Having spent more than 23 years at Godfrey Phillips India, Rajesh Mehrotra, EVP, HR has seen the journey from some very rudimentary manual ‘personnel function’ kind of processes to today practicing some of the most contemporary HR practices that any organization can have. That’s the journey most FMCG companies have under taken, starting times may have been different.
In this interview, Mehrotra talks about how the practices and people processes prevailing in the industry are very different from even ten years ago. Be it use of technology, focusing on employee needs, customization of process to the culture or the business of the organization – it is all very different from the ‘set menu’ of the days of yore.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
The workforce is changing. People now have the options to work remotely, or contractually, even for central roles, not just incidental ones. How does this change the way a HR leader must look at employee communications and engagement?
Employee communication has undergone a sea-change with the advent of social media and no-holds-barred open forums. Employees today are strong opinion makers and their reflections impact the success, growth, future of an organization. Communication therefore has to be looked at through this new lens that offers freedom of thought on one hand and agility and ‘comprehensive solution-ing’ on the other hand. The HR leader has to adopt an approach which is preferred by his internal customers, is inspirational, pre-emptive, laden with the organization’s purpose and ethos intertwined with expectations from each role holder and teams. Personally, I am not a fan of excessively using technology to communicate since a lot of people today find it impersonal. There needs to be a personal touch in communication.
Do newer generations of workers need new forms or approaches to employee engagement? Your thoughts.
Most certainly. Today’s generation, the millennials, have different needs from the older generation. They care more about development, fast track growth, work-life balance, employer brand, technology, etc. over financial rewards. Threshold of boredom is low and they need higher levels of engagement to remain committed. It drives an organization to continuously churn new ideas, initiatives, interactions and be agile in matters of technology and its use. For example, while social interaction outside of the work environment has always been considered as a tool of engagement, the same also needs to be customized for the preferences of the current generation.
Agility in learning new trends/technology by being agile in shunning the old will hold the key to success in the learning and development domain
Which trends in the employee engagement space are you tracking as we head towards 2020?
Having an insight into people analytics, integrating it with business deliveries, offering a positive and inclusive work experience, ensuring employee wellness, purposeful capability development, a decent amount of flexibility and recognizing efforts are some of the trends that we have spotted and are inclined to pursue in order to achieve excellence on people and business front.
What are the key trends for the future in the learning and development space?
Like with business and consumers, a generic approach no longer holds true when it comes to being future ready and capability development. The future of L&D will evolve on creating a learning culture that epitomizes personalized learning approaches laced with excitement building; data and proof centricity; blended learning models with practical assignments; deep focus on efficacy of training intervention and flexibility in adapting varied learning approaches; and collaborative peer based learning. Agility in learning new trends/technology by being agile in shunning the old will hold the key to success in this domain.
Any particular skillset that you look for when hiring young talent? What is the process for identifying this skillset?
The specifics of the assignment and the applicant experience and knowledge is important, but that is basic hygiene. We prioritize cultural fit. We value team players, learning agility, an open-minded approach to thinking and doing new things, situational awareness, etc. when it comes to acquiring quality talent. In Godfrey Phillips India, we use the technique of BEI (Behavioral Evidence Interview) which helps us to predict the behavior of an individual in various business situations.
How do you ensure a consistent workplace experience for all your employees, irrespective of their role, age, gender, tenure etc. in the organization?
By ensuring a culture which is all inclusive, hierarchy less and role-modelled by top management. Our five cultural imperatives are the essence of offering a consistent and satisfying experience to all employees. Interestingly, these imperatives have been carved out and are being owned by employees themselves through a bottom-up top-down integrative approach. Transparency, passion for winning, collaboration, empowerment and respect are the five driving forces that enable such a positive work experience.
How does positive employee engagement lead to a more productive workforce? Which are the ways in which HR leaders can measure the effects of employee engagement?
To measure the effects of employee engagement, one method is to see the correlation of employee engagement with customer satisfaction and business performance of an organization. In case someone wants to go deeper, there is micro analysis of employee engagement data using analytical tools which can help understand the impact created on organization performance and culture.
High levels of trust, transparency and commitment towards our human assets would automatically lead to positive engagement. This is best portrayed by empowerment at all levels
Our periodic, detailed and neutrally conducted Employee Engagement surveys help present a fair picture of the engagement levels, our rock piles and areas of focus. Our experience of keeping things simple by just listening to the voice of internal customer and addressing aspirations in a transparent manner has created a fair level of trust between us. Over the years, this trust has solidified into an understanding that has led to high levels of employee retention, employees seeking voluntary challenges in their realm of work and a passion for superior delivery that fructifies into better efficiency and business deliveries.
What all is GPI doing to keep a high level of engagement among its employees?
We believe that high levels of trust, transparency and commitment towards our human assets would automatically lead to positive engagement. This is best portrayed by empowerment at all levels. For example, all people decisions in GPI are taken by an apex body comprising of the top leadership and not HR alone. The line is empowered and they in turn ensure bottom-up involvement of everyone in carving business strategy, forward map and operational excellence. People are free to envision an organizational culture of their choice with HR supporting from fringes. Ownership of one’s role and delivery, an environment that offers a license to fail and recognizing efforts add further credence to employee engagement.