Dr. Sriharsha A Achar
Chief People Officer
Apollo Munich Health Insurance Company
Current Job Profile
As Chief People Officer at Apollo Munich, I lead the on-going development of Human Resources strategy, systems, frameworks and service delivery capabilities that are required to support the overall business goals. In addition, I also manage the Facilities & Administration function. I also have responsibility for overseeing the Information Security Management System (ISMS).
Upcoming Trends in HR
Work force analytics, HR in the cloud, diversity and inclusion, COOs for HR, employer health care reforms, labor law reforms, board seat for HR leaders, engagement upsurge are some of the trends that are going to be seen in 2012. Gen 2020 will be the new management challenge. Compliance in the age of freedom will be the new talk points.
Leadership is not just for people at the top. One can learn to lead by discovering the power that lies within each one of us to make a difference and being prepared when the call to lead comes.
Leadership is applicable to all facets of life: It is a competency that you can learn to expand your perspective, set the context of a goal, understand the dynamics of human behavior and take the initiative to get to where you want to be.
Be Trustworthy - Trust is the basis for almost all the relationships in your life. Without trust, it's impossible to create healthy and productive environments, either with work or personal situations.
Inspire People to Work toward the Vision - You can't push people to believe in or want to work toward the organizational vision and goals, but rather, one of the qualities of good leadership is that you guide, lead, and inspire people to want to participate in the process of moving towards the vision.
Be Self-Aware and Insightful about Your Impact on Others - One of the most important qualities of good leadership is that the individual is aware of him or herself ... their abilities and the impact that they have on others.
Accept Responsibility for Your Actions - As a leader, always remember that the buck stops with you.We seem to be raising a society of people who prefer to blame others for their feelings, circumstances and lack of success.Blaming, justifying and excuse making just isn't in their responsibility.
Have High Self Worth and Self Esteem - You might not think that how you feel about yourself has a whole lot to do with how others perceive you or how effective you can be at taking charge of a group situation. Dealing with self-esteem can seem like a touchy-feely waste of time, but that is absolutely not the case. It is crucial to your success and leadership ability.
Lead versus Manage - There is quite a fine line between these two styles. While a leader may certainly manage, managers rarely lead.
Connect with people - Leaders should, first and foremost, be able to connect with people. They must be authentic in their interest of others and appreciative of individual strengths. The ability to connect with others helps to build the respect and trust also needed to be an effective leader. A leader is not given respect and trust just because of their title. These qualities must be earned.
To conclude, I will just like to say that the test of a great leader is who they develop. A great leader will develop great followers; those followers will become great leaders.
It takes a leader to make a leader. A leader’s legacy is measured by succession.
Seek feedback regularly from team members, encourage them to express divergent opinions and believe me you will achieve a better outcome. Feedback acts as a catalyst for growing and developing ourselves as leaders.
To grow and develop you must serve and lead. Leading means doing. Serving means doing. Leading means finding problems and then finding solutions. Serving means finding new needs and then finding solutions to those needs.
Sitting around and talking about being a leader is ok. Reading a book about leading is ok. BEING a leader and servant means you are doing it on a daily basis. Growth is inevitable if you are engaged.
Looking for other options, ideas and perspectives and challenging myself to see things differently and try new things are some other methods I use. Reading. Talking to people whom I know will enlighten me, as well as those I don't already know that about. Listening to other leaders - from all over - to learn what they're doing and what I can emulate. Making time to stop and think and be "thoughtful." Choosing to look inside for my answers and outside for other answer that I might not have considered.
Balancing personal as well professional life
There are no mistakes in life; only lessons. What this means is that whenever something happens, there is a gem for you to learn from. If you can learn to accept mistakes, shortcomings, and unwanted events as opportunities for learning and personal growth, then you'll feel less stressed and fearful, you'll be more confident and self-assured, and your life experience will be more rewarding and fun.
There is more than one individual from whom I have drawn inspiration in my life.I have had some wonderful bosses who have shaped my career over the last 27 years.
My father, mother and my wife have had significant impact and influence as well.
Don’t be surprised when I say that learning and inspiration can come from the people you work with, your staff at home, your kids and from quarters that you could have never imagined including people you don’t know. The idea is to keep your mind open and soak in the best and imbibe them in daily life.
Motivating Employees with Rewards
Apart from a regular appraisal, employees receive various other recognition awards.
Heres a selection of Apollo Munichs celebratory awards:
Performance: Excellence Award
Nominations shared by Reporting Senior based on performance in a quarter
Trophy, CXOs certificate
Sodexo vouchers for Rs 2500
In 2011, so far 95 employees have been recognized with the awards
Encouraging CSR/Community Giving: The Good Samaritan, Office with a Big Heart award certificates
Volunteers and offices acknowledged by the CSR team for outstanding contribution to Apollo Munichs CSR initiatives
Certificate of Recognition from the CEO
Special Lunch with a location leader
All employees who contributed over 40 Kgs towards Joy of Giving week have been recognized as Good Samaritans.
Peer recognition; nominations shared by colleagues for colleagues who live our values consistently
CEOs plaque and certificate
Special Lunch with the CEO
C5 employees were recognized towards our 5 values in 2010-11.
2 employees were recognized as value champions for being nominated by their colleagues in all the 5 values
Appreciating tenure: Long Service Award for 3 years
On completion of three years with Apollo Munich
Personalized CROSS Pen
Certificate of Recognition from the CEO
Long Service Award for 5 years
Trophy commemorating 5 years of the employee
100 gm. Silver coin
Watches for the spouse / family
Letter to the spouse / family thanking the family for supporting the employee
Thanking support staff: The Unsung Heroes awards
Office boys/Security acknowledged once a year during Diwali
Diwali gift and sweets
My view on India technical development
Indian technical talent is immense. What we lack is good opportunities and platforms for them to flourish unlike in the west. One cannot blame single factor here but there are quite a few factors our leaders need to look at to create a pool of our technical talent. All we need is a mind-set change in their technical education, our government policies, their development of scientific skills and employment opportunity especially their compensation for them if we are targeting to compete with the west on technical aspect. I am sure with proper planning and good infrastructure and with a change in the present education system from a theoretical approach to a practical approach will make more number of students employable.
As leaders your job is to solve problems. The day people stop bringing their issues and problems to you, which would be a sign of your leadership getting weak.
We as leaders should recognize the right of employees to express their grievances and to seek a solution concerning disagreements arising from working relationships, working conditions, employment practices or differences of interpretation of policy which might arise between the company and its employees.
Under normal conditions if an employee has a problem, question or complaint related to the above, he / she should first discuss it with his / her immediate supervisor. The simplest, quickest and most satisfactory solution will often be reached at this level.
It is extremely important to handle the grievances in a timely manner. Justice delayed means justice denied.
The one thing that I give a lot of importance is to the time one takes to resolve a grievance. Agreed all grievances may not be solvable right away but wherever possible (majority) if one takes the pain to resolve it then and there, it saves time, effort and bitterness.
Identifying Leaders promoting them to the next level
We use a combination of the following
Career aspiration discussions
Performance potential assessment and plot all into a grid
Identify development areas and devise appropriate interventions
Engaging Gen Y - Leadership and Organization Culture
Our employee engagement practices include
Expressing the value of everyones contribution to the organization, regardless of role
Holding high expectations for employee performance in every role
Helping employees develop new capabilities
Listening and speaking avenues
Reporting managers engagement or motivation programs
Fun at workplace / Sports council / CSR activities
Rewards and recognition across various levels as discussed previously
Club Unwind-the team for youngsters to organize their fun while at work
Recruiting & retaining the diverse and ambitious Generation Y. Are they really ambitious
Our focus is on retention of the people we need and those that we feel will take us into the future.
Generation Y is diverse, ambitious, yet honest and socially conscious. One of our key strategies is our continuous participation in various internal and external social events. We are very active socially and make a continuous attempt to engage our Gen Y in various activities such as monetary collection for Friendicoes, Oxfam International etc. we also participate in Goonjs annual Joy of Giving week where we collect stuff for Goonj from across the country.
Apart from this we support various self help groups by inviting them to hold exhibitions etc. in our offices.
Given the fact that we are a growing company, challenging opportunities exist in every department and hence people are always engaged in doing potentially excellent work.
Attrition Management: Retaining vs. fresh hiring
As a point of view, I believe both are necessary. Apollo Munich has just shed the tag of being a startup and started to move into the so called adolescence phase of organization building. As a consequence, we need to retain the older staff that has set up our processes and fine tuned our systems. At the same time, we need to hire people who are experts in managing this phase of our lifecycle.
In my view, rotation is the order of the day and a judicious view of retention needs to be taken. At times, it is good for the organization, as one gets a fresh viewpoint from new hires. Some employees need to be retained and hence steps will have to be taken to ensure that they remain onboard at least till the time a successful handover and training of a followup resource is completed. A clear career graph for performers with a timeline leads to a motivated employee in a long run. For any company, execution of developmental plans plays an important role rather than mentioning about it in white papers of the company. Cross functional movements is healthy for organizations as automatically succession planning is taken care of.
On the other hand, we need to be conscious of the fact that many roles will need new handling and the old incumbent will no longer be able to add value.
I was born and raised in Goa. Born to an Engineer father and a Teacher mother, the early years were focused on making sure me and my sister (who lives in the US now) got the best education and I graduated in Electronics Engineering. As in every average middle class family on India, post-graduation was also of importance. I completed my PG in Industrial Engineering. Then came my first break into the corporate world and entry into the fascinating world of people.
I have enjoyed being in the People function and over the last 27 years have seen myself and the people function evolve to its current look and feel.
I am married to Shailaja (who has been with me through all my ups and downs in life) and we have been blessed with two daughters Samyukta– studying to be a dentist and Sanjana who is in class XII.
Attract good people, retain the better people and advance the best people
As HR, we know that guarantees do not exist. The processes within the company help employees in attracting talented referrals within a company which helps in getting the right person with right attitude. However the following seems to work in terms of managing the above well.
1)A sharp and transparent PMS process
2)A patient and exhaustive recruitment process that involves line interviews, HR interviews as well as an understanding of the values espoused by the prospect
3)Build a strong employer brand that stands for the values of the organization
4)Follow through on promises made to employees, no matter big or small
5)Supplement the PMS process with leadership evaluation, 360 degree survey as well as a strong performance potential evaluation for advancing the best of the high performers
6)Separate growth paths for high performers apart from separate compensation strategies
7)Open communication channels
8)Train our employees abundantly
Advice/ suggestions to fellow HRs
HR acts as custodian of organization values. They are the gatekeepers for the company no matter whatever are the short term goals of the company. As HR, our primary duty is to be the bridge between employees and management, safeguard interests of both as well as maintain the employee strength for the organization future.
Being good at all 3 is a prerequisite in my opinion.
Another advice I would give to all the readers is to listen more to your employees. Employees have the first hand experience of what our end customers are going through. Listening to them first would induce us to act proactively. Gone are the days, when employers believed in listening to their customers first. With growing competition, the customers move from one company to another but its our employees who stand by us they are our assets.