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  • Kavitha Nair

How think tanks attract, engage and retain its human resources: CSTEP’s HR Unit

Updated: Apr 8, 2021

[Editor’s note: This post was written by Kavitha Nair, Human Resources Manager at the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP).]


Why are Human Resources (HR) an important aspect of industries? HR are the “image” of an organisation for all the external clients and the “pulse” of an organisation for its internal clients. A typical HR unit helps in building the capacity of the staff, helps an organisation and its staff grow. In short, the unit makes an organisation a better place to live and work


In India, there is a growing demand and importance given to identifying the right talent and young minds are attracted to accept corporate offers due to peer and family pressure and also due to fancy job titles and perks offered by companies. HR evolved as the need for hiring good resources and the need to maintain the harmony within the organisation increased. HR unit is required to be complaint with the labour laws, benefit administration, to make the on-boarding experience memorable and the exit processes smooth. HR help in building competency and plan succession.

Today, in a Think Tank it has become important to identify and engage talents who are not only qualified, but also highly professional. The recruitment cycle has been planned and chalked out based on the needs.  Attracting the best talent becomes a challenge especially if a reasonable salary package is not offered.

Skills required for a good HR professional

Good HR representatives needs to be strategic, tactful, operational and with good leadership skills. They should have excellent negotiation skills to manage the external challenges and good influencing skills to manage the internal challenges. Other skills include:

  1. Being collaborative-team player within and outside an organisation.

  2. Able to influence-garner commitments from different members to benefit an organisation.

  3. Decisive thinker-analyse information and convert it to decision making activities.

  4. Able to read people: learn to understand people’s body language, feelings.

  5. Be empathetic: look at information from other’s point of view to make a healthy decision

  6. Ensure good listening skills: not just hear, but to listen, understand and react or act appropriately.

CSTEPs Experience

The Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) is a not for profit organisation based in Bengaluru, India. As a Think tank it works on several domains and often tries and identifies good talent. Like any other organisation CSTEP also strives to ensure that the process of identifying and hiring talent becomes an important activity of the organisation. The HR Unit at CSTEP works towards achieving this goal.

Attracting good talent

At CSTEP, we strive to deliver a transparent and professional approach to the recruitment process and also ensure that we offer a competitive salary package. Most of our candidates are impressed by our recruitment process and wish to be a part of this family.

Our job description gives a clear understanding and helps to set the right expectation to all our applicants.

Internal Process

Referral candidates are given priority. We float a referral email and encourage our staff to either apply for the said job posting or refer their friends, acquaintances or ex-colleagues to apply for the same. All the applicants are required to follow the recruitment process irrespective of the source. This creates a culture of openness and transparency where the employees are aware of the open positions. It also implies that we have a culture of “continuous learning” where employees are encouraged to learn and are allowed to advance in their career within the organisation.

External Process

The job vacancies are advertised and candidates are always informed about the status of their applications and interviews. Interviews are conducted in a very professional manner-first round of telephonic interview followed by a second round of a 2-hour interview with young researchers and the senior research scientists which also helps the interviewers improve their decision making skills . This helps us evaluate the fitment of the candidate into various pipeline projects and eventually would help build the capacity.

Engage and Develop

CSTEP believes in offering a truly engaged workspace. The staff is encouraged to develop and to grow their knowledge base. We also offer sabbatical leave, leave of absence and time off options for deserving staff who wish to embark on higher studies. We continuously aim at building a workforce and cultivate a culture of belongingness which is fulfilling and meaningful.

Retaining Staff

Most of our staff is associated with CSTEP for a long time which reflects towards a culture of retention. We ensure that there is an excellent work culture with flexibility, a competitive benefit package with emphasis on welfare, retirement benefits and career advancement opportunities.

Our performance appraisal system is transparent and helps supervisors to set clear goals with their team members and encourages the young researchers to be aggressive towards work. This also improves the quality of work output in the long run. We hire returning applicants and also have an excellent work relationship with our alumni network.

As HR Unit our aim is to take care of our existing employees and expand our prospective employees’ database.

[Editor’s note: For more blog posts on CSTEP’s experience dealing with think tanks’ decisions read Acknowledging a prominent think tank: the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) in India.]

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