June 15, 2021
Interviews 25 September 2019
Interview: Souvik Majumdar
Dillon Chen

Today's interview is with Souvik Majumdar, Founder and CEO of GroSum. Souvik is passionate about employee engagement and has spent the last decade working with organizations to improve their performance management processes and implement online systems.

GroSum is a cloud-based performance management software that helps build a goal-oriented and continuous feedback-based work culture. The company is in the business of employee performance management and helps customers identify the most important OKRs and track performance on a regular basis, resulting in an average of 16% improvement in productivity within the first 3 months.

Give us a screenshot of what your average day entails.

My typical day starts with an assessment and task planning of the most important items that I have committed to deliver to my customers and team members. Then, I get to work ticking off items on my "Things To Do" list. 

As is quite common, I get pulled into meetings or conversations right through the day - so it’s important to optimize my time involvement to ensure that I don’t falter on my plans. 

I end the day with a quick mental check through whether I have completed all that I had planned and what are the most important things to do the next day.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of your job? 

The best part of my job is to solve or anticipate potential problems. Problem-solving or identification challenges the emotional and intellectual capacities to the limits and to identify, formulate and execute the most appropriate response provides a sense of satisfaction that is quite irrespective of the outcome of the response.

The self-acknowledgment that I did my best in the given circumstances and based on the learnings from this, I can do even better provides an impetus to continuous improvement.

What are necessary skillsets you would advise leaders to learn? 

It’s often said that talent is over-rated. While I do accept talent won't run the distance, it is a necessary and important starting ingredient. Possessing some talent or skills in the domain is important an important starting point.

The importance of values can never be overemphasized. Businesses run on relationships and trust, as irrespective of the product or service one builds and trades, it’s the human connections that seal deals and working partnerships with both customers and employees alike. Thus, the core values of honesty, commitment to the promises made and owning up to failures are extremely important. 

As a leader, one needs to set the agenda as the culture of the team is intrinsically linked to the attributes that the leader exhibits. 

Finally, hard work and just carrying on even in the most trying times is the only prerequisite to going anywhere once you have got started. If the journey matters more than the destination, then it's better to accept nothing is going to come easy on a platter.

What kinds of experience, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?

To be an entrepreneur, the best experience comes from work closely with one. Working as an intern with founding team members in startups is a great training ground to experience upfront all the uncertainties facing a business without having to bear the consequences directly. 

Do you have any industry insights to share as a result of your experience? 

A single founder journey as an entrepreneur is extremely lonely. The buck stops with you for all brick-bats, while you step away from the victories to let your team members bask in whatever be the glory. An entrepreneur with the right intent gets an opportunity to grow into a larger human self, beyond the narrow selfish needs of self-survival.

Just like life, as after some point the good and bad appear to be two sides of the same coin, so also if one is an entrepreneur for long, there is nothing good or bad. There are just decisions and outcomes.

What does work/life balance mean to you? 

According to me, work/life balance is one of those modern-day constructs that allow us to complain and vent out on the mismatch between what we wanted to be and where we are in reality. 

In essence, work is very much all that is to the material life. Even when we are doing nothing, our body or mind does not stop - we breathe, the heart beats, and the mind goes on random thought excursions.

Thus, a better alternative is to accept our current reality and go about doing the best that we can.

Continuous Performance Interview Questions

What do you do to have a successful continuous performance?

The most important pillars of the continuous performance management framework are goal setting & feedback. Setting the right goals based on proven methodologies like OKR provides clarity in what is expected from each team member.

Combining this with a culture of open feedback and one-on-ones, every employee can keep on fine-tuning to improve outcomes, leading to better performance.

Why is it necessary to have continuous performance in the workplace? 

Gone are the days when annual appraisals were sufficient. In the WhatsApp age that we live in, communication on performance needs to be real-time and the paradigm of performance management has to be continuous and ongoing in today’s workplaces. Otherwise, the employee will quickly tune out and go out of sync with what the company expects and what he/she thinks needs to be the focus areas.

How has continuous performance specifically helped your business?

In our business, the most important benefit that we have accrued by following a continuous performance management framework is a trust-based working relationship between the employee and the Manager

With clear goal-setting and open feedback real-time, there is little room for anyone to say - "Hey, we were not on the same page". Also, by clearly setting out what is expected, the employee can now trust the Manager that his/her performance assessment is going to fair and not whimsical based on personal bias.

What would you change to help your employees have a better experience with performance reviews?

Ratings are a core component of performance reviews, but it hides more truths than it reveals. Imagine a salesman is closing a high-value strategic deal with a company that helps him achieve his target goals when all of a sudden, the customer business gets drawn into a lawsuit and postpones the decision to buy. These things are out of your salesperson's control, How would you rate their performance then?

Ratings need to be combined with subjective, ongoing performance check-ins to balance out a more humane evaluation of performance.

What would you measure to determine whether continuous performance is doing an effective job for the company?

The best indicators on the effectiveness of continuous performance management is a combination of 

  1. Better Employee satisfaction scores

  2. Lower attrition

  3. Improved target fulfillment

  4. Higher competition for promotion to senior roles

What do you think is the most important role of the HR department?

The most important role of HR is to be what "H" stands for. Being Human is the most important role that HR needs to play. The world of business is based on survival of the fittest & in such scenarios, employees can be mistaken as just resources that fulfill tasks or achieve outcomes. 

The Human element gets easily forgotten. Therefore, it is the core job of HR to be empathetic, understanding and provide all the support that the human in the employee needs to be in the best position to deliver for the business.

What is the role of the HR department in creating a work environment of continuous performance for employees?

HR is the facilitator of employee performance. HR needs to ensure that every employee gets the best support and environment to fully express oneself and do their best work. 

Identifying the needed skills & providing the necessary training inputs at the appropriate times, supporting the individual when they are going through a personal crisis and making the employee feel at home - these are some of the most important things that HR needs to own up and deliver to.

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