Interview with Mr. R Nanda – The People Management
Q1. Please share how Tata Chemicals is putting employee experience at the center of people management?
At Tata Chemicals, we place a high value on our people, who are our biggest capital. We have undertaken a slew of initiatives towards enhancing employee safety, workforce engagement, health & wellbeing, and also capability building and career enhancement through exposure, experience and education.
Being a company which has multiple manufacturing operations, we lay emphasis on maintaining a work environment with the highest standards of safety and sustainability through periodic audits, training and sensitization, awards & recognitions, and improvements in plant and process design etc. Keeping the workforce highly engaged and committed to meeting the goals of the function, and the company is at the center of all that we do. For fostering employee engagement, we use a range of processes to check status and gauge progress – like xpr’ESS (our annual global employee engagement survey), FGDs, skip level meetings, town halls, leadership connect, and exit surveys in addition to other informal methods.
In the current pandemic environment it is but natural for employees to have concerns and yet stay motivated in the face of persistent uncertainty. Fears about the future, as well as health issues among team and family members, can all impact to varying degrees. While the external situation cannot be wished away, we took mitigation steps by launching a series of health and wellbeing initiatives called “We-Care”, both for employees and families which included access to a professional counsellor and a whole range of support services. As offices opened up we launched a mobile App “BeSafe@Work” to enable employees and the Admin team to seamlessly manage the facilities at the workplace in accordance with the respective local guidelines.
Employees also have access to a variety of learning programs designed to help them develop or improve role-critical competencies for today and tomorrow through relevant functional, behavioural, and leadership training.
Q2. What is D&I policy at Tata Chemicals, any initiative taken to strengthen Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the workplace?
The Tata commitment to diversity and inclusion is reflected in the Tata Code of Conduct as well as the Tata principles of ‘unity’ and ‘understanding.’ Tata Chemicals is committed to increasing diversity in its workforce and our “D&I” initiatives broadly have 4 main pillars – Gender, Differently Abled, Disadvantaged Regions & Disadvantaged Communities. While we have some generic programmes that run across the country – most of our initiatives would be focused in and around the communities where we operate.
We participate in group level initiatives like Tata LEAD & TAAP to enable us to benefit from cross learning, sharing of best practices as well as build a strong network of like-minded people across the enterprise. Each of the programmes also helps us develop the talent pool within the organization so as to build a steady pipeline of talented resources for upcoming leadership roles.
We have a Diversity Council comprising of members across the business segments and few ‘diversity champions’ and this platform enables us to both plan and monitor progress on our diversity roadmap. Over the past few years we have also increased the presence of female workforce in our manufacturing locations at Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu through a series of measures including advocacy with governments to simplify the process of approvals for deployment of women in night shifts etc. with all due safeguards.
Q3. Describe today’s landscape of Learning & Development in organizations? What is your advice to Chief Learning Officers?
Digital technology is making it possible for organizations to access learning at a faster, more efficient and cost effective rate than ever before, by providing on-demand learning that meets specific skillset needs. We ensure continuous learning at Tata Chemicals to enable our employees to upskill and reskill for their roles by instilling future-ready current concepts using digital learning platforms.
L&D has begun to play a critical role in the growth and development of organisations. As a result, chief learning officers have a new and more powerful role to play. In a rapidly changing technological landscape, robust staff training and development may help businesses stay adaptable and competitive. However digital learning also comes with its own set of challenges – hence CLO’s must constantly look for methods to make the learning less monotonous, reduce screen fatigue and introduce courses that have a blend of self and peer learning interspersed with wherever possible short class room sessions. CLO’s need to consider their roles as not merely providing access to training courses but working with the leadership team to enhance the organizational capabilities and culture needed to be successful in a competitive environment.
Q4. What is your hybrid work strategy i.e. who will stay remote/ back on-site full time or part-time? Do you believe the office to be an important hub for collaboration, creativity and innovation?
A significant portion of our workforce is spread across the manufacturing and field operations where the nature of work does not lend itself to remote working. For the office and research centres we do intend to continue on a hybrid mode for some more time and review the same at the end of the fiscal year. Our working protocol is shaped by three pivots – Workplace Readiness, Employee Readiness, and Employee Mobility Status and we will tweak the operating guidelines to ensure that the process of travelling to the workplace does not create any additional risk / exposure for our team members.
Our experience since the start of the pandemic is that the core work will get done even on remote working so long as the necessary infrastructure is in place. However the opportunity for team members to bond with each other and create a culture of collaboration and sharing cannot be fully met through only remote working. Hence, the need to provide some avenue for the teams to come together face-to-face is important and these can be planned at certain intervals depending on the nature of work performed by the team.
Q5. What is your career advice to new HR professionals?
As HR you have a legitimate right to be fully involved with an employee’s entire life cycle in the organization. Make the full use of it. Be the “go-to” person for getting any issues solved, always be approachable and lend a patient ear to anyone who comes to you. At the start of your career don’t get fixated into only doing certain parts of the HR function – do make an attempt to broad-base your learning and exposure across all aspects of the function including what may seem as the mundane and less glamorous tasks. Be solution oriented and not a problem carrier. Leave home every day with bags of optimism, spread the cheer and every desk you stop by and don’t let momentary setbacks derail you. Be willing to accept mistakes / lack of knowledge and devote your time to constant learning. Remember that in today’s world of business – all companies have almost equal access to all the other resources (financial, material, technology etc.) except the human potential and this will be the only reason why one company becomes the leader of the pack. Being part of the HR function you can play a big role in ensuring that your organization becomes a sought after destination for key talent over time.