As prices continue to rise at a record pace, consumers and businesses are concerned that high inflation rates will persist well into 2022. Moreover, inflation could trigger a recession with more job cuts, hiring freezes, and the revocation of job offers. Amit Chincholikar, the global HR head of the fast-moving consumer goods company, do not see any immediate impact in terms of jobs or hiring freezes in their business. In an interaction with us, Chincholikar shares insights on the impacts of inflation on jobs, hiring, hybrid work, and more.
Chincholikar has been with the Tata group since 2010. Prior to joining Tata Consumer, he was with Tata Sons as Senior Vice President – Group Human Resources. He has also worked in organisations such as Mercer Consulting and Aditya Birla Group in leadership roles in India, USA and Singapore. In his current role, he leads the people strategy as well as the sustainability strategy, commitment and execution for the global organisation.
Here are the edited excerpts.
How, in your opinion, is inflation affecting the work, workforce and the workplace? Can inflation result in more layoffs, hiring freezes, and job offers being withdrawn?
Inflation is a reality that we all have to live with. The circumstances of the world that we live in mean that these spikes and periods of uncertainty will keep coming from time to time. There may not be a sustained impact on jobs or hiring freezes – as long as business models and investments are robust. There will also be continued pressure when the focus is on the short term. We do not see any immediate impact in terms of jobs or hiring freezes in our business.
A study by First Insight indicates that remote and hybrid workers are more negatively impacted by the effects of inflation than full-time in-office workers. How are you planning your return to the office strategy?
The hybrid model is effective in most cases. We don’t see a complete WFH model working as we move forward. In our current plan, employees are encouraged to be in the office three days a week with complete flexibility. We have found that rather than enforcing a random or pre-determined number, it works best if people make informed choices based on the nature of their work and how their teams function. That enforces not just a sense of responsibility but also a sense of trust. Collaboration is very important for us—it sustains a culture of purpose, belonging, and innovation. We will continue to operate on the principles of flexibility, adaptability, and agility as far as our employees are concerned.
How do you ensure a culture of purpose? And how are your policies on hybrid work, flexibility, and employee well-being being reevaluated?
Our approach towards hybrid work policies has pivoted around technology (access to all), flexibility (plan your time based on what you need to do and who you need to work with), trust and ownership (work can get delivered from anywhere as long as people hold themselves accountable) and empathy (it’s okay to be vulnerable and reach out if you need any assistance—we do not judge).
How has COVID disrupted the FMCG sector? Can you give us an overview of HR trends in the sector? What has changed over the last two years?
There have been significant changes in almost all parts of the value chain as far as FMCG is concerned – input costs, logistics network, distribution and buying patterns and customer expectations. From a trend perspective, there has been a significant investment in technology, sustainability, nutrition and innovation. HR trends are typically reflective of these changes, with a strong demand for skills in digital, category marketing, sustainability, and innovation. Roles have now largely become location agnostic and the emphasis on “dare to try” and “calculated risk-taking” has become important from a hiring standpoint. Most critically, companies that reflect and demonstrate trust, flexibility, and empathy have emerged as employers of choice.
How has your talent management mantra evolved over the last two years? How do you map employee aspirations?
We are great believers in being able to create platforms where talent meets opportunity. We strongly believe that Tata Consumer represents an opportunity where people can explore growth across functions, geographies, and levels. Our talent mantra is to create as many opportunities as possible for our internal talent — which means that we are willing to bet on people to take on higher levels of responsibility even though they may not be 100% ready or a perfect fit for the job. That puts additional responsibility on the managers as well as the HR team to ensure that people are handheld in this journey, but this is a commitment that we are heavily invested in. Employee aspirations are captured through career conversations, and we have created a platform called Compass that gives every employee visibility and access to every role in the company, along with what it takes to succeed in that role. This allows employees to also make informed choices. Finally, we have found that keeping a strong emphasis on creating a learning culture – one that encourages and enables employees to sharpen and develop relevant skills – keeps them visibly engaged.
What are your priorities and focus areas in 2022?
Our priorities would continue to be along the lines of enhancing the employee experience at Tata Consumer, creating strong learning access and development opportunities for all our employees, and investing significantly in developing and delivering a strong talent and succession pipeline. A digital-first approach will be a key enabler for us at Tata Consumer HR organisation.