Pooja Madappa’s journey has been a blend of learning, growth, and exciting experiences as a Global Vice President - Human Resources at Netradyne. In her role, she supports the organisation’s overall strategic direction across recruitment, talent and performance management, rewards, learning and development, diversity, and inclusion.
Pooja previously worked with organisations like Intel and Schneider Electric, and operated across the gamut of HR. In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, she spoke extensively on DEI and employee wellbeing.
Your company is focused on safety of your drivers and fleet. So, being the global HR VP, how do you drive workforce safety in your organisation?
Workplace safety is a vital component for us as an organisation. Creating both physically and psychologically safe places, and inclusive environments are the fulcrum of the organisation. Our leaders walk the talk, ensuring frequent, transparent communication with our employees. This, I think becomes very critical for an inclusive organisation. We have set up employee resource groups to ensure they have multiple checkpoints available in case of any safety concerns. Teams are also trained on safety protocols, including fire safety drills. These are more in terms of the physical workplace.
Today, as an organisation, our people are everything. We have a strong people-centric culture, where people feel valued and respected when sharing their point-of-view, ideas, and concerns. Our leadership has been phenomenal in creating a comfortable work environment that encourages people to bring their innovative ideas to the table.
Apart from offering a secure and safe workplace, we also focus on taking care of the health of our employees which is also a crucial pillar in our safety program. Carefully curated with a balance of healthy, hygienic, and of course, tasty food is offered to our employees. Additionally, people working on our recently launched night shift are taken care of. They are provided with pick and drop service and female employees are accompanied by an escort if they have to be dropped last.
We have policies covering areas around POSH, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment. We have a global platform ‘Lighthouse’ to encourage people who do not want to share their grievances and concerns publicly. Through this initiative, they can share their concerns anonymously and directly with HR, and we initiate investigations immediately. The idea is to create a safe space for employees to voice their concerns.
Being an HR leader, what do you find the most challenging in the driver and fleet safety segment?
In the driver and fleet safety segment, several challenges arise from complexities around how drivers are managed keeping safety protocols in mind.
Firstly, some of the more challenging aspects emerge from a driver's behaviour ensuring that they are adhering to safety protocols, and abide by traffic laws, and company policies. Secondly, we're in a space that requires a lot of awareness-building, training, and comprehensive education. This is especially applicable to drivers working with large fleets, where we also experience high turnover rates. The third is to ensure we are up to date on compliance and regulatory updates both at the national as well as regional levels.
And lastly, we need both internal and external stakeholders to understand that the driver is also human, and driver fatigue must be addressed. How we ensure driver well-being is crucial to reducing incidents and fatalities. Long hours can take a toll on the driver, and the stress can impact their health and performance.
Your organisation is paving its way into other markets in APAC, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. How has been your experience in these markets while sourcing the talent?
In terms of our employee base, India and the USA are where our employees are located. From a business standpoint, while we have penetrated markets like Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe, but Netradyne has not set up a physical office space yet at these markets. With our business growing, it is probably a matter of time before we set up our workspace.
But having said that, any talent strategy must cater and be tailored to each market's unique needs and address what is required in those prevailing markets.
In the European market, we have employees who are not directly on our payroll. We leverage the expertise of local partners who help us facilitate the talent requirements in these newer markets.
Each region's needs are very different. The talent availability in some of these markets is also very different. My previous experiences have taught me that it is important to keep an open mindset throughout the process. It has been an opportunity for me as a professional, to expand my horizon and apply my knowledge to some of these situations, addressing diverse regional landscapes and varying cultures.
Attracting and retaining talent is extremely critical, what is your approach to getting the right AI and edge computing talent for your organisation?
Artificial intelligence and related technologies are very niche today across industries. Our primary goal is to strike the right balance between harnessing data and adding value to facilitate informed decision-making while effectively attracting and retaining talent. This remains crucial due to our rapid organisational growth.
Furthermore, it is imperative to determine whether we need expertise in artificial intelligence or edge computing. This begins with our talent acquisition teams, who play a pivotal role in clearly defining job roles and responsibilities. They also serve as ambassadors for our organisation, conveying our commitment, culture, and vision accurately.
We actively collaborate with various universities including IITs and IISc to tap into emerging talent and introduce early career professionals to our organisation. Rewards and benefits are pivotal in attracting the brightest minds to our field.
In the case of lateral hiring, we provide well-defined job descriptions. Today's workforce values clarity, and we facilitate dialogues between candidates and hiring managers to help candidates understand their potential growth trajectory within our organisation.
Additionally, our company places a strong emphasis on professional growth through a self-directed learning and development approach. We empower employees to take control of their development by providing e-learning platforms and professional development programs. Our goal is to equip tomorrow's leaders with the necessary competencies.
Netradyne’s mission is to create solutions that save lives. How is this implemented in workforce planning, recruitment, talent and performance management, rewards, learning and development, diversity and inclusion?
As a company, we speak the language of our mission and values, which are the foundational blocks of all that we do and the initiatives we launch for our colleagues. There is a very clear emphasis on our mission right from the hiring process. We also talk about the business landscape and briefly touch upon our road map which helps both active and passive candidates connect the dots and understand the big picture of where we as a company are headed.
We always say, that leaders must walk the talk. For example, we have taken the Objectives with Key Results route, where the core leadership team is measured against the company’s priorities and leadership goals, to provide a clear line of sight to our mission. These priorities are tied very closely to our CEO’s priorities for the company.
Similarly, for the rest of the organisation, we follow a Management by Objectives, so that every employee regardless of function (HR, finance, sales, or a technology team) relate to how their goals or contributions connect to the bigger picture. This helps drive commitment and passion, and they understand the impact that they are contributing to, through the organisation.
What specific AI technologies or algorithms does your company utilise to improve workforce well-being?
At present, we are yet to implement an AI or tech-based tool for workforce management. Having said that, I fully understand the importance of using these tools.
We have other means through which we are able to drive awareness toward the well-being of our people. We also leverage our engagement channels across the business. Several indoor physical activities are also organised to create awareness of the importance of well-being and awareness. Multiple sessions around mindfulness and mental well-being are also conducted for our employees.
While we acknowledge the importance of AI and tech in improving workforce well-being, we would like to tread this path carefully. We need to be ethical and respect the privacy of the team. Also, we believe that while the use of AI is evolving across all industries, it will not replace the human touch. So somewhere, as an HR function, we want to ensure that the human touch is brought into our way of life here at Netradyne.
What measures have been taken by your company to improve upskilling opportunities for employees to facilitate overall professional development?
We have various diverse learning and upskilling requirements for our people. They are provided with learning opportunities, where they can add value to the roles that they are performing. We also have a wide variety of learning resources and platforms for our batch of campus hires. This includes foundational soft skills tools and a full-fledged learning program that helps improve their confidence in the subject matter before they are deployed onto projects. They are provided with complete foundational technical training opportunities to be successful in their roles.
There is a global e-learning platform, where employees have access to a role-based curriculum so that they can pick and choose based on their aspirations and the career path they envision. In addition, we have courses in the form of bite-sized modules for our frontline leaders and our senior leadership.
Training helps us enhance the team’s effectiveness, as they build the capability to adapt to changing requirements. All in all, be it soft skills, or learning technical know-how and upskilling, our focus is to approach things with a combination of instructor-led and digital learning resources. These have been put in place to create an optimum learning experience for our people that would translate into self-development contributing to the organisation's goals while also paving the way to build their career aspirations.