You have recently taken over as Chief People Officer at Mahindra Automotive. What are your key priorities now?
There are basically two: building a strong leadership pipeline through talent management and other organisational development processes, and developing organisational capabilities for global aspirations.
The HR issue in terms of talent hiring and retention is now a major one across industry. What must companies do to retain the best talent, given a small talent pool?
In M&M’s automotive and farm equipment sectors, while conventional means of attracting and engaging talent are in place, we have realised the importance of leveraging new platforms and opportunities. Whether through social media, campus and industry events, industry forums and networks, we are making conscious efforts to engage and attract diverse talent. On the retention front, there is a very strong need to engage people through enriched jobs, choices of careers and creating enough challenges at work to keep it exciting. Retention cannot be seen as an activity or transaction. The importance of a strong employer brand along with a clearly articulated employer value proposition (EVP) is now felt strongly. Employees who choose to work with you for the value you provide, as an employer, are much more likely to emotionally connect with your brand, display higher levels of commitment and ownership, and choose to stay with you longer. At Mahindra AFS, the articulation and incubation of our EVP has been a significant step in our efforts to build a strong employer brand, which is also giving us positive results in this direction.We also have a very robust talent management process nurtured over the last five years which has helped us in retaining key talent. At induction level, we bring in high-calibre engineering graduates and postgraduates from premier campuses across India through what we call the Igniters programme. We are in the process of evolving and rolling out career framework templates in the areas of manufacturing, sales and marketing, and product development, in order to provide career paths and choices to people. Some will specialise in a function or domain and acquire depth while others may choose a generalist path to cross over from one function to another. Management graduates join us through the Group Management Cadre (GMC) programme which is run by the Group HR. Together, these entry-level inductions provide for a strong base for feeding the succession pool at higher levels in the organisation.
With Mahindra now a global player thanks to SsangYong, how is the company going to ensure that two very different work cultures blend in a holistic manner?
We have seen a significant evolution of our capability as an organisation to handle and integrate international acquisitions. SsangYong has been the biggest one for us and, perhaps, the most challenging one especially from an HR point of view. We have a strong belief that these ventures provide excellent platform to both parties to learn from each other, synergise in key strategic areas and achieve an orbit-shifting performance.
Your own background is in M&M's farm division. How does the issue of talent selection play itself out in such an environment?
I have worked in cement, steel and commercial vehicles in the past before joining Mahindra in 2006, in the FES before getting into my current responsibility. While every industry has a specific challenge of its own on the people front, the fundamentals remain the same. My experience has been that having varied experience helps in shedding mindsets and myths and opens up your mind to different things.
With factory labour, in general, in an aggressive mood and talent at corporate level such a major issue, what must companies do to cope? Also, what does this bode for the future of the auto sector? Will companies hire from overseas?
I am a strong believer in the approach of fairness. Somewhere, at the root of most of the problems we see in the industry today is the underlying feeling of not being treated well or being discriminated. The challenge, therefore, today is how do we maintain a healthy balance and take care of our people well.In some areas, we do have a severe talent crunch in the industry. Therefore, the talent pools need to be expanded beyond geographies and that is the trend going forward. In my view, the constraints of artificial shortages of talent in specific geographies will give way to more of globalisation of the talent pool, in the future. In Mahindra AFS, we are doing the same and looking at hiring from overseas with a fair degree of success and good results.