Q&A: Hiring in Digital Age with Rushbh Shah

Q: Could you share your HR experience, workplace, and core skills?

I've accumulated over 15 years of experience in HR, primarily focusing on recruitment, talent acquisition, resource management, HRBP, and HR operations. Throughout my career, I've recruited both domestically and internationally for product- and service-based companies.

Additionally, I've actively engaged in stakeholder management, frequently liaising with higher authorities and senior management. Currently, I'm employed at Meta Studios, a division of Meta Engine, operating in the web 3 domain, specializing in blockchain, gaming, metaverse, and cryptocurrencies.

Q: How does hiring in Web 3 differ from traditional methods, and what lessons can HR learn from this dynamic and evolving industry?

Hiring for the Web 3 world is a whole different ball game! There's a shortage of folks who really get this tech, making the usual job portal search ineffective. Plus, not every candidate fits the technical bill perfectly, so I spend a lot of time chatting with hiring managers to understand why they're saying 'no' to some great potential.

Giving detailed feedback on candidates helps us compare their strengths and weaknesses. This lets us challenge hiring managers in a good way, showing them we're not just resume-passers. Some managers think we're just keyword-matchers, but we know the technical nitty-gritty! It's crucial to highlight how much we actually contribute to the hiring process to bridge that gap between what's needed and what's out there in the job market.

Q: What key lessons have you learned from hiring in the Web 3 domain, considering its startup-like nature and the associated challenges in acquiring talent?

One major learning from hiring in this startup-like atmosphere is that employees often wear multiple hats. In a startup environment like mine, even as a talent acquisition specialist, I find myself involved in employee engagement, management, HR operations, and more, unlike in established firms where roles are more singular.

Additionally, technical hires often arrive with their own methods and perspectives, which might clash with existing practices. It's crucial to diplomatically manage their suggestions without disrupting the workflow.

Another key lesson is the necessity for a clear vision and direction in a rapidly evolving industry like Web 3. Lack of clarity can lead to diverse approaches and a loss of focus among teams.

Moreover, convincing top talent to join a startup in this domain can be challenging due to concerns about job security. Many candidates, despite higher pay, prefer the stability of established firms over the uncertainty associated with startups. This perception, which is a result of layoffs and unstable funding in some startups, has a big impact on hiring decisions.

Q: How does the startup culture in Web 3 affect HR practices and organizational culture? What's the state of HR within these Web 3 startups that often prioritize problem-solving over cultural aspects?

In the evolving Web 3 industry, HR should have a big role, but some companies don't see it that way. Instead of having a dedicated HR team, they let higher-ups or outside vendors handle hiring. They mistakenly think HR is just for hiring, missing its importance in keeping people happy, shaping the company, and making sure everyone's work matches the company's goals.

For these startups, it's like forgetting that they're dealing with people, not just machines making things. When they don't have proper HR support, it can lead to problems like layoffs and difficulties managing everything because doing everything alone isn't easy.

Q: How does virtual employee onboarding differ from traditional physical onboarding? What challenges and advantages do you see in the virtual onboarding process, considering your extensive experience in both?

In today's scenario, virtual onboarding holds immense significance, sometimes even more than physical onboarding. Many companies face the issue of candidates accepting offers but not joining. Engaging with potential employees from the initial recruiter interaction is crucial. Capturing their experience throughout the interview and offer process helps understand their preferences.

Virtual onboarding requires constant communication, sending welcome emails, introducing team members, and discussing project details before their start date. Keeping candidates engaged and connected minimizes no-shows on their joining day. This approach has notably reduced dropouts for us. There was only one exception where a candidate couldn't join due to personal reasons related to family health issues. Despite that, we maintain contact and keep the door open for future opportunities.

Q: How can companies effectively introduce and nurture their culture in virtual onboarding, going beyond technical skills and ensuring alignment with company values?

Sure, sometimes there are people in a company who don't really agree with the company's rules or culture. Let me give you an example: there was this policy at a company to prevent harassment, and one employee had an issue with a female being in charge of this policy. He felt it was biased toward women.

So, even though the company had set rules, not everyone agreed with them. In cases like this, when an employee doesn't fit with the company's culture or policies, the company might have to let them go in a respectful way. It's important to talk openly about the rules, and if someone can't follow them, parting ways might be the best solution.

Q: In a remote setup, how do you ensure the right company culture without physical onboarding to familiarize employees with workplace norms and behaviors?

The best way to establish this in a remote scenario is through continuous communication during the post-offer phase. It's not just about ensuring they're excited to join; it's also about guiding them in their role and aligning them with the company's values and goals.

I personally engage with candidates before they join, discussing company concerns, what we do, and how we operate. This helps them understand what's expected of them and how to approach their responsibilities.

Q: What's one aspect of digital onboarding that significantly improves the experience compared to physical onboarding?

The best part about digital onboarding, unlike the physical method, is how easy it is to access information. In the digital world, all the important stuff about the company, how it works, and what the team is like is right there for anyone to see. Websites like Glassdoor let people share their thoughts about the company, which helps new folks understand more about where they might work. There are some tools for HRMS and HRIS available that help organize all the details about employees, their managers, and how well they're doing at work.

These digital tools make it simple for new employees to understand their roles and how things work around here. So, overall, digital onboarding is favored because it makes it super easy for people to get the information they need.

Q: How does digital onboarding manage teaching job-specific skills to freshmen before they start work, especially during the learning period? What are the unique challenges, and how can they be tackled in the digital onboarding process?

To tackle such situations, we initiate engagement from the moment the offer process starts. I, along with a project representative, keep regular contact with the candidate, sharing insights about our company culture, processes, and ongoing work. By the time the employee joins, they are already quite familiar, easing the onboarding as more of a formality.

Additionally, we follow a structured 30-, 60-, and 90-day plan. In the initial 30 days, we prioritize the employee's feedback over the hiring manager's, ensuring their comfort within the team and addressing any concerns they might have. This approach helps to smooth the onboarding experience and proactively resolve any issues that arise.

Overall, by maintaining consistent communication and providing a comprehensive understanding of the company beforehand, we aim to prevent disengagement or disinterest during the onboarding phase.

Q: What were your best and worst onboarding experiences? Can you share specific examples of successful onboarding and another where a promising candidate didn't work out during the process?
  1. Unpleasant Onboarding Experience: About a decade ago, during a time when video calls were a luxury, there was a case of a misleading video interview. The team selected a candidate based on telephone interviews and arranged a video call using a rented studio. However, during the face-to-face video interview, it became evident that the candidate's body language and appearance didn't align with the job's client-facing requirements. The company had no prior experience observing the candidate's body language, as only the face was visible during video calls. This mismatch led to the realization that in-person interviews were necessary for distant candidates. Unfortunately, within a week of joining, it was clear the employee couldn't work as expected, and they were let go.

  2. Challenging Onboarding Experience: Another challenging experience involved onboarding around 45–50 people in a day. Due to poor internet connectivity, the process, expected to take 4-5 hours, was extended over two days. The technical issues caused delays, impacting the overall candidate experience and leading to dissatisfaction among new hires.

  3. Positive Onboarding Experience: On the contrary, there have been instances where expectations were exceeded. Candidates sometimes exceed expectations, demonstrating unexpected excellence during onboarding and leaving a lasting positive impression.

Q: Did you ever interview a candidate where it seemed like they might not fit, but after being hired, their performance during onboarding was unexpectedly flawless?

In my current company, the onboarding process has been seamless for employees, whether in India or abroad. An example of this smooth process is our policy of providing laptops a week before an employee joins. We arrange for an hour-long session with our IT team to install the necessary software, ensuring they're ready to start on their joining day.

Additionally, we proactively handle administrative tasks like setting up bank accounts immediately after the offer letter is released. This way, we streamline the process, avoiding delays in salary setup and other essentials for new employees.

Q: How crucial do you think onboarding will be in the next 15 years, considering the increasing shift towards digital onboarding?

Onboarding holds immense significance for both the industry and the candidates. It's comparable in importance to extending an offer because it's the gateway for individuals to start contributing effectively once they join.

Without a smooth onboarding process, the transition for new hires can be challenging, impacting their integration and productivity within the organization. Hence, it's as crucial as offering a role and maintaining ongoing communication with the employees.

Do you work in HR?

Email abhash.kumar@springworks.in and let’s talk :)

Note: All views expressed in this interview are personal and not linked to any organization.