like weight-loss programs for companies. But for employees, being shed as a part of an enterprise’s flab is not a great start for a job-hunt. Failed business models, poor management and client losses — the usual answers that candidates give to explain layoffs are passé now. Even the fittest of companies have got a jolt in Covid times so can we just say Covid when asked “why” and get to the next question? But that’s easier said than done!

A Typical Interview

“Are you still with the company?” the CTO asked the VP candidate she interviewed last week. He said yes. But he was actually serving notice after being laid off. After the interview, I asked him why he said that. He said, “I thought if I told her the truth, she might think I am not good enough. “But, your relieving letter would bare it all. And you may not get this job,” I said with some agitation. This guy had three promotions in the last seven years and was a director with an Insurance Tech Company.

Then I turned my attention to the CTO and asked her why she was still asking those old questions. By that I meant checking for antecedents than focussing on skills and potential. She did not like it. But I am hoping she and many others would change their ways of interviewing and not look at laid off people with a coloured lens.

The shadow of Layoffs

Picture any job interview in the past; the interviewers and the job seekers more or less played the roles described above. The interviewer interrogates the candidate on why he or she wants to leave the current company, and checks the motive to join the current one. The job seeker gives those perfect answers covering the track on why they were leaving. Most interviewers focussed less on skills & fitment. Their eyes were on the “why” which is difficult to compare when you have multiple candidates for the same role.

The mysterious shadow of a layoff has, in the past, always lurked around while meeting a candidate. Especially in India and some of the eastern nations. Layoffs receive a different response in various geographies and cultures. Sweden supports laid off employees till they find their next job, and German enterprises allow time for a cool off, but Japan has its “chasing out rooms”. A baseline stigma, if not taboo, has always existed around layoffs in India.

I am trying hard to recollect a laid-off job seeker who walked in all peppy for an interview. The burden of a layoff, irrespective of the context or reason, is often heavy enough to dwarf the candidate.

Why You

The whole process of hiring has been done under a cloud of suspicion. CV fudging, tenure manipulations, inaccurate role descriptions, presenting inflated salaries have decreased the trust of employers. We know many employers who have rejected high potential senior leaders purely because reference checks revealed s/he was laid off or fired from the previous job. The larger let-down has been that the job seeker did not share those facts during the interview. Enterprises were right to consider these as integrity violations. However, from the job-seeker’s point of view, Indian enterprises haven’t shown enough character to accept and hire laid-off professionals easily.

Working From Home

Working from Home? What’s Missing?

800 371 Kamal Karanth
Consider this as a regret note…

Some of us maybe are struggling with burnout of Working from Home as the boundaries have blurred further. But, has Working From Home also given some of us more time to reflect?

When you look back at the time in office, anything that strikes you that you wish had you done better?

One of the things that may have become a handicap in the remote working world is our “relationships.”?

Yes, talent, hard work, creativity, productivity, or performance are what managers and organisations want from us. In our current remote avatar, we can probably demonstrate most of these. For a moment think about the many critical phases at work and how you navigated them in the past;

Decisions, buy-ins, breakdowns, conflicts & any new situations to state a few… Which was the most important influence to get through these tricky contexts besides authority? I observed it to be “relationships.” People who had great relationships got things done, and some of us who sucked at it struggled.

Some home truths about remote working

800 371 Kamal Karanth

Despite initial productivity gains, we could be overrating the benefits of ‘work from home’

“This April I am busy for a different reason,” quipped my HR friend. “Normally, this time of the year, I am busy pacifying angry employees about their hikes. But now we are busy training managers on how to work remotely and engaging employees to keep their morale high. I think after many years we are doing something new and it is exciting”.

He is not alone. An elated CXO who heads an engineering R&D told me her team’s productivity is at an unprecedented 70 per cent, something not seen when everybody was present at the office. An entrepreneur told me his collections were the highest in the last four weeks as his customers were all locked down at home and available to clear his payments.

The first month of full-time work from home (WFH) for most white-collar workers has been a godsend. People have been posting happy pictures of eating with family, time with pets, reading books and bonding with near and dear ones. I am getting diabetic about some of these new claims, which are making our working from the office of the past look like a war crime.

Not too long ago, the same employees were seen showing off the inaugurations of their new swanky offices and how they loved their cool cafeterias and gyms.

Will remote working be the new future for many roles and industries? TCS just announced that they would only need 25 per cent of their future workforce at their offices. This must be worrying office rental companies.

Maslow confused!

If 75 per cent of us worked away from the office at any given point, Maslow may have to go back to the drawing board to rework parts of his pyramid! Physical co-working and collaboration has, for long, been the only known pathway for us to climb up the hierarchy of needs. With physiological and safety needs partly sorted in a WFH mode, the remaining layers above seem a bit shaken and challenged as we talk.

Can video platforms and chat rooms replace the physical sense of connection and belonging that one draws from a workplace? In a WFH mode, where the dynamics of a physical workplace don’t play out enough, leadership may also need to be re-defined. Physical stature, charisma, and intellect have so far been experienced the best physically.

Self-actualisation remains to be reconfigured and learnt afresh if we sign up for an employee-lite arrangement. For many who rely on meetings, handshakes, and walk-around catch-ups, the world has rebooted itself, requiring grappling with the unfamiliar.

Calm before the storm

Let’s not forget we have scrambled for safety and security in the last four weeks. Many of us who hated our workplace for various reasons like travel, traffic, peers, bosses, found WFH a great escape and our energies flowed into work. We all wanted stability and continuity to our work with all the fear about the coronavirus around us.

Let’s not forget the threats of jobs, salary cuts were looming, and many of us must have worked hard to keep our jobs. It’s very similar to how we are on our best behaviour when we begin in our new jobs, trying to impress bosses and colleagues. Once the threat to our health, salaries, and jobs disappears, it will be interesting to see whether productivity levels remain the same. The other gain is with regard to workplace conflicts. Many of us haven’t had the time and opportunity to experience the friction with our pet hates at work as we were busy protecting our physical safety. Maybe it will take time to pick new enemies in a remote working model.

Not so soon… please

Is it too early for us to declare if WFH works? For every Aye, there’s a Nay! Current productivity figures are encouraging, but one needs to take it with more than a pinch of salt. With all due respect, the productivity we experience now is largely a result of immobility and absence of social engagements and distractions. Can I say it’s akin to the practice of celebrities authoring books behind bars!

Physical environmental aspects are a huge but often unrecognised factor of our productivity. The absence of traffic movement and noise around is an enabler for focus as it stands now. We should wait to see if the mind operates the same way once the movement, noise, resume, and the din begins in the neighbourhood. Wouldn’t we then rather rush back to the sound-proofed and air-conditioned comforts of the office space?

Personally, I got a glimpse as to what retirement looks through my newly declared state of work. Meanwhile, I saw one of my colleagues applying for leave yesterday citing personal work. My sarcastic self wanted to ask him why take leave? However, my respect for him went up!

Should I say, I am observing new meanings of remote working for sure!