Diversified Workforce Is Our Strength

The sector is on a strong growth path and will create demand for qualified professionals as well as workers who possess the necessary skills to operate in an oil field: Madhu Srivastava, CHRO, Vedanta Ltd.


Vedanta Group CHRO, Madhu Srivastava believes the oil & gas sector is on a strong growth path and technological innovation would be the mainstay in driving the transformation. Further, it will create demand for qualified professionals as well as workers, who possess the necessary skills to operate in an oil field. Madhu Srivastava talks to BW People’s Rajguru Tandon about the employment perspective in the sector. Edited Excerpts:

How do you see the outlook of the oil and gas sector in India? What can be expected from an employment perspective: downsizing or hiring? 

The oil and gas sector in India has undergone a complete transformation and the outlook is extremely positive. Though historically the sector is mostly import-dependent, the government’s big bang reforms in the last few years have significantly contributed to the sector’s growth and kick-started the journey towards India’s energy security. Currently, Cairn Oil & Gas, the oil and gas vertical of Vedanta, is producing 25 percent of India’s oil output and our aim is to take our contribution to 50 percent in the coming years.

From an employment perspective, hiring highly skilled resources will be crucial. Considering that the sector is on a strong growth path and technological innovation would be the mainstay in driving this transformation, it will create demand for qualified professionals as well as workers who possess the necessary skills to operate in an oil field.

How important is to show a clear picture to the employees to keep them engaging? Do you also need to ramp up your efforts during tough times to keep the momentum going?

In this age of disruptions, where businesses are battling change on multiple fronts to survive, it is extremely important to show the employees a clear picture about the state of the business. When they understand the growth trajectory of a sector and the company, they tend to be more engaged with the organisation. This is where mentoring becomes important. According to a survey conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (ATD) in 2018, 75 percent of senior executives believe that mentoring played a critical role in their career development and increased inclusion. Mentoring offers several advantages from promoting employee engagement and training future leaders to enhance worker loyalty.

Keeping the momentum going is always important, irrespective of the time a person is focused on its careers. Employee engagement is a great tool to ensure that employees continuously grow. We partnered with a global HR consulting major, Aon Hewitt, for initiating V-Connect – one of the largest corporate mentorship programme in the Indian oil and gas industry. So far, there have been about 2,000 conversations between mentors and mentees and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The initiative has resulted in both tangible and intangible gains for all stakeholders, especially in terms of having an “ownership” mindset and keeping things going.

What is the diversity ratio in the company and in the sector as a whole? How to make gender equality a reality?

We have arguably the highest number of women in senior management as benchmarked against our peers and 20 percent in our leadership team are women. At Cairn, we believe that our people are our biggest asset. Our people philosophy ensures we invest in them to realise their individual and the company’s goals. We are proud of our culture of equality that fosters a positive work environment so that our people deliver the best. Our diversified workforce is our strength. In fact, we are in the process to identify diverse deputy leaders, who can be groomed to take up key roles in the organisation in the years to come. Diversity of ethnicity and communities, geography, thoughts and experiences bring in an expansive skillset; and for the Vedanta group, which has operations across four continents, it is a business imperative, which is why we also hire from our host communities. The company is focused on gender parity and has a group-wide commitment to appoint women in key leadership roles across functions.

Is it difficult to hire candidates meeting the skill demand in the oil and gas sector?

It is not difficult to hire top talent as we are a progressive company that offers quality jobs and growth opportunities. We have recently won 41 blocks in the Open Acreage License Policy (OALP) Round I, and two blocks in Discovered Small Fields (DSF). We are bringing in world-class technology partners to help produce more oil faster, and we are growing at a very good speed. Cairn’s world-class campus hiring programme (named BOLD- Barrels of Learning per Day) focuses on recruiting more than 150 young talent from leading national campuses such as IITs and IIMs, last year. This is a significant jump from the last few years when the company recruited about 25 Graduate Engineering Trainees and Management Trainees on an average, every year. This campus recruitment drive also had a specific focus on improving diversity across genders, nationalities, and geographies. The gender diversity mix in the current campus recruitment drive stands at over 77 percent. Many of our women campus recruits have reached senior positions.


Where does the role of HR fall in the digital transformation of the oil and gas industry How is Cairn adapting to the changing requirements?

Digitalisation and automation has now become an integral part of the industry and has opened up many new job profiles, such as data analysts, automation engineers, software engineers, etc. The HR strategy should dynamically change to support technological advancement in each business group and develop leaders who can translate business needs into digital solutions to increase efficiency and productivity. We have best-in-class people practices and several innovative programmes focused on leveraging technology and introducing apps for driving various engagement initiatives for such a dispersed workforce.

With the overhaul of the oil and gas sector, the role of HR has become more interesting. We need the right people at the right places who can ensure we can thrive in these changing times, and that is where the role of HR becomes important. Even HR has not remained untouched by the digitalisation wave. The first wave of digitisation was seen when we started processes like performance management system. Now we are getting into analytics, for example, we are working with third-party vendors to develop analytics around our campus hiring process. Currently, digital transformation is driving Cairn towards unleashing its true business and workplace potential.

What are the major challenges for HR in the industry? How challenging is to build a new site from scratch? 

Talent crunch is a significant challenge in this sector. Oil and gas is a difficult operating ecosystem and demand for employees with the right skill set is generally very high. It is not only challenging to acquire the right talent but also very difficult to retain them. With a new oil and gas project, comes a huge investment in terms of both capital and resources. To successfully complete the project, human resources managers carry the responsibility of fully operationalising it with respect to a new talent search. Apart from identifying the right talent, it is critical to create a suitable work environment as well. It is also important to keep the employees motivated and engaged to empower them to deliver their best.

At Cairn, we have successfully built and nourished a very robust workforce that has been at the forefront of driving the amazing regional transformation story in Barmer. With our substantial increase in the new operational area after OALP, we plan to strengthen this workforce further and try replicating the success story of Barmer in other regions. 


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