India is a land of unpredictability: MD & CEO, Randstad India
Paul Dupuis is the CEO and MD of Randstad India, with more than 25 years of professional experience in Asia across Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and now India. He has gained extensive industry experience and network from handling key leadership roles in recruitment, strategic planning and business development, spanning renowned organizations.
Here are the excerpts of the interview.
What are the primary leadership qualities that helped you grow within Randstad in the last two years?
In the last two and a half years since I have arrived in India, I have clearly grown as a leader, and have developed a few skills.
- Agility – the ability to navigate this very rapidly changing economy and society.
- Resilience – India is a land of unpredictability – but with that comes both opportunities and challenges. It is very important to be resilient and bounce back every day.
- Optimism – This is critical to be successful in an ever-changing environment like India.
Can you take us through the growth story of Randstad in the India market?
When I look at our success in India, it is less about volume and more about value. At Randstad, we have always set out on a clear ambition to be the most trusted and the most admired company in our industry. Nowhere in our vision do we say that we want to be the biggest in India. We believe that growth is an outcome of assembling the right people, right strategy, crystal clear vision – or the North Star – and giving them the tools to achieve great execution and success. And the outcome has been the remarkable growth that we have clocked. What we are seeing in India is the result of a strategy that is based on a narrow and deep philosophy, strategic partnerships with clients, and earning the trust of both clients and candidates.
Yes, we are growing ahead of the market and rank as the fastest growing countries in Randstad –but not because we only aimed for growth. Smart and sustainable growth is what we look at. We aim to build a company that will be here for many, many years to come – a company that will continue to take the leading position of the most trusted and admired organization.
What according to you is the role of leadership in building a high-performance organization?
Before anything, we need to define what high performance is. It is not about driving the top line – or even the bottom line – at all. High performance is about infusing your people with a clear and shared vision. I call this the North Star. This is the first ask of leadership.
Everyone moving towards the vision should have a purpose and impact. Ultimately a high performing organization delivers on its promise – and does so with good values. So, it’s not only about the “what” – it’s also about the “how”. It’s about the behaviors that drive the performance. At Randstad, our growth and performance are driven by a compelling and shared vision – and supported by strong values to make it sustainable.
How do you see the future of work and the new skills economy?
When we look at the future of work, it’s important to understand that it is no longer about today and tomorrow. It’s really about the day after tomorrow. The workplace, the way we work, where we work, and how we work is changing at a rapid pace. Gone are the days of lifelong employment. Instead we have today a flourishing gig economy, fluid contracts, and more. Already we have seen a change in the physical workplace, with plug-and-play “hot desking”. We also see innovative approaches to work – where people not only choose the desk from which they want to work, but also the project in which they want to work, and even the leader they choose to work under. What we do know is that the workforce of the future will join, stay in, and leave a company because of people.
When we look at skills that will support the new economy in the future, these are skills that don’t exist yet. However, what we need is an agile workforce that is able to adapt, learn quickly and apply their experience for the future. Agility is a critical characteristic that will be the trigger for and drive success in the future of work.
What is the one crucial thing that the government should do to trigger job growth in India?
When it comes to the labour market, India today faces both significant opportunities and challenges, As the fastest growing economy in the world with a young workforce that is growing rapidly (one million people enter the workforce every month), India is poised to be a force to be reckoned with in the global economy.
However, there is one critical challenge that India faces – the skill gap. In order to support the pace of growth, it is important that the country develops a well-trained workforce that is ready for tomorrow and beyond. There is a disconnect between the government’s growth ambition and the schools that educate people for the future. We need to close this gap. To foster job growth, I believe the government should look at the educational system and vocational schools to ensure that the curriculum is well matched to meet the needs of the labour market. The “Make in India” initiative specifically shifts the spotlight towards a highly capable workforce. This can raise India’s potential to be the global manufacturing centre and the exporter to the world – high not only in volumes but also in quality.
What are some of the biggest leadership challenges you have faced personally? What did you take away from those moments?
Like any senior leader, I have faced many significant challenges in my career. When I made my move to Singapore to join a medium-sized company earlier in my professional life, it called for significant adjustment. Joining a large and global organization like Randstad had a different set of adjustments to be made. And coming to India from Japan - where the business was successful in a stable environment and a predictable society – called for a lot of learning. While India, in many ways, is a land of unpredictability, it offers something unique. There is an eagerness in India that is unrivalled across the world. Being a leader in such an environment requires specific skills.
I arrived in India leaving an environment where I had credibility, familiarity and followership. I arrived in India literally knowing no one, including the team I was going to lead. It thus began with a need to earn credibility – and it was a significant professional challenge, with practically no combat weapons. But I was warmly welcomed by my team, and so was able to accelerate business with success. Today, we have big plans for growth in 2020 and beyond.
With new trends changing the way we conceptualize work, workplace, and workforce, how can CEOs and CHROs create flexible organizations and set a learning agenda to re-skill talent to adapt to change?
In a rapidly changing economy and society, the interests and needs of the future workforce is bound to be different from the past. This includes both the workplace and the environment. We need to be ready for this.
Our research in Randstad shows that in India, particularly the younger generation job seekers look to join a company that demonstrates a compelling cause. Further, they want to join a leader who they can admire. A leader who will spend time with them, coach and mentor them. And so, it is vital that companies and leaders invest in their people – specifically in learning and development. They need to create opportunities for high performance, for growth in the organization with flexibility. CEOs need to work closely with not only the CHROs but also with the senior leadership teams across the four corners of their companies. They need to ensure that the environment is effectively future-proofed.
India is a land of unpredictability - but with that comes both opportunities and challenges. It is very important to be resilient and bounce back every day
The undeniable truth is that learning organizations and diverse organizations are very strong – this has been proven time and again, across industries and across boundaries. Diversity and learning constitute a powerful combination.
What are the trends you foresee for the year 2020? Which sectors will have a positive job growth?
When we look at the Indian environment today, we at Randstad are unanimous that we can build sustainable organizations – especially in the wake of a growing economy, a burgeoning and young workforce, and a clear ambition and vision by the government to foster growth. Add in the inevitable introduction of data protection laws, and the increasing legitimacy of the staffing market – you have a truly compelling opportunity. When it comes to jobs, we see a significant buzz and lift in the e-Commerce, IT services and BPO sectors. The pharma and telecom industries are also witnessing an upward tick. There is a big demand for professionals in the emerging technologies. In the wake of the government’s stimulus programmes, we also find an increased confidence among manufacturing organizations.
What are your thoughts on becoming a game changing leader?
There is a difference between a competent manager and a game changing leader. The competent managers are the majority of leaders out there in the world. They plan to deliver on the expectation and meet the expectation, they deliver on the KPIs, they follow all the rules, play the game well and try to play the game better. Whereas the game changer leader literally changes the game and they don’t only meet the expectations but they take it to a new level.
Tell us something about your upcoming book on leadership?
I am a passionate student of leadership, not only in the business context but also in the sports environment because I am the captain of our ice hockey team. Last year, I was doing an executive training at London Business School on transformation of leadership. In one of the coaching sessions with the professor we discussed ideas and values of leadership. That discussion prompted me to write a book and it’s about the five Es of effective leadership.