In Conversation With Rajiv R, CHRO & ESG Leader, Ramco Systems

As a strategic business partner, the first step is to understand costs and revenue drivers says Rajiv R, CHRO & ESG Leader, Ramco Systems in an exclusive conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, BW People.


With your extensive global HR experience, can you share a specific example of a challenge you faced in setting up HR functions in a new region and how you successfully addressed it?

I have been fortunate to be a part of setting up a shared services centre in India from the ground up, as well as establishing regional and branch offices in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa region. When the decision to expand a business globally or centralize operations is made, HR plays a crucial role, right from selecting the correct location, attracting and retaining talent, and ensuring compliance with local laws.

One challenge I faced when setting up a new centre is that the typical practice is to hire a local leader and build a team around them. When we set up an office in a South Asian country, we followed the same approach. Once the local manager came on board, we began building a team under the manager. Given the close-knit community among locals, we assumed that once a leader was hired and a team formed, things would run smoothly. However, one of the mistakes we made was failing to maintain regular contact with the team members. The leader we initially hired didn't work out, and before we could find the right one, we were dealing with a high attrition.

It was at that point that we realized the importance of staying connected with all members of the team and the need for a local HR person on the ground to address and resolve employee queries. The HR person successfully bridged the cultural gap, especially when we had Indian employees traveling for transitions. One of the reasons our initial local team members left was our lack of awareness regarding their country's cultural etiquette, especially concerning hygiene and table manners.

This experience taught me that, regardless of the team's size, having a local HR professional is essential, and open communication across all levels is a must, even when the team is in its early stages of development.

How do you approach the development and implementation of HR initiatives and programs in diverse regions like Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East? 

Developing and implementing HR initiatives and programs in diverse regions like Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East requires an adaptable approach. These regions have their own unique cultural, economic, and regulatory characteristics.

In the Middle East, a strong emphasis is placed on relationships and respect. The workforce is predominantly composed of foreigners, making knowledge of local labour laws and regulations crucial. Nurturing a culture of inclusion and respecting cultural sensitivities are paramount.

Latin America is known for its warmth and emphasis on interpersonal relationships. Building trust is a fundamental element, and decision-making tends to take longer compared to other regions due to the importance of consensus and buy-in.

Investing in education and training programs to develop local talent has yielded positive results. Furthermore, providing cross-cultural training for both expatriates and local employees working together has proven to be effective.

Within the Asia Pacific region, diversity is significant, and attention to cultural nuances and individual space is essential. Focus should be high on employee development and retention.

HR initiatives in diverse regions cannot adhere to a rigid, one-size-fits-all plan. Instead, it is crucial to remain flexible, culturally aware, and responsive to the specific needs of each region and country while ensuring compliance with local regulations.

Given your background in global talent acquisition, what strategies do you find most effective for sourcing and retaining top talent across various regions and cultures? 

Global talent acquisition requires continuous learning and adaptation. A good understanding of local needs and organizational goals is crucial. At Ramco, we set up operations and hired from new markets. In all these hiring and branding efforts, we localized the approach for global appeal, understanding the cultural nuances and job market dynamics, and tailoring recruitment efforts that make sense to local candidates is important.

Building a strong employer brand is very important, as you are competing for mindshare with applicants in a competitive job market. Showcasing a commitment to diversity, employee testimonials, and success stories that exemplify an inclusive work culture.

Fostering employee referrals is something we have always believed in, and it works best as the employee markets the brand and refers friends whom they would like to work with and learn from.

Lastly, leveraging online platforms, utilizing professional networks, industry-specific platforms, and online job boards to reach the talent pool. Retention is fortunately the same across the globe: a good professional environment where one can express themselves without fear of reprisal and continuous learning is the key.

How do you measure the impact of HR initiatives on an organization's financial results and asset value, and can you provide an example of a successful initiative that had a measurable impact? 

Measuring the impact of HR initiatives on an organization's financial results and asset value can be challenging, HR initiatives often have indirect and long-term effects. However, it can be done with a defined strategy, using relevant metrics, and ongoing data analysis.

As a strategic business partner, the first step is to understand costs and revenue drivers. The next step is to arrive at specific measurable outcomes and indicators for the organization based on these cost and revenue factors.

To enhance HR strategies for financial success, start by setting clear objectives tied to measurable metrics such as revenue growth, cost savings, employee turnover rates, and engagement scores. These objectives should clarify whether the focus is on financial outcomes or assets. Before implementing any changes, establish a baseline to gauge your current position and track progress. Use metrics to assess the impact of HR initiatives, including financial goals. Analyse trends and correlations between HR efforts and financial results to make informed decisions. It's also sensible to create financial models to estimate long-term effects, like employee tenure and attrition costs. 

Employee satisfaction and engagement surveys are crucial, as they often relate to financial performance; an increase in employee satisfaction can positively impact productivity and customer service.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was tough to keep and engage employees, which led to higher hiring costs. After the pandemic, many left their jobs, showing the need for real-time, accessible data to make decisions based on past information. Typically, in HR, data is checked at the end of the month or quarter. But after COVID, the industry changed significantly, and with the 'great resignation' trend, our team needed a better understanding of our human resource spending. So, we created an automated dashboard that is updated 24/7 to keep tabs on our workforce movement, and costs, and to forecast accurate business plans.

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