In this brand-new section, we bring to you dedicated industry-specific interviews to solve the talent challenges that you're facing in your sector, as well as cross-pollinate ideas across sectors. Check out this week's interview:

Industry insider: Sai Ranganathan, Co-Founder and CEO, SensorFlow
Sector spotlight: Industrial/Enterprise IoT
Based in: Singapore

For this technology start-up, competing with large-scale international brands is a huge challenge, especially when it comes to higher salaries and benefits vs long-term rewards. So what strategy can they use? Ownership, autonomy, and creative freedom.

The number one talent challenge this sector is facing

Lack of a large pool of technical talent in Singapore that also understands the value and longer-term benefits of stock options - since Singapore has not had many startup exits as compared to say, Silicon Valley. This makes it harder for us to attract top talent as competition with MNCs means we might lose good talent to higher salaries/benefits vs. long-term rewards like stock options.

Developments that are intensifying this challenge

Facebook, Google, Twitter and other large-scale international brands are setting up offices in Singapore, in addition to the robust ecosystem of high growth companies such as, but not limited to, Grab, Gojek, etc.

Hence, because of the favourable market conditions for top talent and the low unemployment rate in Singapore, skilled candidates already know they are in high demand and often receive job offers from other larger/high-growth competing organisations who offer not only a higher salary but also a larger variety of lifestyle benefits such as flexible working arrangements that can be difficult for SMEs to match.

Distributed teams can help high growth start-ups scale faster. They also manage to address a key growth constraint being the limited diverse talent pool.

Best practices: Strategies that have worked in tackling this challenge

We inspire our employees to build the next Google with us. To do so, we focus on developing strong employee branding and ensure that every employee has a healthy sense of ownership, autonomy and creative freedom. We also continuously analyse and introduce training benefits that improve employee productivity and personal growth.

We also clearly explain our exit potential, introducing and explaining the long-term value of stock options during candidate interviews. As a startup grows with time and raises funding, opting for stock options is less risky. This is important as everybody has varying degrees of risk sensitivities - if a high growth startup gains greater stability, the role of ‘risk’ begins to take a back seat.

To overcome the lack of technical talent, we actively tap into our current talent pool facilitated by our referral bonus system and have found many quality candidates via this system.

Culture fit is an important factor that we consider during our hiring process as we want to ensure that new hires are aligned with the company’s values, as the rest of the employees are. If employees are in a culture where they thrive, it leads to better employees’ engagement and overall productivity driving the company’s growth and success.

The next big priority for HR professionals in this sector

First, improving the remote worker/team’s experience and fostering their engagement. Distributed teams can help high growth start-ups scale faster. They also manage to address a key growth constraint being the limited diverse talent pool.

Having the right tools in place is not enough when it comes to managing and growing successful remote teams. HR’s key role in the world of remote teams is to ensure that all remote workers receive the same quality of employee engagement/experience/benefits similar to in-office workers.

How CEOs are proactively preparing for the future workplace

Proactive strategies we are implementing include focusing on, firstly, training. We aim to facilitate the personal and professional growth of employees that want to achieve more by allocating a generous budget for employees to attain skills sets required for their career growth/goals and having open conversations on growth opportunities and skills development.

The second is culture. Building a strong, value-driven company culture is what sets us apart from other startups and MNC’s. It plays a positive role in both talent attraction, retention and engagement at all levels.

Benefits are the third priority, wherein we ensure that we have continuous open channels for feedback, that allow us to analyse and adjust our benefits options.

Finally, we have stock options. We have open conversations on what our employees’ stock options are and its potential value after a certain amount of time and/or during exits. Stock options also make employees business owners, providing them with a greater sense of ownership.

Photo / Provided


This feature has been published exclusively in the Jan-Mar Q1 issue of Human Resources. Read this edition of Human Resources, Malaysia:

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