Article: Prabhudas Lilladher’s Martin Luther on strengthening a culture of agility, innovation and inclusion


Prabhudas Lilladher’s Martin Luther on strengthening a culture of agility, innovation and inclusion

In conversation with Martin Luther of Prabhudas Lilladher, we learn how he drives innovation and sharpens a competitive edge with a diverse workforce.
Prabhudas Lilladher’s Martin Luther on strengthening a culture of agility, innovation and inclusion

Martin Luther is the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Prabhudas Lilladher. He boasts over 28 years of experience with a diverse skill set encompassing organisational development, change management, learning and development, board advisory services, and consultancy. Martin's career began in the Indian Navy, where he served for 15 years in various digital communications roles and on naval vessels. He then transitioned to the non-profit sector, where he made a significant impact by leading positive change. Subsequently, he moved into the manufacturing and banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sectors, holding leadership positions in HR, industrial relations (IR), contracts, and legal. This multifaceted experience has equipped him with invaluable insights into effective human resource management within complex organisational environments.

In this interview, Martin shares his expert insights on how to build future-ready organisations, the value in balancing between culture-add and culture-fit hires, embracing GenAI and more.

Here are some key excerpts from the conversation.

We are in an era where change is constant. What are you doing to build a future-ready organisation that would last the test of time? How have your HR practices evolved over the years?

The business landscape has changed dramatically over the last two decades. It's only natural, therefore, that the context and focus of HR service delivery need to adapt. At PL Capital, I've begun raising awareness among HR team members about the need to shift from transactional service delivery to transformational service delivery. The focus is gradually moving towards what value HR can add to the business and organisation through its activities. From a practical perspective, we've redefined the outcomes of HR practices and the target audience. The focus is now on talent, leadership, and organisational structure.

Our focus is two-fold: attracting the right talent from outside and nurturing talent within the organisation. To manage and lead this talent effectively, we're developing the right leadership practices. Additionally, we continuously review our organisational structure to ensure it's best positioned for success in the marketplace.

Organisational culture has become an important narrative today. Given the debate between culture-fit and culture-add when it comes to recruiting, what are your thoughts on this? How do your hiring practices add to your culture?

Organisational culture is fundamental to an organisation's success. A negative and non-inclusive culture can be detrimental to both the company and its employees. The ideal culture for an organisation will evolve alongside its stage of development. Traditionally, hiring practices have focused on avoiding cultural misfits, with a strong emphasis on selecting candidates who seamlessly integrate with the existing culture.

However, the business landscape is constantly changing, and the focus has shifted from seeking pure cultural-fit to hiring individuals who can enrich the existing culture. This shift is significant because it allows companies to explore new avenues and enhance their capabilities. Hiring individuals who bring something extra to the culture can help the organisation, or specific business units, not only survive but thrive in a dynamic environment.  These individuals introduce fresh perspectives, fostering diversity of thought, opinion, and skillsets, which are essential drivers of innovation.

I also believe that hiring for culture-add indicates that an organisation is forward-looking and more inclusive. Especially in 2024, with various disruptions in technology, regulatory changes, and shifting customer needs, this is essential.

Therefore, we strive to maintain a healthy balance between culture-fit and culture-add. This allows us to preserve our core values while embracing new ideas that drive innovation.

To achieve this balance in hiring, we start with the job descriptions themselves. The language we use and the appeals we make are designed to attract a broad range of candidates. Although specific roles may require targeted language, job descriptions are generally broad-based to appeal to a wider audience. Additionally, during interviews, I instruct hiring managers to look for candidates who complement their skills, rather than simply mirroring themselves. We avoid hiring clones and instead encourage individuality. Furthermore, I emphasise the importance of overcoming biases in the hiring process. I urge my team to approach each candidate with fresh eyes, free from preconceptions. This approach extends to the onboarding process, ensuring that new recruits can assimilate quickly even if they differ from the existing team.

Most organisations have a multi-generational workforce (which comprises Gen-X, Millennials, and Gen-Z), and members from each of these categories have different mindsets and approaches towards strategy and problem-solving. What are you doing to ensure that you get the best out of them?

Our organisation has been around for eight decades, and we have a workforce spanning generations, from baby boomers nearing retirement to Gen Z. Naturally, each group brings different approaches to strategy and problem-solving, shaped by their formative years.  My focus isn't on forcing everyone to see things the same way or approach problems identically.  Instead, I believe it would be a disservice to the company not to leverage the diverse skill sets of these employee groups.

Here at PL Capital, and throughout my career, I've found that presenting a shared vision or a common goal that transcends individual differences is key.  This allows everyone to contribute their unique strengths and work collaboratively towards achieving that higher purpose.  My experience in the Navy and the corporate world has shown me that by adopting this approach, you shift the focus away from the individual and towards harnessing the combined strengths of the entire team

Reflecting on forward-looking HR practices, how do you measure their impact on key performance indicators such as employee retention, productivity, and overall company profitability? Additionally, how do you adapt these practices to stay ahead of industry trends and competitors?

The financial services sector, where we operate and compete, has faced significant disruption in recent years. To stay relevant in this environment, organisations need to embrace an innovative approach.  Fortunately, at PL Capital, with our eight-decade heritage, there's a strong sense within the management team about the importance of technology adoption and innovation.

We build a culture of innovation in a few key ways. Firstly, we encourage openness to new ideas and actively track how emerging technologies are being integrated across the global financial services industry.  Crucially, we go beyond awareness; we translate these ideas into tangible products.  A prime example is our proprietary quant-based PMS strategy, AQUA, which consistently outperforms benchmark indices in the equities market.

Strong leadership buy-in makes my role as a culture setter significantly easier.  In discussions with functional and business heads, I emphasise the importance of developing an innovative mindset and fostering a culture of innovation within their teams and business areas.  We at PL Capital were among the early adopters of quant-based PMS strategies, and I believe it's crucial to maintain this momentum and replicate this innovative approach across all areas of the business.

Artificial intelligence has been playing an important role in running organisations of the future. How AI has taken over your day-to-day HR operations and how it has made the organisation more agile?

AI, particularly the emergence of generative AI, has transformed many aspects of work. We leverage generative AI extensively across all employee communications. It's also proving valuable in goal setting, especially for non-sales roles, by making their KRAs-KPIs more measurable.  Two years ago, we implemented a new HCM software system, and generative AI has streamlined our job description libraries and significantly simplified competency mapping.

Looking ahead, my vision for the near-term use of generative AI involves building a comprehensive skills inventory for the organisation to facilitate effective staff planning.  We're currently developing data models that will serve as the foundation for predictive analytics in talent and performance management.  By adopting generative AI, we've been able to reduce HR service delivery times by more than half.  This freed-up time allows us to focus on more strategic and transformative activities, making us a sharper and more nimble organisation overall.

Based on your experiences and expertise, what key advice would you give to HR leaders aiming to steer their organisations successfully through ongoing changes in talent management and workplace dynamics?

Futureproofing our workforce has always been a cornerstone of my HR strategy. To achieve this, I closely monitor both sociological and technological changes and their impact on the talent pool. As mentioned earlier, we then adapt our HR practices to address these evolving needs and their influence on the organisation.  This approach has already yielded positive results, with PL Capital experiencing a gradual rise in market share and brand equity. I'm confident that moving forward, this will translate into even greater profitability for the company.

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Topics: Leadership, Talent Acquisition, Culture, Strategic HR, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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