For Russ Hagey, an MBA from Stanford University, Bain & Co. has been his sole employer for 30 years. The company flaunts one of the lowest attrition rates globally and has consistently featured in Glassdoor’s annual “best places to work” list, a ranking based on reviews submitted by employees. Hagey, a partner and director at Bain, is also its worldwide chief talent officer and the man behind making it one of the most sought after companies across the globe. Hagey, hailed as one of the world’s top HR practitioners, shares his formula for retaining talent, what it takes to be at Bain and the company’s hiring plans in India, in an interview. Edited excerpts:
What makes Bain & Co. a top choice among employees?
One of the key things that have made us one of the best places to work in is that we try to exhibit the importance of our team, our people, in our actions. We show our employees that we care for them, in different ways. We are a great believer of individual conversations. Our mentorship programmes are also individualized for the staff and respective offices around the world.
We are also strongly committed to our global training programmes. That’s what helps bring together the sense of learning wherein people feel that they are constantly learning. We bring all of our staff to our global training programmes at least once in every 18 months, which in turn helps us create a cohesive global team. We also strive to add a fun element and energy to the business. We constantly ask for feedback and use them to improve ourselves. Every two to three weeks, we ask our employees some basic questions like, ‘do you feel you are learning?’ ‘Do you feel that you’re making a difference for the clients?’ ‘Are we investing a professional desire?’ ‘Are you having fun at work?’ We also collect feedback on our leadership team twice a year. We use the feedback mechanism as a way to learn, adapt, innovate and do new things.
What are the key skills you look for in a candidate at your job interviews?
We look for five key things in every candidate we hire at Bain & Co. We look for people with analytical rigour, who can bring an intellectual horsepower to the organization. Prospective ‘Bainie’ a term used to define employees of Bain & Co. have the skills to be able to collaborate with the clients to help them create change and implement that change apart from good consulting skills. They must be pragmatic as many businesses are on practical change, which need answers that aren’t academic, but practical and result-oriented. Bainees must be good team players with an entrepreneurial streak.
How do you spot the entrepreneurial spirit?
We look for candidates who have brought creativity to the opportunities that have partaken in, at their graduate schools. Those who have been leaders of any on-campus organization, have played an active role. We also see what they have done during their summer breaks, kind of opportunities they have chased. In short, we look for elements that demonstrate what they have done in leadership capacities, outside their classroom and regular assignments.
How do you empower your millennial workforce? What do they look for, in their jobs? How have their aspirations evolved with time?
Nearly two-third of our workforce comprises millennials. I realize that millennials are looking for constant learning environments, frequent feedback, and leadership opportunities. At Bain, we encourage millennials by instilling leadership opportunities and also bringing in diversity in the workforce, thus creating a learning environment.
With time, there is a broader appreciation among millennials that the world is connected and the world is not just about them. With time, there is an increased commitment to create a social impact, a sense of giving back to the world. Around two-third of our staff contribute in some way to community through social impact activities. Bain has a huge investment behind that.
Why is diversity an indispensable criterion?
You can’t have talent without diversity. To meet our talent needs, we reach out to diverse population. Our clients want creativity and new ideas. Diversity allows us to bring that creativity to our client’s work. It channelizes new points of views, perspectives and backgrounds to our clients and collaborate with them to bring about change. Different backgrounds help us to work with our clients better, as our clients too, are diverse. If we don’t bring diversity in front of our clients, we will not be able to effect the change and drive the change in our client’s organization.
How do you enrich diversity while hiring talent?
We reach out to different schools across the globe, hiring graduates from different undergraduate, post graduate and doctoral programmes, across different countries, to make sure we have a diverse and talented workforce.
We focus on deliberate outreach programmes to build interest among women. We have direct outreach programmes to make sure we hire a good mix of talent from different cultural backgrounds. Once they join us as employees, we form diversity groups and try to build communities and support them here. Through these groups we try to create dialogues around mentorship and sponsorship, create opportunities to bring these groups together and create a networking forum.
For instance, we organize an annual global women leaders forum wherein women employees of Bain from across the globe are brought on one platform for training purposes and strengthening collaboration. Some of our offices might have few women and this forum is a chance for them to connect with women from other offices. We are trying to create ties and bonds around the world.
How do you maintain low attrition rates?
We recruit well. We identify people, we think have the Bain spirit. We also invest in mentorship and training programmes carefully and provide a continuous learning environment. When our employees realize that they are learning, getting rapid opportunities to do new things in a culture of support and energy with community of friendly colleagues, they don’t leave us.
How do you address the issue of gender pay gap at Bain? What is your suggestion to other companies?
In our services business, the compensation levels are same for similar designations, irrespective of their gender. Evaluation, compensation and job definition remain same.
Globally, companies need to both recruit and attract and retain women in business. Leadership teams must be highly attuned to the women population and constantly look for signals on discrimination. Focus on moments of truth, if you aren’t careful enough you might have problems creep in.
One must put lot of efforts towards identifying areas of unconscious bias and try to make sure that they don’t let slip into language choice in day-to-day practices. Think of areas where there might be unconscious bias. This is one of the areas we take seriously at Bain & Company.
You are a popular campus recruiter in India too. What are your hiring plans in India this year?
We have got a business easily growing in double digits in India. This is one of our strongest growth markets around the world. We are hiring at double digit increases in terms of our staff. We need talent and diversity to make sure we keep growing. We will hire from all major undergraduate programmes, across campuses. The bulk hiring in India will be restricted to engineering colleges.