MUMBAI: Flying in from all corners of the country, braving monsoon rains and traffic jams in Mumbai, the HR chiefs and CEOs of leading companies queued up at a suburban hotel, with one question in mind: How had they fared in the coveted list- India's Best Companies To Work For.
Given that India Inc is in the throes of a slowdown, talent management has become crucial as industries marshal resources against the tough times. So this year's The Economic Times and The Great Place To Work Institute study had special importance. For some years, the study has provided the industry with a much-needed barometer to judge how companies fare on the people front.
The 2013 study, one of the largest in the world, covered 550 companies spanning 22 industries, surveying 98,998 employees. So it was but natural for the 60 CEOs and some 300 HR chiefs to wait with bated breath as the list was read out. In the end it was Google which once again took the top honour of being the best workplace in India.
And why did Google come out tops? Well, simply because, 'the 50-billion dollar startup', as they like to call themselves, has some unparalleled processes and non-traditional practices. For example, last year, all tech Nooglers (new hires) traveled to Mountain View, California for a central tech induction; a program called 'Googler 2 Googler' (g2g) enables the employees to share their knowledge with peers through various media on subjects ranging from tightrope walking to advanced Python programming. A few months ago, every manager at Google was given a budget, called 'play dough,' to spend on a fun group activity outside office.
Google is different. "We have an incredibly empowering environment and let people figure out how they get to their goals," says Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google India.
With growth numbers sluggish, the HR departments of the companies have been walking the tightrope by keeping costs in check by weeding out low performers, cutting benefits and doling marginal salary hikes on the one end while still having to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent at the other end. It's a difficult balancing act given that employee engagement and job satisfaction dips during these tough times. In such an environment, the HR's role as a multi-faceted and critical business partner rather than just being a support function has increased.
And people matters are not just the domain of HR folks, today. Even the CEOs are increasingly spending more time with their HR teams and on HR-related activities. "The whole aspect of talent management is supercritical. HR function is a core component of leadership team. The quality of people we hire directly translates into business results," says Sanjay Rishi, president, American Express.
That's not all. Repeated studies have shown that the companies which work proactively towards becoming the best workplace, build in a formidable competitive strength vis-a-vis its competitors. "The top 25 / 50 best workplaces have not only shown significant improvements over the last decade, but also built a formidable entry barrier to this select club" says Prasenjit Bhattacharya, CEO, The Great Place to Work Institute, India.
In the study, while the companies making the cut this time have focussed on right hiring, spending more on training and development, coming out with good rewards and recognition schemes, and increasing employee engagement, the two themes that continue to find mention in every great place to work HR roster are: a) make the workplace more fun and b) strive for a good work-life balance for employees. "If people don't enjoy what they are doing, they won't stay. If they have a sense they are helping organisations towards achieving goals, retention becomes less of an issue," says Vikram Oberoi, chief operating officer and joint managing director, The Oberoi Group.
With a bounding young workforce, the companies find that career development initiatives are a must, even in a slowdown. "In a knowledge economy, we can't ignore our main assets, our people, in any situation. The need for career development initiatives for the young guys is much more today than it was a few years ago," acknowledge Vijay K Thadani, CEO, NIIT. Also the Gen Y today needs different kinds of challenge, and definitely wants more meaning in their work. Offer them a job, they get bored very fast, give them a chance to make a difference, and they are ready to live in office. "Teams don't get excited by 20% earnings growth but you need to inspire teams with big challenges, ambitious goals and create an inspiring environment," says Anandan of Google.
In 2012, Intel revamped Anubhava, an experience sharing based development session series for managers in Intel India, to the topic "Gen Y- Anubhava", where a group of Gen Y employees discussed their aspirations and expectations with Intel India Leaders. "We have a comprehensive development framework and are constantly working on the kind of training we send managers to. We also help people to live what we train them in," says Kumud Srinivasan, president, Intel.
Now that due to work pressure, the personal and professional lives are integrating, the companies are finding ways to connect with the families of employees. Last year, American Express launched [email protected], which is a network for American Express employees, with or expecting children, to support them in balancing their work and parenting responsibilities, helping them become more effective as parents and as professionals. Another initiative called Zoom Ahead aims to inculcate regular physical activity into the lives of the employees' children. "If employees find harmony in their work and personal life, that means the leadership are doing their job" says Rishi of Amex.
Source: Times of India