Article: Have people ready for key positions: Ajay Kaul


Have people ready for key positions: Ajay Kaul

In conversation with Ajay Kaul, CEO, Jubilant Foodworks Ltd

People are our main focus because we believe that to deliver happiness to the customer, employees has to be happy first


HR in our organization is a strategic business partner which is instrumental in aligning the people goals to the organizational goals


HR at JFL is our business partner; their objectives are aligned to the organizational goals at all times. We are growing at the rate of 40% (CAGR), employing more than 12000 people, adding 70+ stores year-on-year, just signed on the master franchisee for Dunkin Donuts and with all this the picture only gets bigger and better.

In conjunction with this, the top 3 HR priorities that we have for this year are succession planning, employee development and talent acquisition. With regard to succession planning, we are developing a competency framework for all leadership and strategic positions as well as succession maps for each one of them. Given the operations size we targeting, we need to have a talent pool which is ready to take on challenges for all businesses under the JFL umbrella. 

Our focus is on getting the development plans rolling so that we have people ready for key positions. In the area of employee development, we work with the twin objective of adding on to the personal/professional growth and retain employees at all levels. Along with the behavioral and functional training programs, we also have tie-ups with Symbiosis, Narsee Monjee, IMT Ghaziabad etc for company sponsored MBA, BBA etc. With respect to talent acquisition, being in an industry where 90% of the employee population is in the 18-25 age brackets and is extremely mobile, it is a crucial area of concern. We need people who are high on customer orientation and leadership skills (store managers). With the industry attrition standing at more than 90% given the mushrooming of food chains, the challenge only gets tougher. Till sometime back we were looking at a “job providers market” and now we are faced with a “job seekers market”. In order to ensure we get the right talent, we have tied up with NGOs, skill development societies etc. along with mass recruitment campaigns to provide us a ready pool of talent and have also instilled “pariksha” – an online psychometric tool for hiring shift managers and above.

At JFL, people play a prime role in bringing the right difference to the overall growth of the company. Our mission revolves around the statement ‘Exceptional people on a mission to be the best delivery company in the world’ which means the best of talent, a great culture, and the best workplace.

People have been our main focus because we believe that to deliver happiness to the customer; employees have to be happy first. The HR challenge viz. leadership development, employee engagement and getting the right talent on board is even more critical. This is multiplied as a result of the rapid growth of the company, scarce skilled workforce, increased workforce mobility, leading to high attrition.

While earlier the focus was on acquiring talent to ensure continuous supply to meet the growing needs of the business, my energy is presently directed at managing/developing this talent pool to understand how people from the lowest rungs in the hierarchy can become a part of the bigger picture. My time involves ensuring that each hi potential employee has a clearly defined career path and career progression. My focus is also on strategies to retain and develop the leadership team in a way that they contribute to growth, profitability, innovation and retention of customers.

With the speed at which we are growing, we still have to invest more time to devise a framework to ensure frequent communication between HR and employee especially at the store level, and work towards standardization of talent management processes across locations. This is something I would like to spend more time on. However as CEO, the people goals on my scorecard already include manage attrition at all levels especially at the junior levels; building leadership pipeline to support future business growth; acquire quality people aligned to the organizational requirement; enhance training process for skill development; continuously follow HR best practices and maintain an optimal level of people support to ensure employee satisfaction.

HR in our organization is a strategic business partner which is instrumental in aligning the people goals to the organizational goals. HR also acts a change agent that continuously strives to bring about improvements in the organization structure, processes and systems. With our goal to be the best employers in the food and retail industry in India, HR is definitely our key focus area.

The HR head is an integral part of our annual goal setting process because our business results are a product of our people and strategy, and we cannot achieve our goals without the people plan in place.

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Topics: C-Suite, Strategic HR, Culture

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