Ȧ齫Ⱥ Turning product fans into passionate employees - The Hindu BusinessLine

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          People@Work

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          Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 30, 2020 Published on January 30, 2020

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          Everything about Xiaomi — the fast-growing Chinese electronics company that makes smartphones and smart TVs at “honest pricing” — screams young, vibrant, energetic and au courant. Its corporate office in Bengaluru is no different. With colourful corners, catchy slogans, food courts, play zones, hirerarchy-less open office spaces, average employee in the mid-20s — it is all very new age.

          And so is its people policy, according to B Muralikrishnan, Chief Operations Officer, Xiaomi India. When you ask him about stuff like social hiring he breezily says, “Oh, we do all of that, but that is all so yesterday.” The really trendy thing that Xiaomi has been doing in the way it hires is to look intently at its passionate fan base and recruit from there.

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          Meet cheerful young Bhavya Maniar, who looks at the phone in your hand, whips out his own Mi phone and starts comparing the two feature by feature. He almost has you convinced (even though you are holding a far superior rated phone) that the one he has is better.

          Bhavya was in engineering school when he became a Mi Fan and got into beta testing products for the company. Xiaomi has 17 million fans registered on the MiFan page and many get access to products to test them out before launch.

          After his engineering studies, Bhavya joined Xiaomi in its marketing department. Why not coding? With a wide grin, he says he always was interested in marketing.

          Another MiFan, Sudeep Sahu, is a key employee with the company now and features in an emotional film that the company released this month to celebrate giving employment to 50,000 people in India, directly or indirectly, in just five years of operations. Sudeep started following the company ever since he picked up the MIUI. He officially joined as an intern with the social media team, and then went on to working for after-sales and smartphone hardware team. In 2017, he became the product manager for Mi TVs and, today, Sudeep is the official spokesperson for Mi TVs.

          Today, there are 20-odd fans who are Xiaomi employees, including Rohit Ghalsasi, who was employee number three and referred to as Commander Ghalsasi, the cool dude.

          “These guys are passionate about the brand, willing to learn,” says Muralikrishnan, adding that commitment is very high among them.

          But hiring fans is just one small part of Xiaomi’s people strategy.

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          Muralikrishnan describes how the company has evolved in its people philosophy since 2014, when it was a one-person company where Manu Jain did everything.“Over a period of time, the way we think about the people, how we groom them, nurture them, has changed,” says Muralikrishnan.

          The first pillar of Xiaomi’s people strategy is to be the preferred workplace. For this it is working hard on its employer branding, especially at the entry-level, engaging with B-Schools in a big way. Last year, it launched MiSumMit, a case studies competition in Bschools where it attracted 1,300 participants. It has also developed a nine-month long orientation/fitment programme for those it hires from campuses. Also last year, the 23-odd people it hired from campuses were put on three different projects in three different functions for three months each. This means they gather functional expertise in three core areas and are all-rounders.

          The second pillar, he says, is being a great place to work, which is all about engagement. The secret sauce, according to Muralikrishnan, is not high compensation but finding meaningful roles, strong leadership, pride in the workplace, a growth path and a great team. Millennials also seek transparency and honesty, which is embodied in the open culture of the office. “We also do something very interesting, We talk to the entire organisation, all hands, every three months, in which we share the quarter’s performance but also address uncomfortable questions.” A week before the event, the company sends out a form to all employees wherein they can anonymously submit any question. “Every quarter we get 70 to 80 questions, including exceedingly uncomfortable ones. We may not have answers to all, but we acknowledge each one, reading them aloud,” he says.

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          Finally, there is the Learning & Development strategy to bring all employees up to speed. The company started this in 2018 in a small way. In 2019, it added more structure to the programme when over 300 of its workforce went through training initiatives. “One cohort that requires maximum support, we discovered, was the first-time manager,” says Muralikrishnan. “They are the ones most vulnerable and the ones getting most of the work done.” So, at least 180 people were put through the Bootcamp — an eight-week long, four-hours a week initiative to develop managerial capabilities.

          In 2020, the intention is to take this forward with a Leadership Development programme. “In 2019, for the first time, we introduced levels in the organisation. Now, for every level and every function, we are identifying competencies on what it takes to succeed at the level. The logical extension is a leadership development programme, which we will start two quarters from now, for middle managers,” he says.

          So has Xiaomi cracked the code on talent management? That’s to be seen though Muralikrishnan insists that every employee at the company is hugely self-motivated.

          Published on January 30, 2020
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