People who are engaged in the business need to communicate effectively, be it the vision of the organization or the goals that one has set as a company
Dipali Goenka, MD, Welspun Global Brands shares with Basuri Dutta the essence of people in its journey from being a family-owned business to becoming a global leader
How has the role of HR evolved in the journey of Welspun?
Welspun began as a compact family-owned business where people would stay with the organization for a long time. Gradually, as the organization grew and got publicly listed, there was a need to gravitate towards ‘professionalism’, and getting the right kind of people onboard to grow at the required scale. Today, every vertical has its own CEO and is being professionally managed.
The journey has helped us realize that people are our key assets and we have worked towards empowering them and developing them to think on their own, so they can be groomed as future leaders in the organization. Keeping with this, the HR journey has evolved to understand the essence of the emotional quotient in the success of the business.
What are the top three needs and expectations of employees today?
It is empowerment, more empowerment and yet more empowerment all the way. All individuals have their thirst and aspirations built around the person they want to be. What we have seen is that people want to know their career and growth path within the organization. There are many examples of people who have joined us as trainees, and are today in the positions of General Manager and even likely to become the Presidents of their respective businesses. They just need a certain kind of direction, grooming and empowerment. If these people are going to be the future brains driving the business, it is of quintessential importance for them to know that they can take decisions which will hold and that they have the ear of the management. Further, they must be groomed and evolved as human beings so that they do not plateau.
The second big focus is communication from the top to create alignment. People who are engaged in the business need to communicate effectively, be it the vision of the organization or the goals that one has set as a company. At Welspun, ‘Disha’ is an initiative that enables the company to revisit its vision every 4 or 5 years to take stock of where they are heading as an organization. Now, we have set an ambitious target of being a 10 billion dollar company by 2015-16. And this is possible because we and our people are communicated clearly on the target and the plan to reach the goal. There are town-halls where all the sites, locations and plants connect through VC and we communicate to our people on the business plan and involve them right from the beginning. In the upper echelons of the organization, people have a clear view of things because there is a day-to-day connect with the top leadership, but it is critical to ensure continuous communication even as we go down the hierarchy. Hence, deliberate investment of time and effort in communicating down the lines is of significant importance.
The third focus is a sense of pride in how the organization contributes to the society. We have an internal magazine called ‘Well-Wisher’, which gives employees complete insight into all the businesses and the way it contributes to the community. As an organization, we have realized the importance of giving back to the society. For instance, Welspun contributes towards promoting education at the basic level in Gujarat by setting up schools in the local community as well as running vocational training courses. Given the low standards in basic education, our focus has been to promote basic education in various places we operate in.
What is the one characteristic that every people manager must possess and why?
Leaders should be very good listeners and listen without prejudices. Challenges in the form of perception of favoritism at the time of appraisal, etc. often surface in organizations in absence of leaders who are good listeners. I encourage my people to come back and give me the harshest of feedback that will pinch me because I need to know where I stand as a leader. Along with being an unbiased listener, a leader must have a bigger vision of his/her role in the organization. Grooming people that leaders earmark as their own successors in the organization, is a part of the leader’s role. Unless leaders have a broader vision and acknowledge that grooming the people who are going to inherit the mantel from them is a necessary role that they have to play, they are not setting up their successors.
What change have you witnessed in the employer-employee relationship?
The employer-employee relationship has undergone a change for sure and it is going to change further. I completely endorse what I read in the book ‘Workforce 2020’. It clarified that respect does not come with a position or designation; rather it comes because of one’s actions. A workplace environment which facilitates this will sustain a healthy employer-employee relationship in the long run. Today, I see younger people coming up to me and talking more freely as compared to the senior generations.
Please share an example of managing people, which has been personally rewarding and meaningful for you.
One significant change I have witnessed at Welspun in the last 5 to 7 years is the sizable increase in the number of women joining the organization. Today, 30 percent of the workforce is women. In the textile industry, a large section of the end consumers are women and quite a few designers and merchandisers are women. Of late, there has been an active focus on gender diversity at Welspun to cater to an increasing representation of women in the talent pool.
There is evidence that women are indeed capable of doing certain things better and they bring something unique to the workplace. On our factory shop floor at Anjar in Gujarat, traditionally we had all men and we experienced high attrition because of various factors like migration, etc. Then we started getting women on to the weaving floor. Women who undergo the vocational courses in the local community get absorbed in the organization once they complete the training. It was seen that the commitment level of women was very high and attrition was lower. We are now trying to get some hostels made for women from other places who want to work in our organization. For these women, their jobs are very valuable, which translates into their commitment and that brings further stability in the organization. This has been a heartening change in our organization, which is truly fulfilling and satisfying.
What is your elevator pitch to justify investment in people practices?
People are our assets and it is not just their IQ, but also their EQ that enables them to work effectively. An employee spends 8 to 10 hours at work and therefore, when people are taken on board they must be given a growth plan that caters to their career and personal aspirations in life. Investing in people can result in strengthening and enhancing the psychological contract that they have with the organization.