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'Downturn Taught Us How To Be Agile To Adapt To Changing Needs'

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Jayantika Dave has tried it all — international marketing, consulting and has even been an entrepreneur. But it is in Human Resources (HR) that she found her calling. Now, as VP, HR, of the India unit of Ingersoll Rand, the $14-billion global diversified industrial company, Dave looks for Emotional Quotient, Technology Quotient and Survivor Quotient when choosing leaders.

At Ingersoll Rand, HR is an integral business partner, with a key seat at the table. That said, Dave would like to provide greater flexibility at work and compensation and accelerated catch-up path for anyone who opted out of corporate work for a period of time and would like to rejoin the mainstream.

Excerpts from her conversation with

What made you choose HR as a profession?
Quite honestly, I stumbled into HR! In my MBA, I had a dual specialisation of marketing and HR, and for a long time was doing roles as varied as international marketing, consulting, and being an entrepreneur. Fifteen years ago, I took up an opportunity in HR with Hewlett Packard, and thereafter, I have not wanted to be in any other profession. I strongly believe, that a good HR professional can make a tremendous difference to an organisation, to a business, and to every employee. It doesn’t get better than this!

What has been the biggest achievement of your career?
I am very proud of having been a part of teams creating organisations that stand out for their outstanding people practices in all areas, exceptional employee engagement, and HR teams that have continuously grown in stature. This has always been in partnership with the leadership of the organisation, and could not have been achieved without them.

What have been the primary traits/qualities that have helped you attain your present position?

A never-ending thirst for learning, a burning desire to excel, a quirky creative streak, and a passion for helping others achieve their dreams!

What are the challenges you are facing in your organisation?
We have accelerated our transformation to a progressive, diverse and inclusive organisation, while at the same time growing very aggressively. This feels like doing a mid-air switch from a Boeing to a Dreamliner — while keeping the plane on a steep flying path! This change has been very exciting and very energising for everyone — and with the challenge that leaders now need to learn new skills to fly this exciting new aircraft, need to help their teams unlearn the old and learn the new, and unleash the creativity that exists in their teams, to create an even more fascinating aircraft!

What are the steps a company should take to develop and motivate future leaders?
We at Ingersoll Rand follow a multi-pronged approach to leadership development, aimed at being successful in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Changeable, & Ambiguous) world. We aim to build VUCA leadership skills which enable leaders to convert volatility to vision, uncertainty to understanding, complexity to clarity and ambiguity to action.

We do this through a 3-step process including educating on key leadership concepts; challenging their thinking capability and harping on execution so that  clearly defined goals are reached.

For the leadership, we insist on 4 Cs - convergence thinking, conceptual flexibility, concept formation, and an unerring customer focus.   Our leaders are expected to be economic, intellectual and social assets and a lot of value is attached to societal impact.

What is your rate of attrition?
We have consistently had attrition that is below the industry norm.

How do you retain talent in your company?
Talent retention is considered to be a key aspect in our organisation and we continue to have structured programmes to help retain employees. The Path to Premier Performance is one of our key employee initiatives. The objective of this programme is to create a cohesive, premier performing organisation based in a shared vision, purpose, competencies, brand promise and values.

We believe in constantly seeking feedback from employee and leverage it to enhance our work culture. The ‘Built to Succeed & Last’ (BTSL) is such a programme for employee feedback. In addition, we also have flexible work arrangement, environment health & safety initiatives, effective rewards & recognition programme etc.

What sets your company apart from other companies as far as work culture goes?
Ingersoll Rand has been built on the key tenets of being a progressive, diverse and inclusive (PDI) organisation, and this defines the organisation culture. PDI is a strategic initiative that helps us create a progressive culture leveraging differences and providing an inclusive environment where people and new ideas are allowed to thrive regardless of their background, level in the company, gender, age etc.

What is the biggest challenge you face when selecting people?

Success in this new VUCA world needs people who have the ability to lead and act despite volatility and ambiguity; that can think strategically, yet are able to hunker down and deliver; and who are open enough to change course as quickly as the environment demands. These are hard skills to find readymade and our approach is to look for people who have the 3 Qs – the Emotional Quotient, the Technology Quotient (being comfortable with and wanting to experiment with technology), and the Survivor Quotient (being able to do more with less), and build the rest through on-the-job projects.

How do you track employees' satisfaction or dissatisfaction in your company?
For us to accurately track the levels of satisfaction/dissatisfaction, we engage in conducting regular surveys seeking employee feedback on every organisation initiative/policy and programme. We have an annual Employee Engagement Survey which is run globally. We also have locally designed surveys for quick feedback on new initiatives, as well as to ask for suggestions. In addition, we have a website where an employee can pose any question to our CEO, and a response will be given. All our leaders have been trained on ‘Managing by Walking Around’, so that they can gauge the pulse in an informal way, directly from the employees themselves. On the basis of the feedback received through all these channels, we design specific initiatives and share progress through quarterly employee townhalls.

How important is HR to the bottom line of a company? How should HR be integrated with the core line of business?
In Ingersoll Rand, HR is an integral business partner, with a key seat at the table. This is apparent from the fact that one out of our three key organisation focus areas globally, is centered on employee engagement and a PDI culture.

In our planning process too (long range as well as annual), HR objectives are tied in tightly with business objectives, and are key to business success. We use the Hoshin Kanri planning process, and using that process, business focus areas where HR needs to lead break-through initiatives that would impact business success are identified.

In addition to the Hoshin or breakthrough objectives, we have initiatives around what we call the business fundamentals for HR  i.e. our reason for existence. Initiatives here are centered around industry leading practices in hiring, development, rewarding and retaining leaders and employees.

How has the downturn affected HR?
We have needed to learn new skills to operate in an environment that is no longer predictable. For example, our talent development processes have needed to change from 3-5 year horizons, to initiatives that are able to deliver results in a shorter term. We have needed to learn how to be agile to adapt to the changing needs of business, to keep employees energised and connected to the organisation even while economic uncertainties exist, and help our leaders stay focused on the key people areas that matter.

If you could change three things about HR practices, what would they be?

Three areas that I would like to work on further:
  • Even more flexible work environments and work options
  • More flexible compensation and total rewards system – option to take rewards in cash, in kind (as investment in employee development) or investment in the future (housing etc.) or some combination of all
  • Accelerated catch-up path for anyone (any gender, any age) who opts out of corporate work for a period of time, and is interested in re-entering the mainstream again
As told to Poonam Kumar