Automation and artificial intelligence may be making people redundant in many roles. However, the soul of any organisation still rests in the people it employs. People issues still keep managers awake at night. Attracting the right kind of talent and more importantly, retaining that talent is not a challenge for just the new-age start-ups; it is equally a challenge for the legacy companies.
The Business Today HR Knowledge Forum, recently held in Mumbai, had top industry minds debating in a panel discussion on 'How To Create A Perfect Work Culture'. The panellists included FMCG veteran A. Mahendran (former MD, Godrej Consumer Products), Founder, Global Consumer Products, Roopa Badrinath, Chief Talent Officer (South Asia), JWT, Sameer Pitalwalla, Co-Founder, Culture Machine, Hitesh Gossain, Founder, Onspon, and Raja Roy Choudhury, Director, N.L. Dalmia Institute of Management Studies and Research.
Prosenjit Datta, Editor, Business Today, kick-started the event with Peter Drucker's famous saying, 'Culture eats strategy for breakfast'. "Nobody disputes the fact today that creating the right kind of high-performance culture is crucial for any organisation," Datta said in his opening remarks. The panel discussed a host of issues like what is require to build a professional organisation with an entrepreneurial mindset; the kind of unlearning a legacy company, which is bound by stringent processes, needs to undergo in order to tune itself to the changing times, as well as how a start-up or a promoter-driven company builds a spirit of ownership among its employees.
"The biggest challenge in an entrepreneurial set-up is not so much to attract the right professional talent, but mould the talent in such a way that they also have an entrepreneurial mindset," pointed out A. Mahendran, MD, Global Consumer Products.
With far too many Indian starts-up on the brink of closure, the panel also discussed issues such as whether the new-age companies are able to set right expectations to their employees. Employee stock options are a huge incentive for talent to join start-ups but with valuations of companies eroding, are ESOPs an effective employee retention tool? "ESOP is a powerful communication tool, which cannot be used loosely. It is not an incentive, but a promoters commitment to the employee that he is part of the family and the growth story. The promoter has to mean it," said Gossain of Onspon.
However, Roy Choudhury of N.L. Dalmia pointed out that there is a gap in reality and perception in terms of setting employee expectations especially in the start-ups and that actually has dampened the interests of MBA students to join a start-up.
The second panel discussion that evening was on Are Indian Leaders Willing To Go?
The issue has come into focus because of continuing influence that long-serving CEOs and founders often have even after relinquishing their formal positions in the organisation. "There are two views on this. One set says why a company should be bereft of the knowledge and wisdom of its founder just because he has reached a certain age, especially when he still has a lot to contribute. The other viewpoint says a successor can never do well unless he or she is given a completely free hand," Datta pointed out in his opening remarks.
This panel, which was moderated by Manak Singh, Co-Founder and Chief Imagineer, YBiz Ventures, had the head of the family business programme at SPJIMR, Rajiv Agarwal, Vikram Malhotra, Founder, Abundantia Entertainment, Rahul Guha, Partner and Director, BCG, and A. Mahendran, Founder, Global Consumer Products, discussed about how most companies looked from a point of view of just one individual and do not look at the interest of the company at large. Are Indian leaders able to let go the attitude of being providers and the I know all kind of image and instead, create an environment of asking and inspiring? The panel discussed about how psychological issues come in-between succession planning in most cases.
"Most companies do succession planning rather late during the day, and more importantly, they think of succession more from the point of an individual and do not look at the succession of the business," pointed out Guha of BCG.
"Ego is one of the drivers and also a factor for founders to not let go off," added Mahendran of Global Consumer. This attitude of leaders not wanting to let go off also extends to the entertainment industry, pointed out Malhotra of Abundantia Entertainment. This explains why a large number of film production companies have not been able to scale up. They are totally driven by a celebrity director or actor who seldom wants to let go off.
The evening culminated with the unveiling of the newly relaunched issue of Business Today by Editor, Prosenjit Datta, and the panellists of the two panels. The Business Today HR Knowledge Forum was sponsored by N.L. Dalmia Institute of Management Studies.