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With the Times

Fifteen companies that have successfully balanced employee aspirations with demands of the business
twitter-logo BusinessToday.In   New Delhi     Print Edition: April 5, 2020
With the Times
S V Nathan, Partner, Human Resources, Deloitte India

  • Overall Rank 11

Millennial Friendly

Policies focus on needs of millennials who account for 85% of its employee base

Deloitte India is a young company - over 85 per cent of its employees are millennials - and over the past couple of years, the consulting company has been trying to understand what they want. "They need to have a voice on the table," says S.V. Nathan, Partner, Human Resources, Deloitte India. Leading the wish-list was flexible work hours, which led to the launch of a programme called 'My Flex'. It allows the employee any-time work (as long as they are available during the core hours of between 10.30 am and 4 pm), and the option to work four days a week. "Our millennial employees want that kind of flexibility. You can work as many hours, on whichever days you wish, as long as you serve your clients and make sure they are alright with it," says Nathan.

In an era of instant gratification, younger employees dont want yearly appraisals. "They want regular feedback and not wait till the year-end. We did away with ratings. We said employees need to meet their superior manager at least once a month and spend time getting feedback and having a meaningful conversation," explains Nathan.

While Deloitte earlier had sabbaticals of two to three months, now two-year sabbaticals to pursue higher studies are also allowed. "When they come back, we recognise their additional qualification. This has got an extremely good response," says Nathan.

At a time when companies across industries are becoming conservative about hiring and are even laying off people, Nathan proudly announces that Deloitte Indias employee strength has grown by 10 per cent.

-ajita shashidhar


  • Overall Rank 12

Growing With the Leader

Employee value proposition strategy focuses on nurturing and developing a strong bench of future leaders

Talent is a key priority area for Indias second-largest drugmaker which has an India-specific talent strategy in place since 2014. "We focus on exceptional performance, a hallmark of Abbott employees worldwide, especially because our work impacts people's lives. The consistent recognition of Abbott as "Best Company to Work For" continues to be rooted in a simple, clear and powerful, value proposition-'Grow with the Leader'," says Ambati Venu, Vice President, Pharmaceuticals, Abbott India.

A majority (85 per cent) of Abbott's front-line and senior sales management vacancies are filled through internal assessment and development route, says Deepshikha Mukerji, Regional HR Director-India at the company, noting that attrition at Abbott is less than 16 per cent, while the industry average is about 22 per cent.

Through the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) programme, Abbott engages senior business leaders to influence high potential talent to pursue a career in healthcare and selectively targets reputed campus institutions.

The "Be Inspired by What You Do" campaign helps its employees take pride in the work they do.

This year, Abbott launched two volunteering initiatives - "School transformation" and "Food Packaging and Distribution" - and has also created a volunteering platform, an e-portal that offers its employees an opportunity to contribute and give back to the society.

-PB Jayakumar


  • Overall Rank 13

Taking Pride

Development programmes groom engineer-managers into leaders

The employees of Larsen & Toubro, be it Chairman A.M. Naik or shop floor employees at its numerous factories, take immense pride in the iconic projects they have executed over the years. Yogi Sriram, Senior Vice President, Corporate HR, L&T, says the company has been consciously branding these achievements among students of key NITs and IITs in recent years to attract high quality engineers. "Academic excellence is only one part. We look equally at their extra curricular achievements and leadership skills, as most of the projects we do require quality professionals who can mitigate challenges and can efficiently lead a team," says Sriram.

The company recruits about 1,200 engineers and 60-70 MBA graduates every year. "We have a robust leadership development factory to groom the skills of our 47,000-plus employees," says Yogi.

L&T also has a seven-level leadership training programme to transform engineer-managers into leaders and corporate entrepreneurs. It has programmes for managers at all levels by IIM Ahmedabad; Stephan M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; INSEAD; Harvard Business School and others.

-PB Jayakumar


  • Overall Rank 14

Pincode Hiring

Talent acquisition is aligned with the banks new business strategy

Indias third-largest private lender, Axis Bank, under its new chief Amitabh Chaudhry, has woven a people-centric strategy around the delivery of three important vectors - growth, profitability and sustainability. The entire organisation, with a workforce of 62,000-plus, is working towards the goal.

The bank has seen a lot of changes in the past owing to transition at the top. Its new goal is to become a preferred banker for all. Under its people-centred approach, the private lender is aiming at reinforcing its core values, creating a workforce of the future because of digitisation and market changes, ensuring diversity and inclusion, and enabling learning and development thereby enriching employees experience in the process.

"Customer experience equals employee experience," says Rajkamal Vempati, Head - HR, Axis Bank. The bank, which has 4,415-plus branches across the country, has also taken its first step towards introducing 'Pincode' hiring, especially for the branches where candidates are hired as per their current location.

Similarly, the bank is aligning the talent acquisition approach with its overall business strategy. Under this, in one year alone, it has hired 600 management graduates, engineers and chartered accountants across levels.

"We visit select B-schools to recruit talent in roles across payments, analytics, cybersecurity and technology," states Vempati.

Axis Bank is already using extensive data analytics and technology to hire people. For instance, the lender has an interview-less skill inventory algorithm-based hiring process in place to recruit its frontline staff.

- Anand Adhikari


  • Overall Rank 15

Big Blue Beckons

An enabling environment and women empowerment make the company tick

The IT giant is taking quick and nimble strides to ensure it remains an attractive destination for career growth.

On January 30, IBMs board of directors elected Arvind Krishna as its new CEO. The move had a positive impact in India. "There is a lot of exuberance and it brings a lot of positive energy to the workforce," says Chaitanya N. Sreenivas, Vice President and HR Head, IBM India and South Asia. Sreenivas feels IBM provides its employees with several opportunities to learn and grow, given the need for skillsets such as cloud security, IoT or blockchain. He sees the company as a place to grow and "to stay relevant."

IBM has done a lot over the past year to build on an enabling environment for its employees in India. For instance, it has introduced a travel policy that allows a new parent to take his or her child (0-2 years) and a caretaker along on work-related trips. The whole travel and stay cost is borne by the company. CharisMA is a programme that offers training, coach on call, buddies and related information to new parents through a portal. Its Disha programme, piloted in 2017, aims to empower young women and reskill them on digital capabilities.

-E. Kumar Sharma


  • Overall Rank 16

Building Ownership

A digital approach along with gender parity at work has held the company in good stead

Reliance Industries (RIL), India's most profitable company, has onboarded about 130,000 employees in the last two-and-a-half years as part of building Reliance Jio's digital ecosystem. It launched a mobile app and an online interface to shrink the pre-boarding process to 5-6 minutes. The digital infrastructure helps candidates to walk in without any documents and join.

RIL has about 500,000 employees across its petroleum, retail and telecom businesses. The behemoth traces the roots of its people-philosophy to what Dhirubhai Ambani used to ask his employees: "Are you having fun?" RIL wants to create a workplace that is geared towards being exciting, thriving, dynamic and challenging. "People are encouraged to take ownership of their work," says Ashwani Prashara, CHRO, RIL-Hydrocarbons. RIL wants to be an equal opportunity employer. With this in mind, it is looking at allowing women employees to join night shifts at the companys Jamnagar refinery. Last year, RIL launched a programme called Learning Trek to build soft skills and digital capabilities in new hires. Its Dronacharya scheme offers a structured transition of entry-level employees to bigger roles. RIL creates future leaders through intensive leadership development programmes as well.

-Nevin John


  • Overall Rank 17

People Power

A healthy work environment built on core values

Titles do not necessarily convey the whole story. But if Anupam Trehan is referred to as Head, People & Communities, and not CHRO, there is an embedded message. Cisco has an "environment of safety and trust, where you are heard and respected," she says. Over the past year, the company took new initiatives around leadership, learning and discussions about wellness. "We had a global Mental Health Awareness Week. Cisco's senior leadership, industry experts, and medical professionals discussed mental well-being at various forums. A few employees also volunteered to share their personal stories," she says.

The company follows a practice it calls 'Blind Hiring' - to reduce or eliminate any bias in the selection process. "The interview happens without going through/looking at the persons profile. The focus is on assessing skills and capabilities required. This has helped us improve diversity," Trehan says.

The approach towards performance has changed from appraisal cycles and formal performance ratings to weekly meetings. The effort is to move from jobs and careers to experiences.

-E. Kumar Sharma


  • Overall Rank 18

Raising the Game

Remains a preferred employer, thanks to its employee-centric approach

While Facebook has often hit headlines for all the wrong reasons, but there is no denying the perks, flexible work options and best of technology to work on it offers, which are some of the top reasons for it to be a preferred employer. "The company is designed with great employee programmes. They really pamper you," says a Facebook employee.

Another positive factor, the employee adds, is its focus on mentorship. Senior as well as junior managers get access to professional mentors. "Facebook has partnered with global companies to provide professional coaching to its workforce. They do online sessions on the basis of requirements. The duration can vary for each individual. Often, seniors can have as long as three-month-long programmes," states the employee. The coaching programmes can be on a variety of topics such as leadership, team management, boss management, among others. The Leap Programme, for example, is a three-day residential mentorship for senior women leaders in Facebook to help them move up the corporate ladder.

- Sonal Khetarpal


  • Overall Rank 19

Hand-holding Employees

Enhanced employee engagement helps reduce attrition and raise productivity

It's been tough times for most retail companies as consumption fell last year and fashion retailer, Lifestyle International is no exception. B. Venkataramana, Group President (HR), Landmark Group, is thankful for his organisation's lean people structure. At a time when peers shut stores, laid off people and cut salaries, Venkatramana proudly says they didn't have to do any of that. "We had seen double-digit growth in the last 7-8 years, but last year's growth was much lower. However, we kept our people informed," he says. In the last one year, it has enhanced its employee engagement programme. "We believe employee engagement has a direct correlation to attrition and productivity," he says. The company is taking care of employees growth within the organisation. Instead of hiring new talent each time a new store is opened, it gives a chance to existing employees. "We opened close to 50 Max stores and eight Lifestyle stores last year, and ensured at least 30 per cent of employees at these stores were internal movements."

- Ajita Shashidhar


  • Overall Rank 20

Enabling Growth

Many industry-first experiments and an employee-centric fail early, fail fast approach keep employees engaged

The journey of Krishna Raghavan, Flipkarts new Chief People Officer (CPO), is characteristic of the career growth opportunities that the e-tailer offers. He was the senior vice president of engineering till early this year. "Lateral movements across different business units are not only supported by the organisation but are also encouraged," says Raghavan.

Flipkart has an internal mobility portal with clearly defined career paths and work expectations that facilitates lateral job movements. The reason is simple. It not only adds to the repertoire of skills an employee possesses but also gives him a holistic perspective of the business, he says. This is made possible due to the culture of risk-taking and innovation where talent is given opportunities to fail early and fail fast. Flipkart has several hack days at the company as well as function level where every employee is given an opportunity to solve problems in his domain to improve business processes.

"This helps bring in a bottom-up innovation culture where the voice of every employee is heard and they are given space to solve problems. This has normalised failing so that people continue to take challenges head-on," says Raghavan.

Flipkart has also introduced many industry-first experiments that have reached scale. One of the key contributions by the e-tailer has been its Cash on Delivery feature that was then taken up by other players as well.

- Sonal Khetarpal


  • Overall Rank 21

People and Purpose

Arming talent with greater learning opportunities

On January 14, in his earnings call after announcing the third quarter results of IT major Wipro, Abidali Z. Neemuchwala, the company's CEO and MD, highlighted efforts made to improve people practices - enhancing campus hiring, deepening employee engagement and making significant investments in training and skill development. These measures "reflected in attrition rates, which improved to 15.7 per cent for the trailing 12 months," he said. The company reported "a strong quarter both on revenues and margin," said Neemuchwala.

"Wipro is a purpose-driven organisation. Sixty seven cents of every dollar of profit Wipro makes goes towards funding various social causes," says Saurabh Govil, President and CHRO, Wipro. "To keep up with the global nature of our work, we invest significantly in training - upskilling/cross skilling in new-age technologies - to provide employees the opportunity to engage in a wide range of projects." These, he says, are backed by the companys longstanding commitment to sustainability, inclusiveness and strong values (internally called the Spirit of Wipro).

The company uses industry best practices as the benchmark and offers employees learning experience through internal initiatives. "For example, Digital Awareness is a culture change initiative enabled through learning... And it applies to every employee. This initiative has covered over 130,000 employees," says Govil.

- E Kumar Sharma


  • Overall Rank 22

Talent Hungry

Ramped up hiring despite a slowdown and sharpened focus on upskilling to build talent

In January 2019, the New Jersey-headquartered IT services provider Cognizant celebrated its silver jubilee in India.

Starting operations in 1994 with just Rs 10 crore revenue and 200 employees, the NASDAQ listed company concluded 2019 with Rs 1 lakh crore in revenues and a 200,000 strong workforce. There are about 100,000 women employees in the close to $17 billion corporation, of which 75,000 are in India.

Picturing the company as one that is about growth and career advancement, Ramkumar Ramamoorthy, Chairman and MD, Cognizant India, says, "2019 was a watershed year for us. Cognizant emerged as the first multinational company to cross 200,000 employees in India."

He adds that Cognizant takes pride in having a strong female representation across the company with as many as four women directors on its board.

Talking about upskilling talent, Ramamoorthy adds, "In the last 18 months, Cognizant has upskilled and reskilled around 1,50,000 employees in newer digital technologies. We have publicly stated that we are going to double our investments in learning and development in 2020."

Srini Raju, the founding CEO of Cognizant, says, "The big attraction about the company all along has been the fact that it was always been led and run by professionals. Cognizant finds its strength in its technical and managerial capabilities."

- E Kumar Sharma


  • Overall Rank 23

Tonic for Talent

Flexible work culture coupled with all-round support to employees

Last year, Pfizer Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of $53.6 billion global biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc, introduced an intervention called "kill a stupid rule". Employees were asked to share their views on rules that were not creating space for meaningful work. Everyone, including the leadership team, could suggest ideas to increase productivity. Based on these, a few rules were scrapped.

The intervention was a part of the larger agenda - simplicity for growth. It seems to have worked well with the drugmakers Indian employees. Shilpi Singh, Director, Human Resources, Pfizer, says the company has "repurposed the organisation to align with Pfizer's core values: courage, equity, excellence and joy". The company offers organisational exposure - growth opportunities through portfolio expansion. This has helped employees grow into being well-rounded professionals. Pfizer also boasts of a flexible work culture that allows employees to maintain a healthier work-life balance, which results in better productivity. Singh adds that Pfizers benefits philosophy provides all-round support to employees, addressing their physical and mental well-being. With over 2,500 employees and annual sales of Rs 2,030 crore in FY19, Pfizer is the third-largest multinational pharmaceutical company in India.

- Joe C Mathew


  • Overall Rank 24

Phygital HR Strategy

Approaching the digital as an interplay of physical and digital

Uday Kotak, Chairman and MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank, says a mix of digital and physical is leading to a change in the nature of jobs and also bringing new skill sets in the banking sector. The entire HR strategy of the bank is aimed towards finding the right mix to serve customers across the country. "It is multi-pronged to build a team with a mix of young and experienced professionals with new skill sets," says Sukhjit Singh Pasricha, President and Group CHRO, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

The bank is hiring in domains such as Big Data, AI, Cybersecurity, Design Thinking, Blockchain, API and Connected Banking. The private lender is moving towards an aligned and agile cross-functional, multi-skill team for development and management of digital platforms. "Apart from hiring external talent, there is a focus on training, upskilling and re-skilling of current teams," says Pasricha. The bank is also driving innovation through crowdsourcing among employees. It has a mobile app, Klapp, that focuses on performance and learning. "While the learning platform is extensively utilised by the consumer bank team to educate employees on product and process-related updates, we have also enabled the online onboarding module for new joiners," adds Pasricha.

- Anand Adhikari


  • Overall Rank 25

Chasing Excellence

An employee outreach approach helps reduce attrition rate

If you are in the parcel service industry, doorstep delivery has to be an integral part of your business plan. But what about an internal programme called HR Aapke Dwar? Under this initiative rolled out by DTDC Express, its HR managers reach out to every employee to understand their problems and offer solutions. Shiv Rawat, National Head, HR, DTDC, says these visits allow them to share information about the company and developments within, thus creating a sense of trust, which helps reduce the attrition rate significantly. He adds that DTDCs attrition rate fell 12 per cent this year (till January 2020). Apart from this, career growth opportunities are also a reason why the company has a lower churn rate. DTDC has started a programme to train its employees in different functions.

Established in 1990, DTDC operates one of the largest parcel delivery networks in India through its strategic partnership with Europe's DPD group. The company handles more than 12.5 million shipments every month through a network of 11,000 franchise-led field workforce.

- Joe C Mathew

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