When engineers hire engineers, the results are a Best Firm to Temp For
Akraya Inc. launched in 2001 as a group of engineers hiring engineers. And as the Silicon Valley-based staffing and consulting firm expanded, it remained true to its philosophy: It is easier to teach an engineer how to recruit than it is to teach a recruiter what engineering is.
In the mid-1990s, Akraya co-founder Amar Panchal worked for a staffing firm as a software engineer, consulting on its behalf for clients, before transitioning into a sales role with that company. He quickly became the top go-to person for many of his clients.
“With my technology background I was able to build a lot better credibility with my clients as well as the candidates,” he explains. “I was able to build trust because I understood what clients were trying to achieve as well as what candidates’ backgrounds were.”
Panchal brought that approach to Akraya. By hiring the right internal staff and putting into place policies and processes to help them be successful, the firm built a foundation that satisfies both clients and external consultants.
“I truly believe that if we can take care of our internal employees, then clients and consultants will find Akraya to be a great place to work with,” he says.
Akraya’s internal staff is empathetic in its treatment of external staff, having been in those shoes themselves. The company refers to its contingent workers as “consultants” rather than “temps” or “contractors” and generates an internal net promoted score based on feedback from new consultants. It is also adamant about helping consultants find and prepare for assignments that propel their careers forward.
“We understand what the client is attempting to achieve and that helps us identify the right candidate,” Panchal says. “But more importantly, we are able to help the candidate prepare for the assignment because we know what the client is attempting to do. That is a huge benefit that all of our consultants truly appreciate. They may be very good at their work, but they may not be the best interviewers. We help them prepare by providing tips, best practices, explaining the client’s culture, how to handle difficult questions — all of these things are extremely valuable.”
Ben Thompson works through Akraya as a principal user experience lead at Kaiser Permanente. He reports good experiences at all of the agencies he previously worked with but agrees Akraya took it a step further to find the perfect job for him and prepare him for the position.
“They are really paying attention, they are really supportive,” he says. “Akraya gave me a lot of really good information walking in the door for this position that helped me get off on the right foot — just sort of inside information about how the Kaiser organization worked, how the groups worked — and that helped me to go in and succeed more quickly than I normally would have as just a new person walking in the door.”
Akraya is present for Thompson in the right ways and invisible in the right ways, he says. For example, when a timecard glitch led to a possible delay in his paycheck, Akraya immediately remedied the situation. And Akraya also stepped up to the plate when much of his onboarding had to occur with his direct manager at Kaiser away on paternity leave.
“Akraya did a great job of managing me through all of that. They kept me informed, they kept me engaged. It was a difficult situation on their client’s end of things, and [Akraya] did a good job,” Thompson says. Any problem that I’ve had has turned out to be minor because they are so good at taking care of business. The support that you need as an employee and a contractor, I know that it’s there if I need it but it is not intrusive or slowing me down. I see Akraya operating at a level of professionalism that I’ve never seen in the temp contracting industry before.”
Treating Consultants Well
Shankar Venugopal has worked as a data consultant at eBay for about 10 years, the last two years through Akraya. So why switch staffing firms when the assignment is the same? Unlike Thompson, Venugopal’s experience with his former staffing firm was not positive. He switched firms on the recommendation of his wife, also an Akraya consultant, as well as other Akraya consultants he worked with at eBay. Even his director at eBay suggested he contact Akraya.
“I feel the most important thing is treating your employee fair, which I didn’t receive at the prior firm,” Venugopal explains. “Akraya treats me the way I deserve. The people that I knew that worked for Akraya, the feedback that they gave me, that’s what made me switch. It’s the same kind of work but at the end of the day Akraya is much more deserving.”
Venugopal also appreciates that he never had to debate over his pay rate.
“I had something in mind, and the very thing they told me is exactly — and a little more — than I thought,” he said. “I felt it was what I deserve so I never had to negotiate. I know what other companies pay, and certainly Akraya exceeded that.” Venugopal also appreciates that his manager checks in on him regularly to discuss what he needs to perform his best in his current project, as well as what he might seek in the future. “That makes me feel a lot better and certainly I can see the difference in my output,” he says.
Since switching to Akraya, Venugopal has directed more than a dozen people to the firm and expects to continue to recommend it going forward.
Akraya’s vision statement is to be the provider of choice for companies that are looking for the best talent and to be the employer of choice for the best talent.
“Being recognized by Staffing Industry Analysts as a Best Staffing Firm to Temp For validates the second half of that vision, which is to be the employer of choice for the best talent,” Panchal says. “And we believe that by being the employer of choice leads us to also be successful in being the provider of choice to our clients. Our tagline at Akraya is ‘trusted talent.’ Trust is a very important attribute that we look for internally, and being recognized as a great place to temp for gives us referrals to qualified and experienced candidates.”
Akraya has an internal staff of about 90 people, including 25 people in the US and 65 staffers at its Center of Recruiting Excellence (CORE) in India. In 2016, the privately held firm counted $42 million in revenue and placed approximately 350 consultants. It provides consultants with industry-leading benefits including healthcare, vision, dental and life insurance. It also offers shortand long-term disability insurance and is one of a few staffing firms that allows consultants to participate in its 401K program. In addition, Akraya has good networking and recreation programs. But when all is said and done, it is the experience consultants have at Akraya and what it does on a daily basis to provide them with concierge-level service that makes the firm a great place to temp for.
“It starts with the recruiters, by having professionals in the industry,” Panchal says. “The candidates appreciate having a recruiter that understands their background.”