A seasoned HR leader with 22 years of experience across engineering and product verticals in various industries from eCommerce, Retail, BFSI, Healthcare, and Lifestyle, Asit Kumar joined the Lendingkart team as the Chief Human Resource Officer in 2022. His areas of expertise include M&A, Rewards and Benefits, Policy Design, and Analytics. Previously, Asit was the Head of HR for the Retail Tech Team of Jio Platform Limited and has led key HR positions at brands like Flipkart, IBM, Infosys, Computer Sciences Corporation, and HCL Technologies.
In this exclusive conversation with People Matters, Asit talks about the key ingredients of a successful performance management strategy, Lendingkart’s impactful career development programmes and more.
Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
As performance management models evolve and transform with the changing business landscape, why do you think it’s an important part of HR strategy?
In today's intensely competitive talent landscape, businesses are engaged in a relentless pursuit of attracting and retaining the best professionals. Organisations that display agility, a strong bias for action, a commitment to quality, and a focus on delivering high-impact outcomes are the ones poised to outshine their competitors. To maintain this competitive edge, Performance Management must be a dynamic and adaptive process. It should encompass an evaluation framework that envelopes essential competencies aligned with these critical success factors.
Whether executed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, performance management must incorporate the 'how' aspect to ensure that the talents within an organisation leave a lasting impact on the business.
As the business landscape continually evolves, the architecture of these systems, processes, and methodologies must also evolve in parallel. Regular review and refinement are imperative to keep pace with market dynamics, enabling employees to cultivate relevant, in-demand, and future-oriented proficiencies.
What are the key components of a successful performance management system tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities faced by emerging businesses?
What makes performance management successful at Lendingkart is a thoughtful blend of design, process, and execution.
To begin with, the framework for performance evaluation is meticulously designed to account not only for "what" employees achieve but also for "how" they do it. We emphasise that every successful project is underpinned by adherence to Lendingkart's values. Within this context, values like customer centricity, teamwork, quality, agility, bias for action, frugal innovation, effective communication, and collaborative spirit are not just abstract ideals but tangible behaviours we look for in everyday work and execution. In evaluating any employee's performance, these factors serve as critical touchpoints that need to be thoroughly acknowledged and factored in.
Moving to the process aspect, our priority remains to ensure an atmosphere of unbiased and fair evaluations. It is important that your people place trust in the performance management system, the rating process, and the overall evaluative approach.
Coming to the execution part, we've bifurcated the discussion into two distinct meetings: one focusing on performance development and the other on compensation and increments. This practice ensures that discussions around salary adjustments do not overshadow the recognition of outstanding performance or the identification of areas for improvement. Performance Development Plans (PDPs) occupy a central role in this scheme, catering to the developmental needs of all employees, regardless of their performance level.
And finally, we emphasise manager enablement. It is extremely important for managers to know how to land a performance conversation. This requires a deep understanding of their team members' roles, responsibilities, and accomplishments. This preparedness is crucial to the success of the performance management cycle and is a testament to how much the organisation cares about their people. It's essential for managers to adeptly convey performance ratings and feedback to their team members. Whether an employee falls under the "Meets Expectations" category or otherwise they do work hard for the organisation, and the expectation is to treat everyone with respect and dedicate due time to discuss their performance and development plan for the upcoming year, thus reflecting our respect for their contributions.
Employee development is vital for both individual growth and overall business success. What strategies have you found effective in promoting skill development and career advancement in these dynamic environments?
A significant portion of the modern workforce today will undoubtedly comprise Gen Z, a cohort that ardently seeks instant gratification whether it is in terms of recognition of good work, quality of projects undertaken or tangible benefits. At Lendingkart, we recognised this trend exemplified by our innovative program named "Accelerate."
“Accelerate” is an accelerated career progression and job rotation program for our exceptional high-performing individuals within the Lendingkart family. Through this strategy, we expedite the growth trajectory of our high-potential (HiPots) employees by orchestrating seamless transitions across diverse roles and responsibilities. Our workforce has the opportunity to apply for Internal Job Posting (IJPs) even if the positions are situated one or two hierarchical levels above their current status. Contrary to conventional norms, this is not hinged on an employee's tenure but is based on their personal accomplishments, and selection by the panel members.
In line with our commitment to elevating employee potential, another initiative that we are carrying out is called “Growth”. “Growth” is a program to develop, engage and retain our HiPos.
This multifaceted initiative encompasses a spectrum of offerings, including personalised coaching, impactful mentoring, immersive job shadowing experiences, and the attainment of certifications that bolster their professional acumen. Although monetary growth is part of our career advancement strategies, we definitely prioritise individual growth in terms of acquiring new skills and achieving higher performance.
Job family change is also a part of our offerings, where rather than solely relying on external hires to fill roles, we grant our workforce an opportunity to change their career path within the organisation also.
How do you approach performance-related challenges in a way that fosters employee growth and engagement? Also, how do you ensure that the performance management cycle is backed by a robust feedback mechanism?
At Lendingkart, our approach to handling Performance-related challenges is characterised by a foundation of respect, empathy, and unwavering support for our employees. We recognise the pivotal role that open communication plays in these situations, hence keeping an open dialogue with your employees is important. When rolling out a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), we adhere to a carefully considered process that underscores its effectiveness. The initiation of a PIP is a thoughtful and gradual progression, marked by a series of well-defined stages. It cannot be sudden. Employees must have received various opportunities to have candid feedback (verbal and then written) from managers. Managers must extend support to help employees enhance their skills and overcome areas of improvement, alongside the provision of desired mentoring or coaching. The initiation of a PIP is a well-defined process that comes with tangible and attainable objectives, complete with clearly outlined timelines.
At Lendingkart, the HR department plays a vital role within the PIP process. Functioning as a neutral intermediary, the HR team ensures not only the justified implementation of the PIP but also facilitates a seamless and fair process overall. The HR is an attendee in every meeting held as part of the PIP to measure progress, give feedback, and explore areas of further development. This ensures that the dialogue is transparent and unbiased, and employees are engaged and actively involved, understanding that the PIP is ultimately designed to fuel their personal and professional growth.
Additionally, we take proactive steps to encourage employees to voice any concerns they may have through our dedicated "Grievance Committee," particularly when it concerns matters such as performance ratings or promotions. This mechanism guarantees that any, and all grievances are immediately addressed, and the rating or promotion concerns are reviewed by a neutral grievance committee. We also run another larger performance management survey, “Fairness Survey” which aggregates collective insights on the perceived fairness of our processes, the quality of performance development discussions, and even welcomes innovative ideas from employees to enhance the system further. The feedback we gather is carefully reviewed and leveraged to refine our processes, thereby fortifying our approach for the ensuing cycles.
As emerging businesses scale and evolve rapidly, how do you adapt performance management strategies to align with the changing needs of the organisation and its workforce?
Being relevant is the only mantra in effectively navigating the evolving expanse of business growth. Crafting a performance management strategy that not only steers the organisation towards its aspirational status in the industry but also positions it as a definitive leader amongst its competitors becomes imperative. This will define your key competencies, focus areas, key deliverables etc. To ensure your organisation becomes a successful leader in the market, the quality of the work done and the competency standards of your workforce will have to align with the changing business scenario. This directly feeds into the performance management processes which must be agile and open to continuous improvement and revisions.
Another very important aspect of the performance management process revolves around translating discussions into actionable insights during calibration sessions for each employee. While closing the Performance Management System (PMS) cycle may appear easy, the most important part is to address development areas, foster learning interventions, cultivate manager and leader capability building and more, throughout the year. Failing to do so would result in an unbroken cycle of addressing the same issues up until our next performance appraisal cycle too.