A good people manager operates at the intersection, where needs and abilities meet
Divakar Kaza, President – HR, Lupin shares with Basuri Dutta, the need for HR to change its outlook on people management.
How has your journey in HR been so far and how has the people function evolved in your industry over time?
The HR function has undergone a significant change irrespective of the industry and has taken a quantum jump in terms of criticality. Earlier we used to feel very good if our HR Head was at the same level as other functional heads. Now it is taken for granted. The function has evolved and become critical for a lot of reasons. People issues today decide the fortune of the company significantly. A company’s ability to attract good people, engage and retain them, to see that they work their way up in the company and that there is a complete architecture to support this, is making all the difference. During 1990 and 2010, the industry grew very fast and many new industries came into the horizon and suddenly ‘people’ began to be referred as ‘talent’. Employees became central to the company’s strategy and started to occupy the CEO’s time. Today it is the CEO’s agenda to engage in people issues because companies are realizing that quality of talent directly impacts the quality of business.
Please share a story of human interest in an organization that you have been a part of.
One story that I am very passionate about is the story of what we did to get people from ‘Mofussil India’ into ‘Corporate India’. It had always rankled me that all these opportunities that we were talking about as part of the ‘India story’ was always either a Mumbai story or a Bangalore story or a Delhi story. While everyone was talking about attracting and retaining highly qualified young people in cities, the world for a lot of people in India had not changed. So we launched an interesting program which enabled people, who would have otherwise dropped out of the Indian education system, to enter corporate India. In each of our factories, we recruit boys and girls, 17 to 18 years of ages, who have just finished their 12th class, from nearby areas, within 300 kms. We get them to our factories and take care of their boarding and upkeep in our hostels. We have tied up with Y.B. Chavan Open University for a customized course to allow these boys and girls to attend classes over the weekend. In 3 years time each one of them would have a B.Sc degree.
Within a year and a half we have been able to see remarkable transformation in these young people. They are active people, raring to go ahead and many of them are not just thinking of getting the B.Sc. degree but also about the next step. If they had not joined the factory after their 12th std. they would have perhaps become helpers or casual workers in the unorganized sector, prone to all kinds of exploitation. Through this system, they are able to learn and earn at the same time. At present, we have about 350 of these young people who will, in 3 years’ time, be graduates with experience and on the job training. Two factors why this project would be successful are that it ensures stability and education. These people are more likely to be stable, and in a buoyant economy; education is a big game-changer and is guaranteed to give you upward mobility.
What is the one characteristic that you believe a people manager should possess and why?
A people manager should possess the ability to understand what drives people. With respect to people there are two things at play simultaneously, different levels of ability and different levels of aspiration. Understanding that people have different kinds of needs and aspirations that drive them and that they have different ability, is essentially important. A good people manager operates at the intersection, where needs and abilities meet. Otherwise you end up killing a lot of efficient people, in the hope of making them supermen. Everyone might not want to be ‘top talent’.
What change has the employer employee relationship undergone?
Unlike the benevolent patriarchy of the past, corporate India today wants the advantages of the advanced, competitive, clinical, western world, without the downsides that come along with that. They want the company to be the patriarch in certain respects but at the same time they want it to be contemporary and modern. The meaning of loyalty has also undergone change. In good old days companies could assume that a person would grow within the company and stay on to take up higher responsibilities. Today, the same cannot be assumed since people have multiple options. People will continue to do well and work hard to work their way up but the employer might change. It is a relationship of equals now. So although in India the expectations from a benevolent patriarchy continue to some extent, it is viewed through the lens of expectations of a contemporary world.