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An Interview With Leonika Hannan, Head of HR, NewsCred

Founded by three friends of Bangladeshi-origin, raising close to USD 90 Million to date, NewsCred today has offices in London and New York, but their story started in a small garage in Dhaka city. NewsCred's engineering department almost entirely works out of Bangladesh, and one of the most sought after places to work in the country.

Tradeshi’s Shadab Parvez recently spoke to Leonika Hannan, Head of HR, NewsCred, to know about the inner working of NewsCred’s human resource management, how NewsCred attracts and retains best talents, how to maintain a great team, and how she navigates through the complex science of managing people.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.

Shadab Parvez: How has the process of hiring staff changed since you started at NewsCred?

Leonika Hannan: When I joined NewsCred in 2014, the hiring process was fairly quick and a candidate would usually meet about 2 people before we decided whether or not to make an offer. We’ve reflected and iterated on this process over the years and now have a system in place which results in low employee turnover.

On average, our talent acquisition process today takes anywhere from 3-4 weeks to complete. Candidates go through several interviews with all relevant stakeholders. During our interviews, we assess three major areas: technical skill, communication skill, and cultural fit.

Shadab: What are the top five things any successful HR manager must do to get the best out of millennials in Bangladesh?

Leonika: It is hard to come up with a sure-fire checklist but following ideas should help.

  • Give them ownership of their work;
  • Pay competitively;
  • Provide training and development opportunities;
  • Show them a clear career path;
  • Listen to employees on a regular basis and help resolve any blocks / obstacles they are facing which prevent them from doing their job well.

Shadab: Name five tell-tale signs of an employee contemplating leaving the company? If they are star performers, what could be done to retain them?


  • Increase in tardiness and/or absenteeism;
  • Disinterest in his / her work;
  • Decrease in productivity;
  • You’ll hear about it from his / her peers;
  • Hesitation to commit to long term projects.

Ideally, a company should not find itself in a position where an A player wants to disconnect. Interventive driven strategies, such as increasing pay, may work once in awhile, but is an indication of a deeper rooted problem. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent your star performers from leaving:

  • Build an open and transparent relationship between the company and employees;
  • Value and frequently appreciate employees for their contributions;
  • Equip employees with the knowledge they need to do their job and allow them to take decisions and ownership of their work;
  • If employees are doing well, adjust their salaries as and when needed. Performance-based increments do not have to happen once a year. Ensure you’re paying them competitively.

Shadab: As Bangladesh edges closer to middle-income status as a nation, companies cannot ignore rising wages. Please provide five strategies to evaluate an employee's request for a salary increase. If applicable, how can the impact of increasing a single employee's salary on their peers be managed effectively?

Leonika: Rather than providing 5 strategies, I’ll encourage you to ask these 5 questions in order to determine whether or not you should increase an employee’s salary:

  • How well is the employee doing in your company?
  • What is the employee’s market value?
  • Is the employee underpaid / overpaid / correctly paid compared to others in the organization with similar skill and performance?
  • What effect will the increment have on others in the organization? Is it fair to others?
  • Does the employee deserve it?

You can effectively manage ad hoc salary increments by pursuing a culture of meritocracy rather than one based on years of experience and age. When you have a system in place which rewards employees for performing, there will be limited negative responses from peers. In order to achieve this, you must create an appraisal system which is transparent and metric driven.

Data demonstrates that your judgment to increase an employee’s salary is just and objective based. Finally, if you choose to increment someone’s salary based on performance, you will need to do the same with all other employees if they perform equally well or better. A one-time increment for an employee is a recipe for disaster.

Shadab: We observe NewsCred regularly hosting Hackathons, seminars and workshops, some of which are open and others are invite-only. How do you see these benefiting the workforce and can such an approach be applied to companies in other industries? If yes, which ones can benefit and why?

Leonika: We host and sponsor events primarily for two reasons:

  • It’s a great way for us to meet people in the tech community outside of the recruitment process;
  • Given that we work with new technologies and have some of the best engineers in the country, we feel it’s important to share as much knowledge as we can with the wider community. We promote a culture of knowledge sharing and we don’t feel it should be limited to our own employees.
  • Inspiring debate and dialogue on a topic is beneficial for both fresh graduates and experienced professionals. Everyone can benefit from going to events in their domain; one should not stop learning. I would not limit this to a specific industry, but would encourage every industry to host events and collaborate with others in the community.
Shadab moved to Dhaka just over a year ago after being abroad for close to 30 years. For the last 15 years he had worked in Sydney for successful tech startups assisting Australian SMEs, some of which were acquired by the likes of Newscorp, Sensis, Groupon and Fairfax. Shadab's Bangladeshi startup, Tradeshi.net, is Alibaba.com's Global Service Partner. His dream is to take Bangladeshi products & services to the rest of the World"

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