Article: HR will become more strategic, moving from rule enforcers to trusted consultants: Max India’s Simar Deep Kaur

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HR will become more strategic, moving from rule enforcers to trusted consultants: Max India’s Simar Deep Kaur

In conversation with People Matters, Simar Deep Kaur of Max India sheds light on how they have meticulously crafted a culture that places innovation, collaboration, and employee empowerment at its core.
HR will become more strategic, moving from rule enforcers to trusted consultants: Max India’s Simar Deep Kaur

In today’s fast-evolving landscape of HR, what pivotal skills and attributes are indispensable for professionals venturing into the realm of emerging businesses? How do these qualities shape their journey towards success? 

Simar Deep Kaur, Chief Human Resource Officer at Max India and Antara Senior Living, an Indian enterprise owned by Max India shares her take on this. Not only has she championed initiatives that reduced attrition from 140% to 25% in 18 months, her organisation also witnessed a massive productivity impact leading to a VOC of 90%+. 

Simar is an agile, passionate and empathetic HR leader with over 16 years of diversified experience in creating High performing and engaged teams across large conglomerates in Manufacturing such as L&T and DCM Shriram, in Pharma namely Dr. Reddy’s Ltd. and in BFSI at Kotak Mahindra group. She joined Max Group in 2017 and has played roles in various capacities at Max Skill First, Max India & Max Financial Services Limited. 

In this exclusive conversation with People Matters, we get Simar Deep’s exclusive take on critical HR capabilities, aligning HR initiatives with business objectives, building a strong organisational culture and more. 

Here are some excerpts from the conversation.

What foundational skills and qualities do you consider essential for HR professionals starting their careers in emerging businesses, and how have these attributes contributed to your own journey?

An HR Professional in a fast-growing organisation must be action and business-oriented. This manifests in the way one demonstrates creativity, develops plans, and has the skill and commitment to play multiple roles and don various hats as the company grows. 

There comes a time when one needs to go beyond the job description. In emerging companies, HR professionals must be able to create something important and big from almost scratch. They should possess a combination of passion and the ability to change the game as they go along. They need to identify the strengths and the areas of focus with a business backward approach to set realistic targets.

The ability to build and sustain company culture to improve and stabilise rapid growth is also a critical skill set needed by HR folks. In a dynamic environment with constantly changing priorities, they must lead from the front to build a culture that keeps employees engaged and focused on the greater company vision. 

In my journey, being a business-oriented HR leader has allowed me to devise innovative solutions to complex workforce challenges, Agility, meanwhile, has enabled me to adapt swiftly to evolving business trends and regulations. My passion for enabling people to achieve business outcomes and in the process helping them achieve their true potential fuels my commitment on a daily basis. 

As HR's role shifts from transactional to strategic, how do you proactively align HR initiatives with your organisation's overall business objectives, and what role do HR professionals play in driving growth?

One exemplary illustration of this strategic alignment is our STAR (Select, Transform, Align and Retain) framework which is designed to impact the outcomes of People COE at Antara and Max India. We have specific programs under each pillar of STAR to impact business and employee outcomes from productivity, engagement, satisfaction, customer VOC and attrition. We measure the effectiveness of this People COE on a monthly basis to ensure we keep upping the Ante on our contributions to the business. One of the success stories of STAR’s impact is the reduction in our attrition from 140% to 25% over the last 18 months. This has led to huge cost savings and productivity impact leading to a VOC of 90%+. 

To have a pulse on the ground, as an HR team we constantly keep our eyes and ears close to the employees through "Human Capital Clinics." These clinics engage front-line team members, providing a platform for open discussions and yielding valuable insights to enhance employee experience and overall happiness. This initiative directly aligns with our mission of fostering a healthy workplace culture.

Moreover, our initiatives such as “Antara Appreciates”, "Mulyantara (Values that make a difference)" and "Work on Hold" are meticulously designed to reinforce team interactions, promote collaboration, and recognition and improve well-being. These efforts, in turn, stimulate development and innovation, perfectly aligning with our organisational goals. The "Spot Awards" program is designed to recognise exceptional achievements, directly supporting our objective of acknowledging outstanding contributions that significantly impact our company's progress.

Acquiring and retaining top talent is crucial for growth. What unique strategies have you employed to attract and develop talent in a competitive landscape with resource constraints?

At Antara, our greatest strength lies in the distinctive nature of our business. The inherent nobility associated with our products and services attracts high-quality talent who seek a sense of purpose and impact. The Max legacy, along with its people-centric culture, is a significant attraction for potential candidates. Our unique and comprehensive onboarding programme, “Pankh”, ensures that every new hire is in sync with our organisation's culture, business objectives, and how their role contributes to our overall growth.

Regardless of their position within the company, every team member embarks on a personalised development journey. They are consistently presented with opportunities to collaborate on cross-functional projects and tackle novel challenges. Antara's promotion Gates system provides a clear path to advancement for team members and serves as a pivotal element in retaining top-performing individuals. 

Our group IJP policy ensures employees are developed over a timeframe by building skill sets and capabilities across various complex environments. More than 60% of the leadership team at Antara are team members who have grown with the Max group over the years. They have done various roles across the longitudinal journey, across various group companies to build strong leadership and business capabilities. 

Building a strong organisational culture is pivotal for SMEs. How have you contributed to shaping and sustaining a positive culture within your organisation, and how has it impacted employee engagement, retention, and business outcomes?

We have meticulously crafted a culture that places innovation, collaboration, and employee empowerment at its core. This culture isn't just an abstract concept but an integral part of our daily operations and decision-making processes. We've established open forums where our employees can freely contribute ideas without any apprehension, fostering a sense of ownership and shared purpose. Our commitment to continuous learning is exemplified through regular skill development workshops and knowledge-sharing activities, promoting both professional growth and a closely-knit community.

The impact of this culture on our staff has been profound. Employee engagement has surged as individuals realise that their opinions and ideas are genuinely valued. Consequently, our retention rates have significantly improved because our team members view the organisation as more than just a workplace; it's a platform for personal and professional fulfilment. Consequently, our business outcomes have experienced a positive transformation. Collaboration and creative problem-solving have become ingrained in our culture, fuelling innovation and agility — essential elements for thriving in today's competitive landscape.

How have you leveraged technology to streamline HR processes within SMEs, enhancing efficiency while maintaining a human-centric approach?

By implementing an HRMS at Antara, we were able to centralise and automate various processes that impact the experience of an Employee from Hire to retire. Starting from onboarding to setting aspirational goals, recognition, compensation management & exit formalities all are digitised and given in the hands of the employee. Digitisation has allowed us to reduce manual paperwork and administrative overheads significantly. Employees could access their data and perform various HR-related tasks through a self-service portal, enhancing their experience and freeing up HR professionals to focus on more strategic, people-centric initiatives.

Moreover, we adopted a mobile-first approach to ensure that our HR processes were accessible to employees anytime, anywhere. This approach enabled employees to create their own unique experiences across the whole lifecycle on their mobile devices. It not only improved convenience but also promoted a sense of empowerment among our team members.

While technology played a crucial role in streamlining processes, we always prioritised the human touch. We continue to offer personalized support to employees who need assistance navigating the HRMS or addressing unique HR concerns. Additionally, we used technology to facilitate more frequent and meaningful communication between employees and managers, fostering a culture of transparency and feedback.

Considering the evolving business landscape, what emerging trends or skills do you believe HR professionals in SMEs and emerging businesses should focus on to secure their career trajectories? 

As the nature of business is ever-changing, a few techniques we can follow to overcome any potential challenges and secure HR careers are:

  • Continuous Skill Development: Staying updated with HR trends and honing specialised skills is vital for career growth in SMEs and emerging firms.
  • Embracing Technology and Analytics: HR professionals should leverage technology and data-driven insights, incorporating AI tools to predict staff retention and optimise operations.
  • Business Acumen: Understanding the organisation's success factors and aligning HR strategies with business plans and economic conditions is critical.
  • Focus on People: Prioritise enhancing individual employee experiences and crafting benefit packages that resonate with the modern workforce.
  • Adapting to the Gig Economy and Remote Work: Be prepared for the increasing prevalence of gig workers and remote work and ensure compliance with evolving regulations.
  • Continuous Learning and Certification: Invest in ongoing learning and certification to stay abreast of changing HR dynamics and advance professionally.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: Develop the ability to adapt quickly to changes in the professional landscape, staying agile in response to evolving HR challenges.

HR will be more strategic than ever in future, moving from rule enforcers to trusted consultants. By proactively developing these skills, HR professionals in SMEs and growing firms can thrive in a rapidly changing HR domain and make a meaningful impact on their organisations. 

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Topics: Leadership, Strategic HR, HR Technology, #SMEcorner, #HRTech, #Leaders Talk

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