Manish Sharma, CEO India & South Asia, Panasonic believes in the philosophy of ‘People first and Product later’. He completed a decade with the Japanese company working towards his goal to make Panasonic the most desirable brand in the country. Sharma has also been elected as the President of CEAMA (Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association) and Co-Chair of Electronics Committee at FICCI.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, he shared what keeps him going, his views on the changing role of a CHRO and key focus areas for Panasonic.
Your association with Panasonic goes back to ten years; what keeps you going?
I have worked with a Korean company for nine years and four years with a Chinese company; when this opportunity came my way in 2008, I grabbed it because in those days Panasonic was not as active as it is today. My mission is to make Panasonic the most trusted brand, and there is still a long way to go. This is the fundamental sense of responsibility that keeps me going.
There are two important things which drive me; one is the sense of responsibility to make Panasonic the most desirable brand. Second, I don’t want India to be treated just as an opportunity to create revenues; it should be treated as a capable country with immense resources.
We have created an Indian talent pool to develop global technologies and these missions keep me excited.
As a CEO, what are the things you do to create a learning culture in the organization?
The fundamental responsibility which I carry for myself as a CEO is to bring a talent pipeline and second is an environment where people can perform efficiently and enjoy what they do. In Panasonic, we have conceptualized a program five years back named as ‘Vibrant Panasonic’, and it has created an incredible platform for people engagement.
We are an extremely diversified organization, and sometimes people tend to work in silos, so the challenge is to bring them together and let them interact and make them aware of each other’s accomplishments. We created small variants and platforms of this program to involve different teams with each other. For example, we have a program ‘High Tea with the CEO’, where I interact with two teams every month and have open conversations.
So overall, this program has focused on talking to each other. After investing five years in creating engagement, last year we announced the next direction of this program and now wellbeing of people is central to this activity.
The future has the habit of suddenly and dramatically becoming the present. So, in one way the workplace of the future is already on us”. What strategies are required to deal with the constantly evolving workplace of today?
In today's world, the structure, content, and process of work have changed and the workplace has evolved over the years. It has become team-based and collaborative making the workplace interdependent and vibrant. The workplace of the future will be a world of contradictions which the following generations will need to ace. The strategies required today in this constantly evolving workspace are; Flexibility towards change, Self-Analysis, work-life balance, extend networking both inside and outside the company, affirmative attitude and actions. Employees are their own career architect. All aspects ranging from employees’ knowledge about technology along with their interpersonal skills are the base for their performance management process within the workplace that are being future ready.
We are at the intersection of technology and HR. How do you look at Artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. for employee experience? Can organizations create the right balance between technology and the human touch?
Technology has influenced and changed the way hiring managers and recruiters hire. From professional networking sites and job boards to online applicant systems, technology has revolutionized recruitment, profoundly changing how employers and recruiters find potential candidates. Being a company which primarily operates within the consumer durables and electronics industry with a special focus on manufacturing and supply chain management, we look for candidates who have the considerable skill sets and knowledge of these particular sectors.
What are the attributes you look for in people while hiring?
The biggest attribute that matters is the sense of ownership and how people can reflect the spirit of an entrepreneur. Evaluating people during a 20-30 minutes’ interaction is difficult. So, we focus on understanding the personality of the workforce with various psychometric tests. No one is perfect, but the idea is to see how well we can complement an individual’s personality and performance in the direction of the organization.
Core attributes that I look for are a sense of the spirit of an entrepreneur, pro-active people, and ambitious people who want to create a legacy. At the end, I’ll give leverage to those set of people who are extremely eager to create some value.
Traditionally, HR has been an implementer rather than an activator. Do you think this is changing?
HR is a dual role play of both activator and implementer and at Panasonic, we firmly believe in enabling our employees to fit to the company culture and make a productive contribution. By assisting employees to take part in recreational activities which also improves their physical wellbeing, is one of the ways in which we encourage employees to utilize their full potential. With additional support from digital trends, HRs relentlessly work towards employee experience apart from merely recruiting them.
What is the most valuable single piece of advice you could give to leaders?
Staying humble and leading by examples are the two qualities that really take you a long way. Being able to lead from the front and taking ownership despite the odds is a testament to one’s character. Being humble and empathizing with your employees helps you establish a bond that motivates employees to push that extra mile.
How crucial do you think embracing digitalization as a company? How are you using partnerships, engagements, and intellectual offerings to ensure you are at the top of that and our customers can get the best we have to offer.
For our company digitalization is all about how to accelerate business activities, lower the cost, improve time to market, and bring about a positive change in processes, people, and competency models. It is not only about embracing new technology but also about bringing improvements in the organizational culture. For a successful digital transformation in any organization, digital maturity and a modern organization culture is paramount. In today’s time, there is a need for organizations to address the change in business scenarios, dynamic business demands and find innovative ways to quickly cater to the changing needs and demands of the consumer.
Companies like yours are all about the people. And the need to keep innovating and creating is more important than anything else. What is your strategy?
Innovation and creating new products with the latest technologies is the only path to sustainable growth over a long period of time as you cannot win with the same product or service all the time. Change is inevitable. Innovation can only thrive in a culture that makes it easy for employees to contribute to business growth.
Sometimes it is difficult to encourage employees to take risks, no matter how smart or calculated they may be, because things can go wrong at times and businesses want stability. But when you understand the difference between risk and recklessness, you will allow the employees to experiment and fail while also limiting the negative impact that your business might have to face.
The focus today is to create incredible value in the employee segment – taking employee experience to new levels. What is the role that technology is playing in all this?
Employees play a vital role in the company’s success. Organizations have started switching to providing more convenient environments for their employees to boost their creativity and efficiency. The objective of technology in a workplace is facilitating everyday work for the employee. The borders between employees and technology are disappearing and organizations have started realizing that deploying technology is beneficial not only for the customers but also for the employees.