Article: Aligning HR To The Triple Bottom Line

Strategic HR

Aligning HR To The Triple Bottom Line

NCON 2012 reveals what organisations cannot ignore as they prepare themselves for the pristine triple bottom line

To meet the triple bottom line agenda, HR professionals have to integrate the HR function to overall business


In 1970 Milton Friedman, an economist and a Nobel Laureate said, “It is the social responsibility of the business to increase the profit”. Corporate Social Responsibility has many definitions and the 31st NIPM Annual Conference at Kochi rightly christened itself to clarify the conference focus as – Aligning HR to Triple Bottom Line – People, Planet, Profit.

Clearly, the audience of 1,200 people was all geared to exploring how a company can make constructive and productive contribution to the society. The three-day conference saw pertinent discussions on topics that will enable HR to align its efforts towards achieving the triple bottom line. While businesses have been naturally inclined to focus on profit, due consideration to its people and the planet has emerged as critically important for businesses sustainability and continuity. Presented here are some significant factors that have emerged as essential in this context:

Developing creative leaders

Bringing about any changes stems from ensuring that, the right leadership is in place. Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam explained the need for HR to develop creative leaders. He said, “Creative leaders are the essence of HR – they are never afraid of the problem, rather they defeat the problem and succeed.” Dr. Kalam shared that a creative leader must have the characteristics of having a vision beyond himself; be willing to travel along the unexplored path; know how to manage success and failure and have the courage to take decisions, and most critical of all, creative leaders must accept all failure and impart success to team mates. Such characteristics will go a long way in ensuring that the business is able to think in a larger context to give equal emphasis on people, planet and profit.

Focus on the right values

The rightful attention to the planet in all of business’ dealings can only be possible by having onboard people who uphold the required values to drive sustainability. M.M. Murugappan, Vice Chairman, Murugappa Group affirms that the role HR is to ensure that every human in the organization abides by the values to carry on the organization and leave behind a legacy. HR is considered to be at the core of business, from recruitment till retirement, and he quotes HR must therefore, “recruit for attitude and train for skill”. He encapsulated the critical values that are vital for people to move ahead as integrity, passion, quality and responsibility. Steven Heaslip, Chief HR Officer, Lauerlton Diamonds, Tiffany & Co., USA adds, “Corporate Social Responsibility is considered to trickle down and therefore begins with people and their values.”

Refocus the learning strategy

Today, the basic outline of growth is multidimensional including capacity, capability and how these fit into the organization’s growth. Anand Shankar, CEO, Asia Pacific, Aon Hewitt, explains, “Learning is critical as it builds the foundation to meet future needs, helps in supporting transformation, learning attitude and culture, and enables structuring.” The focus on learning must include mass customized learning like inculcating values, compliances, safety and rules.

There is a need to shift the approach of learning from the traditional pedagogic method to taking an andragogy approach which is more ‘learner-centric’. The pedagogy approach which is content or trainer centric is not relevant for adults who learn better through experience. The andragogy learning approach will introduce reactive learning, prescriptive learning, collaborative learning and result oriented learning which can be far more effective.

The triple bottom line agenda demands enhanced performance and productivity through the use of an integrated, coherent development program which informs and engages the learners, combine group interventions with personalized interventions such as coaching and mentoring, involve senior leaders to co-create and co-facilitate the learning programs. This is possible if learning interventions are rooted in adult learning principles and they break the mould to think of new learning methods to make the learning more interesting and holistic.

Create responsible corporate citizens

Business life is sustainable only when there is business and it is long term. Thus, there is a need to create responsible corporate citizens by ensuring that organizations create the required culture to promote corporate social responsibility. Businesses must draw its energy towards creating a business which focuses on elements such as care for all stakeholders, ethical functioning, respect for workers rights and welfare, respect for human rights, respect for environment and embraces inclusive development. Madhu Raghunath, Head - HR & OC, TVS & Sons explained the need to “focus on capacity well-being that is enabled through education, skilling and attitude and competent building” in order for businesses to attain the triple bottom line.

R. Mohan Das, Director-Personnel, Coal India shared the three driving forces at Coal India in fostering the evolution of corporate social responsibility, including corporate philanthropy, image building and ethics. Corporate Philanthropy which is voluntary and charitable. Here, the aim is to perform in a manner that is abiding to the expectations of society and engage employees in activities that are benefiting to their local communities. Image Building aims for social welfare along with investing on building a positive reputation for the company. And Ethics is aimed towards retaining customers and increasing market share by highlighting the initiatives that’s aims to provide a clean environment for the society.

But is HR ready?

An interesting and important point raised was that HR as a function suffers from a terrible inferiority complex and therefore, is not ready to take on the strategic role. Dr. S. Chandrashekhar, Vice President HR, IBM India Ltd. explained HR’s inherent capability of being strategic and need to erase the inferiority complex off the minds of HR professionals. To meet the triple agenda for people, planet and profit, HR professionals have to integrate the HR function to the overall business. HR needs to understand the game and the players, the rules of the game and they should look for opportunities to maximize. The need for HR professionals today is to be able to present matters from the employees’ point of view and become the voice of the employees in an organization. A balanced integration between people, product, profit, customer, machine, productivity etc. is required for business to achieve its objective and this can be steered with the right HR leadership.  

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Topics: Strategic HR, C-Suite

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