Article: We need experimentation and empathic listening to deal with ambiguity: Hegeler Solomon, Mars Inc.

HR Technology

We need experimentation and empathic listening to deal with ambiguity: Hegeler Solomon, Mars Inc.

In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Hegeler Solomon talks about the ongoing challenge of navigating COVID19 at the workplace – and the tactics that Mars Inc. is adopting in India
We need experimentation and empathic listening to deal with ambiguity: Hegeler Solomon, Mars Inc.

As the COVID19 pandemic creates new challenges for India Inc. in its second wave, Hegeler Solomon, Director – People & Organization, Mars Wrigley Confectionery, India calls out for the need to emphatically listen to employees and experiment, as time-tested concepts no longer align to the current business context. 

Hegeler Solomon has over 18 years of experience in Human Resource Management and has previously worked with Colgate Palmolive, Lotte India and TVS Tyres.

1. How has the last year and this on-going challenge with COVID19 changed your perspective on workplace performance and productivity?

Workplace performance is not limited to individual productivity as we see it. Workplace performance has other elements like collaboration, bonding, learning and experiencing culture. While the weightage of these elements varies across industry & culture, we must be cognizant of it. In a ‘high touch’ culture most of these elements of workplace performance adversely impacted a ‘high-tech’ culture. 

This is an ambiguous space for most of us and hence my learning is two-fold: ‘Experimentation and emphatic listening’. In the absence of a time tested solutions for our context, we need to constantly experiment various workplace choices and simultaneously listen to our employees.  

2. What are some new practices you’ve adopted in light of the emerging hybrid workplace model?

Purpose-led remote working:
Remote working in CPG sector is ‘not’ feasible across functions – we would need the factory to operate, logistics to transport the produced good and the sales force to sell. Having said that, there are people with unique needs during these trying times. Parents managing their kids in the absence of ‘day-care’ and employees with comorbidies are facing difficulties. Striking a balance between business continuity and people in the light of our core values is important.

Digital Collaboration: Co-creation, cascading tasks and strategy execution was digitally enabled. We had our very first virtual national conference.

No fly zone for those who work from home. We ensured that between 12 noon to 2pm, there's a time off to enable associates (employees) to support each other on home management and cooking etc., 

 3. The year 2021 is set to become the year of continuous reinvention – with new ways of working becoming more permanent and innovation becoming central to HR’s practices. How are you thinking about these challenge areas?

Insight led innovation:
We need to continue to listen to people more than before and generate insights. Innovation based on insights will create meaningful impact on people, planet and performance.

Flexibility remains imperative: This pandemic taught us many lessons, which includes remote-working. In the future, we need to articulate the purpose of home office and workplace. Home will continue to be a part of the workplace eco-system. Hence, we need to recast total rewards to suite the current context.

4. How is the role of HR set to change? With a greater individual autonomy and accountability – what’s the impact of the HR function and policy/ process level change?

Strategic business partnering
will continue be at the core for a new HR operating model. OD, culture, talent and total rewards will continue to be the core growth enabler for any business. Also, we need to adapt alternative resourcing mechanism and leverage gig- economy to unlock efficiency and effectiveness in the organizational design (OD). We need to establish a culture that values and leverages uniqueness. Finally, we need to find robust approach to reward true value creation and not perceived value creation

Centralize operational excellence : HR ops requires the scale to be efficient. And collaboration with tech-enabled partners is crucial.

Line managers excellence: The role of line managers in this fragmented setting is significant. In the future state, line managers need to recruit, select, on-board, oversee performance, develop and engage their team. HR will continue to coach line managers and provide tools / infrastructure to enable people management.  

Digital capability will be a significant enabler to accomplish HR & business excellence.

 5. How are you mapping continuous learning/ skilling with workplace performance, given that it has become critical to business continuity?

Firstly, we need to define and map both leadership & functional competencies to roles in the organization. Secondly, provide a conducive learning environment ( learn by doing & learn from others) and relevant learning solutions (blended programs). Thirdly, embed a self-learning culture. Lastly, review its relevance continually.  

6. What are your top talent priorities for the upcoming financial year?

Gender balanced leadership pipeline:
While most organizations cracked the code of gender balance – we need to see if this is across the vertical cross section of the organization. Gender- balanced leadership pipeline is a top talent priority, as our consumers are diverse and it also brings in diversity of thought.  

Buy and build talent to embed capabilities that unlocks business growth.  

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Topics: HR Technology, Talent Management, #COVID-19

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