Article: Tata Motors’ strategy to navigate cultural transformation


Tata Motors’ strategy to navigate cultural transformation

Organisational culture is one of the more complex and intangible aspects of HR’s work, yet it’s absolutely essential to keep a company functioning and future-ready. We find out how Tata Motors is doing it.
Tata Motors’ strategy to navigate cultural transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped work environments globally, prompting organisations to rethink their approach to culture, talent acquisition, and workforce management.

In an interview with People Matters, Biswaroop Mukherjee, HR Head Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors discusses how the company is evolving its organisational culture in the hybrid and virtual work era, leveraging digital tools to enhance employee skills, and integrating sustainability into its hiring practices.

He also sheds light on data-driven insights demonstrating the link between a positive culture and business performance, as well as successful strategies for fostering diversity and inclusivity in traditionally male-dominated fields. Join us as we explore

The pandemic has significantly impacted work environments.  In your view, how will the concept of organisational culture need to evolve in this new post-pandemic landscape?

Transitioning to the era of hybrid and virtual work, the essence of an organisation's culture continues to be defined by its leadership and the behaviors they champion. For example, promoting agility and innovation remains a priority irrespective of whether work is conducted in-person, virtually, or in a hybrid setting. However, the shift towards remote work necessitates robust collaboration tools and strategies to maintain operational effectiveness.

The integration of digital tools has transformed the possibilities for teamwork, making it crucial for an organisation to foster collaboration to uphold its cultural values. Even in a hybrid work environment, certain elements like occasional in-person meetings are essential to build camaraderie and reinforce team dynamics.

Ultimately, the vision and core cultural blueprint of an organisation should remain steadfast. The emphasis on enabling collaboration through digital mediums and ensuring some level of face-to-face interaction is pivotal in maintaining the organisational culture regardless of the work mode. As demonstrated by many multinational companies even before the COVID era, leveraging tools like Skype facilitated global collaboration and cultural alignment across different regions. This approach underscores that while the methods of collaboration may evolve, the underlying cultural values that drive an organisation can persist and adapt to any changes in the work environment.

While the importance of culture is increasingly recognised, many businesses still struggle to quantify its impact. Can you elaborate on specific data-driven examples from Tata Motors that demonstrate the clear link between a positive culture and business performance/growth?

It is crucial to consider both qualitative and quantitative feedback from employees to measure organisational culture. At the outset of our cultural journey, we began by identifying which cultural tenets needed to be changed, continued, or initiated. This involved engaging employees and leaders to gather insights on the future trends in the automotive industry and market shifts, asking them what they believed needed to change or be maintained.

From these discussions, we defined a "Northstar" for our culture—a clear cultural aspiration that guides all strategic decisions. Based on the feedback, we identified several cultural pillars such as boldness, agility, and collaboration, which we believed were essential for our growth and adaptation.

To measure the impact of these cultural pillars, we regularly conducted surveys and collected verbal feedback from employees. This ongoing dialogue helped us identify gaps between our current state and our aspirational goals. By analysing this feedback, our leadership and HR teams collaborated to refine our processes and systems, aiming to align more closely with our cultural objectives.

The continuous cycle of feedback and adjustment has shown positive results, not only in our culture but also in business outcomes like shareholder value, market share, and profitability.

What new initiatives as a HR leader have you introduced in day-to-day workforce management that support the company’s culture?

Tata Motors has taken a multi-faceted approach to enhance empowerment and collaboration, which are core elements of our cultural dynamics. The introduction of self-directed teams (SDTs) in operations and vehicle module teams (VMTs) in engineering are excellent examples of promoting autonomy and empowerment within specific functions. Similarly, the formation of cross-functional teams (CFTs) has allowed individuals from various departments to come together, fostering a collaborative environment while being guided by leadership.

We are focusing on diversity with equal emphasis. The hiring of women for 30% of roles on the shop floor, where they participate in manufacturing large trucks, highlights a significant shift towards inclusivity in traditionally male-dominated fields. With over 1500 women in commercial vehicle production and strong representation in engineering leadership, Tata Motors is setting a benchmark for diversity in STEM within the industry.

Additionally, the strategic use of digital tools and platforms, like the partnership with Microsoft for an omni-channel employee experience, demonstrates a commitment to enhancing agility and accessibility in employee services. This not only improves the employee experience but also caters to the evolving needs of your workforce, including technicians.

The cultural connect initiatives, where leaders engage directly with their teams to receive and act on feedback, are vital for fostering a culture of transparency and continuous improvement. These team touchpoints are instrumental in improving both managerial and team effectiveness by ensuring ongoing dialogue and accountability.

Can you share the biggest obstacles you encountered during Tata Motors' cultural transformation, and detail the specific strategies that proved most successful in overcoming them?

Managing organisational change effectively involves not only introducing new initiatives but also addressing resistance and fostering a culture of adaptability and engagement.

The initial phase is critical for creating awareness of the need for change. Involving employee in discussions and decision-making processes, helps them to "unfreeze" their existing mindsets and prepare them for change. It's essential in this stage to communicate effectively, ensuring that employees understand why change is necessary and how it will benefit them.

Once there is a general acceptance of the need for change, the next step is implementing the identified projects and actions. Your approach ensures that these changes are driven by the employees themselves, which can enhance buy-in and reduce resistance. Supporting employees through this phase with training, resources, and continuous communication is crucial to maintaining their commitment and overcoming any emerging challenges.

After the changes have been implemented, the focus shifts to solidifying these new behaviors and processes as the standard practice. This "refreezing" ensures the changes are sustained over time. Regular feedback, recognition of achievements, and continuous improvement processes are vital to reinforce the new state and integrate it into the daily operations.

Continuous engagement with leadership in these processes adds a layer of credibility and support, showing a united front from management and HR, which is instrumental in gaining trust and cooperation from employees. The fact that leaders participate actively alongside their teams demonstrates commitment at all levels, further energising the positive spirit of change.

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Topics: Culture, Business, Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, #HRCommunity, #HRTech

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