Article: Relaxo’s HR Head on leading creative and disruptive HR changes

#Talent Acquisition

Relaxo’s HR Head on leading creative and disruptive HR changes

Atul Pandey, VP - HR, Relaxo Footwears Limited throws light on creative HR practices of the company.
Relaxo’s HR Head on leading creative and disruptive HR changes

“I have always believed in Innovative, creativity and disrupting HR changes and not going by colloquial HR practices.” - Atul Pandey, Vice President- HR, Relaxo Footwears Limited

Relaxo’s HR Head, Atul Pandey started his career in HR in 1995 when he joined Motherson Sumi Systems Ltd. Today, he Heads the entire HR function for Relaxo Footwears Limited but he still remembers the passion and enthusiasm he was filled with back then when he started his professional journey. Recollecting the early days of his career he says, “Graduating from the university and getting a hold of this world of HR was a wonderful experience. There was a sky of opportunities, it was like - everything was there for you, as there were very fewer HR professionals then and more of P&A Professionals.”

At the time when HR wasn’t that popular a function, Atul started his journey as an L&D professional. He worked in many organizations like BPL Limited, Samsung India, Cargill India, Valvoline Cummins, Max Speciality Films India and now Relaxo Footwears Limited, where he is working since October 2017. 

Atul shares how his experience in Industrial Relations gave him the plunge in the market of professionalism. 

He says, “For three years I was put up in the IR set up where there were disturbances and violence. I experienced adverse situations like violence, strike, lockout etc. But the loss of manpower, loss of pricing and loss of market and customers gave me a deeper understanding of the business.” 

Ever since then he has worked on various HR & Business projects and led the HR transformation journey for multiple organizations. But there are multiple values that have remained with him in every assignment, like being high on ethics and compliance. 

In an interaction with People Matters, Atul Pandey shared some of the disruptive HR policies and practices that he has introduced and implemented in Relaxo and sheds light on some of the critical challenges facing the company.  

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Considering that creativity is paramount to you and you firmly believe in disruptive HR changes, what are some of the HR changes that you introduced in Relaxo? 

It's just been last six months that I have emphasized the importance of building a metrics and calculating the ROI of the HR initiatives. As all the HR processes are fully automated now, it is critical to focus on the analytics and metrics. In any transformation journey when one launches many HR initiatives and pumps in a lot of money, the question that arises is how would you get the ROI? 

Here’s where HR analytics plays a significant role in convincing the management or the board regarding about the utilization of money from HR perspective for the benefit of business. 

So, the motto got changed to ‘How HR is going to change and impact the business.’ 

Keeping a focus on Capability Building and People Development as one of the levers of business development and growth in FY 17-18, initially, we invested in training. And this year we are planning to scale it up to double our investment for development of people in Relaxo to meet the current need and the future need of business. 

The management got aligned for this investment because they were aware that now the ROI will be calculated for specific training programs. Through metrics, we will reflect that how an investment of X will result in an output of 2x-3x or even more. I believe this is the first time in this industry in India that an analytical customized tool is being utilized for calculating the ROI of training programs through evaluating effectiveness of Training Programs and innovative 360 Degree Training evaluation methodology. 

Besides this, Relaxo is also reviewing its on-boarding process. We plan to touch all the moments of onboarding, from pre-joining to post joining and create a strong value proposition for new hires. 

For this various initiatives have been aligned around keeping the compliance aspect and ethical aspect in mind. Usually, when a new joinee gets on board, he/she is not aware of many critical things like job, culture, role, manager, team etc. We have plugged such gaps. We welcome them with a bouquet of flowers and a joining kit. We share details of the company, role, culture manager, team etc, before-hand such that the person knows whom he/she will meet on the first day. After joining, the new joinees will undergo a six-day induction program before he is going to his/her desk and including a plant tour. These six days are compulsory and then on the sixth day, he/she will be handed over to a buddy. 

We have also introduced Buddy Program within the on-boarding experience. The buddy is tagged along with the new joinee for six months. Later, there is an assessment tool which would assess the buddy, as well as the new joinee and these outcomes, will be shared with the management. 

Getting a new talent onboard is difficult. It is more difficult to engage that talent into the system. And it is most difficult to retain that talent. 

Can you elaborate more on the tool that you have built to calculate the ROI of L&D initiatives?

When I joined Relaxo, I journeyed and visited interacted with various employees. And when I asked them about the training programs etc, someone said that training is happening, but people are not following up, some mentioned that no one touched base with him about their development. We had an annual learning calendar, we had a quarterly calendar, we had a functional calendar but unfortunately, this is not being reflected in employee perception. We discussed that even after investing so many efforts, money and hours, the impact isn't coming. I asked- if we can measure the impact? So, just like any other colloquial organization, I was shown man-hours, days and coverage, and expense etc. But the Leadership and Management wanted to know where our people investment is going. That’s when I proposed to I build a tool that can calculate the ROI.

It took me 30-35 days to design ROI for our training programs. I worked closely with our CFO and L&D Team. and together we tried to build a tool similar to the "cost-benefit analysis" for measuring ROI of Training Programs, which was linked to 360 Training Process. This tool got approved by the management and implemented. 

We made everything very objective and they helped me with all the numbers. We also got on board with us a new L&D Head who helped us put this all together on a dashboard.  I shared my vision with her too. She said let's work on the dashboard. From April onwards we will show the ROI of specific training programs that employees go through within the organization. 

When you are designing something new, creative and disruptive, you have to go back to basics. And this is what we did to build this tool. Currently, everything is in Excel but we are planning to automate it further next year. Instead of man hours, we will now have an L&D scorecard in line with the Balance Score Card. We have completed 90 percent of it in line with balance scorecard. This is how we are working on removing subjectivity from the system. 

Atul Pandey says, “The objective way is the right way because business likes to see  HR initiatives in quantifiable terms . In business, if you show them subjectivity, they will doze off. It's easy to get the leadership buy-in when you go to them with numbers.” 

In the beginning, you mentioned that most of your HR processes are automated. How recently have you automated HR?

It has been a 3 years journey. We have incorporated success factors which we have internally rename as Reliable module in place. For instance, we have fully automated our Performance Management System, from KRA formation to assessment. And it is applicable for every staff member is into that. Everything happens online. Till now we were using Computer Based Training Module especially designed by Tata Interactive Services, now from this year onwards we are also planning to introduce more e-learning system through courses for addressing the need of remote learning agility. 

In Talent Acquisition, from January 2018, we have introduced a recruitment module and on-boarding module. Recruitments are happening through success factor. Employees life cycle, ESS, Leaves, etc., are now managed online as well as through Relaxo Mobile Self Service App. In fact, our manpower requisition hiring is happening online. Most of the HR modules are online now. And soon the new modules which we are going to develop in terms of ROI and training effectiveness will also come into effect. Last year, in 2017 we also won the HR Technology to the Last Mile Award from Creating Values. 

What are some of the challenges that you faced while implementing and adopting these technologies? 

Challenges are part of every journey. Fortunately, we had the right people to assess, develop and deploy these solutions. The HR partners that we chose, helped us a lot. If there was a challenge or discrepancy or if anything wasn't working fine then they used to send their people to us. We also included one member in our HR team for success factor. That's how our journey of automating HR processes became easier.  

For successful HR transformation training the HR team and preparing the entire organization for the change is also very crucial. How did you go about that?

For implementing and communicating the changes a lot of help also came from business partners the HR team also tagged along and was there for every employee in the digital adoption journey. Each HRBP for their respective departments like, sales, retail, corporate functions and Manufacturing Units help all the stakeholders to understand and make them feel comfortable. 

The idea is when you will be there for people and help them, they feel more comfortable. At Relaxo we ensure that we take each employee along. 

What are some talent challenges that Relaxo is facing currently?

Relaxo is growing as a business at 18 to 20 percent rate. With business rapidly changing and growing one of the most significant talent challenges in front of us is to identify and attract the employable talent. The basic struggle in the last six months for us has been identifying the right talent with the right mindset, qualifications, skills, value systems and competencies required for the growing business. After identifying and attracting, retaining the right talent is the second challenge, especially in the sales department. And our strategy, policies and future plans are going to focus on these aspects.

Another significant challenge has been around building efficiency in the system. And we are taking Boston Consulting Group’s help in building the efficiency. As per Relaxo’s business growth plan, if we need attract the best talent, it is essential to assess the speed, accuracy, right potential of a person and to make him operational within 30 days. It is not only about identifying them, but the responsibility of bringing them onboard on time and helping them adapt to the culture and values of Relaxo is also immense. 

Right now we are working on an initiative to create “Relaxo way of doing things” to help people in adjusting to our culture, values and system. 

Until, the very last of the interview, Atul kept on emphasizing on the importance of creativity, innovation and how important it is to think and make disruptive changes.  

He says, “Innovation and Creativity is the base of disruptive changes. If you want to remain ahead of the curve, then think differently. You will get a lot of information from books, Google, magazine, colleagues, feedback, market, custom, etc. Those are inputs. Ultimately, creativity has to come from within. As an Organization HR Leader, I would prefer that everybody should challenge status quo and think differently, creatively and disruptively. 

Topics: Talent Acquisition, Learning & Development, Strategic HR, Leadership

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