Career Advice ‘We cannot recruit recklessly in bull market and retrench during downturn’

‘We cannot recruit recklessly in bull market and retrench during downturn’

Suresh Sadagopan, Founder of Ladder7 Advisories talks about his leadership style and how he motivates his employees.
Banali Banerjee Jan 8, 2016

What are the challenges faced by you in hiring and attracting the right talent, given that you are competing for the same pool of talent as banks and national distributors which are better known brands?

Getting good quality talent is a challenge for the entire industry.  Since we are competing with bigger entities, there are certain things which we need to do to attract and retain talent.

To begin with, there should be freedom for candidates to learn and grow. They should be encouraged to come up with new ideas and implement them. In short, they should be able to grow as entrepreneurs, inside the firm itself. The remuneration should be scaled up quickly as the candidate shows progress.

Quality of work and the depth and width of work is where small firms score. Big firms offer work that is too narrow and monotonous. Whereas in a small firm, the candidate has the opportunity to learn every aspect of business, which is a major plus.

Above all, the workplace should be a happy place to work.

Give us an overview of your HR philosophy and approach.

Our philosophy is to employ good talent, train, help them grow, give them the freedom to think and act independently and offer them a happy environment to work.  Set clear expectations, give constant feedback and reorient them to work towards company’s goals. Understand their aspirations and help them in achieving them along with the firm's goals.

Overall, we ensure that our employees are happy to work with me and know that they will progress in their career and life. The other aspect is to remunerate them appropriately according to their skills, productivity and contribution.

Who is your inspiration or role model in shaping your leadership style and HR philosophy? How have they influenced you?

There are many. I admire Uday Kotak for building Kotak Bank into the organization it is. Nishith Desai of Nishith Desai Associates is another person I admire for building a world class law firm.

In a business which is affected severely by market volatility and regulatory changes, is it possible to have a consistent HR policy? Have you rationalized/downsized staff or cut salaries in response to changing market conditions?

Here is where enlightenment is important. We cannot recruit recklessly when the going is good and retrench when there is downturn. Such firms will be shunned by candidates or will be seen as no more than stepping stones. Unfortunately, there are too many of them in financial services.

There are many regulatory changes in our field. In spite of the challenges, we need to show stability and consistency to retain talent. That's our job. So far, we have not downsized or cut salaries due to external events.

How do you incentivize them? Do you think monetary incentive is a good way to motivate your staff? How do you ensure that such incentives are aligned to client interest?

Monetary incentives are important. But more important is to align them to a higher ideal - serve client interest above all. We are fiduciaries. We are hypersensitive about client interest. We keep talking about the core philosophy of serving the client and we constantly reinforce that.  That sets a consistent expectation and employees keep going the same path.

We do not offer incentives based on client acquisition. Our remuneration is based on their knowledge, skills, ability to meet deadlines, eagerness/willingness to serve clients, professionalism, etc. Hence, our remuneration structure is designed in a way which ensures there is no reason they can act against client interest.

What activities do you undertake to train and inculcate soft skills, technical skills, etc.?

We invite good trainers/industry experts to provide training to our staff. We also send our employees to training, seminars etc. to hone their skills.  We encourage them to read blogs, magazines and other material to update their knowledge.

Most of your team is client facing. How do you train your employees to be customer centric?

There is no specific training for this aspect. Being client centric is part and parcel of our thinking. This message is communicated to our employees in every meeting.

How do you retain your employees? Have you faced attrition challenge?

Attrition has happened. But I see it positively. I see new influx as good blood coming in. Sometimes, when people stick with the company for too long, they become complacent and rigid. New recruits need to be trained and it takes time to scale up. But, the positive thing is that we also see eagerness and drive on the part of new recruits to learn and perform.


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