Strategies And Principles For Hiring The Right Talents And Investing In Human Capital Development In Startups With Aflatun Kaisar, Head of Human Resources, Shohoz Limited

Strategies And Principles For Hiring The Right Talents And Investing In Human Capital Development In Startups With Aflatun Kaisar, Head of Human Resources, Shohoz Limited

Welcome to our new series The State of Human Capital Development in Bangladesh powered by Kormo, exploring the field of human resource across various industries. In this series, we’ll be exploring topics ranging from strategic approaches to HR to all the way to use of technology in recruitment and people operations.

We’ll be interviewing some of the country’s most respected HR thought leaders and learn about their vision, how they are addressing issues like skills gap in the market and much more. All the stories will be exclusively published in Future Startup and you can find them here.

 

When Aflatun Kaisar joined Shohoz Limited as Head of Human Resources, he had a small team and a quickly evolving department at a fast growing startup. Over the past one year, he’s played an instrumental role in putting together structure and system to manage a fast growing team.

Mr. Kaiser, who has years of experience in human resources management, knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a thriving team at a fast-growing tech company. In a recent interview with Future Startup, brought to you in collaboration with Kormo, he shared his strategies and principles for hiring the right people, executing on a vision, creating a culture of learning, using technology to build systems for hiring and human capital development that scales with the company and much more.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about yourself, your background, and your work at Shohoz? What are the things you do as a Head of Human Resources? How big is your HR Team?

Aflatun Kaisar

My name is Aflatun Kaisar. I started my journey with Shohoz on October, 2018. Earlier I worked for Daraz, Asrotex Group and Otobi. I have nine-plus years of experiences in human resources management in a wide-ranging of industries from Retail to RMG to ecommerce.

In my team, we have Mr. Asif Iqbal who looks after the talent acquisition part and Ms. Mariyam Sultana who looks after the Compensation and Benefits part. As an organization, Shohoz puts tremendous value in its people. As a result, the role HR plays in the organization is viewed as vital and key to our success.

Future Startup

As Head of HR, what are the things that you look after daily? What does your daily or weekly priority lists look like?

Aflatun Kaisar

It depends on the time of the year and the state of the business. Right now, we are expanding fast as a company. Expansion is our major KPI. Expansion means you need more people to manage new initiatives and growth. As a result, recruitment and employee development are two of our critical priorities. We are getting hiring requisitions from different departments daily and working hard to meet those demands.

Apart from recruiting, we are developing the KPI matrix and are putting other performance measurement tools and systems in place in order to achieve our current and future business objectives.

Before Shohoz, I worked at other industries as well. In most places, people pay a lot of attention to recruitment but pay little attention to building systems and processes and managing people after on-boarding. Hiring people is important. Finding the right talents is critical. At the same time, you have to inspire and motivate the people you hired to serve you well.

Shohoz is now focusing on people development. We are exploring options to invest more in our people. We have plans to develop a project named “Shohoz E-learning Center” where an employee can take training through online at his/her convenient time. We already have a strong training regimen for our people where our in-house trainers provide training to our people.

Future Startup

What are some major professional challenges you face as a Head of HR?

Aflatun Kaisar

The basic challenge is about the job market. It’s all about supply and demand. For some positions, we have a huge supply in the market and we can easily recruit. But for some other positions, there is a talent crunch in the market and the supply shortage of talents makes it harder for us to recruit. For example, hiring for our technology department or our ride sharing business remains a tall order because these are new disciplines in the context of Bangladesh and the number of people with a proper understanding of these sectors is relatively slim. For example, I’ve to hire a Head for a specific department. Sine this is not a mainstream sector in Bangladesh yet, there are probably only a handful of people who are good at it and most of them are engaged. So, supply shortage is a challenge.

Second, we hire a lot of fresh graduates. Our biggest chunk of talents comes from fresh graduates. This has become yet another challenge for us – finding the right fresh grads, managing them and retaining them. When hiring fresh grads, we invest in developing them. Now startups are different from established corporations. The workload is different. The time demand is different. Work environment and culture is different. While there are a lot of opportunities both for learning and growth, startups are demanding. You have to deliver. You have to be a self-starter. You have to take the initiative. There is the fun of building something great and wonderful. At the same time, it is a demanding environment. Many people come with different expectations and as a result, struggle to evolve and cope.

Startup is a relatively new phenomenon in Bangladesh. Many of the verticals that we see such as ecommerce or ridesharing or data analytics, we don’t have formal education for these skills. Our education system is not producing talent for these sectors. Second, tech as a sector is not that big yet. As a result, people are not that interested in technology. When we find good people who meet our recruitment criteria, sometimes they are not interested in joining a start-up. So attracting talent is also a challenge for us now. The scenario is changing but we have a long way to go.

In short, these are some of the challenges. However, we are very hopeful that we have the raw talent in our country and it is up to us to nurture and develop them.

Aflatun Kaisar speaking with Future Startup’s Ruhul and Kormo’s Shohrab at Shohoz HQ

Future Startup

In terms of managing your job say, interviewing a candidate or planning compensation or designing training for your people, what kind of challenges you face?

Aflatun Kaisar

As I said earlier, our verticals-such as ride-sharing, e-commerce, etc are relatively new industries, so that it is not easy to find experienced professionals here.

Future Startup

What is your perspective in terms of investing in human capital? Do you have a company-wide philosophy in terms of investing in people and helping them grow? What do you personally think?

Aflatun Kaisar

We have to invest in human capital. This is how we will grow and Bangladesh will grow. We also believe in our youth, especially fresh graduates. We have introduced various internship schemes targeting fresh graduates and we generally try to offer them fulltime positions after completion of their internship tenure.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about your HR values, culture and how people work at Shohoz?

Aflatun Kaisar

We are an equal opportunity employer. We treat people equally regardless of gender, race, university, CGPA, position in the company or anything else for that matter.

We maintain an open culture – we have an open space office – where ideas flow freely, people collaborate all the time and transparency drives everything. We are a horizontal organization. We empower our people and allow them enough freedom and space to make decisions and drive initiatives. We work as a team and teamwork is encouraged over everything else.

Over the years, we have been able to create a culture of learning and development. We create opportunities for our people to learn and also encourage self-directed learning.

Future Startup

As you’ve mentioned earlier, the importance of investment in human capital? What are the challenges you face in doing that?

Aflatun Kaisar

A major challenge is the mindset of the people. They are concerned about positions and compensation. We think these things will follow if someone can embrace a mindset of learning, teamwork, and leadership.

There is also a skill gap in the job market. We are looking for highly analytical people who are able to use tools such as MS Excel, Tableau, etc at an advanced level.

However, these are not a major challenge because if someone has the right mindset, we believe we can train and develop these skill sets in him.

Tech is an extremely fast-paced industry. We are always on the look for people who can deal with the pace and innovate in such an environment.

Future Startup

How does your recruitment process work for entry-level? What kind of skills do you look for a candidate?

Aflatun Kaisar

It may vary from position-to-position. For food delivery riders, which we recruit through Kormo, the basic requirement is that he has to have a vehicle, NID card, age above 18. Then we go through some screening process such as reliability, communication skills, salary expectations, etc.

For entry-level positions, we focus more on attitude rather than aptitude. We believe someone can learn and grow if he/she has the passion and dedication towards the job, and ability to work in a team.

Future Startup

What does your hiring process look like?

Aflatun Kaisar

We usually published our job advertisements on Bdjobs, Kormo, and other job portals. We are also using networking sites such as LinkedIn and our internal referral sources in order to gather good CVs. For driver and field operations recruiting, tools like Kormo help us source and assess candidates more effectively and quickly. We then make sure we do an in-person interview and then if successful, we offer the job.

Shohoz is actively participating in various career fest programs which are helping us to enrich our CV bank.

Our interview process is designed focusing on lots of practical tests and case studies.

Future Startup

What do you mean by practical interview?

Aflatun Kaisar

Sort of a written test. For fresh grads, it is similar to an aptitude test. For senior-level, it is usually something job-related. We give a task and 30-60 minutes to each candidate. They complete the task within the time frame. Afterward, we evaluate the script and send them the link for aptitude, cognitive and personality test to take, which they could take from their homes. We also give them a timeline for finishing the test.

Once we get the results of both of these tests, we arrange at least two viva sessions; one with the HODs, another – the final one – is with the MD and the top management. That’s broadly how our process works.

Future Startup

How do you decide who’s the best candidate for your organization? What are some skills and qualities you look for in a candidate?

Aflatun Kaisar

We put, more or less, 30% on job knowledge, 30% on experience and the rest 40% on broad qualities like dedication, passion for learning, ability to work in a team, creativity, out-of-the-box thinking capability and so on.

Tech is an extremely fast-paced industry. We are always on the look for people who can deal with the pace and innovate in such an environment.

People talk a lot about finding the best talents and hiring the best talents. I think talent is overrated. What you should focus on is finding people with the right attitude and mindset. When you hire for mindset and cultural fit, you find fighters and you can train them up.

Mr. Aflatun Kaisar, Mr. Ruhul Kader of Future Startup, Mr. Shohrab Hossain and Mr. Omar of Kormo at Shohoz HQ (From Left to right)

Mr. Aflatun of Shohoz, Mr. Ruhul of Future Startup, Mr. Shohrab and Mr. Omar of Kormo at Shohoz HQ (From Left to right)

Future Startup

How do you measure skills like creativity and out-of-box thinking? How do you understand whether someone is creative or not because these are very subjective?

Aflatun Kaisar

Yes, it is tough. We have tried to develop processes and case studies to judge candidates in these areas. We have a problem-solving test where we share problems that we are facing at Shohoz and ask them to come up with ideas. You can understand, at least to some extent, how a person thinks once they share their solutions.

Future Startup

What are the major skill gaps that you see in the market?

Aflatun Kaisar

Business intelligence and analytics are some of the skills that have a growing demand in the market. These are relatively new skills for our market. The scope of work is growing in these fields but still not that big as a result there is a gap in terms of finding people who are good at these things. At Shohoz, we have developed our entire tech stack in-house. Building a platform like Shohoz is a huge work. We have seen that there are technical skills gaps in the market.

On a more general level, startups are not similar to established organizations. The mindset one needs to work and thrive in a startup environment is different. There is a general lack of this mindset in the market.

Future Startup

What are some of the most in-demand skills in the market?

Aflatun Kaisar

Good communication skill, and data-driven analytical mindset – these are some of the broad skills that every company wants in candidates.

Future Startup

What are the technologies that you use to manage your recruitment process?

Aflatun Kaisar

We are using an HRIS software to manage internal HR-related works. Also, we are developing our own interview assessment tool which is useful for aptitude, personality, and cognitive ability test.

We use Kormo for blue-collar recruitment. We also use Rutiruji and Bikroy for that. Kormo has been of great help for us for hiring blue-collar people. They have built an excellent platform and a screening process that has made our life easier. For blue-collar, we’re depending on Kormo. Kormo is our #1 partner for blue-collar hiring. For the white-collar, we use Bdjobs.com and LinkedIn.

Performance is about the group and the environment. Right environment and culture bring out genius in ordinary people.

Future Startup

What advice would you give to people and start-ups who are looking to invest in their human capital? What are the things they could do to help grow their people?

Aflatun Kaisar

Don’t expect ready-made talents from the market. Instead of trying to find someone who is ready to go, if you invest in someone he would be able to contribute after 6 months or 1 year a lot more than any experienced person.

People talk a lot about finding the best talents and hiring the best talents. I think talent is overrated. What you should focus on is finding people with the right attitude and mindset. When you hire for mindset and cultural fit, you find fighters and you can train them up. They will work hard and deliver, no matter what.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you learned about HR and managing people?

Aflatun Kaisar

Tech is a fast-paced industry. We are always on the run. Things are happening daily. As a part of the team, you have to participate and contribute all the time. It is challenging but if you are someone who wants to grow and love to solve difficult problems and enjoy taking challenges, you would enjoy working for Shohoz and similar company.

Culture is critical for the growth of every organization. It not much about individuals, rather it is about systems and the culture. If you could build a culture where people are proactive, serious, supportive, relentlessly pursue excellence, you would not have to worry about individual performance. Performance is about the group and the environment. Right environment and culture bring out genius in ordinary people.

Open culture helps people to grow. At Shohoz, there’s no sir/madam. There’s no barrier, no politics. The family is very small. Everyone knows everyone. The door is always open to MD or HR. You cannot misuse your power. Nobody is super powerful here. Everyone is powerful if you’re performing well.

We are a number-driven organization. We believe that what can’t be measured can’t be improved. We have turned our HR practices into numbers. Performances are numbers. Challenges are numbers. This approach gives you a very objective and balanced approach to business growth.


This interview is brought to you by Kormo – a job matching and career development app that connects job seekers to businesses that are looking to hire. For job seekers, joining the Kormo community gives them access to relevant job openings and information and tools to help them grow their careers. These include the Kormo CV that allows job seekers to create and maintain a digital CV and the Learn Tab, which consists of tons of targeted educational content. For employers, Kormo makes hiring the right candidates easy and effortless through a combination of automated screening, matching and more. You can learn more about Kormo here.

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