When businesses enter a phase of rapid, dizzying growth, it is easy to lose sight of what made them great in the first place: People.
This is why Uniphore, a global leader in conversational service automation, aligns itself closely to a “People First” approach. By placing its people as a priority, the company is primed for performance. Doing so will allow it to recruit and retain the best talent that can match the global technology giants, pound for pound.
It was this people-centric strategy that allowed Uniphore to grow from the incubation lab at Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai to the world stage, with offices in the United States, India, Japan and Singapore. And it is this same strategy that will continue to fuel the company’s growth into the future.
Making diversity part of the conversation
For any organization expanding overseas, it is important to choose the right people to drive the business. But this is not always a straightforward process.
In 2014, Uniphore found itself navigating unfamiliar terrain as it made its first foray outside of India into Southeast Asia and West Asia. Hiring swiftly was a priority, while establishing a foothold in the market with contacts and a solid grasp of cultural nuances.
As the company moves into the mode of hypergrowth that it is in today – clocking growth at a breakneck speed of 2.5 times last year and three times this year – hiring well in new markets for local expertise has become even more critical.
Using LinkedIn’s keen appreciation of local contexts and extensive global data on candidate pools, Uniphore is able to focus its search and candidate communication today. Additionally, LinkedIn Recruiter makes it a breeze to zero in on a handful of candidates for specific roles.
There was one instance where the Human Resources department was looking for a data science head in India, and had exhausted all networks in recruiting for the unique role, which requires deep experience and domain background. But LinkedIn helped the team get the right hire – in record time to boot. To date, they have a 30 per cent conversion on the candidate pipeline they build with LinkedIn.
Having LinkedIn onboard as a talent partner ensures that Uniphore not only recruits fast and smart but also recruits for the future. This means constantly evolving the workforce to be well-represented and equipping them with technical skills for a new age.
As a truly global company, diversity is a culture that is rooted from the very start, permeating right through the organization. Through the recruitment funnel process, Uniphore adheres as best as it can to the Rooney Rule, which advocates minority representation.
In 2015, then-US President Barack Obama had pushed for this practice to be implemented by Silicon Valley tech companies. The principle is to ensure a diverse staff mix so that genders, ethnicities, skillsets and geographies are well-represented. This means an appropriate ratio of minority or women candidates should be in place, no matter which part of the funneling process. LinkedIn Recruiter also plays a crucial role here by helping Uniphore study the diversity mix of the candidate pipeline.
Today, 33 per cent of Uniphore staff across functions and roles are female. There is more gender diversity at the top, with women filling 45 per cent of senior leadership posts. In an industry where diversity is traditionally known to be lacking, these are bold, optimistic numbers. Uniphore hopes to lead meaningful change in this area through its efforts.
A diverse workforce will hold the key to providing top ideas. All of this ties back to the company’s vision for a “People First” workforce, where every voice is heard.
Building the present and future
How does Uniphore ensure continuous learning and growth for talent that it has hired?
The company does this by constantly keeping its ears to the ground. The goal is to create an environment of respect and affirmation – a big part of which is cultivated through the learning courses it runs for employees.
Uniphore complements its strategy of hiring externally with talent in-house through training, developing a workforce that is sensitized to its culture of diversity and cross-functional collaboration. The company is moving towards a 50-50 ratio of buying and building, where buying means acquiring external talent and building means honing internal talent.
Such a strategy is crucial as it becomes increasingly difficult to hire and retain specialist positions in a highly-competitive tech scene. But more than that, cultivating talent from within is important as it redirects investments to personal development for employees, which drives motivation and loyalty. The key is for employees to have a stake in the company.
Driving engagement with employees and making sure the workforce is connected and motivated have become even more important at a time when many are working from home.
Adding to that, Uniphore’s sensitization workshops and cross-cultural emphasis mean that its employees are used to working among diverse ethnicities and with different genders, industries and those from other geographies. It is a ground-up process that is very precious to the organization. According to LinkedIn Talent Insights data for Uniphore, cultural awareness tops the list of fastest-growing soft skills amongst employees, followed by virtual collaboration, cross-functional team leadership and learning. These are traits all Uniphore employees should have.
LinkedIn Learning helps to create this culture of learning, as employees prefer content that makes sense to them, and to learn at their own pace. Gamification is also a tool Uniphore deploys to up the ante, allowing staff to have fun while they learn. During performance review cycles, managers use learning content to aid performance conversations. Post employee reviews, Uniphore has created learning paths to execute Individual development plans (IDP). Little wonder that from April to October 2020, there was a log-in rate of 68 per cent, where more than half the attendees were repeat learners. Such engagement and personal development can be crucial to retention rates over the long term.
Uniphore started as a mission to help India’s rural and non-English-speaking population use smartphones and browse the Internet. The result was the invention of a man-machine interface that communicated in multiple vernacular languages. Today, Uniphore’s programs can decipher more than 100 global languages.
As the company scales its products to help bridge the communication gap between people and machines so that every person can be heard, it is also paying close attention to its people: Listening to them and placing them first.
“Uniphore has a very strong people strategy with LinkedIn as a platform and a partner. This has helped it get and keep not just the right talent, but more importantly, more diverse talent that will prepare the company for the future. When preparation meets opportunity, there is growth.”