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Priyanshi Poddar is the envy of her friends. Not because she’s working for a startup set up by a well-known founder but because of the way she was welcomed when she accepted the job offer.

Poddar, who is part of the growth team at CRED, a credit card management app targeting people with high credit scores (the organization doesn’t believe in titles and roles), was surprised to receive MacBook Air laptop from the company a week after saying yes to the job. Two days before she joined work about a month ago, to her astonishment, Poddar found that she had received a month’s salary in advance. “Getting the salary in advance helped because I had moved cities," says Poddar, 26, who moved to Bengaluru from Mumbai.

Rajat Kudtarkar, 25, and his parents were pleasantly startled when his new employer Sling Media, a consumer technology company developing smart TV solutions, sent a bouquet three days after he agreed to take up the role of terra data engineer. “My mother was puzzled when she took the bouquet but then saw the card with the company’s name. The gesture put them at ease because they had reservations about me quitting TCS. They felt this company would take good care of me," says Bengaluru-based Kudtarkar.

Innovative and fun on-boarding initiatives are a given in most companies, but now some are going a step further to woo candidates inspite of them accepting the job offer. It’s the intense competition for good talent that’s forcing companies to ensure candidates that they made the right choice.

Rajat Kudtarkar and Vignesh N. were pleasantly surprised by the bouquet they received
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Rajat Kudtarkar and Vignesh N. were pleasantly surprised by the bouquet they received

Take Chennai-based Freshworks: While the ‘buddy’ programme is quite popular among tech companies to help integrate new employees, Freshworks extends the programme even to those who have accepted the job but are yet to join the company. For Aditi Chamaria, 28, inbound marketing specialist (India Region) at Freshworks, having a buddy from Freshworks to be in touch with while serving two months’ notice with her previous employer, helped her not only understand the company’s work culture but also find accommodation since she was moving to the southern city from Kolkata. What also helped was getting access to the company’s internal communication channel on Facebook Workplace. “While I found the 3BHK flat thanks to the buddy assigned to me, I found my flatmates, who are also colleagues, through the social group on FB workplace even before I joined," says Chamaria, who has been with Freshworks for a year. She’s worked in two organizations earlier, and says that the personal touch that Freshworks added was missing elsewhere.

This feel-good factor definitely instils confidence in the candidate. “These small gestures make you feel that you made a good choice," says Vignesh N., senior data scientist with Sling Media, who joined the company three months ago. “I don’t think these gestures help you make the decision, but it definitely makes you feel you made the right decision. You feel you’re a part of the company even before joining it," he says.

On a lighter note, Vignesh shares that he had never received a bouquet in his life till the organisation sent one. “My fiancé received the bouquet. Since I have flatmates, I thought it was for one of them. She saw it was addressed to me and looked at me quizzically. Thankfully, she read the note and didn’t assume I had some admirer," he says with a laugh.

Added advantage

For some time now, Ved Prakash Dubey, vice-president of engineering, RiseSmart India, has been following the ‘keep the candidate warm’ policy. He regularly calls to have a quick chat and check on the candidate, who is yet to join the organization. Since candidates usually talk to a lot of organizations, they may consider competing offers even though they have accepted one.

“That’s when they look at other aspects of an organisation like its culture, work-life balance and people. And that’s where pre on-boarding initiatives come in play. When the notice period is long, 30 to 60 days, employers can leverage that time to work with the future talent in terms of work culture and brand building," he says.

CRED founder and director Kunal Shah (also co founder of Freecharge) says his organisation has imbibed a “trust culture". Like his previous company, Shah decided to send out MacBooks and salary advances because “people should feel the culture even before they join. When we do these things, it creates reverse trust. They can run away with it, not join, but it has happened zero times," he says.

At Sling Media, the pre on-boarding engagement is a fairly recent addition. The Bengaluru-based company rolled out the initiatives when Veena Vinayak, Sling Media’s senior leader – human resources, joined the organisation. Despite having an on-boarding process, Vinayak felt it was important to extend it to those members who were yet to join. “When you decide to join an organization, you always wonder how your career is going to grow, whether you will fit into the place and understand the culture. These are small gestures that lead to the emotional connect, gives a sense of belonging and also a reason to join the organization. If we look back at our statistics, we have had 100 per cent joining ratio, earlier we did have drop out," she says.

Every quarter the company has events. A recent one was innovation day, where invites were sent even to members who were yet to join the company. Kudtarkar will vouch for this. A day prior to joining, he attended the innovation day, on invitation of his manager. “I was surprised because they took care of me even before I joined," he says.

A trend in the making

While not all companies are investing in pre on-boarding activities, it’s definitely a trend that’s catching on. Shah believes that such initiatives are going to be important in acquiring great talent. “The difference between great and good talent has multiplied now. This was not the case before. We are living in a world where great talent has unlimited opportunities. In fact, most people who have joined CRED would get even higher salaries outside. But they chose us because of the culture. All of them want to come to a place where they are inspired every day to come to work. That’s what great talent looks for," he says.

Instead of viewing a person as an employee only when the person joins, perhaps companies should consider them as part of their workforce from the time they accept the offer. “It’s a matter of perception. There is demand for great talent, and this is one way companies see to acquire them," says Dubey.

Kudtarkar is not complaining. In fact, he will be watching for similar treatment by other prospective employers. “This has definitely raised my expectation," he chuckles.

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