When it comes to the world of people and work, engagement is a critical driver for the success of any organisation. This attains new heights when it comes to talent management because beyond the processes of recruitment and onboarding, talent retention comes about when new hires feel that they’re part of the company culture and are able to deliver in line with the vision of their company. In an interview with People Matters, Ritu Rakhra, Regional HR Head, Dell Technologies India shares critical insights on how one can drive engagement in the workplace and build the right environment for their people and their talent to get the best out of them.
Ritu has a rich experience of 24 years with organizations such as Hewitt, IBM and Dell of which the last 18 years have been with Dell. A strategic HR leader with a track record of building and delivering on the people strategy, Ritu brings an entrepreneurial attitude and deep experience in multiple HR functional areas. She has led team members from diverse cultures and backgrounds and believes that the key to success is inclusion.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Q. What have been some of the biggest challenges you have witnessed in the field of HR and how has your company overcome it?
15 months ago we went remote overnight. One of the biggest challenges that continues is how to stay connected with the workforce and how to keep them engaged which is also something to factor in when it comes to retaining talent.
For many years now, we have had a remote working program called Connected Workplace which champions the remote working model. Prior to the pandemic, we had a visionary program but a small percentage of team members enrolled in the program, and work from home arrangements was largely informal and seen as ways to enable work life balance. Now we know what happened in 2020, right? Going forward, we want to pursue this goal aggressively by supporting work from home arrangements. We want our people to work from anywhere, we want them to have a good work-life balance. At our India office, over 40% of employees signed up for remote working and decided that they would be working in this fashion one to four days a week, or even five days, occasionally coming to the office for a meeting. In these changing dynamics of the workforce, we do our best to stay engaged with them so that they identify themselves with the company. Our founder, Michael Dell has said that work is not a time and place right now, rather an output. So how does one produce that output in line with the vision of the company is a critical question.
Another key focus that we had to look into was to develop our leadership capabilities to deal with the uncertainty and maintain the long-term vision of the company. Our leaders played a huge part in going the extra mile to support our team members with empathy during challenging times, while remaining focused on our customer commitments. We today have an industry -leading eNPS of 67% which is a great testimony to our efforts.
Q. Employee experience is an important indicator when it comes to not just attracting, but also developing and retaining talent. Ever since the pandemic, employees now look for greater flexibility, for a work culture that offers D&I and ensures employee wellbeing. What are your thoughts on this? What are some of the initiatives that your company has taken in relation to this?
We have a number of good programs running to ensure a positive employee experience so that our team members identify with the company. We have a strong focus on wellness. Ever since the pandemic, each one of us has realised that if one is healthy, one can get through a lot in life. In April-May, we kickstarted a global Steps Challenge according to which teams of five signed up to compete and at the end of four weeks, the team with the most number of steps was declared the winner. This initiative was very well received - it not only got the team members started on a path to better health but it created a sense of oneness that came with the competitive spirit, over 40,000 team members had walked 11 billion miles. We also have a wellbeing month where leaders connect with their team members to help them take care of their wellbeing. This initiative falls in line with talent engagement as well.
We also have a forum called Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) where one becomes a member of a resource group working on a specific issue that they feel strongly about be it the Planet or Women In Action or even Family Balance to name a few. At present, we have seven ERG’s across Dell offices in India. These groups host events where member employees can participate and it offers a space for interaction and communication. With the pandemic, things have changed so we’ve translated these activities to fit the remote working model so that the engagement continues. For instance, earlier if Planet ERG’s hosted a tree planting event, now members carry this out by raising plants at home or convert the waste generated at home to create compost.
Q. HR Tech has been a critical driver in gathering data for building effective HR strategies for employer branding and talent management. What is your opinion on the benefits that can be offered by an increased use of HR data in recruitment and development of talent?
Being a tech company, we’ve been investing in HR tech way before the pandemic. Our recruitment process is fully automated, from when the candidate applies to offer generation. Even when someone sends in a referral, it goes in through the system and our onboarding process is also fully automated. Prior to the pandemic, when we brought in new hires, we used to bring them to the office, let them get a feel of the place, interact with fellow coworkers, network and understand the culture of the organisation. But this is a luxury we no longer have and managers have had to step up their game, each manager is responsible for the success of the new hire. We can provide peer support and training but employee engagement is also built through participation in these company programs.
Q. In a new world of work, a new set of skills becomes essential for gaining greater business outcomes and this involves not only finding those with the right skill sets but also investing in upskilling. What are your thoughts on upskilling?
Focusing on the development of talent is critical and with the rapid change in the kind of skills in demand, employees won’t feel as though they’re learning something new unless upskilling happens. We’re not going with a one size fits all approach and have in place a robust and structured approach for skill development by identifying our talent needs. What we’re doing is letting our business units define the skills they need and we support them with the resources they need to carry out these upskilling programs.
Q. Finally, in your opinion, what are some of the lessons that HR and Talent leaders must keep in mind as they continue to navigate and innovate in this unprecedented world?
As an HR person, I strongly believe that people come to work to give their best. It is up to the organization, and the leaders to make sure you get the best out of them. Nobody comes to work thinking that they’ll not perform well today. So, if you want the best out of your people, you have to create the right environment. That is the advice I would give any HR leader.