In Conversation With Vikram Bector, President & Group CHRO, Piramal Group

With more than two decades of experience across diverse sectors like IT, consulting, automotive & healthcare, and having worked on building world-class e-enabled practices in various HR functions, Vikram Bector, President & Group CHRO, Piramal Group, has steered initiatives in organisations to enhance the employer brand and become an employer of choice.


What is the secret to motivating your employees and convincing top talent to stick around for long term?

I would say, we will have to take a well-rounded view or a 360-degree view of what's changing. So, I always like this framework of looking at the three W's. The first one is, what's changing in the nature of work? The first W. The second is what's changing in the nature of work practices and within the workplace.

And the third is really the workforce or the workers themselves. So I think, if you have to design a workplace, which is very engaging, where you can retain people, where people are excited, I think we'll have to look at all three Ws. And so really, maybe if I spend a little bit of time on all three, I could probably give you a more comprehensive answer because it is difficult.

And therefore, we have to look at it in a very comprehensive way. So see the first one, if you look at the nature of work, it's changing,  within every sector, if you look at automobiles, you know, they are making electric vehicles now. So really, the kind of skills needed to make electric vehicles is different.

If you look at similarly, The oil and gas sector again with the new green energy, the, you know, focus on hydrogen again, we require new skills there. I think looking at across sectors in financial services, again, there is a lot of digital lending,, and technology has a big role to play.

So I would feel that in the workplace, we have to first acknowledge what is changing and therefore skill people accordingly. So that's the first W. The second thing in terms of work practices with all the remote work, work from home. I think the collaborative tools, the entire way in which collaboration happens, teamwork happens, agile teams are coming together, that is changing.

So we have to really provide for a very different outlook, a different approach for helping people work together in a remote setup. So the whole work practices are changing. So therefore we have to create new work practices to get the work done out of individuals and teams. And then third workforce or the workers if you talk about it and that's where I think I was just trying to list down maybe we have to do six, seven things starting with you know, the whole performance management system.

How can people learn and grow? What skills are needed? How will performance be managed? That has to be really changing. The whole diversity and inclusion program. How do we feel people feel that they are being included? So really that has to change and that needs to work on. Pay practices. Today with a lot more focus on wellness, I think what are our pay practices and what are our benefits program?

That needs to be addressed. Certainly, the fourth is our L& D programs. Learning programs for today. preparing them for today, which I spoke about, but also developmental programs to help them realize their potential and prepare them for tomorrow. Then the next thing I can think of is mobility. People would like to move around and like to be mobile, like to grow.

How can we facilitate fast growth through our internal mobility programs and career programs? And certainly around recognition, people want to be recognized in a way that their performance is being excelled.

And the last thing which is so important is mental wellness. So we spoke about financial wellness, but I think today with the stress levels going up, we really have to also look at the mental wellness. So in summary, it's a very comprehensive package of trying to work on the workforce or the worker, the workplace, and the nature of work itself.

A comprehensive employee retention program plays a vital role in both attracting and retaining key employees. What, according to you, should be the management and should actually be the draft? of such a plan or of such a retention program that actually attracts the talent?

I think first thing I find is the principle of like attracts like, right? So what is the employee value proposition? I think it has to be very clear. We have to be very clear in whether it is on our websites, whether it is on our campus programs, each company needs to have a very clear value proposition because like I said, the principle of like attracts like, so I think no amount of misrepresentation today can be really expected or should be accepted because today there is full transparency with glass door.

With social media, with people relying on their alumni networks, I think each company's reputation is out there. Therefore it's really important for companies to put out their value propositions so that they are able to attract the right people and not make any false promises in the market.

So I think that's very critical today. People look at what can they expect from you. And therefore you know, employees internally should also feel that it should not be that you're talking about your company being X, but how your employees, current employees feeling are not really aligned to that X value.

So I think creating that employee value prep proposition, which is also echoed by some of our employees on all of our employees is very important. So you have to take into account what is the experience that our current set of employees are having so that that can be projected outside as your value proposition because that is the true value proposition of why.

People are staying in your company. So having those stay conversations, creating this value proposition, which is from the inside out, and then communicating to the potential employees, what you stand for, what can they learn? How can they grow? I think those are some of the critical elements, which will help you authentically project your brand, authentically project your value proposition so that you can attract like-minded people to your organization.

Do you think there should be a rule book on what to follow and what to incorporate, what not to incorporate?

I would say my rule book is authenticity. first you have to connect with all pockets of the organization and understand what you stand for. Because there has to be a level of authenticity. What you're projecting because people will very easily see through whether it is employees or it is the external potential employees.

They'll very easily see through the reviews, the cluster reviews, and the other alumni network reviews. If you're trying to project something that you're not. So I think that's the first principle of authenticity. The second is, I find that you know, it's important to take your alumni because today in engagement on campus is very important.

We hire globally from across campuses and wherever possible we try and take our alumni there alumni people connect best with the alumni from their campus. that's the other, if you ask me, that's the second thing out of my rule book saying, how do we authentically connect people who are from the same campus?

Because they speak the same language and people do trust your campus ambassadors to talk about the company. So that's the second thing. And the third, if you ask me, is, you know, in terms of your overall package, I think people also look at financial growth. So really, how can you craft, you know, a compensation package, which is a good combination of benefits?

In today's time, when layoffs are at its peak, how do you think that employers can lure the remaining employees to work harder and remain productive?

Effective results in time where they are seeing that even loyalty is not paying them fruitful results because overnight companies decide that we did not do sustainable hiring.

I have now over the last 30 years been through different waves of you know you know, having to do this difficult task, including I dare say, having been you know, laid off once. So, you know, I've had the I would say the good fortune of being laid off once as an employee.

So I think I can talk from both sides having done it and also have been at the receiving end of it. So here's, here's the, here's the thing that. I think we, you know, we, we must do as HR professionals. See, the first thing is people who are in fear are not known as you rightly said, to perform at their top level.

So first thing is to assure people And be very truthful. See, many times we try and hide saying, Oh, this is it. No more layoffs will happen. So I think first thing is you have to be truthful to say whether this is the first wave of layoffs. Or should they expect another wave? It is better to be silent than to give a false promise.

That is point number one. So you should be very clear about what is the layoff all about. Why is it happening? Will there be a second wave? And you know, not give any false hopes. That is point number one. I think point number two is I, this kind of communication has to happen multiple times, you know, you cannot just check the box, make one announcement, because I think this is, you know, a very, very deep impact.

So as HR professionals, I think at least I remember all the times that it happened. Well, one had to be there, you know, and do it twice, thrice, four times, five times. And be available to people who are being impacted because it's a very difficult period. People have questions, and they may not answer all the questions at once.

So I find that oftentimes you have to do it five times, six times, be available, check in on people in the evening. How did they respond? Is somebody being driven to take any extreme steps? What about people who are doing their EMIs? You know, are there people who are going to... get into financial trouble? So I think the thing is to do it humanely as it would happen to yourself and really reach out to people four, five, six times till you feel that the person is comfortable emotionally, mentally you know, balanced because it can upset the most, the strongest of women and men.

Of course. So I think that's the second thing. Therefore, the frequency of communication, the first is truthfulness. Tell people what is really happening and how much more will happen. The second is the frequency of communication. The third is, you know, authentically, you know, solving for each and every problem because we owe answers, developing strong FAQs, making sure you have recorded each and every member's concerns, handling those concerns.

I think very clear guidelines on any support needed, you know, wherever people need financial support, emotional support, even outsourcing, you know, out, you know, outplacement support. In one of the cases, I had enlisted the search agency so that they could help people, you know you know, really get jobs.

I also remember me and my team actually had interview preparation rounds. So people who are getting laid off, we would actually prepare them for interviews with other companies. I also reached out to my other CHRO friends when we were laying off to say, Hey, this is a business reason why we are laying off people.

Would you like to take some of our people? Because they are indeed very good. So I think that's the range of things that one expects or one should be doing because that's what, you would expect somebody to do for you. 

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