Article: Redefining talent solutions: B. Santhanam


Redefining talent solutions: B. Santhanam

B. Santhanam, Managing Director, Saint Gobain Glass India & President (Flat Glass), South Asia & Egypt, Saint-Gobain Glass India

We commenced our operations in 2000. From the beginning, there has been a constant focus to align our people and HR approach to our business strategy. At Saint-Gobain, we have a classical planning exercise done every year, which focuses on the next 5 years’ business outlook. We look at our existing and future markets in terms of growth and profitability, competition (both existing and emerging), capital investments needed, financial projections and also develop our medium and long-term goals. But integral to this process, is a thorough examination of our HR strategy and processes and what needs to change in order to achieve our goals. Our HR approach, planning and strategy are therefore, completely aligned to the medium and long-term business scenario. We have just completed such an exercise for the period ending 2017 and our HR team was fully involved in the process.

We face different HR challenges at the entry level, middle level and the top level.

At the entry level, whether it is for operations, sales or finance, there is a serious shortage of talent and skill. Given this situation, the plan is to find innovative solutions to address this gap (even though we have been successful in the last decade with our current approach).The aspirations of entry level employees are high today. We believe that we need to change our HR approach in this area. Our focus now is to grow talent internally. For entry level talent in manufacturing, the new solution proposed is to grow people and allow employees to earn as they learn and acquire new skills. We are partnering with a premier vocational education institution that selects bright and economically poor tenth standard students. We enroll them in our on-site practice school learning programs for a duration of 4 years. During the program, they get full scholarship support (better than the minimum wages that they might have earned). At the end of the curriculum, they acquire an Advanced Diploma with relevant technical skills. It is advantageous for the students as rather than incurring cost for their education, they are able to earn and support themselves and their family. These students also have a choice at the end of their academic curriculum, to stay with us or pursue a career outside our group.

Similarly, we recruit engineers from top engineering colleges and grow them as managers, by providing them the required education and exposure to management. Our focus is to develop human and conceptual skills through a formal Executive MBA program through tie-ups with reputed business schools in key metros. This will help us grow the future middle management talent.

At the top level, the focus is on leadership development through executive coaching. I personally invest my efforts in this crucial area.

With respect to the time spent on people-related activities, I interview every new junior, middle and senior management recruit. My role in the interview is to ensure that they understand our way of doing business and align with our culture. I invest in informal meetings with those who report to me directly, during business travels and we discuss challenges and opportunities for the business and the individual. I spend over 30 percent of my time on people-related activities, which is primarily on people alignment, communication, reviewing and coaching future leaders.

Over the last few years, the time commitment to HR has remained constant at a little over 30 percent. There are multiple businesses in the Saint-Gobain Glass portfolio at different stages of maturity and growth. Some businesses that are undergoing a leadership transition demand more hand-holding time from me, during the change management process. So, while my overall time spent has remained the same, the proportion of my time spent in the four activities, i.e. stability, transition, growth and innovation actually depends on the stage that the business is in.

To summarize, HR has always been integral to our business strategy and execution and will be even more so in the coming decade.

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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR, #ExpertViews

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