“We need to be bifocal; we can't get overpowered by this pandemic and remain here and now, there will be a world and life beyond” - Dr. Santrupt Misra, Director - Global HR, Aditya Birla Group
The best way to make a business sustainable is by empowering future leaders, and leading the way in this direction is Founder and Chairman of SOIL Institute of Management, Shri. Anil Sachdev, through the webinar series ‘Be the best version of yourself’. In conversation with Dr. Santrupt Misra, Chief Executive Officer, Chemicals Business and Global Director - Human Resources, for the Aditya Birla Group (ABG), the two industry stalwarts talk about ABG’s initiatives to foster engagement and wellness, renaming human resources as human possibilities, and Santrupt’s mantra to inspire ‘make that switch, take that risk’.
Read on for highlights from the conversation.
Setting a new tone & tenor for community
“In the last two years it was simply not about me.”
On being asked about his happiest best, Santrupt recollects the moments that taught him the importance of serving the society to create a meaningful difference, along with being able to go against the odds, and set standards that inspire people. Speaking of his unique role as both a CEO and an HR Head, he said, “What was always at the back of my mind was about making it successful for the HR community as a whole, so that others feel inspired to be able to make that switch, take that risk”.
Recalling his experience of completing 25 years of work in ABG and co-creating inspiring moments of change with all his colleagues, he shared instances of successfully commissioning a new plant and equipment in Thailand during COVID, which they have never done before. On the same note he expressed pride in the work done in rural units: “With the support of the unit managers, the teachers, the principles to convert schools into unique assets in rural areas and making them comparable to the best schools in India with a fraction of a cost that people pay there for education”. He further added, “We introduced telemedicine in our rural units 14 years ago as a way of connecting our people with the best hospitals in India. We had the vision to believe that digital is the way of the future”.
Fighting COVID-19: Esprit de corps
“People worked longer, some of them stayed in the factories, I think it has been a great story of people coming together”
The pandemic has been an opportunity to rally the employees, bringing out and highlighting the best practices of the company. It reignited the spirit of “one Aditya Birla”.
They created communities of corona warriors, set up call centre’s for providing information pertaining to COVID-19 virus and he leveraged his entire network for the service of the country. And further, he insisted not to judge people or companies when they are acting under stress.
Speaking of ABG’s approach towards engaging employees of diverse backgrounds digitally, Santrupt emphasized, “Engagement comes from challenging job learning, connectivity and inspiration from managers, and a sense of belonging that the organization cares. Also, that the organization cares not just for employees, but cares for community and people beyond.” Here are some initiatives that ABG undertook to keep its employees engaged.
- Learning initiatives: The company invested in transforming all work into a digital virtual mode and provided employees with digital access to learning content, through their LMS platform. “3.2 million units of learning were consumed by our employees during the last four or five months,” noted Santrupt
- Social engagement activities: ABG carried out the entire recognition program virtually and created the atmosphere of a virtual theatre, enabling a sense of togetherness
- Employee well-being: The organization arranged for counsellors to support employees and their families in handling any mental trauma that they experienced during this time of crisis
COVID-19 has not just brought in disruption but opened a gateway for rapid innovation & adaptability, creating a sense of a continuous search for efficiency and parallelly reinforced the focus to nurture an engaged and healthy workforce.
Challenging deeply ingrained social bias
‘A rose still smells like a rose, call it by whatever name,’ quipped Santrupt, when asked about the need to look at employees as possibilities and renaming the Human Resources department as ‘Human Possibilities’ Department.
He added that what matters is the need to focus on empowering employees, to create values - ethics, creativity, ingenuity, and empathy, all of these enable the ability to create these values.
“I would rather focus on how we harness this potential,” he added.
Speaking of gender diversity, Santrupt highlighted that gender diversity cannot be created just by creating gender neutral space, it is a challenge of changing deeply ingrained social bias. “One of our fundamental challenges was to encourage parents to allow their girl children to come and avail skill development training in our skill institutions”. There is a need for a social revolution to create an atmosphere of acceptance and safety, overcoming every gender-based stereotype concerning most professions.
There is an urgent need to embrace, welcome, and accept change, “along with a willingness to adapt.” Santrupt shared, “Developing comfort with rapid change, continuous change and willingness to embrace that change more willingly, happily with a spirit of adventure and learning,” is the kind of mindset that will help us survive in this VUCA world. Learning from the path less travelled creates a culture of innovation, experimentation and builds meaningful experience with a sense of empathy, gratitude and a sustainable mindset.