The world may have vaccines in 2021 but it still needs the ability to respond and adapt to change continually. No wonder, just like 2020, 2021 will be another year marked by continuous reinvention, transformation, and adaptation. Companies will need to focus on purposeful transformation to tide over the vulnerabilities and create plans for managing a global workforce.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Rachna Mukherjee, CHRO India and South Asia, Schneider Electric India, shares with us how purposeful transformation has been a part of Schneider Electric’s journey for years and how it focuses on building a sustainable business and company.
2021 will call for continuous reinvention. What are some of the ways you are reinventing the workplace at Schneider Electric?
Globally, the pandemic advanced the megatrends around digitization, transformation, and remote working. However different organizations have been on a different journey throughout. At Schneider Electric, we have been on this journey for the past five-six years. For instance, remote working or flexible working has been a part of our organization since 2015. Hence, our systems and processes have been flexible for a long time. So people were not completely taken by surprise. Rather, the thing to be getting used to was that rather than working remotely few times a week or few times a month, people had to do it every day.
Even from an IT readiness perspective, these were all tested aspects. So, we did not face any technology challenges when people started working from home and the organization smoothly transited into the new working model.
Also, we call ourselves leaders in digital transformation and energy management. There has been a huge focus on digitization inside the organization, creating a digital mindset amongst our people in the last five years. So, when the pandemic hit, it wasn’t like planning something absolutely new for us. Also, it became imperative to explore ways of doing business digitally. For our ecosystem of partners and customers, who weren’t digitally ready, we undertook a lot of initiatives to educate them. We also conducted over 1000+ webinars to enable them and help them get into the digital business mode.
We looked quickly to provide the employees with the infrastructure support and already drawing on our existing policies, they could easily adapt to the remote work mode. Also, to further explore what we could do from a people standpoint, we had opened an AI-based talent marketplace called Open Talent Market, launched almost a year before the pandemic hit. People could look at global mobility and global projects through this platform and we started utilizing it heavily during the pandemic.
Purposeful transformation is the need of the hour. How do you think companies need to do that in the second year of the pandemic?
Purposeful transformation has been a part of our journey for almost 10 years.
Every year, we pick up three to four business and people areas for transformation in a much-planned manner to drive this transformation. For instance, in 2015 we transformed the way how flexibility-related aspects will come into effect in a manufacturing and engineering associated industry, which was a first for an organization. Similarly, we transformed the way we bring on a diverse workforce.
Post pandemic, hybrid working has become a permanent feature of us. We were dabbling into it from before- experimenting with an odd-even kind of shift where employees whose employee code is an odd number come to work on odd days of the month and likewise. So, globally and locally Schneider Electric was very quick to bring about the shift in the way we work. We have launched hybrid work for all times to come- be it a pandemic or not. We have been implementing purposeful transformations in the past and it will continue in the future, it was not something brought about due to the pandemic alone.
How are some of the ways in which innovation and sustainability will be encouraged at Schneider Electric?
The core of our strategy is to build a sustainable business and company. It has been so for over 10 years. All our solutions and products are talked about in terms of green energy and green ways of doing things. We developed 21 initiatives to support the United Nations’ SDGs and we update our company’s scorecard every three years which is linked to our sustainable performance. We have instituted a sustainability index by way of which our top management decides how we are going to make further progress towards sustainability. By 2020, we had set up a goal to power 80% of the company through renewable energy, with 40% energy efficiency in the company. By 2030, we aim to power 100% of our company through renewable electricity. Hence, the sustainability aspect is very core to our purpose and mission.
From a people perspective, we do innovation challenges which are around energy management, automation in the core engineering domain. We drive many such challenges to drive people to come up with innovative solutions and sometimes we also fund these solutions.
Innovation has been an important cultural tenet for us for a long time. One of our core values is ‘Dare to Disrupt.’
We encourage people to try things, fail fast, and there is tolerance for this failure. I believe FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning. Take that learning and move forward. We also encourage people to act as entrepreneurs, feel empowered, and move forward. These things drive innovation. Similarly embracing different, and hiring people who are not similar to you, is very important to bring about new ideas and thought processes to the table.
How do you see the role of HR getting transformed and reinvented this year?
At Schneider Electric, HR has always been at the forefront as people agenda is a very serious agenda for the organization. We do a refresh of our mission, values, and strategies every couple of years. Our people strategy now focuses on organizational agility-which means quick decision making, collapsing layers, and putting in place a flatter structure that allows communication faster to all levels.
Interestingly, as a global organization, we don’t have a head office but only a registered office. We have a distributed leadership in place and we follow a multi-hub structure. This distributed structure makes communication and decision-making faster and ensures proximity to customers.
Future-ready talent which is diverse and digitally empowered is another pillar of our strategy. The third pillar is our inclusive leadership, which has to appreciate differences and create an inclusive environment based on trust and accountability. Empathy is a big part of this strategy.
How HR supports all this, is through progressive policies, which are being continuously evolved. So, we continuously challenge ourselves on this front, evolving our policies for the gig workforce and a hybrid workforce structure, be it our day-to-day work policies or reward policies, or digital skilling policies.