Not About Numbers, But People In Godfrey Phillips India

GPI has also been certified as a Great Place To Work (May 2019 - April 2020) and has been featured among India’s Best Companies to Work For 2019


Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma,

Godfrey Phillips India (GPI)- one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the country has brands like Four Square, Red & White, and Cavanders to its name and has expanded its product portfolio to chewing products, mouth freshener, and confectionery. 

GPI has also been certified as a Great Place To Work (May 2019 - April 2020) and has been featured among India’s Best Companies to Work For 2019.

Rajesh Mehrotra, EVP, HR at Godfrey Phillips talks to BW People about the strategy behind the ranking, encouraging employees and corporate wellness.  

Godfrey Phillips has been ranked among India's best places to work recently. What has been the strategy behind it? 

I wouldn't say the strategy has been behind becoming India's best employer, but more in terms of taking the organization forward towards success and a lot of people initiatives which continuously seemed to be in all our dipsticks really indicate that we were moving in the right direction. 

The employee engagement is on the up taking the entire mood of the organization upwards over the last couple of years. The ‘Great Place To Work’ ranking was important to really find out what people from outside the organization feel and perceive about it. In terms of the report, the employee responses have been phenomenal which the happy part of it is. So eventually certification is a certification. What is really happening in the organization reflects on the business and is all that matters eventually. 

Do you strive for more number in improving the rankings?

Godfrey Philips organizational transformation project in the last two-three years have one big bucket as an organization as people because business results eventually get driven by people.

We have done what we could do and we will continue to do but striving for more is now on the financial side of the organization that the performance needs to get better and better with time. 

HR Manager would normally turn around saying my people are happy. I would rather put it that my people are happy but are we getting the business results accordingly or not? We've got them in 2018-19 and seem to be going better than anticipated in 2019- 20 and that will eventually make the people happier.

If tomorrow the business dips, there is practically no way I can keep the motivation but if the business is doing well the motivation would be eventually high.

How do you manage to keep the momentum going in the hard times? How do you encourage employees to carry on with their work encouraging about the better results in the future?

It's a question of how do you really take the whole process in your stride? You can't really turn around the current trajectory suddenly and hit the moon tomorrow. The first thing you need is to put your past behind and communicate about whatever has happened in history. We are all in it together responsible for the future of the organization and need to stabilize ourselves which starts building confidence in the organization. Once the confidence starts building up and the leadership team starts making the right kind of noises, doing the right kind of things and most importantly ‘Walk The Talk’, people start trusting you. 

Trust in leadership is a score which we were very critically monitoring and when that started showing an upward trend is when everything else started turning around. So our entire transformation journey actually began with the leadership team integration. We put in a lot of effort into getting the leadership team together and promised the entire organisation to lead by example.  

There were various initiatives to get the leadership team focused and moving into a common direction and then backing up the organization. We actually coined a phrase which was ‘License To Fail’, and created systems around that if you take a risk to do something big and fail, your performance will not be impacted as long as you haven't done anything unethical. 

What skills generally do you hire people for and is it difficult for you to meet your skill set requirements that are available in the market? 

Contrary to the general belief, being in the industry that we are in barring maybe one or two cases wherein somebody within the organization wanted to go out and explore other industries, there is actually nothing like difficulty in hiring. In the last 10 or even 20 years, we never had this issue of not being able to attract talent because of the industry that we are in. The fact remains that we are one of the lowest attrition rate organizations of our size and people are working in an organization which is whatever it is and are happy about it. 

There may be some people out in the world who don't want to work for the tobacco industry or who don't even approach us which may be a possibility, but at the same time for those who come, there is enough talent around in the marketplace for us to say that we get the people that we want. 

We are a manufacturing and marketing organisation and hire for skills whether it is technical, manufacturing, finance, HR, supply chain and market research. But yes, what we largely do is develop people from within and all the people at the senior level are all homegrown leaders including the CEO which shows people are sticking to the organization because of the work culture it has.

Can you take us through some significant changes in the HR function into a more strategic role?

HR has actually depowered itself to release a huge amount of people energy in the organization. People are specialists in any function of the organization because they are expected to take decisions in a particular area in that function. The challenge for any HR function in any organization is, how do you align your initiatives to the business needs and how do you make those initiatives happen.

So we depowered ourselves and all people decisions would be discussed and build consensus first in the leadership and then take it to the rest of the organization. Now that depowering of HR has actually empowered the people initiative so much that anything you want to do in the organization on the business side, you are able to get the entire organizational energy together into one direction. 

HR is as much a part of that decision-making process as every other member in every decision sharing ownership among each other. HR has moved from just being an HR to a part of the business decision-making role, and the businesses have moved from just managing businesses to a business and people management. 

What's your take on corporate Wellness? How does GPI manage Wellness of the employees are do preempt burnout stress. How do you manage the Wellness in the organization?

Culturally the kind of organization that we are, I honestly cannot think of a single case of burnout in GPI. Early signs do tend to get detected, so if somebody is getting under pressure, then their boss would turn on to ease things out and we do that, in any case, a couple of times in the year. Frankly, no conscious effort has really been required to be put into that direction and it has sort of just got managed on its own. Not to say that employee wellness is not important to us. The only difference is that in the case of GPI, it is not just employee wellness. Our processes talk about health and wellness of not just the employee but the family of the employee which has always been the case. 

So irrespective of whatever has been happening on the income tax front, the medical entitlements of GPI continue to be one month salary every year, which can be fully reimbursed, and the unused amount is getting carried forward. So there is enough kitty available in the account for any rainy day. The amount gets carried forward for future requirements without any limit. 

Not just the direct family, but even the extended family of the employees are taken care of; providing more than just money to people in need, it is the physical and administrative support to the employees in need. 


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