"HR Plays A Big Role In Creating A Culture of Authenticity"

Irani Srivastava Roy, CHRO, India Subcontinent, Signify Innovations India, talk about creating a high-performance culture and an objective-driven, learning organization that is agile and focused on driving results in a fireside chat with BW People.


How, in your view, can HR managers stay informed about business trends and changes to better understand their organization's needs with regard to specific situations?

One of the basic principles that I learned very early on in life about a career in HR is to say that HR actually is the fulcrum on which organizations thrive because HR is managing the most pivotal part of any organization, which is the people, having said that, it is becoming more and more pertinent now to understand the role of HR more holistically and the role of HR managers.

HR has seen its evolution over the years from mostly known as payroll processors to data and file organizers to providing basic statutory requirements for employees to now say how are we enabling business in the truest sense? And to answer your question, I think what becomes very pertinent for the HR fraternity and all HR managers is to have both an outside-in and an inside-out view.

And what I mean by that is outside in is about understanding the competitive landscape for the industry that you're operating in, understanding the principles and the market forces there, which are leading to the competitive landscape that you are in. Part of as an organization, understanding the dependencies that your organization has, say, for example, if you are a product company, is there a dependency that you have on crude oil or do you have a dependency on material to a services company?

Where do you have a huge impact on Forex? That is kind of impacting your business. That's the outside in perspective. And the second one, very important, is inside out. And what I mean by inside out is HR managers absolutely should know not just the vision and purpose of the organization, which I think HR plays a lot of interest in, but also the longer term and the short term strategy.

What is the long term, sustainable strategy that the organization has? And what is the near term outlook that the organization has? And how will people and HR enable those? That could be about operating model that could be about organization design that could be about structures that could be about people processes or just the right training and enablement of people to understand all the market forces and understanding the strategy and the dependent needs of the organization to make the strategy happen because the strategy will only happen when people understand the strategy and deliver according to it.

In your view, what are some strategies now that we're talking about, how to strategize and what are strategies to put in place?

It is very difficult to define in pockets but if I look at the role that an HR manager or, more prominently, an HR business partner has in an organization, once the strategy is understood, you know, there are various facets. One of the facets is forecasting or doing, a plan for the year to say if the business has to grow by X, what will be our basic requirements in terms of people, what is the footprint that we need for people to, we have to look at what is the kind of productivity that we are wanting to drive out of the people.

And one must consider the basics of analytics in terms of productivity for a newcomer versus the productivity of a tenured person. Third is having the scenario in the plan of the reality of how attrition moves in an organization so I'm talking about just having people in place to make the strategy happen.

So this is about hiring, understanding, and doing the proper workforce planning and with the workforce planning, how are you looking at the trends, both internal and external to plan for those trends in advance? That's about hiring and attrition. The other big part is re-skilling. 

It is also important to think about what is your talent pool in the organisation today. How fungible are they to take critical roles that are required? And what is the kind of training and intervention that we can provide to enable them to take those roles?

It could be a role which is very critical to the strategy, which is best played by a person who understands the organization dynamics, who has been in the system, but probably is not equipped completely. 

To be able to do the role might need some amount of skilling and that should be the second outlook that the HR manager or the HR business partner goes with saying this is our talent pool. This is the critical pool. This is the kind of mobility that we can work on. This is the training intervention that will be required and this is how we will look at it. Third is what I call scenario planning. That is to say, what are the critical roles, or what are the critical things that we need to achieve?

And for those critical things to happen, what are the dependencies that we have? It could be people, it could be digital, it could be process. 

Do you think that the strategies that are usually devised are always put into execution or are followed the way you're explaining it?

If you put a strategy, you have thought through all the barriers and all the enablers that will come along the way, so you should predict for what is the minimum possible threshold that you have to achieve.

So whenever you put a strategy, you think this is the ideal scenario. And this is the worst-but the endeavour for the organization has to be that you will be at the ideal scenario at least. So I think making a strategy out of utopia to say, I have done this.

From an organisational perspective, our objective is to add value to the individual. And when you start creating value for an individual, you start creating value for the team and then the organization. 

So it's a fair balance of saying that while we never lose sight of the big picture, how are we dealing with an individual and adding value to that individual to be able to achieve that strategy?

If I don't realize what's in it for me, I may just lose interest. So individual learning, individual understanding of the role, the responsibilities, the strategies that you're putting in place, the employee needs to be in accordance with why are you putting those strategies? If tomorrow I'm asked to do certain things or certain KRAs that are added to my already-doing list.

Then I should be explained why I have to perform these extra duties? Or why I have to instil these extra skills in me. Of course, it is giving the company a long-term achievement, but it should also showcase an employee growth map, I feel. 

Also as an organisation, you satisfy their queries as to why this organizational change happened. It will never make sense for them. And if it doesn't make sense for them, for a manager or for a manager's manager, if they don't see sense in it, all you will see is either dissatisfaction, morale going down or attrition.

So you have to carry individuals together to make the team happen and not just HR. I think the role of leaders, the role of the CEO of the organization and transparency in communication is extremely important. I think HR plays a big role in enabling a culture where communication is as transparent and as authentic as it could be.

Because then your employee starts trusting you for what you're talking about. And when there is a trust between an organization or a manager and the employee or an organization and the employee, magic starts to happen. And HR needs to carry the people along. 

So in your view, how do HR managers leverage this expertise in people management and development to drive the growth agenda?

I think one of the things that is extremely important for HR managers is to have a thorough understanding of business. Most times HR managers know the business at the periphery and then try to devise solutions for the business. It will not work.

You have to know what the business is. What does the consumer want out of the business? Because HR is devising strategies for people who are closest to customers. So for the employee to be able to deliver to the customer, we have to create a frictionless journey for the employee. 

HR has to understand that my employee who's in touch with the end customer goes through these situations in his or her daily life at work. And how do we enable that individual to be able to provide the best customer service possible? And that knowledge is only possible when HR starts to understand business. HR starts to get into the analytics. They actually need to align with the vision of the company. It is very important. Unless you don't understand the ethos of the company, you cannot actually put strategies in place. Otherwise, you will probably devise something which is very bookish, which is very theoretical.

Note: The automatic transcription has been lightly edited for a better reading experience. Some names and parts of the transcription may carry inadvertent errors that we are in the process of editing. Thank you for your understanding.

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