HR City

Dr. Sriharsha A Achar
Dr. Sriharsha A Achar
HR Strategies in Place in your Company

On the Indian subcontinent, Apollo Hospitals Group has joined hands with global leaders Munich Health, with the aim of building on their 80 years of expertise in all aspects of health insurance, while at the same time making quality healthcare affordable to all. Tremendous growth is anticipated on the Indian health insurance market, and the principal objective of the joint venture is to be a trusted leader in the health insurance sector by providing innovative solutions to the citizens of India with a unique portfolio of products.

HR must place their bets on four key areas:

Human capital processes, delivering a steady talent supply, driving organizational performance, and building integrity and trust in the workplace. What HR brings to the table is not merely employee advocacy experience, but a unique ability to weave together the various components of stewardship, build a stronger bond between employer and employee, and prove the long-term benefits of investing in employees. Our HR strategy also revolves around these four key areas-be it retention strategy, our training and development plan or our engagement plan for our employees. Having fun while engaging our employees is a key part of our HR strategy and we believe that employees who have friends at work and can trust them, stay longer and stay happier.
Our T&D strategy is also geared to help develop leadership talent in our young company. Programs are external in nature and geared up to provide exposure in various leadership skills as well as practical training in dealing with a young workplace.

Being a financially prudent company, we are also focused on cost effective means of managing out talent pool. Close to 30% of our recruitment happens through internet and another 35% through referrals.

Today trends seen 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.

Difficulties in Planning Human Resource in an ever changing business

In my view the following difficulties are generally encountered
Mismatch between Applicants and Skills - An organization may find it difficult to fill the positions called for by HR planners. This might be because there is more demand in the organization than there is in available talent in the job market. Another reason is that the organizations recruiting strategies do not always attract the right talent. Not being able to fill positions that are critical to achieving operational goals leaves the organization in a weak business position. Thats why forecasting human resources needs should be followed up with effective recruitment, replacement and retention of employees.

Environmental and demographical issues - Environmental issues can occur inside an organization. Demographic changes affect the internal work climate. Differences in work values between generations, such as Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y, mean that employees want different things to be satisfied with their work. Programs must address these different needs in one culture. Also, technological changes require workers to continuously add new technical skills. If employees current skills arent needed, they may become redundant. HR planning involves planning for organizational learning or developing staff skills, to keep pace with changes in the business market. HR Planning aims at controlling the employees through productivity maximization often leads to resistance by employees.

Recruitment and Selection - Organizations get better staffing results when they can count on HR departments and line managers to do their own jobs effectively. For example, HR personnel depend on line managers to use web-based tools to perform recruiting and selection (or hiring) functions with limited assistance. The HR department posts the steps in the hiring process, policies and procedures, and documents on the company intranet. Although HR personnel may consult about questions, line managers must be able to follow guidelines for recruitment and hiring without exposing the organization to liability.

Training and Development - Line managers must do more than recruitment and hiring. They must perform other jobs that used to be associated with personnel departments. They must address their own employees training and development needs. Line managers must find all of the resources inside and outside the organization to ensure employees develop the required skills. This takes place in the context of keeping employees motivated to perform. Effective communication between line managers and HR personnel planners can result in effective identification of training and development needs exceeding current resources.

Building effective leaders and settling a leadership pipeline-as demographics change, it becomes critical that management styles change accordingly to suit the various age groups that inhabit the workplace. Hence building an effective leadership style becomes a crucial challenge. Following this is the challenge of a pipeline. Positions are fluid as are people. With a booming market, good resources have variety of options and hence ensuring that we have a replacement ready is critical but very difficult to implement in the absence of a viable talent management strategy.

HR Relationship with the CEO

HR often has been caught in what is the coolest program and what is the most innovative practice. The question is not about what but about How. Focusing on the basic rules of Business is what would drive HR from backroom to boardroom.

Productivity: HRs focus on productivity with getting the basics right will be key to drive the organizational success. HR will act as the facilitator to create balance by keeping the focus on both task and people. Also economic downturn helped the corporate world to get the focus of HR back on productivity.
Bottom-line orientation:Tie everything to Business objectives.
Turn performance management into productivity enhancement;
Turn training to capability building
Compensation management to talent pool cost
Hiring to quality of hiring
HR operations to Shared Services

Make every sub-function of HR measurable and driven through metrics which tie outcomes to Business results. Understand SG & A (selling, general and administration) expense, since HR is a part of it and understanding it will help in driving returns on every non direct or un-billable resource.

Understanding the Business deeply: HR might be making everything measurable and building fantastic Cost benefit Analysis (CBA), but if the organizational and operational objectives are not aligned with what HR are presenting, its bound to get knocked off in the first instance. What gives HR credibility is astute understanding of Business facts.

Employee advocacy: Business view is a must for HR however how HR relays the employee perspective to management is equally important. Can HR provide this fair and firm view without losing sight of business is the question which wins trust and confidence of the management?

Biggest Pain Point

HR to my mind is considered the fire fighter. We are thought to be the rearguard of action in case of a challenge to the organization. In my view, HR needs to be appreciated as an equal player in the strategy designing and execution process. Often, strategies fail to succeed because of the human element. And when organizations involve HR too late in the day, the capricious human element takes a toll on the strategy. Another area of concern is the belief that engaging an employee is HRs job. That is the single biggest fallacy that causes people to move on to other opportunities and yet business or line is unable to address this issue. Overwhelming amounts of research done indicate that the single biggest cause of employee engagement or otherwise is the line manager yet this seems to be very tough to digest by all.
Adding to the above points, with growing competition, reducing in-house capital cost like salaries, managing HR related databases is another area of concern. In a dynamic business like us, reducing attritions in sales workforce is an apprehension that any Indian insurance company faces.

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
  • Cash prize
  • Diwali gift and sweets
Different Qualities looking while hiring people

Hire Wisely, Train Abundantly, Pay Fairly

Apollo Munich believes in the above mantra when it comes to hiring and keeping people in its fold. After the basic educational, experiential and licensing qualifications to obtain any position, there are additional qualities that we as an employer find desirable. In any business, success depends more on several essential, learnable skills than upon any particular education or experience.

Of the many abilities contributing to excellent performance in business or career, the ten that are most valued at Apollo Munich are:

2.Organization and time management
3.Selling Skills
4.Information Acquisition and Management
5.Current Technologies
6.Persuasion and Negotiation
7.Judgment (making good decisions and choices)
8.Financial acumen
9.Writing skills
10.Speaking skills

Some of the leadership development programs being held & results obtained

We start by hiring the right people. Our culture is an interconnected fabric made of vibrant, forward-moving, knowledge-thirsty people. The pace of our workplace is such that every day brings new challenges, goals, peers, partners, and customers.

For the right type of person, our hyper-growth climate seems like an intellectual playpen filled with programs, training, and development tools to grow and thrive at Apollo Munich for the long term. Our focus is to keep up with the intellectual thirsts and demands of our highly motivated workforce.

Our training and development strategy includes: ON-THE-JOB TEAMING AND PROBLEM SOLVING - We encourage real-time, on-the-job problem-solving and collaboration. Our workforce is filled with insurance industry experts who mentor one another daily. As they learn from a new problem that theyve solved or a new challenge posed to them by a customer or prompted by an industry shift, theyre transferring that knowledge among one another in real time. This transfer can happen through traditional means, such as staff meetings, e-mail, or instant messaging.

Identifying Leaders promoting them to the next level

We use a combination of the following
  • PMS
  • 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
Celebratory events
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.

Promotional techniques work best & reason behind it

Our website has been linked to Twitter account and Facebook page. In this era of social media taking over, being connected to social networking sites has helped us in recalling our presence. Turning horror stories to delighting customers have helped our company in self promotions.

Workplaces are changing. Cultures are evolving. The average employee today is different from his/her counterpart from a decade ago too? What is lacking and what does he/she need to keep in mind in todays working scenario

Workplaces are indeed changing. Changing economic picture, changing employee demographics and a globalized world mean that organizations need to keep dancing on their toes to move with the times. Todays workplace is a unique workplace. As the authors Jeanne Meister and KarieWillyerd point out in their seminal work (the 2020 workplace), todays workplace hosts people who are 21 and those who are 55. However, the rules governing the people aged 21 and those governing people aged 55 are very different. This is true for almost all organizations today in India as well. as a result, HR and people strategies as well as organization strategies need to be customized for the different demographical groups existing today.
I disagree with the work “lacking” as far as any age group is concerned. They all come with their strengths and their weaknesses. Todays generation, in my view, is far more socially adept. They are confident, communicative, bold and capable. They are not afraid of making mistakes, of taking chances. Yet most of them are honest about admitting a mistake. At the same time they are impatient. They want results as of yesterday. Its not enough that they are causing a change. They want to see the change happening. They are not afraid to jump ships if they feel their inputs are not valued.
This poses challenges to slow moving organizations or organizations that are not communicative.
If there is a lesson to be learnt, it needs to be learnt at both ends. The Gen 2020 needs to learn patience while the organizations they are a part of, need to learn speed of action.

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.

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