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Technology Adoption & Data Driven Approach Is A Mantra At Practus: Aditi Nair

Everything that we do is measured for ROI. No activity is done without a clear impact and outcome defined. says Nair, Chief People Officer At Practus says Nair in an exclusive interaction with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.

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You've been instrumental in institutionalizing the People function at Practus. Can you share your approach to building a strong performance culture within the organization and how it contributes to Practus' ability to assist other organizations in delivering measurable business outcomes?

To build a performance driven culture, one of the most critical success factors is driving alignment within the team. We have woven performance orientation and driving measurable outcomes/ impact into the fabric of Practus. It is ingrained in our Philosophy, People Practices & Processes.

Linking Practus Mission to Individual Deliverables

From the Practus Mission statement, our Vision 2030 has been derived. Based on where we see ourselves in 2030, our 7 year business strategy map was drawn out. This has been further cascaded across the organization through Balanced Score Cards. Company, Departmental and Individual Balanced score cards have been created. For team members who are in individual contributor roles, relevant BSC elements have been pulled into their KPIs for the year. This ensures that every individual at Practus is working towards a common vision.

Aligning to Performance Process & related outcomes

Monthly BSC reviews are conducted for the leadership and managerial team members. Apart from this, the entire team is included in a quarterly “Mutual Feeback Process” where the focus is on 360 degree feedback. The calendarized performance discussion are open and transparent and make it easy to give and receive feedback. Variables are linked to achievement on Practus’s financial numbers, achievement on BSC parameters as KPIs.

Communicating & Cascading

We had conducted “Vision Workshop” across the company where our CEO Mr Deepak Narayanan helped team members understand and align to our Vision. All workshops were conducted in-person and 100% of the team was covered through these. This has helped in building greater buy-in across all levels and departments in the team.

In your previous roles at Kotak Mahindra Bank and IndoStar Capital Finance Ltd, you played a significant part in establishing those organizations as great employer brands. What strategies or initiatives did you employ to enhance their employer brand status?

I strongly believe there is one common thread that differentiates a great employer from others and that is an organization’s value system, the culture that can be experienced by everyone. While having a world class office, great benefits and market benchmarked compensation are important as part of the overall strategy, the true success of people strategy lies in what an employee takes away from every ‘moment of truth’ they experience.

One of the key strategies, even in my previous organizations, was having a strong Employee Value Proposition in place, which was aligned to our Client Value Proposition and was cascaded across all the employee life cycle interventions – right from hiring to exit. What was great was how we were able to make the EVP relevant at different levels from Leadership to Individual contributors. Another thing that worked well, was the leadership involvement with key team players and communication and engagement initiatives that we ran. I remember the CSR initiatives we ran during were probably one of the most successful engagement strategies that got our team together with a common purpose to make a difference.

That said, I believe the secret sauce in enhancing your employer brand is employee advocacy. People will talk about what they experience and believe in.

How do you adapt your HR strategies to meet the unique needs of such a broad spectrum of clients, and what core principles remain consistent in your approach?

Practus’ Mission statement is “To redefine the consulting space by delivering measurable high impact outcomes to clients through transformational profitability, cashflow and valuation enhancement with technology as a key driver.”

We are a People centric organization and we believe that the deep-rooted sense of belonging that we endeavour to provide to each team member at Practus is one of the key cultural differentiators that makes us unique! We exist because of our clients and we understand the relevance of investing in our People processes to ensure that client delight is an outcome of our interventions.

As Practus grows, it has been our constant endeavour to ensure that this feeling of belonging does not get diluted - we continue to Build, Nurture, Engage and Reinforce our values and culture. We always go back to our defined Values as a thumb rule. Clearly defined philosophies on People, Clients & Vendors have become a Way of Life at Practus.

From hiring new team members to developing current team members for next level of growth, our interventions to ‘build’ aim to ensure that the team is posed to deliver an ROI of 3X to 12X ROI on the mandates we engage on. While hiring, we have incorporated Competency based assessments to ensure we hire team members who are aligned to Practus’ values.

Developing the existing and current talent pipeline is another key aspect of ‘nurture’. Our Individual Development Plans (LDP) are comprehensive and address both Professional and Personal Growth plans. Gurukool – our L&D initiative aims to upskill our team on SLIP - Skills (Functional, Technology), Leadership competencies, Industry focus, Professional trainings. Our teams attend leadership programs with reputed institutes like Harvard Business School, IIM A, ISB, Isha Leadership Academy.

Our growth over the last few years, people & engagement matrices and being a Great Place to Work certified organization for 2 consecutive years, reinforces and highlights this unique proposition we offer to all who are part of Practus.

As the Group Chief People Officer, you lead a dynamic team with versatile proficiencies and competencies. Can you describe the key attributes you value in your team, and how do you foster a culture of collaboration and excellence within your HR team?

Just like our business where clients are at the centre of our existence, similarly for the HR team our “clients” are our internal stakeholders and the centre of our existence too. Business orientation therefore becomes a key attribute for success in my team. We have strengthened our people processes over the last couple of years and moved into business partnering in the true sense of the term. We have weekly connects sessions with all HODs & EPs to align on priorities – the outcomes are published through regular dashboards to the relevant stakeholders. Weekly reviews help in providing team with progress updates, roadblocks, etc so that outcomes are not impacted.

Technology adoption & data driven approach is something that is a mantra at Practus and the HR team is also expected to build efficiencies by using technology and data to collaborate better. We use tools for managing the employee life cycle, hiring processes, running survey and dipsticks. Automated dashboards have been built to provide data for decision making to the relevant stakeholders.

Every team member needs to have hunger to learn & grow. I believe the learning at Practus is immense and expect my team to make the most of this.

In keeping with our brand proposition of “Results. Delivered” - focus on outcomes is given its due in HR too, we measure hiring efficiency, engagement efficiency, TATs and people costs to stay focussed on our deliverables.

In the HR field, what do you see as the most critical trends or developments that will shape the industry in 2024?

HR technology space will get disrupted with AI & Machine Learning gaining prominence. Whether it is eliminating biases in the hiring processes, bettering the candidate experiences, or improving cognitive decision-making for HR professionals, AI will play a critical role in supporting a wide range of HR programs and employee initiatives.

Work from home, work from anywhere, 4-day work weeks, or complete flexible hours, by now, most businesses have adopted virtual or flexible working arrangements in some shape or form. While some that benefited from increased employee satisfaction and cost savings and chose to remain on this path, many others are exploring how to achieve a truly collaborative and productive flexible work model, that is not just employee-centric, but also beneficial to the organization. I believe this will be one of the most interesting and intricate problems that HR, finance and IT professionals will focus on in the next few years. But it will not be about just the “where” of the workplace, it will also be about “how” we approach work.

Recent studies have found that “sense of belonging” was the top driver of employee engagement, which in turn drives up organizational productivity and profitability. While workplace culture and leadership behaviors are certainly critical in creating a sense of belonging, factors, such as DE&I and employee wellbeing have also become extremely important for our teams across geographies

As someone passionate about delivering quality outcomes, how do you ensure that your HR initiatives align with Practus' mission to assist organizations in achieving their business objectives, and what measurement and evaluation methods do you use to gauge success?

At Practus, everything that we do is measured for ROI. No activity is done without a clear impact and outcome defined. Like I mentioned earlier our HR BSC for the year is defined. The BSC has been cascaded to the team either through a role specific BSC or individual KPIs. HR deliverables are linked to outcomes that are being driven at the company level.

For example, our BSC has parameters that measure recruitment efficiency, cost efficiencies, L&D and skill development, involvement in engagement initiatives. BSCs are reviewed monthly and actions taken for any deviations. Our quarterly mutual feedback process is a time when we take stock on KPIs for the team members in individual roles.

We also seek feedback from our team and run a quarterly People NPS survey that measures engagement and seeks feedback on 10 critical areas. Our People NPS scores have improved over the last couple of year and ranges ~55% which we believe is a healthy score. We also participate in the Great Place to Work study annually and have been certified for 2 consecutive years now.

Employee engagement is a common challenge for many organizations. Can you share your perspective on the universal principles that can drive higher employee engagement and how these principles are integrated into your HR strategies?

For any engagement to be successful, we need to make it relevant to the team, you need to reach the right audience in the right way. We follow a 3-pronged approach at Practus which I feel can work well across organizations.

Communicate to Engage

Speak it We have a communication calendar that has both formal and informal connect avenues planned (eg. Annual offsites, quarterly townhalls, workshop & feedback sessions, team dinner/lunch). Starting a conversation is the best way to start any engagement.

See it: What people see is what they believe! Today with the wide array of options it is possible to communicate to the last mile with ease. We share experiences, thoughts & ideas by leveraging emails, social media, whatsapp regularly.

Do it:  Its important that people get to experience what they are hearing and seeing too. We have an engagement calendar in place that also aligns to Practus Values. We run fun initiatives, hobby clubs, contents that give the team an opportunity to do things together. We have formed non-work cohorts that come together for initiatives that they are interested in.

Inspire to Engage

Leaders Walk the Talk: Our leaders lead by example. People are encouraged to share best practices that have worked for them at platforms like townhalls & team meets. These ‘everyday’ stories, presented by someone from the team go a long way in inspiring the entire team. Our senior leadership team is involved in communicating & reiterating our Vision and related goals & business updated at different forums, including monthly/ quarterly reviews. Every team member knows the role they are playing to work towards the vision and keeps them engaged and achievement oriented.

Way of Life – Making it our DNA

We are consistently communicating, engaging and reinforcing over time our values and celebrating team members who live the Practus Values. Promotions, role elevations are all linked to value alignment. We also reinforce positive behaviours – so regular monetary/ non monetary R&R programs are run at a quarterly & annual basis.


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