The Right Choice

Employers who recognise the value of their employees and act to make their teams a dynamic force attract the best talent. Here are 14 companies that made the right moves.

India's largest bank, State Bank of India India's largest bank, State Bank of India

Overall Rank: 11

In For an HR Makeover

Rajnish Kumar, Chairman, SBI

SBI's HR initiatives cater to retiring as well as young employees, and the banking industry's fast paced changes.

Despite its large size and public sector legacy, India's largest bank, State Bank of India (SBI), has gone for a massive overhaul of its HR function in the past few years. The premier bank, which hired the global consultant BCG for this, has made its hiring process through the bank probationary officer examination more rigorous; a new performance appraisal system is in place with targets and budgets; and the focus is on building a leadership pipeline at all levels.

The biggest challenge that SBI faces is on the retirement front - in the next five years, a large number of its employees will retire. So, the bank is putting in place a robust succession plan. "Potential leaders will be identified and mentored through customised training programmes to create a strong leadership pipeline," Rajnish Kumar had said in his first address as chairman.

While there is a succession process for chairman and MD, as they come from within, unlike in other PSBs, the bank will face a challenge in terms of skill sets. Digitisation, cyber security risk and new areas of business will demand new skills at the top. The focus is on imparting analytics and other digital skills. The bank has set up a state-of-the-art training institute in Kolkata for senior executives, and there are specialised in-house training programmes in areas such as risk, international banking, credit, and others.

Going forward, the bank will face the challenge of having a young workforce. Its HR initiatives will have to improve productivity if the bank has to survive in the cut-throat banking business while also facing competition from fintech firms, payments banks and small finance banks.

-Anand Adhikari

Overall Rank: 12

Best Fit

S.V. Nathan, Partner and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India

Deloitte India focusses on the individual's interest rather than a uniform learning strategy.

Every six months, 50,000 employees of Deloitte India update their resumes on the company's website. This might be a simple exercise but documenting new skills learnt, or participation in interesting projects - twice a year - gets employees to introspect on their career trajectory. It also helps the organisation understand the areas of interest of each individual, says S.V. Nathan, Partner and Chief Talent Officer, Deloitte India, and accordingly give them the right exposure on different projects in adjunct industries. It is this focus on the individual's interest rather than a uniform learning strategy across the workforce that sets the company apart. "The updated CVs are also a central repository that allows the firm to look for people with the relevant skillset and interest for new projects."

No wonder the employees rated the company as an organisation where they can learn and grow. The updates are taken on by team leaders offline in informal conversations called 'Check-ins' where they try to understand what work their team members prefer, what they want to do more of and what they are set to achieve. "People like to be heard and these conversations make them feel they have options," says Nathan. The professional services firm is working on career models which will determine the various career paths for people.

- Sonal Khetarpal

Overall Rank: 13

Starting Early

Rajeshwar Tripathi, Chief People Officer, M&M / Photograph by Rachit Goswami

Mahindra & Mahindra allows employees to handle complex roles at early stages so that they have a rich learning experience.

A steadfast focus on giving its employees opportunity to learn, freedom to innovate and providing them stability and job security at a time when unemployment rate in the country has hit a record high have made home grown auto major Mahindra & Mahindra the pick of the lot in the automobile industry in the Best Place to Work For Survey.

Employees rated the company highly on learning opportunities, job security and stability and its culture of innovation. Further, the company has worked hard towards making its human resources processes simpler and digitised and keeping its communication transparent and free-flowing.

"We want to make sure that every employee gets to hear from us first about whatever news there is about M&M - good or bad. That instills confidence," says Rajeshwar Tripathi, Chief People Officer at M&M. "Our focus last year was on standardisation, simplification and digitisation, which have improved the employee experience vastly. We launched the MeCentral platform last year; it is an integrated employee HR transaction and information platform conceptualised to build a complete HR ecosystem for a single window experience and available also on the phone through the 'MeConnect' application. Over 15,000 employees now experience MeCentral or MeConnect daily. Core HR processes like performance management and digital learning system are also hosted on this platform. This has also provided access at one click and an effective system of storing every transaction and interface by employees as data, for a vibrant HR analytics."

A happy workforce has also helped the company manage its attrition rate better. With its traditional strength in rural markets and well spread out network, the company is vulnerable to losing talent from the hinterland not only to direct rivals but also to companies from other sectors. "People at M&M get to handle very complex and rich roles at early stages so their employability is very high. We have a big rural focus in our tractor and automotive business so there is a large pool of very well trained people from rural India," says Tripathi. "About 50 per cent of our attrition is to non-automotive industries. So we are an attractive poaching target not only within but also outside our domain."

- Sumant Banerji

Overall Rank: 14

Banking on Talent

Vinay Razdan, Chief HR Officer, HDFC Bank

Job rotation and relevant training make HDFC Bank's employees resilient as well as future-ready.

Aditya Puri, Managing Director and CEO of HDFC Bank, has a clear plan. He says he has at least two back-ups for every key role in the bank. Key employees become resilient through job rotations and ready to handle any financial pressures in the future. "HDFC Bank employees are working with the basic ethos of integrity, openness and innovation and providing the best product to the customer at the best possible price in a convenient manner," says Puri. The bank's financial prowess - its valuation crossed Rs6 lakh crore on March 13 - provides stability and job security to employees. Recruitment of the right talent, career empowerment, employee engagement, training and rewarding are the five pillars of its people strategy. The bank has a flexible hiring mechanism that focusses on fast on-boarding. "We need to ensure that the people strategy keeps pace with both the shifting demands and the speed of change," says Vinay Razdan, Chief Human Resources Officer, HDFC Bank.

The bank needs to embrace digitalisation for internal customers as well. "Our focus is on building scalability of processes to ensure speed and efficiency. Roles need to be redesigned to ensure that we are 'thinking' and 'innovating' while we focus on efficient execution," says Razdan.

- Nevin John

Overall Rank: 15

Scaling Up

Ashwani Prashara, HR Head, Hydrocarbons, RIL

RILs new telecom venture and bigger retail business mean more opportunities for new and existing employees.

Reliance Industries (RIL), India's largest company by market value, is in the middle of a rapid expansion and a new round of recruitments, especially when its telecom business under Reliance Jio completes one and a half years of commercial operation. In the past three-four years, RIL has recruited about 1,50,000 employees, taking its total employee count to over 2,00,000, in addition to the over 5 million indirect jobs.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of RIL, calls the employees the members of the extended Reliance family. At the last meeting of shareholders on July 5, 2018, he said that ensuring safety, satisfaction and happiness of the company's employees is his dharma.

The company's foray into telecom and the ramp-up of the retail business have also opened up new opportunities for existing employees in the company. For instance, LEARNET, an initiative launched in 2015, helps employees in collaborative learning and development using a digital platform. RIL draws its stability from the cash flow it gets from traditional businesses like petroleum and petrochemicals. The stable financial position, in tandem with investments in new sectors, offers job security to the company's workforce.

Hetal Kothari, Production Manager at the Vadodara Manufacturing Division of the company, says working there is not just about earning a living; it is about building a rich career. "Reliance offers the ideal playground to explore, understand and tap one's true potential," says Siddharth Patel, Office of the Executive Director and Member of the Board.

According to RIL executives, the company nurtures an ownership mindset among its employees. This translates into a workplace culture that celebrates meritocracy, high performance and autonomy. "The focus is on right-ageing, providing meaningful career graphs, enhancing productivity and defining success measures for diversity," says Ashwani Prashara, HR Head (Hydrocarbons).

For women employees, RIL lays emphasis on implementing next-generation policies like six months part-time work after maternity leave to help new mothers balance child-care priorities with work. Such measures help them in work-life balance. "We care deeply about improving our gender diversity and are making efforts to ensure that women make up at least 15 per cent of our workforce by 2030," says Prashara.

- Nevin John

Overall Rank: 16

From The Top

Rajesh Dahiya, Executive Director (Corporate Centre), Axis Bank / Photograph by Rachit Goswami

Axis Bank is readying to join the big league and is training its employees to face the changes.

The sixth largest bank in India by assets, Axis Bank, has a new CEO: Amitabh Chaudhry. With a background in the insurance industry, he brings a breath of fresh air. He has spelled out a three-year strategy, which includes growth, profitability and sustainability. "We are building our capabilities for a bigger bank. A lot of internal talent would be taking new roles soon," says Rajesh Dahiya, Executive Director (Corporate Centre). In the new structure, functions like digital, IT and risk management will also report directly to the CEO. The top level changes will percolate down as well. In a unique initiative, all board members of the bank recently sat for a training session in cyber security. "There is actually a need to focus on cyber security risk along with other risks like credit risk. I sat in a classroom after a long time," says Dahiya.

The bank is readying for a big transformation which includes new roles for people, hiring from diverse industries and training and development. "You have to teach technology to a banker and banking to a technology guy," says Dahiya. The emphasis is on learning and certification, to ensure that employees can handle challenges of the future.

Another focus area is diversity and inclusion. "We continue our efforts in creating an integrated workspace," says Dahiya. Over the past eight months, the bank has hired more than 50 differently-abled people.

- Anand Adhikari

Overall Rank: 17

Opportunity Knocks

Alka Mittal, Director, HR, ONGC

New rigs and commercial production due soon from the eastern coast will mean new opportunities for ONGC's employees.

At the beginning of 2015/16, the finance ministry decided that ONGC would be exempt from sharing the burden of subsidies for oil marketing companies. The company could focus on exploration, and the country's oil and gas exploration came under a new pricing regime, with more marketing freedom for the companies. At that time, globally, competitors were cutting down on human capital expenditure. But not ONGC. The company used the opportunity to cut down inefficiencies. By the end of 2017/18, it recorded a profit of Rs19,945 crore. In the first three quarters of the current fiscal, during which ONGC didn't share any subsidy, the price realisation was $70 a barrel. The healthier balance sheet lends confidence to ONGC's employees. For 2019/20, ONGC is in the process of hiring talent for more than 1,200 positions. It is buying 27 new rigs, and is at an advanced stage of commercially producing gas at KG-DWN-98/2 block off the eastern shore. "These efforts brought back employees' confidence, with more stability and security," says a senior official at ONGC. "The board at that time (when crude oil prices were low) decided not to cut down jobs. Instead, a decision was taken to invest more in rigs and other exploration activities," says a senior official in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.

Employees at ONGC's non-core businesses, such as refineries and petrochemicals, see this as an opportunity.

- Anilesh S Mahajan

Overall Rank: 18

Inclusive Growth

Policies that help employees professionally and personally mark Wipro's approach towards inclusivity.

"At Wipro, it is our constant endeavour to foster inclusivity as a way of life," says Sunita Cherian, Senior Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, Wipro Ltd, India's fourth largest IT services company. Over the last 12-18 months, the company has introduced several new initiatives such as paternity leave policy and in-house daycare centres for employees' children in eight locations. Wipro also offers several learning programmes catering to behavioural, technical and leadership aspects. "We have enabled learning on emerging technologies through cloud-based development environments, learning assignments and hands-on experience on client projects," says Cherian. Wipro's crowd-sourcing platform - Top Gear - provides virtual development environments and structured learning paths allowing employees to gain hands-on experience on emerging digital skills. "Our business units leverage Top Gear to offer crowd-sourced project challenges that tap into our global talent pool of employees," she adds.

The company has nearly 1,30,000 employees trained on digital skills. Betting big on localisation, Wipro has also doubled its headcount in key markets over the past three years. Apart from hiring locally, it has also built a network of domestic colleges. It also trains people in their key market, North America. Programmes such as 'Leading Global Teams' focus on skill development for managers so that they can lead multi-cultural teams. Last year, Wipro started several initiatives to fight unconscious bias among employees and also to nurture women in leadership roles. In FY18, Wipro had 35 per cent women employees with 16 per cent women in management positions. The company also has 442 differently-abled employees; individuals from over 110 nationalities work for it.

- Rukmini Rao

Overall Rank: 19

New Ventures Need New Skills

Sunita Cherian, Senior Vice President, Corporate HR, Wipro

Indian Oil is ensuring that its employees stay in line with its new ventures.

Indian Oil Corporation's (IOCL's) new e-learning portal is something that other public sector undertakings are keen to take note of. This intranet portal allows the employees of India's biggest oil marketing company to choose modules to up-skill themselves in critical sectors such as refining, marketing, transportation, research and development, and overall management. IOCL is the highest ranked PSU in the Best Companies to Work For Survey.

The company's more than 35,000 employees may soon see up-skilling added to their key result areas (KRAs), which will add weight to their case for promotions and transfers. The portal is a work in progress; soon, features like self-assessment and certification will be added to it.

In a previous conversation with BT, IOCL CMD Sanjiv Singh had said the future of the company would be as a universal energy company and not merely an oil marketing player. "This (the portal) is in line with that thought," says a senior official at IOCL. Singh foresees oil getting competition from increased use of electric vehicles, and more use of gas and renewable resources. He is confident of refineries staying in the business and, therefore, feels IOCL's employees should be ready with multiple skills. The company is keen to venture into city gas distribution nuclear power, and other directions, while it remains stable in its core business of refining and marketing of petrol and diesel.

- Anilesh S Mahajan

Overall Rank: 20

As good as anyone else

Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra, Director HR, IOCL

Women form a large part of the workforce at Lifestyle, a company that is also increasingly hiring differently abled persons.

When you walk into a Lifestyle store or even its mid-segment fashion store, Max, you may be attended to by a hearing or otherwise physically challenged person at the cash counter, or you could find such staff putting back the clothes a customer would have left behind in the trial room.

At present, physically challenged employees comprise a mere 2 per cent of Lifestyle International's 13,000 strong workforce, but the intent is to include more and more differently abled people into its workforce. The company is partnering with a host of NGOs to train those who are specially abled so that they can be a part of the company's workforce. "The differently abled do better work and are much more focussed," says B. Venkataramana, Group President, HR, Lifestyle International. Venkataramana takes pride in calling Lifestyle International as the most inclusive retail company in the country. "In 2009, only 13 per cent of our workforce comprised women; today, 22 per cent of our workforce is women."

Women's safety was a priority for the company even before norms such as having a POSH Committee became mandatory, claims Venkataramana. Having an inclusive organisation also means gender pay parity. He says that women employees get paid higher than their male counterparts in several functions such as design, personal care, cosmetics and others. Lifestyle International, according to him, has the lowest attrition rate of 28 per cent as opposed to the industry average of 60 per cent.

- Ajita Shashidhar