Pune's Hyatt Regency hotel played host to the fourth leg of the 2016 edition of the Business Today Knowledge Forum on Human Resources. On February 26, as the city began winding its way home, a bunch of HR thinkers got together to share views on two burning topics of the day: (a) Workplace diversity: Are we there yet? (b) Why HR should encourage employees to fail.
The first topic, on where Indian companies stand on workplace diversity and what needs to be done, started off with C.D. Ramesh, HR head of DHFL, saying that there's a lot of work happening around diversity. "In my view, India is very complex, and there's a lot of cultural dimension to it. And that's the journey India has to make. Diversity starts from our homes - we have to look there first and say, is it there?"
Putul Mathur, who heads the Persons with Disabilities charter for Wipro, pointed out that diversity is not only about gender, but also people with disability, underprivileged children, nationalities, geography, etc. Saying that the culture of diversity was ingrained in Wipro, she said: "So, we don't have to think where do we stand as far as diversity as a charter is concerned. However, while we have built capability, do we use them to the extent that is optimal, is something that we will need to work upon."
Pradeep Bhargava, Director, Cummins India Limited, agreed with both Ramesh and Mathur. He then pointed out that while we like to beat up the government for every problem, the fact is that the government is the one that has been encouraging diversity the most. After which he proceeded to bust a few more myths including one where people say you can either have diversity or performance. "The assumption is that if I go the diversity way, I will compromise on performance, which is utter nonsense," he said.
Rohit Gera, Managing Director, Gera Developments, said he looked at things a little differently. "Equal opportunity employment is different from diversity," he said. "If you want to look at diversity and all the advantages that it brings, it has to be of a strategic nature to an organisation."
The second panel, on the need for HR to encourage employees to fail, started off with Indira Pallinti, HR Head at ZF India, saying that HR should encourage innovation, which is missing right now. "Most companies are struggling with creating and supporting an environment which balances the necessity to fulfil our P&L responsibilities according to the business needs, and also having a channel for innovation."
Sharad Gangal, Executive Vice President - People Processes and Member of the Executive Council at Thermax Limited, said that HR needs to find ways to help the organisation to flirt with failure. "This will bring in a lot of risk-taking ability and bring newness and freshness into the organisation," he said. "Second, we should encourage detached attachment - standing outside and circle and still trying to bring in an element which will bring in advantage to the organisation."
Supriya Kotnis, HR and L&D Head, Amura Marketing Technologies, pointed out that her company is in the very new field of digital marketing, and as such, innovation is the way forward. "For us to have innovation and bring in that culture, we need to build frameworks and we need to give employees the freedom to innovate and experiment," she said. "Along with experimentation, definitely comes the chance of failure, but the returns you get are far higher."
Kris Lakshmikanth, Founder CEO & Managing Director at The Head Hunters India, spoke from the perspective of executive search, and said that three years ago none of his clients would hire a person without a job. "Today, it has changed. Today if you are unemployed, you've worked in a start-up, or even if you've worked in a larger company and you're unemployed, you can still get a job. So, that is the kind of change which has happened."
The event was sponsored by SRM University.