Madhu Srivastava is the Group Chief HR Officer of Vedanta Group. She is also a part of the Group Management Committee, which is the top most executive body of the Group. Madhu has been a part of the Group for the last 8 years and has led HR for Cairn, the Oil & Gas business of the group in the past. An alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad, Madhu brings with her 21 years of rich and diversified experience across sectors. Prior to Vedanta, she has worked with global companies including GE, Citibank, Genpact, Godrej, and Reliance in roles across Human Resources, Sales, and Operations spanning across industries like FMCG, Telecom, ITES, BFSI, and Natural Resources / Oil & Gas.
As a member of the Group Management Committee and she has played a key role in launching some of the best-in-class and most progressive people policies across the organization. Her passion lies in finding and recruiting quality global leadership talent as well as entry-level talent from top Indian and foreign universities. Some of Madhu’s key achievements at the Vedanta Group include setting up people agenda for 24,000 employees, spanning across 10 businesses globally, with a clear growth vision, creating a uniform high-performance culture across the group, revamping the recruitment engine to bring onboard top-quality global leadership talent from the best of MNC companies. She was also instrumental in launching Vedanta’s flagship Campus and Global Internship Program for Ivy League Global MBA colleges, Market mapping and leveraging LinkedIn & Social media are some of the other highlights.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Madhu shares what are some of the non-negotiables for improving the learning culture in organizations.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
The pandemic has also brought back the importance of reskilling and upskilling of resources as part of the larger business transformation in the wake of the crisis. What do you think are some of the trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID-19?
The pandemic has made one thing quite clear – we can no longer completely depend on our old processes and ways of working. The kind of paradigm shift brought about by COVID has made organizations aware of the need for flexibility and adaptability in all dimensions, whether it is business opportunities, workplace structures, or required employee skillsets.
However, it has also become apparent that most of our processes need to undergo a digital transformation. Technology has made tremendous strides over the last several years and there are now virtual alternatives available for most standard business processes. As a result, employees also need to reinvent or upgrade their skills accordingly to ensure a certain level of digital fluency.
With virtual workplaces seeming to be a norm rather than an anomaly in the near future, cross-collaboration skills will also need to be taken a notch higher – from just collaboration between departments to working within multi-cultural, multi-regional, and multi-generational teams.
Adaptability is another skill that has proven to be essential to surviving large-scale unprecedented changes. With diminishing resources as a result of this global uncertainty, it has become imperative to do more with less. As a result, leaders and professionals across all fields need to work towards broadening their knowledge and skill base.
How is the role of L&D professionals changing?
The function of Learning and Development is no longer confined to only training. They form the catalyst for change management and are essential to ensure quick responses to major changes to the existing business environment. Organizational training is no longer a standalone process but deeply interconnected to overall talent strategies and organizational performance.
As a result, L&D professionals are now becoming the custodians of the entire talent development process.
They need to define the tools and procedures to best address learning needs and gaps, and strategies to create a truly continuous learning culture within the organization.
Companies that continue to invest in training and offer learning opportunities for their talent will emerge as winners on the other side of this crisis. What are some of the L&D initiatives initiated at your organization in this pandemic?
The pandemic has impacted regular business operations and organizational dynamics everywhere, but we have taken every opportunity to ensure that our employees still have all the access they need to learning resources.
Learning has always been a cornerstone of our people strategy and we have ensured that the emphasis on people development remained unhampered even during the instability caused by COVID-19.
We have been one of the fastest companies to embrace digital learning in almost every aspect of our learning and development initiatives. We have redesigned and recalibrated our planned training programs to be delivered effectively on digital platforms. Our leadership and talent development initiatives have also been redesigned to work virtually, be it our leadership development programs or assessment centers or project workshops. We have ensured the establishment of a regular communication flow to all our employees to help them adjust to a mostly digital way of learning.
Over the last 6 months, we have put virtual collaboration and internal knowledge sharing at the forefront of our learning initiatives. We have instituted VILT or Virtual Instructor-Led Trainings helmed by subject matter experts from within our own community. We have designed specific learning journeys focused on acclimatizing our employees to the essentials of a digital workplace. COVID-19 has challenged us to rethink the concept of a traditional workplace, and I am pleased to say that Cairn has proved successful in rising to this challenge.
The pandemic also highlights the need to reskill and upskill workers towards stronger data science skills, a better understanding of artificial intelligence, and to expand digital literacy overall. What is your organization doing in that direction?
Cairn has been rigorously pursuing digital excellence and innovation in almost every organizational aspect for quite some time, from our Exploration methodologies to well activity monitoring to procurement standardization. We have already initiated a well-defined Digital Innovation Process wherein business-impacting digital ideas across cutting-edge digital technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence are thoroughly evaluated, planned, and implemented.
In addition to the implementation of digital processes wherever possible, it has been our endeavor to inculcate and encourage the spirit of digital thinking and data orientation in all our employees. To build this into our overall learning strategy, we have ensured that a basic sense of analytics and digital competency is essential expectations of every role. We have utilized our elearning partnership with Skillsoft to a great extent in this requirement. A full-scale online library of learning materials related to digital transformation including videos, courses, and books is made available to all employees. Data analytics workshops are also routinely helmed by our internal experts for our employees.
To ensure that this sense of digital importance is instilled in our employees from the very beginning, we have also ensured that all our campus graduates undergo a comprehensive 6-month training program that emphasizes technical and digital education.
As talent leaders, reimagine workplace learning, what are some of the non-negotiables for improving learning culture in their organizations?
Any organization which wants to build a sustainable learning culture must keep growth at the forefront of their people strategy.
If we want to build a truly remarkable talent pool, we must ensure that we provide every opportunity for our people to meet their learning goals. We must continue to encourage a spirit of continuous learning and inspire our people to take charge of their own development. This goal can be met by creating a culture of inquisitiveness and a supportive environment where we allow our employees to take risks.
Vedanta believes in growth from within, and thus all companies under the Vedanta umbrella are dedicated to grooming internal talent for leadership potential. At Cairn as well, we believe in backing our people for their learning and growth. We encourage our employees to volunteer to lead projects, even in the early stages of their careers. We believe that people learn best by doing, and we have ensured that we have built a learning ecosystem that embodies this belief.