On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to Tanvir about building and retaining tech teams.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 25 minutes
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Music: 00:00 This is Recruiting Daily’s Recruiting Live Podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Makes sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup: 00:34 Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup, and you are listening to the Recruiting Daily podcast. Today, we have Tanvir on from TB Momentum. And our topic today is Building and Retaining Tech Teams. So I can’t wait to jump into it with Tanvir. Would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and TB Momentum?
Tanvir: 00:54 Thanks, William, appreciate you having me here. And yeah, so I’m Tanvir, former digital executive, author of the book, The PRO Business Mindset, and TB Momentum is my consulting firm. Yeah, and most of my experience has been in digital technology transformation and we’re in the B2C and the consumer space.
William Tincup: 01:21 Very nice. And how’d you get into the digital space? What was your path end?
Tanvir: 01:28 Yeah, it was one of those paths which was not expected at all. So I graduated after five years of football and I did my MBA. So at that point, I had no inclination or any desire to work in tech, but I knew tech was something that was up and coming. During my MBA, I had done a consulting project for one of the largest companies in Canada. At that point, I didn’t know, if it would lead to something, but I had a full-time job lined up.
I graduated from my MBA, did my full-time role with Exxon Mobil as my first job. A year later, I left to start my own business, but at that point, I decided that I didn’t want to start my own business later on. So I was basically trying a bunch of stuff out. Long story short, the company that I had worked for during my MBA, I reached out to them and they actually had a role.
I had no idea what the role was. The VP of HR at that time asked me to come in and just speak to a few folks. I went in, never saw a job description, but when I started working, it was a technology role, managing some products and projects, so that’s how I got started and learned most of it on the job.
William Tincup: 02:50 Which I think is how most people learn.
Tanvir: 02:52 Exactly.
William Tincup: 02:55 You don’t even go to college to learn how to manage people and learn how to manage projects.
Tanvir: 03:00 It almost goes against the common thing that we’re all taught, to have a plan, right? And in my experience, I have had great plans, but most of the stuff that I’ve been doing has come through something that was unexpected, but because I tried something and I took action.
So I think it’s a fine balance of not having a plan versus having a plan. But I think in my experience, it’s about just do the right stuff and different doors open for you.
William Tincup: 03:29 Yeah, put yourself out there and again, things will come. You said that you had published a book as well, right?
Tanvir: 03:37 Yes. I just launched a book a few months ago, The PRO Business Mindset.
William Tincup: 03:42 The PRO Business Mindset, tell us a little bit about that.
Tanvir: 03:45 Yeah. So The PRO Business Mindset was my passion project. I started writing that in about just over a year ago in 2021, January. And it was during my time in the corporate side of things with technology and digital transformations. I kind of look back and I realized that a lot of the stuff that I did, whether it was personal success or if it was some of the teams I was on that really moved the needle. A lot of the times, a lot of those principles were something that I could trace back to what I learned on the football field.
So I played football in college in Canada, we won a national championship. And when I started asking myself, what differentiates a good team from a mediocre team? What allows someone to lead in times like today, where everything is changing, there’s uncertainty? Most of the answers were common sense that I had learned on the football field from our coaches and the players around me. So I decided to reverse engineer that into a methodology, which is The P-R-O, PRO Business Mindset methodology.
And I read a book, so it’s basically, how do you lead in disruptive times? By leveraging principles that you can find in most sports organizations, but which are also present in the business world.
William Tincup: 05:10 I love that, it mirrors a 100 years ago, I was going to write a book with a friend of mine and it was about soccer, the other football.
Tanvir: 05:20 Yep.
William Tincup: 05:20 And it was finding Messi, and it was basically, I had to break down, at that time, Messi was playing for Barcelona, but an entire, basically the HR process but through the lens of a football club. And [inaudible 00:05:37] training, compensation, recruiting, all the things that are the pillars of HR and TA, they’re all there. They’re called different things, of course. We think of them in different ways but I love that, that’s fantastic. And congratulations writing a book, never easy.
Tanvir: 05:55 Thank you. I think just to your point there, William, one of the best books that I’ve actually read is, It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff. And there’s another book that I actually read, which I can’t remember the name now, but it was written by, I think the old manager of one of the football clubs. I think it was arsenal or Manchester and he basically tied it back to business.
William Tincup: 06:22 Yeah. Sir Alex Ferguson.
Tanvir: 06:23 Ferguson, there you go.
William Tincup: 06:24 There you go. Is wonderful. And he also did a lecture at Harvard as well. I think he did a fall lecture series about it. I mean, the book was great because he was on the job for like 30 years, so he had a lot of things to pull from as a coach.
Tanvir: 06:46 Exactly.
William Tincup: 06:47 So with our topic, building and recruiting tech teams, a nice segue into how do we build and retain tech teams. So as you did your research and you thought about all the things for your book, you built a lot of teams through the years and you had to retain those teams. What did you use as an encouragement? What did you pull from the sports world, if you will, over into your professional world?
Tanvir: 07:14 Yeah. So at the time when I was building teams, I wasn’t quite sure what my methodology was. It was only when I wrote the book, I looked back and started connecting the dots. But it came down to a few things, and in the book, I basically talk about the P-R-O which O always the off season, R is the regular season and the P is the playoffs, so the post season.
And what I talk about in the book is that in the off season is when most of your work of building and retaining a team is actually done. Most of us as leaders, as managers, think that retaining your team happens on a daily basis when you’re actually executing.
But what I found was that if I was able to get the team to buy into my vision way before uncertainty, if I was able to build the right teams ahead of time before I needed to sprint in a project or if I was able to recruit the right pipeline of people constantly before I needed someone, before somebody quit, that’s what allowed me during tough times, to have teams that were able to really hunker down in a reduced turnover and get things done, for example, in the pandemic.
So to answer your question, there’s a few things, one, is to build a team that is adaptable. So you want to find players who are able to play different positions. Just like on a football field, our coaches, we would have people leave every year, but we were always a strong team because we had people or players that could play at different positions.
You had to play different position beside you or on the other side of the ball. The second thing was to always constantly build your recruiting pipeline. So when somebody does leave, you don’t want to be going to HR or to your manager and saying, “Hey, I need to hire someone. Can we put together job description? Can we put it up online? Now, let’s look at all these resumes. Now, let’s do interviews.”
That’s too late, it takes months to get somebody through the door. And by that time, if you’re in a fast paced environment, you’re already well into the chaotic territory. So that’s where you have to have a pipeline of individuals, whether internally or externally, ready to go. Now, if you do this consistently, if you have somebody who’s adaptable in your team, you can step in, you can pivot, you can change.
And if you have people that are ready to go and jump into new positions, even if somebody does leave and there is turnover nowadays, it’s inevitable, you’re not going to take a big of a hit as a team that always has to rebuild. So it’s the two principles that I really talk about in the book.
William Tincup: 10:02 I love that. So let’s actually go deep with both of them. One is the adaptable. We live in an era where people want to be specialized in sports and also in work, right? And so how do you balance that out, where someone wants to be specialized in something, wants to be really, really great at one position, if you will, but it’s in the organization’s best interest and possibly even their best interest for them to be good at two or three different positions, how do you balance those two?
Tanvir: 10:39 Great question. And I think we confuse specialization by not being adaptable. So I specialize, my bread and butter is being able to connect technology on a business lens, right? It’s never about just make an app, it’s about why should we make an app? How do we drive sales by X number of percentage or whatever it is? So we have to specialize.
Now, if you are specializing, there’s going to be changes, right? In five years from now, we’re going to have more AI, we’re going to have quantum computing, we’re going to have, I was just reading about this, machine learning operation because it’s DevOps, now it’ll be ML Ops. It doesn’t mean that if you’re a specialist in machine learning, you don’t have to adapt, you have to adapt to these new environments.
It means that instead of being specialized in thinking that because you’re specialized now, you have to stick to that specialization. It’s about being aware that, yes, this is my specialization, but now I have to be adaptable within this, I would call it, a loose box or a circle in terms of how do you continue to drive value to yourself and to your company?
So I think we synonymously use, if I’m specialized, I can adapt. So I think those two, I think we’re biased in that perspective.
William Tincup: 12:03 I love that. And pipeline, one of the things I wanted to ask you is what’s your take on referrals or people on the team possibly knowing other people that should be on the team?
Tanvir: 12:15 Yeah. So I would actually take it a step further, William, I would say that if you have built a culture that aligns to where your company is going, right? So let’s say you take over a team today, but the culture is not what you want the culture to be, then you’re going to get referrals from people that are going to bring in people similar to those folks.
At that point, it might not make sense for you to bring them on because, let’s say if you’re trying to build a culture, which is highly analytical, rigorous analytics, but the team that you just took over is mostly qualitative and gut feeling, then they might be great people. But it might not be the best to fit your culture based on let’s say, hypothetically, wherever you want to go in the next five years.
But if you have built a culture and if you have the right team, whatever the culture is, right? I’m just making it up, whatever the culture is, if you have the right team in place, the right values, the right systems, then I think referrals are a great way to evaluate people.
It doesn’t mean hire every single person, it means I would actually interview them and meet with them for a coffee and say, hey, can they add value? Do they get along with your team or would they? And do they fit your value system? But I think it’s more of a cultural fit, is what I’m trying to say more than anything.
William Tincup: 13:30 I like that. Well, this is the building side of our topic.
Tanvir: 13:35 Yeah.
William Tincup: 13:37 What’s your take on the retaining side?
Tanvir: 13:41 Yeah. So retention, I think, first of all, we all hear about the great resignation. So the first thing is that we have to accept there will be turnover, it’s just the nature of the business today. There’s more option, things are changing, environment, politically, I think socially we’re changing. So that’s the first thing we have to agree on as leaders that, hey, if people are leaving, it’s not a bad thing, it’s normal.
Now, how do you actually retain people? It starts with a few things, one, as a leader, if somebody leaves your team, most of the time it’s not because they didn’t like the company or they didn’t like whatever the goals were. It’s usually because there was something that you as a leader, and this is how I operate. Some of these my team, I feel along the way somewhere where I wasn’t able to either help this person achieve their goals.
I wasn’t able to help this person build their toolbox to continue learning, or I wasn’t able to get the right fit of the person in the first place, that aligned to where I was headed. So maybe they were not a right hire. So what I’m trying to say is that to retain, the first and foremost, it’s about being a genuine leader. That is number one interest or the number one goal for the leader should be to help their people become better and either make more money, get promoted or be happier.
Now, if somebody gets a job offer as two X of what you can offer them, you should be happy about that as a leader. But it doesn’t mean you failed, it means you did a good enough job where you gave the person enough experience and tools and you believed in them, that this person’s stock rose. So it starts with leadership. You have to be genuine. You have to care about the people. And if you do that, I think rest of the stuff always falls into place.
William Tincup: 15:52 At least prior to the pandemic, it was always people leave bad managers, those common thing that you’d hear in popular press is just, oh yeah, people leave bad managers, which I think yeah, some of that is obviously true. But what do you see today? Why do you think people leave? All things being equal, why do you think people leave?
Tanvir: 16:17 Yeah. Again, not every manager’s bad, right? And I’ve had people leave my team. So I think it’s the nature of the business today. So for example, let’s say if I had a company in Toronto and I was able to hire talent from Toronto. And for them at that point, a great salary, hypothetically, a great job, they were happy where they were.
Now, pandemic hit, all of a sudden, this person now has the option of working anywhere for any company in the world by being in Toronto. Now, their option pool expanded a 100X or maybe a 1000X. Now, what you’re seeing is people are getting poached from companies that are offering them a lot more money. And I was actually speaking to a CEO of a pretty big company on my podcast and their CPO and they said that there’s no way they can compete with what some of these companies are throwing at these folks.
And they’re not leaving because they don’t like their company or they don’t like the management, it’s just because for them, they’re like, “Well, hey, I’m starting a family next year or I need to pay off my student debt, I’m going to take $50,000 more in salary, no offense to you, my manager.”
So you’re looking at basically, I think the number one driver is the option pool have expanded. And two, people are curious to see, hey, what else is out there? So I think a lot of folks are taking a chance and going with it.
William Tincup: 17:45 Oh, that’s interesting. So I want to hear your take on stay interviews, the interview that happens basically while the person is still there, that why do you stay? What are we doing right? What are we doing correctly? Is there anything we could do to be different, et cetera? And also your take on exit interviews, when people leave the interview that we have there, what’s your take on both of those?
Tanvir: 18:10 Yeah. So I’ve been across different organizations, I had colleagues that are working at companies right now. I think when you look at it collectively, stay interviews will only work if you have the trust of your leadership team. No one is going to speak their mind unless they trust that leadership team. Most of the time, if you’re in a culture that is toxic, just making up an example, let’s say you’re in a toxic culture, while you’re still here, nobody will actually tell you what you should be doing better because there’s fear.
So there’s obviously that, right? And a lot of the times, I only do these surveys. I’ve been in places many years ago, where we do a survey and some of my colleagues were like, “Yeah, that’s not how I really feel about the company. What I put in the survey is just what I put in there because I have a feeling the leadership team might be able to look at my results.” And that happens everywhere you go.
So I think a lot of the stuff, a lot of these interviews, we got to ask ourselves a question, is what is our goal? Right? Stay interview or exit interview is just one, I would say driver, at the end of the day, your goal is retention, to see how can you better retain more people. So instead of focusing on the interviews and looking at results, I think management in general, has to take a hard look at themselves and say, well, how can we actually retain people?
And maybe it’s because we’re not as transparent as we should be, maybe we’re not walking the talk or maybe we are but it’s not getting communicated properly to some of the folks in different departments in these silos. So that’s what I would say. I would say it’s one driver or one piece of the puzzle, but a lot of times I think the root cause of why people are leaving or why we can retain or how can we better our morale, I think it starts at a much deeper level than that.
William Tincup: 20:09 I love that. Okay, engagement, it’s been really popular for the last decade or so, different engagement tools, pulse surveys, things like that. What’s your general take on engagement at least as you’ve seen it work in your organizations?
Tanvir: 20:28 Yeah. I think for me, I could tell if somebody’s engaged based on how they are performing. So if all of a sudden, one person in my team started coming to work late, they started to not be in meetings or they started to be passive aggressive in a meeting, I don’t need a survey as a manager to show that something’s wrong with this individual, right?
They’re not engaged anymore, maybe they’re on their phone too much during work hours, whatever the [inaudible 00:20:59] are. So I think first and foremost, engagement starts at again, the leadership level, as a leader, you have to be able to look at your team and tell how is the [inaudible 00:21:09], how’s the energy, which is now much harder to look at when you are remote.
So actually, I wrote a few articles on this, where as a remote leader, you should actually be pushing even harder to have a standup, at least once a week where the entire team shows up, has their cameras on given that they’re okay to do that and everybody’s participating in some sort of a round table. And as a leader, you can actually sense whether or not your team’s energy is there, whether or not somebody’s engaged or not.
So I think it starts there at number one, because by the time a survey comes out every six months, it’s too late. You realize your team’s not engaged, it’s been six months, holy crap, what should we do? By that point, the person who’s not engaged has already updated their resume, has already been meeting other people. And in a job market like today, they most likely already have a few opportunities coming down the pipe.
So I think it’s a great lagging indicator. I think leading indicator has to be somewhere where the manager has to be a lot more involved if not already so in identifying, is the team not engaged?
William Tincup: 22:17 I love that. I want to get two more takes, one is on performance reviews because I think this is tied to at least both of these topics, building and retaining tech teams. What’s your take on what the talent needs in terms of a review and what have you seen to be successful there with that audience?
Tanvir: 22:38 So my number one rule, the way I was taught and how I’ve actually managed teams and I still do and again, this is driven from the world of sports is if you are giving somebody a review at the end of the season in football or every six months in business, and if something in that review is a surprise, it means you as a leader, have not done your job. And another way of saying that is as a leader, you have to give feedback that is instantaneous, or at least every week.
William Tincup: 23:13 Yeah.
Tanvir: 23:13 Now, I can’t have a team member where I’m like, yeah, you’re doing fine, you’re doing fine, you’re doing fine and all of a sudden I’m like, well, you’re in the most bottom quadrant of getting promoted, right?
William Tincup: 23:24 Yeah.
Tanvir: 23:24 Well, that guy’s going to leave or that girl’s going to leave, number one, but number two, I’ve lost their trust. And number three, all those six months, I could have developed this person, I could have been honest with them and at the end of the day, it hurts our company. They’re not doing the best job yet they think they are. So it’s actually up to the leader to make sure, even if it is a tough conversation, to have that conversation, to put in place a plan that helps this person improve.
And the manual or the semi-annual review should just be a summary of the plan and how this person has been performing to the plan.
William Tincup: 24:01 Right.
Tanvir: 24:01 It should not be a first time that here’s where you are. So that’s basically how I look at them and what’s worked for us across other companies.
William Tincup: 24:11 I love that. Great take because again, back to what works in sports organizations is you’re out on the practice field every single day, working with different coaches, they’re giving you feedback.
Tanvir: 24:29 They’re giving feedback whether you like it or not.
William Tincup: 24:30 Yeah, they’re giving you constant feedback. There is no shock at all. That’s what I love about what you said is at the end, there is no surprise, you know where you stand pretty much on a daily basis, maybe hourly basis in some cases. But really quickly, I want to go back to the very beginning when you mentioned the model of playoffs, the regular season and the off season. I love that. First of all, I love thinking like that because you need something different in each one of those. I think you said that the hardest work is getting done in the off season, is that right?
Tanvir: 25:07 Yep, absolutely.
William Tincup: 25:09 I love that. Tanvir, this has been so fantastic. Thank you so much for carving out some time for us.
Tanvir: 25:16 Well, William, thank you so much. It was a great chat with you. Gets me excited, gets me pumped up. And hopefully, we’ve added some value to a few of your listeners today.
William Tincup: 25:24 I hope so too. Thank you so much my friend. Listen, have a wonderful day and thanks for everyone listening to the Recruiting Daily Podcast, until next time.
Music: 25:33 You’ve been listening to the Recruiting Live Podcast by Recruiting Daily. Check out the latest industry podcast, webinars, articles, and news at recruit…
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.