Amity Institute Of Training & Development

Relooking at work, workforce and workplace

Speaker: Ms. Pooja Bansal, CHRO, Piaggio Vehicles

Interviewed by: Mr. Brig R K Sharma, Director of Amity Institute Training & Development

About: Ms. Pooja Bansal is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Piaggio India. Pooja is an experienced HR professional with demonstrated history of working in the Automotive industry. She is a modern-day professional with multi-disciplinary experience of MNCs, Corporate and plant HR. She provides strategic leadership in HR Strategy and has vast experience of HR delivery and developing Industrial and Trade Union relationships. She is a recipient of 25 National and International awards including Women HR Achiever, HR Super Achiever and Women Leadership Award for Excellence in Automobile sector. Pooja holds a MBA in HR and was awarded the Gold Medal in Psychology. She has deep interest in Psychometrics and its applications in Talent Acquisition.


Click below to watch the recorded conversation.

AITD: As the world prepares to live with the biggest pandemic that it can remember organizations, leaders and people at large are compelled to relook at their priorities. Businesses in particular are relooking at their work, workforce and workplace plans. Simultaneously, contours of the new World of work are rapidly becoming reality for millions of workers and companies around the globe due to Tectonic Digital and Technological shifts. Talent flexibility, leadership capabilities, upskilling for the future and balancing well-being, performance and employee engagement are increasingly becoming priorities for HR professionals.

Do companies need to relook at their work, workforce and workplace plans? How can they become future ready?

I can see a wonderful picture behind you. I think, it is something to do with Vespa scooters. Can you tell us what is this old historical picture all about?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: Yes, this picture is basically of the 1st Ape that was designed and executed after the IInd World War. If you look at the picture, it has the Vespa that’s the two-wheeler in the front and it has two back vehicles, so it’s a combination of Vespa, the two-wheeler and the Ape which is a three-wheeler, and this is one concept which has open rickshaw and it stills operates in New York and it’s one of the oldest products of Piaggio.

AITD: Yes, this vehicle looks so great and I'm sure if it were to come to India, it would still be very popular today. We know that your headquarters and plants are in Maharashtra which was severely impacted by COVID.

During the year 2020 what was Piaggio’s experience and how was the business affected and how were the operations continued, could you tell us little bit about the last year?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: 2020 has been quite an unpredictable year; the first Quarter started in January 2020, it started very well, so we were actually on the peak of the manufacturing. The organisation was really gearing up; the response in the market was extremely good. Suddenly, in the middle of March, we realized, due to the pandemic, there are lot of changes that would have to happen. The biggest shock that the organisation had is that the manufacturing facility had to be put on halt and when you halt a manufacturing facility, there are many obstacles as an organisation; even more challenging, because you have raw materials, which are pending, which have a shelf-life, so you need to exhaust the raw materials within the shelf-life, otherwise, it’s a waste.

You have finished goods, that have to reach ‘x’ number of dealers, so they were stuck up in the plant, more than I would say raw materials, finished goods. It was challenging for our employees.

We have more than 4000 Employees in Baramati itself and most of our Employees come from all over India, they come from different States and suddenly those migrant workers felt that they can’t reach out to their families and there was lot of anxiety, lot of fear, so it was quite a challenging period right from mid of March until we re-started the manufacturing operations, that too in small areas and small patches.

But I would say with the kind of intervention, the focus was completely on employees at that point of time. The first agenda that the Organisation had is keep the people at peace, support the people, ensure they have to travel back, back to their families, back to their hometowns, plan as to how we can help them to reach out to their families. Very difficult, but we all sailed through.

AITD: These are the things that you always remember for a long time and these are the lessons which businesses and companies and corporates have learnt and some of these things we will discuss today so that audience can learn from real hands-on experience because you have handled operations on the ground.

Because of this pandemic, work from home helped in business continuity, in a manufacturing company like yours, you have to man shop floors because manufacturing has to continue.

How did you adapt to these challenges, how did you manage to continue with your work and then pick up the production?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: In our organisation, we have got two sets of people; one is people who are actually working in the manufacturing on the shop floor and the second are actually facing the Customers viz. Sales, Service, Back Office, Back-end support functions. While we speak about the Manufacturing set of people, obviously, when the manufacturing is not operational, technically there is not much that you can do on the floor with them.

So, the first agenda that we adapted at that point of time in the organisation is why not leverage on the opportunity and the time that is available to us. Generally, when we have this routine activity, routine operations, most of our manufacturing team is so engaged on the shop floor because every minute of production matters to them. We tried to leverage on the opportunity by doing ample number of learning coaching assignments and we did some brilliant interventions during those two months where we could use all the time that the team had on manufacturing side to fix up several projects that we wanted to aim for future of the organisation which included a lot of cost-cutting projects, lot of cost-optimizing projects.

We did a lot of skill-building for them so that they could use their time to prepare themselves for the future Technology that the Automobile industry has a lot coming up and of course we used a lot of their time in real engagement, we actually connected with their families, we did a lot of virtual engagement, where not only Employees were part of the virtual platform but even their families were engaged. We used that time to bond with them.

So, practically from Manufacturing, I don’t think there was anything to do with the deliverables, but we used those two months for anything, otherwise we wouldn’t have got the opportunity. So, it was an opportunity even in the problematic area that when it comes to the other team, which is, people who are facing the Customers for them to work from home worked because we were preparing ourselves so that we know that in the future, our Customer preferences are going to change, the way the Customer is going to buy your Product is going to change, the way the selling model is going to work in the market is going to change, we are aware of the changes that are entitled to happen at the Customer end, the market end, the team was preparing itself that how they were going to reach out to the Customer in the new normal that means setting up by e-commerce platforms, setting up digital media solutions, setting up lot of other interventions which they did in two months to reach out to the end Customer.

So, again the period, the two months we had actually actively got into Operations, the period was used by the sales team to design and execute a lot of new systems which can help them to reach out to the end Customer and it was fruitful again. We, as an Organisation are now reaping the benefits of all the systems that we executed at that point of time.

AITD: I'm sure that a lot of Companies and Customers would be very pleased to hear that. This kind of a change was sudden and unexpected, but we should be ready to embrace change, change our systems. For a Manufacturing Company like yours, it’s not easy, because you have so much of equipment, you have machines, you are working on equipment, it’s not an online platform, and you are working on Operations on the ground.

As we enter 2020, the new decade, what changes do you foresee in the next normal, may be beyond that in the next 2, 3, 4 years, particularly, I am referring to the Manufacturing Companies? What kind of changes do you foresee and how are you planning to embrace these changes?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: Changes are looked at as Growth Opportunities. In the Automobile industry, in particular, even the transition to the new Technology, VSX Technology, in itself is a big revolution and we are all gearing up to adapt to it and to cater to the revolution in the Automobile industry. To adapt to these, we need to quickly gear ourselves, we have to be quick in Marketing; what the end Customer requires, our response time is going to be reducing in the sense, that the time you require to reach a Customer earlier. So, that has to be reduced, it has to be faster.

Technological changes have to be quickly adapted, we need to adapt not only to Technology but also to a part of your Product Portfolio as a Company but also guidelines that are coming from the Government in terms of Regulations and that has to be quick. Your Customer preferences are changing; so, in your hand, for all customers, as to what they are looking for now and how are you adapting to them. These are certain changes that we are expecting in the future.

As an Organisation, we are definitely working towards achieving them and gearing up to work on those changes. Of course, the new normal has taught us a lot of other things and things are quite good, I think be it work from home, be it the behaviour, the sudden crisis has to overcome a lot of agility that has come into the workforce, a lot of learning ability and attitude has developed in the workforce and these are certain things which you have to take it to a larger and longer extent. You cannot be just left with the new normal situation, because if we are saying it’s a new normal which means that we are continuing with the new normal. We have to learn to live with the new normal; I would say, leverage every good thing that the new normal has given us.

AITD: I am sure with the type of planning that you have done and preparedness to embrace these changes and the way your workforce has reacted to. While we are on this topic of workforce, we feel, we are not sitting in the Plant like you but as an Academician and Trainers, we feel that one of the biggest foreseeable shifts could be in the space of hiring for the future.

I know you have good expertise and experience in the area of Psychometric assessments for Talent Acquisition, so which tool do you feel are most appropriate for Talent Acquisition today and as we look into the future?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: When we speak about Psychometrics, one thing that I would recommend that whenever you want to use Psychometrics, we need to follow a Process in selecting a right Psychometric for your Organisation. Use of Psychometric completely depends upon the Objective why you want to use that Psychometric and it also depends upon the Organisation in which you are operating.

There is no one tool that could suggest that it will fit with every Organisation, while I will talk about my experience that we use in Piaggio. I would surely recommend anybody who wants to be going for a Psychometric must ensure three things.

One, is to ensure that the Psychometric test that you select is reliable and something that is valid. There are lots of Psychometric tools available in the market. If you go for a search, there are 100s of them available. But as a professional, selecting a reliable and a valid tool is the most important. Do a lot of Research on the Psychometric and also the Business you are offering for the Psychometric before you apply the Psychometric.

Second is, to be sure about that you have gained the expertise and skills to study that and to read that Psychometric. Because there is no tool that can give you a written analysis that this is how the person is. You need to gain the expertise and it’s a skill that was developed over a period of time. There are lot of Certifications which different Institutes cater to when we use the Psychometric, I encourage the Certification but that’s not enough. We need to use it, practice it and then analyse the content of the Psychometric.

Third and the most important is, when we use the Psychometric to ensure that during your Interview Process; actually, using to give, feedback to the Candidate. When a Candidate sees value in the Psychometric that he has attempted it goes in building a brand of the Organisation a long way. Because at the end you will not select the Candidate, but you have added something to your professional Knowledge. So, we do these few steps.

Now, coming to your question as to really how the Psychometric works. I said that there are ample of Psychometrics. Selection of a Psychometric depends on the Objective. Why you want to use the Psychometric, you want to assess the Cognitive ability, you want to assess the value system, the personality, the motivation, there are different reasons and there are certain Psychometrics that cater to that particular Objective.

My recommendation would be when you use the Psychometric, for example, if you are using the Psychometric to assess the Cognitive ability of an individual to try to supplement that with another Psychometric which could be a motivational Psychometric or a Personality Psychometric. When you use two areas from a Psychometric, it gives you more information; it gives you more insights about the individual.

Another thing to remember is that the Psychometrics are never decision-making tools. Please never use Psychometrics to take a decision of hiring or not hiring. Psychometric is a tool which helps us to aim in making a decision. So, while it’s not a decision-making tool, so, in hiring when I use the Psychometric, I don’t reject a Candidate or select a Candidate based on what I see in the Psychometric. But Psychometric helps me to make an informative decision. Even though the Psychometric test is not giving me the data which is fitting into my job requirement and I am still making an informative decision that’s okay but I am aware this person has those gaps but I think there are other competencies and skills which are complimenting him, so I want to get him on board or vice a versa if you don’t want to select a Candidate you know for what you are not selecting the Candidate but never base your decision just on Psychometrics.

Psychometrics has to be coupled with other areas of various tools of Interviewing which could be behavioural Interviewing or it could be an assessments reports or it could be a simple technical and behavioural Interview that generally HR and Technical Managers take it. It has to compliment with some other Interviewing tools which is more important. In my Company, we are using for the past almost 8 years a Psychometric tool for Recruitment and Talent Acquisition which is known as a ‘Predictive Index’.

I must share this here, when we started executing PI 8 years back, there was hardly any use because it takes a lot of time, its takes a lot of time to adapt, it takes a lot of time to build skill from using the Psychometric results and then, of course, it takes a lot of time to create a platform from the Interviewer, why should we make a decision based on some information that has come from Psychometric. We use so rigorously actually that our Stakeholders, the Directors, keep passing us, “Ok Pooja, tell us what type of Psychometric tools tell about this person”. So, that’s the kind of response and that has taken us 8 years. So, be patient when you use the Psychometric in an Organisation.

AITD: I think you are right; it’s not decision making, just call it decision support system, nothing more than that. You are skilled on the subject of hiring Pooja, another thing which related to Psychometric is the subject of assessment centres. Lot of companies use these assessment centres for the hiring and for the promotions and for placing people.

What is your experience as we are working in virtual environment? Can we do a virtual assessment? What has been your assessment centre experience and what is your overall recommendation to fellow HR professionals who are listening to you today?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: I would say, an assessment centre is a very strong tool when it comes to evaluating, developing. Again, we need to be very clear as an Organisation, why do you want to use the assessment centre? The Objective or the execution has to be very clear. Let’s assume that we are using an assessment centre because we are doing a fast-track development of identifying high potential of a development success in the Organisation. Assessment centres definitely provide ample amount of information.

As in the past, you rightly mentioned, that there are a lot of classroom assessments that have happened because it’s a very closed Process. It’s a Process that requires a lot of expertise on the side of assessor and it’s a very time consuming process as well. Besides time and expertise, I would say it’s also a pretty expensive Process as well so if you want to apply in an assessment centre in your Company be prepared to have the cost investment but it’s worth the cost that you spend.

So, coming back to your question of whether virtual assessments are successful, we have used virtual assessments in the past 6 months in this Company. So, with my real time experience, virtual assessments definitely help. Because today we have got Companies who have designed such fantastic tools, whether it is in practicality or case study; even role plays which are virtually done now, depend upon which competencies you want to evaluate depend upon what is the Objective of running the assessment centre.

Which are these Companies which have the right tools designed for your competencies? In addition to the Companies, they are also offering to you the customised tools based on your competency requirement, based on your Objective, it’s really time consuming because you really need to work on them and get the tool customised but yes virtual assessments are useful. We have experienced it; in fact I would say it can be done in 30% of the cost that actually was taking for classroom assessment. So, you can do it in a very substantial reduced cost, if you are using the very right tools, with the right Organisation, right partner, I would say virtual assessment can give you exactly the results that actually a classroom assessment could give. Only one thing that is missed in the virtual assessment is the human interface. In the classroom assessment, we would have some expert assessors who are actually observing the pool of people being assessed and there are lot of observation skills and lot of data that would come from the observation.

That’s the one thing that you would miss in the virtual assessment because we don’t have anybody watching the Candidate but at the same time, if you ignore that part of human intervention, if you just consider the authenticity of the tool probity of the tool, I would say virtual assessment can be applied but again it has to be applied. Do not forget, please to use one of the important tools as part of the virtual assessment which is the Behaviour Event Interview. Do not compromise on the process by just keeping machine intervention, but do have BEI interviews for one or two competencies that can add the human intervention flavour to the whole process.

AITD: Would you feel that one of the big focus areas for the future would be rethinking skills of the future in the Organisation and making people ready to deliver on those skills? What are the challenges that organisations are facing today in Upskilling journey and how should this be done? Also can you indicate some of the L&D trends and how can a learner be enabled to carve his own learning journey?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: Like I always say, that I believe, development is an opportunity for personal and professional lives. So, coming to the first question about how rethinking or creative thinking would be important and how you would cater to that. I would say that it’s extremely essential because now we know that we have gone through a phase which requires you to work with very different mindset and very different skills. We all have experienced that transition that happened from Pre-COVID to COVID and now I would say Post-COVID and the future and the kind of challenges we faced; even a lot of people have not been emotionally, mentally would be able to adapt to the future because there were different impacts that happened for them.

Keeping that in mind, so much is changing into industry, we need to encourage we need to have interventions supporting employees around innovation and when I say innovation, I am not really saying that everybody in the Organisation is expected to create a new Product or turn around the system or turn around the Business. No, but innovation at different levels can be contributed in their own capacity.

I share this example of Piaggio with you. When we actually spoke about right in the beginning after COVID started, we said the first thing we need to do is gear up the people to think differently because we knew that the situation is going to change. Everybody knew about it. So, how will you do things differently then what you did pre-COVID and we did run a Company-wide intervention right from the CEO and the first line till the last person in the level, how do you think differently but the customisation of the training was done based on the position, and the contribution that the person has to do your overall business and that way we as learning partner play a very important role?

We need to remember, when it comes to mindset, when it comes to adapting to a new way of working, there is no training program that can be a one fit for all, it cannot be. You have to put an effort to customise the content so that the participant & the receiver are able to use it in their present capacity and that’s what we did here. I would say, you don’t see the impact immediately that another thing, you need to be patient when you want to see the ROI of such interventions. We can’t expect answering “Ok, I spent so much of money where is the result of this training program”, that does not happen. You need to consistently follow up with the learners ensuring that the learners don’t forget that they attended the program. Another thing which is interesting to know as a learning professional is that the spam of retention of any participant, any learner anything that they have heard you is actually not more than 57 minutes. After 57 minutes possibly the learner has forgotten half of what was delivered or what was heard. So, when you know that the span of retention is medium or low, you need to put an extra effort to keep delivering the same message to the people with different methodologies and to keep them employed to look that this is important and this is the new skill you have learnt and you need to apply this in these ‘XYZ Projects’.

So, as an HR professional you need to create the opportunity for the Employees. Just having an intervention, having to attend that will not give you the apt opportunity. So, remember even that you lead an intervention ensure that there are small snippets, now that we have Technology we should bring in, use the Technology you have mobile app, you have digital platforms, you have lot of snippets that can go as part of your emailer, using all of it to ensure that people are learning and getting used to what is learnt. To conclude, I would say that critical thinking, parallel thinking, yes it’s very important and we have to play an important role as HR professional just to ensure that the employees are prepared for it and they are applying what has been learnt by them.

Now, coming to your third question. There, I would say again, today Technology has progressed so much and we don’t need to rely on classroom sessions too much. We have got platforms where you have open source platforms that we call; you can actually give the gear of learning in the hands of the participant. So, in this way the ‘push mechanism’ has been replaced with the ‘pull mechanism’. When you allow the learner to hold the gear of his own learning and carve his own learning the person seems to be more excited and involved in the learning. What does that mean? It means that you have got platforms that actually worked on AI and allows the learner that as and when the learner is looking into the content the platform is capturing the interest of the learner and proposing the modules or the training content that person should learn. You are allowing the learning then ok it’s not just we as HR professional are proposing you this learning intervention why you want to go and carve your learning why don’t you think that it’s good for you.

Learn what you think you can benefit and apply that is equally very exciting for the learner. One thing for sure we need to propagate and this has to come right from the top that there is mindset shift from know it all to learn it all So, you may be once upon a time can say that I know everything that I have to do. But today the situation has changed, today the demands of the external environment are different and when everything is different you have to re-start learning it all. So, this way when you allow the learners to prepare your own learning journey makes it exciting but at the same time remember that when I say that learner is to create their own learning journey, but we are not experts of the learning domain.

As learning, as HR, as a training expert, it is our job to handhold them, it is our job to ensure that there is a lot of Knowledge which is being shared before the takeover of learning journey, there is a lot of Knowledge after we complete the learning journey. There is something that is to be kept doing with the learner so that the learner knows that it’s a serious job actually not just that one of the activity that he has to complete.

AITD: I take you to another area of HR i.e. Employees’ well-being, especially in the COVID scenario. Employee well-being has become very important and very much focused area of organisational success.

How will Employee experience be designed in the future and aim would be to achieve balance in well-being, performance and his career? How can HR provide this balance and experience?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: I always say that when we have Employees working with us; we look into three areas with them, the ability, the aspiration and the engagement. That’s what you are saying balance their well-being, their performance and the career. So coming back to well-being, in the past months it becomes even more important that we as an organisation, develop and learn and we also support Employees in their mental and physical well-being. For Piaggio, focusing on well-being was not just adequate because squared up so we have to change the momentum, in fact there are Employees’ assistance programs when you partner with the third party agency and they have got professional Psychologist on board which will provide your Employees the confidential, professional personal counselling services.

First time, Piaggio partnered with an Employees’ assistance program, partner of facility provider was 9 years back, so we actually looked into these facilities even before we were in this kind of situation. So well-being of an individual is definitely a priority and I would strongly propagate that when we talk about well-being, it’s not just about having yoga sessions or having Zumba sessions or having some kind of lectures on mental and physical well-being, those are important, informative but it’s also important in an Organisation provide the Employees with a platform so that they can go back in the field.

Remember, when it comes to Psychological issue, when it comes to issues which are personal in nature, Employees may not want to really come back to HR and back to a manager to share and discuss. We need to respect the personal space of an individual and that is the reason where you have partners specializing into providing and aiding the Employees to come out of such problems.

Why not leverage in those partners facilities, why not leverage on the expertise that all our Psychologists and specially certified counsellors bring on the table. One thing we need to remember when you have these PA interventions, even you plan to implement in your Company never think about why. There is nothing that is objectively going to show you this is the ROI partner with the AP consultant, forget about it.

So, if your organisation is interested in an ROI for every cost or every money that is invested do not execute it. Because this is a facility which is extended to the Employee in their well-being and it is completely confidential, there is no information coming back to you as an Organisation and neither you be interested, if you really want to build this intervention in the interest of the Employees. But I would say what you gain as an organisation is the brand and the reputation with your employees. That what you gain which cannot be measured but it can be seen and felt.

AITD: We are very happy to learn. This kind of thinking is required today. When every time you look at the ROI then you are not giving the true importance to the human aspect, Psychological aspect of Employees I am from an Army background and I know that the kind of stress boys undergo and how important it is to have them Psychologically all the time fit. We feel that the future of the work demands that Organisations invest in creating a Culture where creativity thrives, Collaboration is facilitated and communication is encouraged. These are very widely used terms - how to encourage Creativity, Collaboration and Communication, especially in our Country people are very shy of sharing their thoughts.

How do you encourage such culture in an organisation? What has been your experience?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: Creating any kind of Culture requires the said three parameters, viz. Creativity, Collaboration and Communication but Culture is driven from the top. It has to be the Leadership team which is propagating as to what kind of Culture they need. Anything that is cascaded from top to bottom is the Culture that is created. Collaborations: we are all social animals that’s what I keep saying that we as human beings always need social interactions whether they are virtual, physical social interactions are absolutely important. But using that social instinct, social needs of the people and how to leverage as an Organisation that instinct and need is what is left to the Organisation. For collaborations, I strongly recommend that one should have a lot of inter-functional, functional Projects.

We should have a special task force assigned. We should have Projects which are led by the Leadership team and members of cross-function and this is the way in which a collaborative workforce is created and today with the Technological mix that we have plus social needs of human beings if you put this thought together it can be miracles. But for Collaborations there has to be a Culture where we were given Opportunities to Collaborate. Collaboration doesn’t mean going for a drink or going for dinner or parties; that is not Collaboration; that is friendship that we can have outside the Organisation. We are actually talking Collaborating for benefit of the Organisation and Collaborating for professional development.

When it comes to Communication, I strongly feel that any kind of Communication, if you wanted to be positively taken whether its bad news but it has to come openly and transparently from the Leader, to that has to come from them and eventually cascade down. We need to accept that not our entire workforce, not all of our managers, I would not say excellent Communicators, but it’s an art to articulate what you want to present to the listener. So, take advantage of the Leaders who can Communicate and articulate and send through the message.

Again, I repeat, that, that message is not good news. It has to reach to the people around because that gives more trust and it creates a Culture where people can look up. Of course, Creativity and Culture, that is something that we propagate a lot. Mindset Creativity, Technological Creativity or any area, everything is going through a change and we are helping the Organisation to adapt to the change and to trigger the Creativity thinking and for that, of course, you have to take efforts you just can’t tell people or the Manager that now you need to do things differently, come back and tell me what are your ideas, you have to aid the Employees with some tools, with some new learning so that person can think differently.

AITD: I will take you to the area which you have already covered partly. The Pandemic has forced Organisations to accelerate the adoption of technology to attract, build and retain talent.

What should be the approach for driving a successful digital transformation in a Manufacturing Company like Piaggio? You have some legacy systems, you have some traditions which are not easy to replace so how do you plan digital transformation in an organisation like yours?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: ‘Digital transformation’ is a blessing for any kind of Organisation and one of the areas I would touch upon is the ‘Artificial Intelligence’, which are transforming the entire HR practices right from Recruitments to Employee Engagement to Employee Development. These AI, Cloud Computing these are basically tools that just can’t make life easy. Earlier, you had lot of people doing manual data, computing, analyzing, evaluating.

When you have the AI, you have the Cloud Computing and other thing that is going to make the non-value added activities and we can actually focus on your expertise and areas which can add value to Business. We are going to use that in fact, we have been using a lot of Technology within our Organisation, we are gearing up for new Technology implementation, whether it is Recruitment or Development or Engagement or even in the blue collar space because we know that it’s going to help us as an Organisation to get rid of non-value added activities.

Also, it’s going to help us with the ‘Digital Transformation’; it will make it easier for us to reach out much easily to Employees pan-India. So, it’s not going to be that we need human interface to respond to the day to day queries that comes from the Employees who are not may be in the Corporate or the Manufacturing Plant but they are located across India, Nationally, Internationally etc.

So, it will become easy for them to seek responses, it will become easy for us as an Organisation to cater to their responses, call out data about Employees, make informed decisions will be the most important when you have this ‘Digital Transformation’ happening, when you have this Technological executions and because of informed decisions the time saved in executing will also be easier and faster. I would say ‘Digital Transformation’ is an Employee friendly shift; it’s going to be a boom which will be a benefit for the Employee as well.

AITD: Disruption is continuous and our learning needs to be continuous as well. Many Indian Companies are saddled with middle level Managers who are experienced but not fully future-ready especially in terms of Technology adoption. This is affecting the Organisation’s capability to Innovate and Grow.

How do you overcome this problem of people who are experienced but not fully geared up to change and be prepared for the future?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: I was about to add, that a lot of times you can’t replace experience. It’s absolutely essential that we as an Organisation, we need advancement, but we can’t deny, and we can’t overlook the experience that some to these managers come with. In my Company, when we have such instances that one thing that an Organisation can do is to look into the Organisation structure and processes because you want to use the experience which is in the benefit of the Company but at the same time you see a misfit because you want to progress or do something different in a particular department.

So, what you can do is, try to look back into Organisation structure and Processes and try to find a suitable area for these people who can continue to contribute and their experience is something that can be leveraged by the Company. So, not necessarily that they have to be doing something extraordinary or something different but even with their experience, they have come for the last so many years so they are useful to the Company. That’s one thing.

Second is of course, needless to mention, these managers have to still upgrade themselves. The Organisation would try to find the opportunities of using their experience but we can’t deny that we need to continuously upgrade and update ourselves with new learnings and new requirements that are coming and that is why these people have to be hand-holded and there has to be special interventions for these people which is with the special attention on them. With that what really works is giving them continuous feedback as to how is it going to help them, how is this change going to be in their benefit as well.

While the change could be little slow, but ultimately what we want is that we are moving towards that change requirement. The feedback mechanisms where they could have this continuous understanding and they need to start accepting that the Company is doing it in their interest as well and one thing for sure we need to accept is that how things are changing in the Industry is that earlier, people who were associated with the Organisation and plan that I would retire from this Company.

But now things are changing and Employees also know that I am going to be associated with this Company till the Company is investing on me, is upgrading me, is updating me, teaching me, giving me challenges. At the same time, the Employees also know that till they are adding value to the Organisation, till then they are associated. When you know both the sides of the coin I think as an Employee that shift already starts happening. Always, there is a self-awareness that you need to change with the requirements, you need to contribute to the company, it happens. But as an Organisation, yes I agree, we definitely need to hand hold them.

AITD: One of the critical shifts that Organisations and Leadership, in particular, have faced during 2020, has been that of uncertainty, ambiguity, lack of clarity because you didn’t know what is happening or what’s going to happen and you are required to be trained and as a leader you also have to be providing direction.

What kind of competency and capability do you think are required for the Leadership of today and tomorrow?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: One competency that I feel that Leadership as you rightly mentioned is changing. One thing that Leadership needs to do is helping and creating agile workforce, so agility is something that is nowadays most essential competency. Adapting to the rapid change, contributing in rapid change and still you are going through a breakdown that is something that as a Leader, you need to create. Agility is one of the core competencies as a leader I look for. Another thing, a Leader needs to do is continuous Employee engagement with the team. Especially important, if your company has moved into virtual working, now they are working from home, there is a need, that the Leader needs to further engage with his/her team. The level of engagement and the intensity, what engagement with the team has to increase which is in itself a shift competency for the managers.

AITD: A number of companies conduct 360 degree appraisal.

What kind of culture is required to be built in an organisation to make 360 degree appraisal successful? What is your experience in this kind of appraisal system?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: 360 degree which is generally like talk of the town within the Organisations. 360 degree comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. But, coming to your question, what kind of Culture we need. We need a very mature culture if you want to execute 360 degree. It has lots of benefits but the execution of 360 degree if you want to introduce the 360 degree as part of the appraisal system. If it’s not done properly, it can actually be damaging for the Organisation. The first thing that we need to remember is 360 degree is successful where Communication is very important. Why are we using the 360 degree needs to be very clear?

A lot of time we say as a part of the appraisal we are using 360 degree, but, how much of that 360 degree feedback is going to be used as part of my future should be very clear. Also remember, 360 degree is not performance assessment, it’s a perception. 360-degree feedback, stakeholders’ feedback and anybody giving a feedback because feedback is perception. Making a decision, if it’s a very important decision part of the appraisal process, putting a decision completely on 360 degree feedback will not be taken in the right spirit. So, be clear why and how you are going to use that 360 degree feedback.

Second important thing is, do not forget to close the move a lot of times we launch the 360 degree, generate the data as HR and pull everything out of that. Important is the feedback which has to go back to the participant as to what was the 360 degree collated data and what is the analysis about it and that data has to be real time. If you have an appraisal system which is once, annual I would say 360 degree will not be the right tool to just make your decisions the annual decisions, but, if you have your appraisal system, you have quarterly feedback or half-yearly feedback. 360 degree could have various effects.

But, 360 degree is definitely a fantastic tool if you are trying to do lifelong development or we are running a developing intervention as part of the succession plan. It definitely helps and the data is very good.

Third thing is, to keep as part of the culture is anonymity, its confident. We, as custodians of running the 360 degree processes has to ensure that no way, the participant gets the feeling that data is going to be shared and is going to be misused. Anonymity confidentiality by running a 360 degree process is a prime and most important for the Organisation. If something happens, your entire process will go for a toss. It will damage not only the process; it will also damage the reputation of the department and the organisation.

Lastly, how are we going to using that information and HR doesn’t run the 360 degree because your experience counts. But it’s important to have the end result in mind. What are you aiming to achieve by running this 360 degree process is very important and going back and also sharing what have you done with this data is equally important?

AITD: So, towards the end, I would only say, execute 360 degree only if you are confident, that your Organisation has a very open clear and transparent environment.

Your thoughts, anything you would like to share, any concluding remarks you would like to give? How would you look into the future?

Ms. Pooja Bansal: As a person, I am pretty optimistic and I look at this way. My only advice is that we have got an opportunity as a HR professional to partner with Businesses and try to work as closely as possible with Businesses. Try to cater to actions and interventions which are benefiting the Business and once we are able to create that credibility as a HR professional, Businesses will definitely support anything and everything that HR wishes to do in the benefit of the Organisation as an Employee.

I am someone who loves to study business, who loves to know what the Organisation is doing because more and more, I know where the Organisation is heading, I can actually provide solutions which are in the interest in future of the Organisation. So, my final advice is, partner with Businesses more and more and be inquisitive about what your Organisation is doing and how is your HR going to look there.  

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Moderated by Brig R K Sharma


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