Do you know how much it costs to replace a headcount?
It isn’t just the salary alone.
You have to account for the non-wage costs such as the costs of on-boarding, recruiting (headhunting fees), honeymoon period, acclimatisation (for both parties), and the list goes on.
If the headcount you are replacing happens to be a sales person, the damage would be much bigger given that a portion of your clientele might go with him or her.
With that in mind, it is a no-brainer for companies to place huge focus on employee engagement and performance.
I’m not talking about your yearly appraisal which should have gone the way of the dinosaurs.
But real-time, easy to input micro feedbacks that allows companies to make snap decisions and keep a close finger on the pulse.
I speak with Shankar Krishnamorothy, the CEO and Founder of Synergita to learn more about his platform that tackles just that, and how it started as an internal tool that became too good to be kept alone.
1. Please share with us briefly what you do
Synergita is an award-winning continuous feedback-based employee performance and engagement software.
Employee Performance and Engagement go hand-in-hand.
Employees perform better when engaged.
Engagement is critical for higher business performance.
This engagement happens when managers have frequent performance conversations with their team, thank them and appreciate them throughout the year.
We have built our software ground up with the concepts around continuous feedback, SMART goals, etc. which will result in peopleMAGIC.
2. What were you doing before this
Prior to Synergita, I co-founded Aspire Systems along with Gowrishankar Subramanian and Bhoovarahan Thirumalai where we provide digital transformation and enablement services for global organisations over the past 20+ years.
And it was during our research that we discovered that employee performance and engagement space is under-served and has a huge potential.
That was how Synergita was created.
Soon after, we spun off a new company, Asteor Software to focus on this business and I took full time position for driving Synergita.
3. Describe your product
Synergita is a cloud-based software and all that users need is a smart phone or a web browser.
Built on industry standard Microsoft Technologies and deliver via Amazon AWS, Synergita focuses on the following objectives:
- Talent information
- Employee performance (goals and competencies)
- 360-degree feedback
- Continuous feedback
- Rewards and recognition
- Employee communication
- Employee development
Employees can manage their talent information such as skillsets, expertise, experience, certifications, career aspirations, etc.
This will help their HR understand to get various talent analytics out of the system easily and help in better talent planning.
4. What are the key benefits?
Employees can set their goals, get them approved by their managers and track their progress throughout the year.
Managers can get better visibility of their team members’ progress and work with them closely to achieve their goals.
Employees and Managers can provide a continuous feedback through their mobile app such as appreciating their team members, thank them, providing spot awards and rewards, maintain notes, etc.
Employees are empowered to provide continuous feedback to each other.
Awards and appreciations are published for everyone on an internal company social wall in the organization’s page for everybody. This helps in creating high morale among employees.
Managers can have periodic reviews, annual appraisals, etc. using Synergita.
HR can define the workflows required for appraisals through an easy to configure workflow editor.
And the software can essentially automate entire appraisal process.
All these factors – continuous feedback, performance conversations, etc. would serve as major inputs for the annual appraisals.
Moreover, it can create a stress-free environment and does not end up surprising employees at the year end.
Managers can also recommend appropriate training courses, help in career progression of their team members, and so on.
This helps them become a better coach for their team.
Employees can also get 360-degree feedback from their colleagues and customers. This can be used well for employee development activities.
HR can get good insight on what is happening through powerful analytics.
This can save significant amount of time on their performance management activities and helps them to focus on strategic employee development activities instead.
The HR can engage employees through emails, where they can compose, send and track the open rates. Synergita consist a messaging feature that can help managers reach out to their employees and employees reach out to their colleagues.
5. Who are your closest competitors
SuccessFactors, Betterworks, Reflektive
6. Who is your first customer
Secova is our first customer. They are a knowledge process outsourcing company headquartered in San Diego, USA and have offices in Chennai, India.
They were looking for a simple and easy to use performance management software.
We showcased our software to them and did a proof of concept of the appraisal process.
They liked the product and signed up for it.
Prior to this, they were using performance module provided by their payroll software vendor.
It lacked multiple functionalities, difficult to use and did not meet their requirements.
7. What motivated you to start this business
As I mentioned earlier, Aspire follows the “employee-first” philosophy. If the employees are happy, they will take good care of the customers.
Appraisals is one of the most stressful period for any organization and nobody likes the process.
However, it is not possible to move away from it. This also results in employee attrition either just before or after the appraisals.
This is a universal challenge that every company goes through this including Aspire.
There must be better ways to address this issue and that is what resulted in Synergita.
8. What is your biggest sacrifice to make this work
Startups are always interesting and challenging.
It requires teamwork right from conceptualization to converting the ideas into reality, getting the first set of customers who trusts you & the solution, etc.
You will have to continuously learn and adapt.
Synergita was launched into the market towards 2014, January.
This product has been growing since then at more than 100% growth rate every year, for the past four years.
Now our user base is around 125,000 users and we have a huge target for the next 3 years.
It demands all your time to bring the attention on the business.
We have been fortunate to have a great team.
The entire team has spent significant amount of their personal time, which is away from family and friends to make this happen.
I would say that is the biggest sacrifice from our team and we are grateful for the love, support and motivation we are getting from our families and customers.
9. How did you get funded
At present, we are bootstrapped.
Thankfully, 100% of our customers are paying customers, and that helps in investment on the growth.
10. What has been your most successful form of marketing
We use social media and webinars a lot which has been working well so far.
Our webinars are generally thought leadership webinars.
We invite leaders in the HR space to address the audience on best practices, “how to”, trends in performance and engagement, etc.
Lot of people who have attended such webinars have given us high rating and that has been really helpful in promoting our product.
We also write lot of blogs and white papers about performance and engagement.
These help in generating goodwill and hence the leads for us.
11. Describe a typical work day
I kind of split my day into 4 pieces – start with customer support, sales, marketing and engineering.
My work day generally starts with reviewing the customer issues posted on our helpdesk followed by a quick interaction with our engineering and support team heads.
That gives me a pulse of what is happening on our customer front.
This also helps us increase our customer success rates.
And then, I spend time with our sales to track the progress, prepare for any specific customer sessions, etc.
Later move onto marketing to understand our sales promotional messages, social media messaging, website updates, etc.
Finally, end my day playing with new features that we are developing, talking to my engineering team or participating in our sprint plan meetings, etc.
12. Who has been your greatest influence in your business
There are multiple people who influenced the directions of Synergita.
Certainly, our core team which built the product and our advisors Mali Mahalingam & Jamie Duke, who put this product on right track by providing valuable advices and directions during the initial days.
Our first set of customers like Secova, Radisson, Capita, etc. who took a leap of faith on our product.
13. What has been your proudest moment in the history of your business
I think, every time our product is launched to our customer’s employees, it gives us a great pleasure. Different teams work together to launch the product to their employees.
Most times, the teams would have worked together with tight deadlines to launch the appraisal cycle.
Several customers have written to us about how Synergita helped them complete their appraisals on-time and see happy faces on their continuous feedback wall, etc.
That’s the kind of testament that we are making a difference at and adding value to our customers.
Having said that, I distinctly recollect a major customer launch.
During our first year, one of our customer in Mumbai with 8500+ people chose Synergita.
We have built specific workflow stages like employee appeals, normalization with multiple approvals, etc.
Our engineering team leader and few developers stayed in Mumbai for a few weeks to work with the customer.
During this time, Mumbai experienced a heavy rainfall during this time.
That’s when we launched Synergita and the customers’ HR head went almost work bay by bay to interact with their employees on the look and feel of the application.
We got a whopping 93% thumbs up through their internal poll on the first day. We then celebrated the launch within our office with a blissful cake.
14. What is your favourite business failure
😊there are several failures faced during the course of 20+ years. Every failure is a learning which has helped in shaping how we react in future.
We launched Synergita’s underlying SaaS engine (Techcello) as a separate product (prior to launching Synergita).
We launched it as a “SaaS Platform” because leading players called their products as Platforms (eg. Force) and analysts liked it.
Calling it as a platform created lot of confusion in our customer’s mind – what happens if the platform does not support some requirements, what are the constraints in the platform, what if the platform disappears in the future (every startup goes through this), etc.
Platform gave a “larger than life” thoughts and we ended up in trying to alleviate these concerns or negative energy rather than talking about the benefits and how we solve SaaS problems.
This reduced the pace of sales. Later, we repositioned the product as “SaaS framework” and it had better reception.
We eventually signed-up more than 20+ ISVs as our customers for this product.
It is important to position the product properly and know its boundaries through the positioning.
15. If you could go back in time to speak to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell him
It is important to have a long-term approach in life.
There are no short-cuts or just one sprint; you need team work and collaborate well to be successful in life.
16. What’s one productivity hack you can’t live without
I rely on Outlook a lot.
I try to make it a point to add all my tasks, meeting schedules and other important details to my Outlook.
It helps me keep track of my schedule without missing anything important.