Article: N.V Balachandar on Ashok Leyland’s talent retention strategies

Learning & Development

N.V Balachandar on Ashok Leyland’s talent retention strategies

Ashok Leyland's tagline 'Your success is our success' is embedded in their culture and is the motto for all their people practices as well. Read here about some of their HR initiatives.
N.V Balachandar on Ashok Leyland’s talent retention strategies

“We as an organization focus a lot on building our own talent. We invest a lot in our recruitment process and also focus a lot on retention”, says N.V Balachandar President -HR Communication & CSR, Ashok Leyland. 

He shares the three C’s which are the key focus areas for Ashok Leyland when it comes to their people practices - Culture, Capability and Capacity. For this Indian automobile company staying innovative and on the edge of technology is most important. And for attaining this getting the right people and training them to prepare for the future is imperative. Therefore, when it comes to talent, Ashok Leyland invests in a lot of activities, from recruitment and skilling to engagement. Here is a glimpse of a few of their HR initiatives: 

HIRE: A program for hiring right 

It’s a program based on competency-based hiring run in association with Hay Group for all their managers who are sitting on recruitment tables.  N.V Balachandar shares that all these hiring managers go through a process of training so that they hire the right cultural fit.  Hay Group works with all these managers and prepares them to ask the right set of questions, train them to look for signs in the behavior and find individuals who are a cultural fit.  

N.V Balachandar says, “We invest in hiring first to ensure that we get the right set of people.”

People development and retention

We truly believe in our tagline, "Your success is my success” and communicate the same to all our employees, says N.V Balachandar. After an engineer with a couple of years joins Ashok Leyland and completes his tenure as Graduate engineering trainee, within two years, he/she can apply for what they call a ‘young talent program.'

Balachandar shares that it’s a robust program with a strong selection process and rigorous training. The young talent gets exposure to cross-functional learning and at the same time, it is ensured that they always have something to look forward to. Ashok Leyland believes in the continuous growth of an employee and hence focuses on it. They have even partnered with Great Lakes Institute of Management and also offer their employees various certificate programs like six sigma, lean manufacturing processes, people capability and living the brand. Besides this, they also have a program for people with 5-7 years of experience who are eligible to apply for the emerging leader's role. While the young talent program is focused more on self-mastery or managing self, emerging leaders focus on managing others. The individuals who are part of the program get cross-functional projects and work with XLRI, who have partnered with us for this. Balachandar says this is how it is ensured that all individuals across hierarchy have something to look forward to. 

Further for individuals who have grown up the value chain, the automobile manufacturer has another program, Business leaders program which focuses on managing managers. The intensity of this program is even higher and they work with Indian School of Business who provides them with strategic inputs, marketing inputs for finance or non-finance. 

Ashok Leyland's saga of career development programs doesn't end here. Now, they are working on another initiative called 100 CEOs plan, where they are looking at creating 100 CEOs for over next four to five years. The individuals trained under this program will be capable of handling profit and loss centers. 

“We create stickiness by providing learning opportunities and platforms to our employees," says N.V Balachandar. He shared that some people who joined them as engineers grew within the company and became General Managers. Two of the key directors who report to the CEO had joined as GETs and are now handing critical roles in their mid-40s. 

IGNITE: Idea generation 

Inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam's book Ignited Minds, Ashok Leyland created an initiative called Ignite, wherein individuals came together and presented their ideas to the board. Ignite is a platform which is open to everyone in the organization. This platform is an opportunity for individuals to present their whacky ideas or technology that they want to spend time on. People can make a concept presentation and create a prototype and showcase it in front of the internal board. The board then assesses it and in case they approve the idea then they invest in terms of money and resources. One day off per week is given to those individuals for a period so that they can spend some time and work on that technology or business process. Although it started as Fun Fridays, later it became a very stringent program. In fact, some of these initiatives were absorbed by the business. N.V Balachandar shares that one technology that has been successfully utilized within the business is self-weighing trucks.  

With innovative initiatives like these Ashok Leyland ensures engagement and maintains the excitement and hunger to grow in its employees. This also directly benefits the business as it creates more ideas and at the same time creates capabilities to implement these ideas. 

Focusing on hiring right and investing in the continuous development of employees is what worked for Ashok Leyland. Share with us in comments some engaging people practices that did wonders for your organization. 

(The above article is based on an interaction with Mr. N. V. Balachandar, President - HR, Communication, and CSR and information shared by him in a media roundtable on 10th May 2018 in Delhi.)

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Topics: Learning & Development, Employee Engagement, Recruitment

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