Our focus in creating this culture of innovation is to value diversity and respect for ideas
To encourage innovation we need to give freedom to act, invest and succeed while encouraging people to get out of their comfort zones
Marie-France Van Vooren, Director for Human Resources (Asia-Pacific), Dow Corning talks to People Matters about what would define global HR in 2011 and how creating a culture for innovation is going to be top priority
In the context of your business and competitive environment, what are the global HR priorities for this year? How are they different in the emerging economies, especially India?
Today, most organizations across industries operate in a very competitive environment and we are no exception to that. For us, the source of success is innovation, and that has been the case since the inception of our company. The HR department in our organization is active and instrumental in creating an innovative culture.
Our leadership is convinced about the need of investment in people. Just as organizations in manufacturing industries need to invest in building new plants, our business needs to invest in building our “plants” that are our people. People are the source of our innovation and that is our competitive advantage. This is actually a global mandate and it is applicable to all organizations regardless of their geographical location. If you see, the economics talk for themselves. We are a 6 million dollar organization with 10,000 employees across the world; therefore our productivity per employee is very high. Every single person in our team is very important for our success. Protecting the culture of innovation and creativity is a must for our organization to remain successful. Our CEO and Regional Head in India both spend more than 50% of their time in people issues, right from people development, to engagement and learning from them about the ground realities, to nurturing skills for the future.
What are the key HR priorities for your business this year?
Our priority this year is mainly on the area of talent acquisition. We are concentrating at strengthening our team and specifically looking at distinctive characteristics in people, over and above their qualification and experience. We are looking at bringing people on board that are independent, innovative and who take ownership of their future and the success of their organization.
The second priority is developing leaders. Our leadership requirement is to build “real” leaders - leaders that serve their teams and the organization and not the other way round. Leaders that are in control but let others flourish, taking the blame on themselves when something goes wrong and giving credit to the team when something goes right. Our leaders are humble individuals that have high ambition for their teams and the organization.
Finally, our third priority is to create a culture of innovation and engagement wherein people get mobilized and bring together creative energy in order to work towards the common goal of the organization.
How does one go about building a culture of innovation?
Our focus in creating this culture of innovation is to value diversity and respect for ideas, by rewarding both successes and failures. From our perspective, “failure” is an opportunity that you bring to the organization in order to learn that a particular path that was being taken was not leading to success. Failure is also a prospect that makes you comprehend that learning is an asset for the organization. The option is to win, but for that one should play. This is our philosophy. If you want to encourage people to succeed, then you have to support them in their quest for innovation. The source of creativity emerges when people try to do something different, therefore we need to create mechanisms that encourage that particular state and support employees in this journey.
The pre-requisites of innovation are many. Firstly, give freedom to act, invent and succeed. People work very hard in our organization and freedom is the source of inspiration. Secondly, we need to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and maximize their potential.
How does work-life balance tie into this priority?
For us, work-life balance is a practice aligned to the requirement of providing freedom to our people to perform, explore and innovate. This practice means that people can work from home in a flexible way when they have their personal requirements, or they need to concentrate and work with teams across geographies.
The second part is to focus and invest in employee wellness and health, where we have programs to ensure that employees have access to information and facilities in order to invest in their health.
Finally, we also encourage our employees to get engaged in communities they operate in, with social programs to support the growth and sustainability of the local communities they live in. We see this as a very important requirement for our employees, especially the younger workforce.