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Leading From The Front: Army Veteran Pranav Prasoon Thakur On Strategies To Achieve HR Excellence
In his illustrious career, Army veteran Pranav Prasoon Thakur has lived by a motto - ‘Passion for people’. In this exclusive conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People, Thakur talks about creating winning HR strategies, HR Tech, leadership lessons from the Army and much more.
In your roles at the Indian Army, Renault, Nissan, and Coca-Cola, you have played a crucial role in building and developing the people function. How do you approach aligning HR Strategies with overall organisational goals?
So far in my career, I have lived by a motto - ‘Passion for people’. I think what has always worked for me is being true and simple with a sense of ownership for the organization and its people. I strongly feel that being humane is at the core of the People function and any HR strategy is not successful in the true sense if it’s not people-centric and owned by all the leaders, aligned with the Overall Organizational Goals.
I owe a lot to the best team I have ever had, worked with excellent colleagues and great leaders who carried an employee-first agenda always.
‘Transcendence and transformation’ are two pillars that I always focused on while making HR strategies with all the employers I have worked with so far.
‘Nemo Resido - Leave no one behind’ which I learned in the Army, I have deployed in post-Army life too.
A few examples where I led the initiatives for good business outcomes were:
- Renault Nissan Technical Centre Pivotal in establishing the design Centre and grew the Workforce from 2500 to 8000 employees.
- Renault India: Established employee Incentive scheme for quick business expansion and employee motivation post-COVID.
- Coca-Cola: Led the DEI initiatives and got an MOU executed with the Army Welfare Placement Organization for Military Veteran Employment program.
- TruKKer: Building culture & brand in ten countries of operations (EMEA Region) and making TruKKer an employer of choice.
You mention being instrumental in building and developing organisational culture. How do you define and foster a positive and inclusive culture within an organisation, especially when transitioning between different industries like automotive, beverages, and defence?
While transitioning between organizations, I learned that building organizational culture has a standard blueprint:
- Starts with the initial spirit in the work, workforce, and workplace.
- Grows with diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Evolves with ongoing initiatives focused on the Organization’s Vision, Mission, and Values.
A positive and inclusive culture is made by:
- Ultimate togetherness of the workforce
- The entire workforce is to be driven towards organizational purpose always & every time.
As an expert in HRMS implementation, how have you utilised technology to enhance HR processes and improve overall efficiency in the organisations you have worked with?
In my 20 years career, I have been fortunate to see the drastic changes in HR Systems & tools from Macros to automation to AI, had fun all around. The strength of HR in any organization is because of strong HR processes, policies & systems. Luckily, I got a good opportunity to implement HR Technology & systems repeatedly with all my employers. The overall implementation and change management gave me a good understanding of the entire Digital Transformation.
An example that I would like to mention was the successful deployment of Workday in one of the companies, learning all the modules was worth it. The overall impact on organizational efficiency and HR effectiveness was spectacular. Employee satisfaction scores in the HR survey showcased the success.
Your experience in J&K in a counter-insurgency and counter- Terrorism environment is unique. How has the experience influenced your approach to leadership and people management and what lessons from that environment do you apply in your HR strategies
Whatever I’m or ever be I owe it to my Army training and exposure. ‘Service before self’ is ingrained too deeply in me or any other officer of the Army. The confidence to tackle any situation, ultimate leadership skills, resilience, chaos management, and a never-say-die attitude are my strengths which can be easily linked to the ‘Olive Green’ days.
The biggest lesson from the Army which I deploy in my corporate role is – ‘Leading from the front.’
How do you integrate creative and literary elements into leadership development programs? Does storytelling contribute to leadership training?
‘Motivation’ and ‘inspiration’ are too close to the Army and a soldier’s life. I published my first book – ‘Those Unknown’ during my Army days and ‘Fallen Few’ during Covid my two new books one on ‘Life’ and another on ‘Love’ is in the process of publishing.
When I look back, I find we have been raised in a society with stories and narratives and I carry it deep in me, was blessed with good teachers and mentors who inspired me for more.
Most of the characters in my book or speeches are from real life who have made me what I am today, I try my best to share them with others in the best possible way I can.
I am not a ‘hero’ but I’m proud to have worked with few and that’s what soldiering is all about; we inspire each other both in the best and in the worst. I try the same with the people around me – to challenge them, to build them, to move them forward.
How do you foster a culture of resilience within the teams you lead, and what strategies do you employ to help employees navigate through change and adversity?
Resilience & fortitude are a part of my upbringing. I am an ordinary guy from a small place who had a dream to become the best version of myself and always strive for the ultimate, which God and life have been kind to let me be!
A culture of resilience comes from experimentation, celebrating failures rather than success, and challenging the status quo continuously.
To help employees navigate through change and adversity, I just make an inclusive and supportive environment; making sure that they know and feel that they work for a company that not only employs them but loves them!
How do you stay updated on industry trends and incorporate innovative HR practices to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving tech landscape?
Continuous learning is something I strongly strive for. Recently, I completed my Doctorate in “Employee Delight in the Future of Work”, and it has smoothened my learning appetite. Incorporating innovative HR practices to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving tech landscape comes from collective learning - participating in various HR Forums locally and abroad keeps on adding to my knowledge base. I also keep a close watch on daily business dynamics through online content on LinkedIn, Journals, Articles, etc., and practice deep-rooted knowledge sharing through monthly interactions with various business leaders and mentors in the industry.
What according to you is the biggest development in the HR and corporate space in your sector in 2023 and what would be your one prediction for 2024 for India Inc?
The biggest development in the HR and corporate space in my sector in 2023 was a talent market stabilization post the ‘Great Resignation’ and the new evolution of Talent Attraction and Talent Retention strategies in the industry.
Seeing the revolution in Entrepreneurship and start-ups, my one prediction for 2024 for India Inc. is the drastic shift of workforce from traditional MNCs to Start-ups like never before.