Viswanath PS (popularly known as Vishy), who was the CFO at Randstad India, took over from Paul Dupuis as the MD and CEO of Randstad India recently. Vishy is a business and finance veteran with over 28 years of experience across multiple industries. Vishy joined Randstad India in 2014 as the Head of the Shared Services Centre (SSC) and became CFO in 2016. A Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Vishy is unsurprisingly a certified black belt in Six Sigma. He is also a keen fitness enthusiast who enjoys running, yoga and cricket.
Here are the excerpts of an interaction with Vishy where he shares his thoughts on people strategy, new work culture, and the future of work.
You take charge at an unprecedented difficult time across the globe. In these difficult times, what are your priorities as a leader?
Yes, indeed, these are very difficult times across the world – and more so for India, as it is still experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19’s second wave. One valuable lesson I’ve learnt with the course of my career is that, during a crisis, leaders have to control the controllable and make peace with the rest. And so, our first priority will be the safety, health and emotional well-being of our people – our own employees as well as the people we place. We owe this to our people, and hopefully, you will agree, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce.
The next priority is to do even better than what we’re doing so well today. At Randstad India, we aim to reinvent the staffing sector so that we’re unbeatable, and to achieve this, we will embrace excellence of execution. Finally, we will speed up our digital development, so that we stand taller in our own league. We will be more digitised in terms of client servicing and talent management keeping human intervention in place.
The structure of work, workforce models, and work execution models – all of them have drastically changed and will continue to do so. As a leader in staffing services, how will Randstad India bring in the agility to address this disruptive environment?
COVID-19 clearly drove the necessity and compulsion to drastically change work models, and accelerate the future of work. We’re being propelled into a new future of work – one that takes us from hierarchical and centralized authority to a fluid network of teams; from a ‘command-and-control’ leadership to increased autonomy and trust; from applying technology to the task at hand to building super teams of people and intelligent machines; and from a focus of health and safety to amplifying a holistic meaning of well-being. And here’s where the crisis has created a great opportunity and license for organisations to test and experiment with new ways of working. They can choose which lessons to embed in their near and mid-term future, and how they will define their standards in this new reality.
So, our mission is to see how Randstad India can be a driving force in this future, which is all about employee experience and autonomy. We will look at configuring and rearchitecting work models for our diverse clients – embedding the hybrid model that will leverage the best remote and onsite work for them so that they can unlock the impactful autonomy and flexibility of their workforce.
An equally important objective is to create a strong fabric of culture amidst the new shared rituals, symbols and behaviors required in this new future of work. How can we prevent career regression and ensure timely career development milestones of offsite workers, so that the out-of-sight aren’t out-of-mind? How can we ensure that the line between personal and professional lives is not blurred? I am excited about the key role Randstad can play in building new work models to enable our clients to remain agile and competent.
Externally, people are your purpose. Internally, people are your strength. What are the noteworthy strengths of your people that create a superior organisational culture at Randstad India?
Frankly, over time, we have built Randstad India with the best people who live and breathe the Randstad values and business principles – to know, to serve, to trust, simultaneous promotion of all interests and striving for perfection. I personally love and admire the enthusiasm, the creativity, the discipline and the ‘human forward’ commitment our people bring to work every day. This is our unique value proposition and our secret weapon that none of our competitors today have, or can match. When it comes to performance, everyone at Randstad India has a burning ambition and desire to excel. This is one team that is always proud but not satisfied with the status quo.
Randstad India has supported clients seamlessly to recover during the COVID-19 crisis last year. How is the company going to partner with them to grow and thrive amidst the existing challenges?
Our mission is to be the most valued partner to our clients. We will continue to drive this agenda in greater measure as we go along. For example, we launched the ‘Randstad Cares 2.0’ initiative specifically to help our clients during these challenging times.
Randstad Cares 2.0 hinges on three ‘I’ approaches: The first is Introduction, where we connect with our clients to inquire about their well-being, that how they are dealing with the crisis, and whether we can help them. The second is Inform, where we talk about the steps we’re taking to safeguard talent working for them, the vaccination program, and other measures. And for the clients who want to bring back their employees to work, we help with safety protocols and other guidelines to ensure safe and productive workplaces, through our ‘safely back to work’ handbook. Finally, the third is Inquisitiveness about their preparedness for the future, and that how we can step up to help them leverage opportunities.
With the world moving to a ‘digital only’ compulsion, what are the major investments in technology Randstad India will make?
We embarked on our digital transformation journey a couple of years ago and will continue to invest significantly in technology to keep us agile and nimble. We have implemented some interesting and exciting technology projects on the staffing front and in the permanent hiring area. In addition, we’ve invested in a state-of-the-art HRMS, which will be of huge value for our teams and have launched our brand new global intranet - ‘CONNECT’. We’re also looking to invest in applications and for sure, digital will continue to be a key enabler for us in our ‘Tech-for-Touch’ strategy.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader? And what is the one strength as a CFO you hope to bring into your new role?
I believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to learning and thus, I’ve committed myself to continuous learning. As we grow in our careers, we need to develop a repertoire of skills. So, I continue to look at what more skills I need to develop, and how I can acquire them.
I challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone, and a good example of this is me taking up the role of the CEO role and transitioning into it. I set the bar high and try to vault the height. I’m also curious and passionate, and always asking questions. There’s a little bit of a dreamer in me too, and I keep asking myself the all-important ‘What if?’ question. Most importantly, I love engaging with people and learning from them.
If I have to share my top three strengths, I rate them as my continuous pursuit of personal discovery, my steadfast professional will, determination and ambition, and the trust and credibility I exude. I use these strengths to live in the ‘here and now’, even as I paint a picture of the future – and to influence and enable people and organisations.
As a CFO, one strength that I will bring into my next role is my strong ability to make data-driven decisions that are more rational than purely by gut feel. This makes me what I call ‘inspirationally irritating’ – inspiring to get the best out of people, and irritating enough to draw out even better performances!
What are your thoughts on the future of work and the future of physical workspaces?
One of the biggest epiphanies that many organisations have experienced is in how workspaces are looked at. Workplace is no longer a mere place where people go to work, but where work actually is – or comes to. As complete a turnaround as it seems, it is actually a simple tweak of how work needs to be looked at. In the emerging situation of ‘anytime, anywhere’ work, the physical aspect of work takes on a totally different dimension. I feel excited to view the workplace as a ‘borderless liquid hub’, which is not just a location but a network of collaborative energy and interactions.
The flexibility of interaction is the key idea of the future of work. In the last 18 months of remote working, we have been more conscious of the reality that people do different things at different times. There are times when we need an isolated space to focus and concentrate, and there are times when we need to hang out with colleagues in person to feel human-centered at work. And this is what the future of physical workplaces will be all about. It will be a purposeful space that will balance the pressure of work with camaraderie, and the push for productivity with the social need for collaboration and celebration.
While the future of work will go digital and technology will be a powerful enabler for this shift, I do believe that it is equally about bringing a cultural transformation. How can we provide the right space that is respectful of our people’s needs? How can we create an environment that inspires them to be happy and work together to co-create transformation? As leaders, we should make the future workplace give positive and motivated impetus to plug into work every moment of every day.
At Randstad, this is our ‘Human Forward’ DNA and approach, and we practice it with great commitment.