Article: People Development: The Answer to Sustenance and Growth

Learning & Development

People Development: The Answer to Sustenance and Growth

The National Conference organized by National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM) addressed the nationwide concern of 'sustainable people development' both at the macro and micro level

Building competitive sustainable advantage requires a growth that is balanced and inclusive


The new generation values individual growth and development as much as remuneration


The National Conference organized by National Institute of Personnel Management (NIPM) addressed the nationwide concern of ‘sustainable people development’ both at the macro and micro level

People development is a concern both at the macro (national) level and the micro (organizational) level in present day India. The need of the hour is to make sustainable people development a business agenda - a story much easier said than done, especially in a complex country like ours. However with concerted effort towards developing people at the national level can enable inclusive growth which is the key to sustainable national growth.

To quote Neeraj Batra (Infinity Business School) who said, “Building competitive sustainable advantage requires a growth that is balanced and inclusive”. What we witnessed at Egypt as mass demonstrations that led to the unruly manner in which President Hosni Mubarak had to step down, is an example of the power of youth, and the predicament a nation creates for itself when youth energy is not channelized right. Strangely the macro implication of inadequate people development can be as adverse as this. In this light, India’s macro need is for a robust focus on sustainable development of its workforce. This will be the key in ensuring that sustainable advantage is not restricted to a few pockets. Bodies like NIPM are geared to address the larger concern of people development through right channelization of corporate efforts, for the larger good of the nation. The National Skills Development Council (NSDC) is another government engineered body that has been prepped to work towards addressing the issue of skill gap in the present employable pool of talent – again an effort towards enabling inclusive growth. Sustainable national growth will automatically address India’s need for people development at the macro level. But the complex structure that we operate in will require equal support at the micro level where fueling people development at the organizational level is also crucial.

While the national agenda will be addressed over a long period of time, there are many interventions at the organizational level that can happen immediately. The urgent focus is on how organizations can gain competitive advantage through its people – again a story that has been retold over and over, but with few solid solutions. A structured approach for this is a continuous emphasis on enabling performance excellence through innovative HR strategies for attracting, nurturing and retaining talent. Numerous organizations have done their bit to ensure that their people strength is not compromised but there are still many more that think of cutting people costs without a blink of an eye – like we often see the uncouth slash of training budgets and manpower cost when faced with a crisis.

The urgent need is to ring the alarm for organizations to act now. Companies must recognize that it can drive business continuity largely through internalization of people development. There is need to take a relook at their HRM systems and tools and bring in innovative approaches to capitalize on people competencies – of both high potentials and the average consistent contributors. This is possible only when HR works in tandem with the leadership team to bring about a performance and development driven culture in the organization. Undoubtedly, the knowledge economy and the service sector boom have made people the center of business. Hence for any business turnaround to be effective, organization must have the equal buy-in of all stakeholders in forwarding the people agenda.

Another consideration for HR today is the mixed bag of employees falling under Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z categories who have different aspirations from life and work. There is a need to acknowledge the diverse needs of the employees falling into different generations as their needs and expectations from the employer as well as the job differ a great deal. The new generation values individual growth and development as much as remuneration. For this, organizations need to take a relook at the total reward spectrum to incorporate career advancement and other developmental initiatives to encourage continuous performance from such a workforce. In fact, there is an obvious shift towards making development the way to manage people. This need for a continuous learning system is further emphasized by the prevalence of the knowledge economy.

The challenge for companies is manifold as the present structure (in both private and public sector) does not allow employees from three diverse generations to co-exist. This call for a revisit of HR systems and processes so that they are adequately customized to meet the unique need of each category. The common realization is that diversity is a source of creativity and innovation which can become a competitive advantage for the organization. And creativity and innovation is a function of people capability as a result of the diverse ideas that people bring because of their diverse backgrounds. Managing diversity refers to adequate opportunity for all employees to maximize their potential and contribution to the organization. This diverse workforce can make business more efficient and successful, but only if the diverse pool of ideas is appropriately channelized through a sustainable model.

The business dynamics also require companies to focus on managing confidence, i.e. inspire people to give their best, and address the prevailing talent challenges. In a growing economy like India, where people are the true differentiators, there is an urgent need for the realignment of the people management approach. Performance-based-pay and inclusion of a larger percentage of total pay as variable is becoming the norm across industries. This in turn reiterates the efforts towards creating a performance culture that focuses on people development, and thereby organizational development and growth.

Performance-based training along with performance-based pay, is fast gaining popularity in this immediate need for organizations to focus on a sustainable people development. Companies need to look at performance management as a tool to enable continuous performance excellence and improvement. Therefore understanding people behavior with the aim to successfully instill confidence, build competence and a high spirit response from the market, peers, subordinate and bosses is crucial.

Many organizations have initiated innovative HR strategies such as the balanced scorecard approach to bring a clear correlation between HR and business. This enables employees to see a clear connect between people contribution and the bottom line. The combined approach of creating a learning culture, which is performance driven, will go a long way in ensuring sustainable people development at the micro level. Such initiatives can be easily administered by organization without loosing much time and that is important for organizations to take note of. The focus is to consciously develop the DNA of the organization as represented by its innovative HR practices, people focus, and inclusive growth, with demarcated responsibilities for business leaders (CEOs), HR leaders and the employees.

Bhaskar Chatterjee

Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises

People development is at the heart of any organization, and this is particularly true in India. We have many unique traits, first being the tremendous demographic dividend, secondly, the rapid increase in the education and literacy levels, and finally, the growing availability of talent as more women join the employable workforce.

The challenge for professionals is to leverage this talent pool and develop its potential. Most importantly this development of human potential needs to happen in a sustainable manner across all levels - from a focused training at regular intervals and not as a one-off initiative, to providing exposure over and above the current area of work to ensure that people do not become insular in their thinking, that people are motivated to learn and grow, and to make available a combination of formal and informal means of learning.

Specifically in the public sector, the change has been tremendous. From demonopolization, to listing and from exposure to the marketplace, to deregulation of prices, all these have meant that public sector companies are now exposed to competition and hence the mindset, attitude and essence of people development has changed. More and more PSUs are investing today in up-skilling their workforce to keep up with tomorrow’s new business requirements.

R. Mohan Das

Director, Personnel & IR, Coal India Limited (CIL)

Ours is a people intensive organization which is highly labor-oriented, so my foremost objective is to ensure our industrial relations (IR) is very strong and sound. The Personnel and IR department strives to ensure there are no strikes, along with other HR functional activities that must take place to lead the organization to fulfill its goals and targets. Our success is reflective in the fact that despite being a labor- intensive organization, the attrition at Coal India Limited (CIL) is only 5%, which is very healthy.

More time is spent on individual career development and modeling, succession planning, individual development, and various other things directed towards development of the human resource. The Balanced Scorecard is a popular tool at CIL which includes a HR perspective as well helps in the setting of HR goals and objectives which is cascaded down to each individual, thereby aligning HR objectives to that of the organization.

Today’s HR professional is required to be a jack of all trades. She/he should know about the latest in the function, must be a very good communicator, and have the capability to observe and understand the nuances of human behavior. It is HR’s role to ensure that the organizational philosophy, target, culture, and values are effectively communicated across people, as the core lies in creating a culture where talent is nurtured and developed continuously.

Sandeep Tyagi

Director, Human Resources, Haier Appliances (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Talent management plays the role of strategic partner in the organization. When we say ‘strategic’ we are referring to the effectiveness of the different development programs in improving the ability of employees to perform their jobs well, thus increasing productivity. There is a direct correlation between employee performance and organization productivity, and HR must recognize and popularize that.

The key dimensions to be address while developing such a strategy are culture, organization design, people, human resources systems, employee communication and business alignment – all of which must be coordinated towards achieving the core business agenda. HR must be able to bring about the shift in mindset of its employees to enable this change.

Shashank Vira

Educator & Business Advisor

A critical need is to help every individual understand the business and how his/her role contributes to organizational success.

I remember meeting a security guard in the evening outside a local school. The guard proudly described the special curriculum at the institution to an awestruck couple who immediately enrolled their children in the school the next morning. The guard’s self-worth did not come from standing in a cold cabin at night, instead it came from the joy of learning that he saw in the school of which he was a proud member. In essence, the first role of a leader is to ensure that people understand the business and the implications of their work in the business. If there is any disconnect in this aspect, there will be accountability gaps and someone will drop the baton. Further, a leader must not risk ignoring minority views in the organization. The opinions that are not paid the right attention often turn out to be the most critical (in a crisis, for example). The leader who spend significant time in managing risk and not ignore the ‘blind spots’ will sustain performance excellence.

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Topics: Learning & Development, Strategic HR

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