Amity Institute Of Training & Development

Reimaging the future of work in Retail Sector

Speaker: Mr Ranjit Khompi, Head L&D, Reliance Retail Fashion & Lifestyle Businesses Interviewed by Mr Ashish Sahu, Vice President Training, Amity Institute of Training & Development

About Mr Ranjit Khompi: Mr Ranjit is the Head L&D, Fashion and Lifestyle Business, Reliance Retail to our Leadership Studio. He is an award-winning business professional with 24 years of experience across marketing, consulting in HR. He has held leadership roles in Product Management, International Trade, Human Consulting, Human Capital Consulting, Global Value Management, and different International geographies across diverse sectors of Office Automation, Automobile, IT, Outsourcing, Insurance, Telecom and Retail. So, he has a wide range of experience and it will be interesting to listen to him. He also holds HR credentials of Senior Certified Professional SCP from SHRM, USA and CPHR which is Chartered Professional in Human Resource from Canada. He brings to the table, lot of experience in terms of his business and talent. He has offered numerous articles, has authored & presenting keynotes in international HR and L&D summits and in developing copyrighted training quantification methodology, which we also known as PQM. In his current role, he leads talent readiness of approx. 31,000 employees for the fashion and lifestyle business of India, India's largest retailer by driving businesses’ outcomes, focused on HR interventions.

 Click below to watch the recorded conversation.

 AITD: Before we start, I just have a question for you and that is, how to develop an organisation with a Future of Work mindset and is more resilient coping with uncertain times and more adaptable to thrive in these times? So that's something which I wanted to ask you, Mr Ranjit?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: Thanks, Ashish. It's a pleasure being here, talking to Amity Global students' fraternity. I think I am also looking forward to the next one, our interactions, the kind of questions that will come up from the students, as well as the faculty members. I think, to start off with the first question that you have for today; how successful a company is or maybe actually is going to be in the future? It all depends on how it is exploiting the emerging opportunities, tackling their challenges, which are coming along and how intelligently it is observing and interpreting the dynamic world in which it is operating. So, we are looking at the Future of Work mindset. The success of companies will determine, how it takes care of it ahead. Now, of course, any company is driven by their leader. So, first, leaders must define their leadership in the future that we are looking at. Leadership is like what, it's very difficult to define in terms of how it will be in future. Every leader that I come across, feels that he is doing very well. But when I am talking to CXOs across the world, they are saying that the kind of future leaders that we need, is going to be completely different from that we have come across till today.

So, the leaders of today’s companies will first determine what kind of leadership that is needed and where we are today because that is going to be the pivotal point to take the future of work ahead.

Are we going to capitalise on it or are we going to succumb to it? I am from the Retail Industry; we have got the same pandemic coming across the World. And I have seen some companies, because of their leadership, not only sustaining, thriving but also looking at galloping into the future. While I have seen other companies across the world who have shut shop; companies who have gone down. So, what determines basically, developing in the organisation the future of work is to develop the leaders themselves who can look beyond the horizon. The leaders must, first, see what exactly is going to come; beyond that, they must have that bird's eye view around it. Only when they have had that bird’s eye view, can they then start looking at having a mindset to start it? The first mindset that is required is called a growth mindset. In Reliance itself, for us Growth is life. If it is said about humans, it is said about organisations also. Compared to inflation, forget about the competition, you are receding. So, one of the ways to tackle the future is to have the growth mindset, how can I grow, not just about 10%, 15% but can I grow above 50%, 60% because if you have that mindset, if you want to buy a red car, you will start seeing a lot of red cars on the road. Similarly, if you have a growth mindset, you will start seeing a lot of opportunities even in the industry 4.0 that we are looking at or the pandemic or where we are looking at any kind of calamity we are looking at. The first thing that is required in different sets of people in the group mindset

Secondly, I would say, it is the Digital Mindset. Compared to earlier revolutions; industrial revolutions, this revolution is not here to support humans. It is there, in fact, to replace human actions and in this manner to replace humans also. Unless until I, as an employee, as well as a leader, understand this and have the digital mindset coming in, this tool, rather than becoming a friend, can become a foe from my job role. I would go ahead and see different contours that are coming in. So, I need to have a digital mindset, I can't be sitting, saying I have got a functional skill; I don't need digital experience or digital exposure around it. I need to have it to survive it. That’s the second thing that is near today.

Thirdly, the thing that is going to happen is that every hour it is getting more integrated into the organisation, we are moving away from silos to something which is an integrated organisation. If there is a change happening in some other department, it's going to impact me. Can I have a collaborative mindset to take the future and make sure that works for me? And that’s the third important thing that I have said. And the last thing, which will be required is that; gone are the days when the leaders are supposed to look at the future of the organisation. I would say that, if we must take care of the organisation of tomorrow and be resilient, the employee must be an entrepreneur, he must think about how I can add to the top line and the bottom line of the organisation which we call, in the management term it is called the ‘Intrapreneur’. So, I think these 4 mindsets, if all the employees can build together with a leader who has a vision of going beyond the horizon, I am sure the organisation will not only be sustained through what is coming into the future but also capitalising and growing through it.

AITD: Very, very interesting; and in fact, you are talking about the growth mindset, and I remember, we all know in India when the COVID started, and we were struggling, Reliance was going great guns and a lot of people were investing in Reliance and it was a different story altogether. And what you are also talking about was integrating, basically all departments integrating. And I remember, we used to have this balanced scorecard concept in the organisations where every department is inter-linked and if somebody doesn't perform and that's what we are seeing that is happening today in the Global scenario. So, very, very true and this brings me to my next question which I would like to say, the organizational challenges of this era are to Transform, Change, Accelerate, Improve, Modernize, Go Faster, Get Better, Make It Cost-Effective.

How does the organisation prioritize and strike balance to accomplish these objectives in a dynamic World? That's my second question to you, Mr Ranjit. So many things are happening, how do we create a balance in the organisation?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: I think it was happening earlier also. I think what has happened is, the pace has increased to an extent that all these initiatives are now vying with each other to be resources in the organisations. So, if I must get transformation or if I want to get an incremental view of it, I need to invest some resources. And because the changes are happening so fast, all these are coming almost at the same time. I think what the leaders can do here, and I have been practising it in my organisation is, to step back, because there are so many things happening, you tend to react than respond to what it is. And one of the ways to prioritize and look at which resources would need to be going where, rather than following a herd mentality, where everyone else is going. I think, what needs to be done is, every leader must step back and do thinking.

We are in a kind of system; we are not operating in a vacuum. All of us are interconnected with each other, so we will have to have a kind of system-syncing approach looking at that - okay if I am going to pull one lever at one place, maybe it's a cost reduction, how does it affect the fundamentals of other departments somewhere else. Now, if I am looking at these aspects, one of the ways are to deal with this; is to do a force-field analysis of the problem that you have with you or the strategy that you want to adopt. Force-field analysis will tell you which are the forces that are in line with you, which are helping you and which can enable you to be successful. And which are the forces that would be hindering your growth. It could be a small intervention that you are doing for your organisation, it could be OD or intervention the way you are running pan-India, or it could be a strategy that you are moving, it could be a blue ocean strategy.

Once you do a force-field analysis, you will understand, out of the negative factors which might be slowing me down, I will pick out which I need to modernise, which I need to revamp, where I need to go faster in the organisation. It will also actually help you look at which are the lever that I can utilise to do that. I will tell you one surprising factor; you don’t need to look at these independent activities. I would suggest that you look at the forces which are supporting you to enable and further capitalise through a lot of areas where you don’t need improvement. You can use a strategy to find out certain improvements required and just go for a transformational thing that is required. In my experience, the force-field analysis for each of the functions of each of these categories helps us prioritise what is needed right now and what is going to give me higher bucks for money that I am spending out there.

AITD: Interesting. Three things which are very interesting that you pointed out, one is, I was jotting it down – one steps back. That’s a very relevant approach, I would say, stepping back a little bit. And secondly, what you are saying is, we normally tend to react, there is a difference between responding and reacting. So that is also very important. And how do we respond to a situation that depends on the organisation to organisation and that is how you set your priorities. And the third thing, which you were talking about, how you prioritise? So, a very, very important, very, very interesting thing which you said is that we step back, respond, and react and prioritise.

Now, my next question related to this is, that there has been a change in transformation in basically three things that we have to talk about. So, in the process of adapting to this changed reality, every process, function and role will be re-imagined, fundamentally changing the future of work as we were talking about. Besides work also, you can say workforce and at the same time workspace as well. Offices are closing; people are working from home. So, what is your viewpoint on this?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: I am complete with you. In fact, for the last one year you will see, our revenue target has remained the same. There is no office space right now. Earlier, most of my revenues used to come from the stores and the way it used to happen is – customers used to come to the retail market and then they will buy from there. Suddenly, with Lockdown, everything stopped. Right from cars to garments to food everything went online. So, your workplace has shifted. The way your business model has shifted, your financials have shifted completely, and the kind of role performed by people have completely shifted also. And same with my L&D team, I had to shift the way I am thinking of building capability. Now, each function will try to change differently. However, as a leader, if I look at it as an independent view, if I look at it as a part that is changing then I will, be missing out on the acylate that the part has hit other departments. So, I need to think, when I am talking about stepping back, I need to see that as a whole system. It's an entire gearbox that exists. So, if each department says that I am going to re-imagine differently, then the gears will be out of sync and they won't be able to move in properly. So, as a leader, who is orchestrating the entire thing?

First to look at, move from looking at independent individual departments, from disconnection there to look at interconnection or look at the relationship because if I am changing a process, changing a function, what and how the relationship with other functions sync, what are the implications? It does not go from raw material to output, that output also comes back as money for the raw material. If I am going to change only one part, I am going to change my entire loop. The leader does not understand that he would still work, or she would still work in silos. When you start stepping back and look at the entire orchestration around it, the new methodology emerges. And I think that’s what we need to look at. I think that’s the leader’s role; when each function would like to reimagine themselves, is a leader’s role to put it together and say okay while you might have evolved individually, how does it all add up to the organisation’s output and how organisation move. The organisation is a creature. Incorporate law also, we say it's an entity. Now, imagine if I have got 4 legs and all these 4 legs are going in different directions at different speeds, the organisation will not move, it will collapse. So, it must work together.

AITD: True. What you are saying is and we have seen a lot of automation taking place in recent times, automation will reshape business models and the broader value chain creating organizations with fewer layers and a better trained and trusted workforce empowered by real-time data analytics. So, as you rightly said, people used to come to stores. Now, most of the things are happening online. And the role of data analytics has become so critical, so important, Artificial Intelligence.

So, what do you think, would be the emerging trend in the retail sector in this kind of situation?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: You have heard of Amazon Go in the US where you go and check in with your phone, you pick up what you want and then you just walk out of the store. They just removed the entire cashiering system, the order management system, everything out. The automation and the data analytics that happen at the backend enables a seamless customer experience. Now what it is doing is not only getting a better customer experience but is also somewhere rewriting how the organisation is designed. For example, if I look at Amazon Go and if I look at Walmart, here entire frontline cashier staff, out of which almost in Walmart is about 72% women, will be out of a job. Let's look at another automation. There is automation called a Progress Shelf. What it does is one of the main jobs of retail people is to tag merchandise on each of the shelves. Now, what Progress Shelf does is it automatically tags whatever merchandise that you kept on the shelf, checks the barcode and price, the calorie value of that thing, any item will be blinked on that shelf. Now, the entire role of the people who are arranging the shelf is gone. Or you look at autonomous cleaning robots or you look at pickers. In many warehouses that we have where the distribution happens, we have fully functional robots who go and pick up the merchandise that is required to be dispatched either through e-commerce or through the direct route.

Now, what I am talking about is that real-time data analytics all are now become autonomous making sure that the process is becoming very, very similar. Now, in this part, what happens is the traditional roles are somewhere going to get taken off. I will give you an example of this. This example is about 3 yrs. old. In the telecom sector earlier, if you had to go and buy a sim from a retailer, you had to submit your Aadhar card. Now, that form would be checked by an officer, he would check if the photo matches with the identity card if the address matches and then they will sign on that. Now what happens, we have the automation happening in that last mile where rather than having all these documents, you just need a fingerprint sensor and the Aadhar card connected UIDAI network and that’s it. You don’t need any third person to really agree with what exactly you are saying. Overnight in an organisation that I was working on earlier Tata Tele, 600 people lost their job. Now, what will happen is because of automation the regular work that is happening, will get automated and the way it is happening. I will give another example; one of the ways to tag merchandise in a Retail sector is called RFID – Radiofrequency Identification Device. So out here you can just scan the entire rack with just one sensor in about 30 seconds and you know what kind of merchandise you have. You don’t need any physical inspection; you don’t need so many people to know exactly what is happening. Now, because of the earlier role, the layers are going to be taken out. So, what our role will be when we are structuring the organisation and the way we are structuring the ways of working, the way we are structuring the information flow must be centred around not our current processes but how the information will flow tomorrow. And that's a huge shift I have seen across. I am not seeing only here but I have seen outside. There are so many companies who are investing effort into just getting this restructuring in place so that they can be ahead across.

AITD: Very, very interesting. I would say and what you mentioned, and the kind of experience people are having at these times, and we could see a lot of shifts there. So, it is said today that it is no longer a product, but the differentiator comes in terms of customer experience. Now, is the storefront worker who is the face of the company, equipped to tackle this transformation and digitally driver ecosystem, I mean as far as Reliance Retail is concerned. Because it is more of a customer experience we are seeing. We see Amazon and people like, today they are absolutely thriving on the customer experience.

Mr Ranjit Khompi: Exactly. One of the things always said is, because of automation people will lose jobs. And that's true to some extent, I think every industrial revolution we had, this kind of job shift happening. But at the same time, I see the redeployment of labour as a strategic opportunity, because if it is done well, then you can get your already aligned, culturally aligned, team members to give all their focus on getting a better customer experience. So, you move them out of all the transactions which are mundane jobs which are not value-added job into something that they make a customer happier.

I will give you a couple of examples. For example, let's say customer support. If a customer comes to return a garment, in the retail sector 34% of garments worldwide or the electronics sector, has returned. What it means is, customers can return a product, no questions asked. Now that must be dealt with in a particular manner. I can't automate that. I need to have a human who understands, who checks, displays empathy, understanding concern and at the same time enables a person to buy a different product so there is no cash outgo. Let's take another example.

Let's say, Ashish, you go to a particular shop, and you are buying a T-shirt for yourself. Now an automated system can't suggest would that t-shirt, blue colour t-shirt, a beige colour trouser will go. We need humans with that. So, what people can do is use automation to lower their errors. Use the analytics coming in to understand the customer buying pattern, what exactly the customer is doing and then make sure that he or she uses this information to give better customer service. For example, with automation, the workflow around the entire store has improved. Walmart is a classic example. Last year Walmart spent 400 million dollars by improving the workflow at the same time improving customer satisfaction. In our organisation, we improved the way we interact with the customer, not only has it increased the revenue but also it has increased the net number of scores around it. In this way, we can, using automation plus better customer service if I can train my people to use automation properly, then I can reduce the number of complaints that are coming in because I can proactively eliminate the complaints that might come in. So, it all depends on the organisation’s focus on skilling, reskilling on a large scale.

AITD: You have touched upon a very important topic on which we also thrive. So, how the Retail workforce is going to change. As you have mentioned just now about the reskilling part and what we call it, we run workshops on Performance Enablement, how do we enable people, empower people to do the task which is required.

Mr Ranjit Khompi: I think the big shift that will happen basically is how to balance in this unprecedented time, the short-term crisis with a long-term uncertainty. Honestly today none of us also know how Retail is going to go which way. For example, if you look at footfall across the world in the brick and mortar or the offline store that you are looking at, the footfall is less than 50% compared to last year. And it's not only India, but also not only just the Electronics Stores or Best Buy, that you can look at. So, we don't know what the future is.

But what we need to look at is how do we balance it out together. One of the first things we need to look at, whatever you might say from an HR perspective, is how we plan the entire manpower for next year, we want to see how we really look at the manpower planning, what are the assumptions that we are building in. We need to have three kinds of assumptions that I look at. I look at the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario and everything in between. And you need to have a talent acquisition strategy required to upgrade. Now, you can look at someone like our platform. Coke has been using it for some time. You have a couple of other companies who are using it very nicely in terms of planning their acquisition strategy for tomorrow. Uniqlo, our global competitor is using this which enables them to really plan what kind of hiring that I am going to do for it.

The second, is basically, how I am going to engage. We are in a truly kind of not so happy scenario today. So, when you are talking to an employee, when HR is planning around it, they need to plan engagement with some positive purpose. There is a very large pizza chain worldwide. What did they do was, they got all their employees together and said let's give free pizza, physically go, and give it to all the hospitals? Now what it created, it created a very positive purpose for employees to be associated with the organisation and the engagement score went up. So, what happens is there must be a purposeful approach for HR in whatever they do. It could be as simple as connectivity calls; employee connects calls that we are doing or if we can get family in the call.

In fact, I know a couple of IT companies which are doing, couple of retail companies, what they do is in their office calls, they also invite their kids, their families, to be there, because we all know that we are not an office, we are at home and people around. What happens is then there is a kind of comfort that sets in. And I think that's what HR can do because HR must maintain culture while maintaining distance. And if that HR can manage this in planning and ensuring that employee well-being and performance are set, automatically the balance thing happens. Another thing that can work is basically, we started doing is remote development. You can't get people into the classroom. But what you can do is you can take the classroom to the person. Now either it can be self-learning, it could be virtual instruction based or it could be remote coaching that you might be doing. Anything that you can do, if you keep on feeding him, there must be growth. See we all are human; we must grow. If you can't grow monetarily because of some reason, what you can do is you can feed at least the intellectual growth part of it or the emotional growth part of it. And that's what you can do with remote development.

We also see that a lot of organisations, because of the changes that are happening, have retrenched people or they have got some other people. Now organisations would have saved money. My suggestion, in fact, my viewpoint around this is, if this idea can be reinvested in the people who are there, that further motivates the retail sector employees where you don’t see actual things around it. So rather than ploughing back of profit, distribute the profits saved into our people and that’s another way of ensuring that you keep on maintaining the performance of the people.

AITD: How does the organization capture and scale up the productivity that can come with the new ways of working specifically in a hybrid model like our organisation Amity also starting that 50% people will be working from home and 50 will be coming to office. So, we call it a virtual and hybrid model.

How do you accelerate individual learning curves so they can become productive in this kind of scenario?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: Completely clear. In fact, being in education University globally, if you guys think about the corporate who are focused on the bottom line all the time. In fact, you would have heard of TCS, a vision of 25 by 25. So, it’s the same with everyone. Everyone is looking at how I can get ahead because while the leaders want their employees to come, employees don't want to come back to the office. And it's a mix of both the things that are happening.

Yes, there are some pitfalls of working from home. In fact, you don't meet people, you don't connect and say how it is and in fact, traditional leaders have this comfort of having people around them. And they say that's the only way to really communicate their vision, their goals and what they want to do. And that’s why we used to have all the strategy meets all the time in April, May, and June corporate India. This year we did not have it, but people are still making money. So, I think the shift that leaders must go back and say if I don't have my person physically sitting here, how can I still set clear objectives and milestones for the person, so that even if a person is physically maybe 1000 kilometres away, knows what to do, knows how to do, know how he or she will be evaluated and how he will be rewarded. There are of course multiple tools that can be done, a balanced scorecard is one of them if it can be done properly. OKR is another one that we have seen happening well. In fact, there is a classic case of Intel vs Motorola where OKR helped Intel to outright Motorola. And that's not one of the classic cases where we can look at it. One of the most important things that I have seen across is, if there is a clear objective for someone there is a higher possibility of that person performing. Ambiguous goals mean ambiguous results.

Secondly, I have seen is, when people are aware while people would know what they are supposed to do. What happens is that people are not sure that whatever they are doing is right or wrong. Now, they might be coming to the office, they might be coming one day in a week to the office, or they may not be coming to the office. One thing that they require more than anything, is coaching on how it is going and how the person can cope up with the entire shift that is happening because the subordinate himself or the employee himself is not physically going in meetings somewhere. Suddenly people have realised that they don't need meetings. The work can be done on emails and phone calls. Now, not everyone is after doing it. Some of us are good at it, some of us may not be good at it. I think the second thing that the leader can work upon is ‘Remote Coaching’ for their subordinates. You don’t need to really give coaching only for the bottom. I believe everyone needs coaching. In fact, when I sit with my supervisor, I also ask him okay this is how we are going to go ahead with that. I have this view, but do you think it's appropriate, do you think it will work, do you think it will fly? So, at every level, people would want the most of whatever they are doing around it. Earlier it was very easy. I could just walk up to my boss’s cabin, anytime sit with ‘chai’ and I can work. Today it's not possible because he is in a meeting, I am in a meeting. So constant coaching by the supervisor is the second thing that I talk about and lastly what can drive individual performance as well as individual learning growth is ownership of well-being and engagement of the team members.

Earlier people are to believe that HR was responsible for conducting engagement, games and ensuring that employees were happy but today, in fact, we are pushing it basically that your employee's well-being and engagement is completely dependent on you. For even a leader owns it then in this kind of hybrid model or maybe a remote working model also, we will be able to drive development as well as performance.

AITD: Okay. So, one thing which was very interesting in your discussion was ‘Coaching for Performance’ which you mentioned, we used to say that Performance Coaching is to happen, a lot of performance coaching must take place. And very rightly pointed out is even now coaching is very, very critical to driving that kind of performance. Now we have also seen, we are talking about the fourth industrial revolution, we are also talking about a lot of transformation taking place in the workplace, a lot of transformation taking place in the way we look at things.

As you have rightly mentioned that it is not necessary that every time you must go for a meeting and maybe some people are very good at it, some people have a personal touch. They thrive when they meet people, and some people can do it better on the phone. So, depending on that, I think with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the global workforce who was already in the throes of a constant churn in the conversation focused on the importance of reskilling and upskilling because every, like as you were mentioning about the digital automation part, it requires a different kind of skill.

Like I used to do a lot of induction training programmes for banks, and we realised that people who are in their 50s, 45, 50, 55 they are not very good in terms of technology, whereas the new incumbent who is just joining as a probationary officer is very, very good at the technology parts. And that is where the disconnect is. And those people will not tell you that I don't know this, but they will try to find fault with the technology part and things like that. So that is a disconnect that happens. So, do you think that this requires a new demand at the workplace in terms of skilling, lot of skilling because I was reading a report which says that 80% of people must be reskilled now with the advent of so much of digital transformation?

What is your take on this in terms of reskilling and upskilling employees?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: There are a couple of websites one of them is BDUK and another one is NFWM where you can go and put your job out there and check out how much of your job will get lost because of automation over the next two years. It’s a very interesting insight, in fact, people can go and check it. I can tell you about the right thing in the world, the industrial revolution is not here to help humans, it is here to take away their jobs or part of their jobs. Now all of us as employees even facilitated as L&D team, you will see that some of it will be going out. So, if you look at this, from an organisation’s perspective when these changes are happening and even if the organisation doesn't want to do it for themselves, there will be competition, there will be markets, there will be customers to be forcing them to do it. Now, because of this, there are three scenarios - there are job losses that are happening what I talked about earlier. In fact, World Economy Forum 2018 report talks about that more than 30% of jobs in the manufacturing and service industries will be lost by 2025. Now, of course, on one end there is job loss happening, on another end, you have new jobs coming in. You have the app creator, you have got cloud sustained, you have digital marketers coming in. Now, these jobs were not there about four or five years back. So, you get job loss at one end, you got new jobs coming in between and then there is everything in between that is there.

Now the organisation must see challenges, one is to also check if I am running automation and there is, of course, the pressure from the CEOs, CXOs, CTOs about getting new technology in place, what do I do with my people. Some of us will skill for the new thing that is coming in. Some of us have upskilled because they don't know it. I will have to reskill some of them who don’t have any other opportunity in the organisation to do something else. I will give you a classic example. In the organisation, when you had the offline business since it is locked out, we had the online business coming in and we had to reskill our people to start doing online training. Now these guys who were doing customer-facing roles, now are doing online order consignments. But now they must be reskilled. My own team went in from doing classroom training to doing virtual training to doing something which is now getting into complete performance management which is based on analytics. So, this is something that is required for survival. So that's the reality. Now whatever you might say, that’s how it is coming in, you don't know how people want to take it. But there is a churn, we are there, fortunately, unfortunately, we are living in the best era of humankind, but it also has its own set of challenges. And I think as an HR leader you must see it coming in and we must be the enablers to make it happen.

AITD: So, you talked about the role of HR. Since you are basically an HR professional, so my next question is based on that. So, what should be the role of Human Resources? What mindset shift does this represent for the future and how different are these priorities vs today what they used to be earlier? Are you seeing some of this already been happening? In the very first instances, we talked about possible mindset shifts.

To deep dive into certain things is like it must be, whether it is enabling performance or managing performance? When it must be job focused or well-being focused? Like we talk about the task and people-oriented leaders. Is it about bureaucracy or self-managed teams? Is it culture and behaviour focused or strategy/goal focus? Is it about people focus or Technology focus? So, a lot of questions are there in front of HR. How do you focus on these areas? Just being an HR professional, I wanted to get insights from you on these aspects.

Mr Ranjit Khompi: We call Human Resources, and this term has evolved over the last 100 years from being an admin team to personnel team to labour relations. Now in the last 30 years, people were human resources, unfortunately, the resources are not managed well, is becoming a liability in the organisation. And the HR’s biggest role is to ensure that the resources remain resources, do not become liability where a finance team or operation team come back and say – your people cost is way higher than what we can afford to move out people.

For HR, the biggest role that HR must do is make sure that HR has a vision to really take people through it so that not many people are left behind in the journey. This is a time when it can be where we can move everyone through it. We have seen that in the outsourcing boom that happened about 20 years, this was not managed that well. In fact, that's why you had a lot of pushbacks happening as outsourcing and in fact, outsourcing also became taboo in the developed countries, and India was on the receiving end of it. But today it's not only an outsourced company or outsourcing company or it could be a manufacturing or retail company. HR must play a role where the resources to remain the resources. And for that, what they need to do and in fact what I have seen, a lot of developed companies doing it, has a look at over the next 4-5 years. It's not going to happen overnight. It's like keeping a frog in slowly warming water. It will not hit you today, but slowly in fact it is eating away yourself and one fine day it will impact you badly. So what people, the last companies have done like Walmart. What Walmart's HR department has done. They have set $4 billion for the next five years to take care of their employees. What I talked about is basically where the cashiering which is 72% are women, if that role is going to go, what you are going to do with that. If you are going to get autonomous robots to pick up your cargo in the warehouse, what am I going to do with the pickers? What they have done is, they have investigated the future, and they have discussed with the leadership. If we got 1000 people and I need to take care of them because they stay with me. Now, how many of them can I make sure that I can take it ahead?

So, HR must do two parts. It is possible to take care of people for readying them for tomorrow. One of the ways to do it is basically, there are three ‘S’ principles - Scout, Shape and Shift. What does Scout mean? HR must investigate the horizon and understand the business strategies and look at what kind of skills would be required or what kind of people enablement is required to enable revenues to be coming in over the next couple of years and how people can contribute along with technology coming in. Technology is not going to come in, in fact, it is coming to you already. How can I coexist with it and still make sure that the new skills that are required, I get my people to do it? So, they must have a visibility of what skills will be required over the next 4-5 years for my industry, for my organisation, for the resources that are coming in for the revenues that are coming in. That’s the first part.

Secondly, they have to ensure that we segregate the current resources into who is shapeable and who are not shapeable to get to the skills. And that's the second part of shaping up which we call ‘Upskilling’. And third, they have to shift out people to roles that do not require technical skills but can move on to other skills so that they can sustain themselves and they can be taken care of. So, three things, Scout, Shape and Shift. So, by doing this, what HR will be able to do is sustain what exactly is going well. Also, what they can do, for example, what has Best Buy done in the U.S., is they have looked at how many of our people are good communicators. Best Buy is into full furniture and getting office equipment, all these things. Now people have stopped coming into it, they are buying online. Now what they have done, the way you have UrbanClap, as a company which has come and set up. They have extended their services into these areas where they can use their technical expertise to go and fix things in people's houses. So, I can upskill someone, what I can do is I can side skill him. For he knows something well, I will just add communication skills so that he or she can go to the customer’s house and fix things that are required. So, what HR has to do is keep on scouting, shaping, and shifting people so that they remain resources because training on the resource is almost 1.5 to 2 times cheaper than buying a new resource. So that’s business can be catered and pushed to management also.

AITD: So, you are talking about the outsourcing part. So, what will be the role of outsourcing for HR functions, particularly I am talking about learning and development because lot of new skills, upskills and reskilling is required for an organisation which may not be available inhouse. So how do you think what portion of outsourcing will be taking place in terms of Learning & Development?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: From HR & L&D perspective, I see one is kind of complex technology that is coming in. Let's take augmented reality or virtual reality. We need to build a lot of content around these products to make sure that the customer comes to our stores and goes to experience to buy something new. So complex technologies which are not available in-house, and they need to be trained for people is that’s where outsourcing can happen. The second is Scale, in fact, you guys are already good at it. Getting a scale in place, maybe we have to get 20,000 people trained on a new way of doing something, new software that is coming in or new processes that are getting rolled out. And that's another outsourcing that can happen.

The third is basically the regular work that does not require a lot of technical competencies and that can be done by an outside facilitator also, is another area that can be outsourced easily. It does not require continuous connection with the client organisation or employee. So, these three areas which I think are clear opportunities for outsourcing and cost-saving as well as building upscale for HR & L&D.

AITD: Well, it has been a very, very interesting discussion. It feels like we should go on and on but for the paucity of time, I will take a couple of questions from the audience as well.

I have just asked some questions, which we are also thinking of asking you is - What will be some of the key themes on organisation culture that corporate India will need to embrace in the future because things are changing, their dynamics are changing and where are we now on these themes? Have we started implementing it right now because people who would like to join in future, the organization would like to know so that’s what I wanted to know? What will be the theme of the future in terms of the culture of the organisation?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: I think the theme of the future would be completely based on what kind of the target group that you have for the employees that you want to attract. Different organisations run with different sets of employees. And the reason why I am saying this is even a company like Google which provides almost everything under the sun to the employees, can't really attract the best of the employees and retain employees. In fact, a lot of these employees have left Google and Facebook and have joined a lot of start-ups in the US as well as in India. So, I think I would, rather than giving or responding to a very generic kind of answer, I would suggest that kind of theme that we need to build up, will be built upon the target group that I have, the kind of employees that I want to attract, retain, and grow, to kind of employee value proposition that I want to build.

So that I can sustain the theme not only in attracting but sustaining and growing also. The reason I am saying is I have seen a lot of companies started a lot of fanfare kind of theme and not able to carry it through because that has not become part of the DNA, that is not really bought in, that is created to showcase to the world. In fact, I know organisations who participated in great places to work or a lot of these things just to get accolades on the website. But is it really to ensure that employees come, stay, sustain, and go ahead? That’s the biggest question. I think the theme, evolution will depend on three things - the target group, the EVP that you want to create and of course, what is your biggest long term people strategy around it?

AITD: Very interesting thought as far as our culture is concerned. And we will have very limited time left and I will just take one more question which is I believe, your pet discussion points which we have been interacting with, for the last hour. So, it is about what you have been talking about invariably in every discussion is about Leadership.

So, what do you think, what will the future Leadership look like? What qualities & skills must future leaders possess? Which leadership strategies will have the greatest impact? We have been talking about so many leadership strategies and there is a question which has come in about leadership style, how do we see in the future. What kind of leadership style will be there?

Mr Ranjit Khompi: I think it's a very interesting juncture, the reason I am saying is that when I talk of the future of leadership, there is a lot of discussions that are happening worldwide on what kind of leadership do we require for the next decade. And the key thing that is coming across and the one word that arisen across is ‘Agility’. Unless and until leaders keep that in mind that tomorrow is going to be different than today and unless, until I am agile enough to take on that, whatever domain, functional, people skill or strategic skill I might be having, all will be in vain because I will be applying yesterday’s tools to tomorrow. So, I would summarise it in one word - ‘Agility’ and that's the key thing that is coming in across. If you look at yesterday’s news, Jeff Bezos stepping down. If you look at his journey. I was just reading through it. Just imagine AWS which was nothing, in 2001 they launched it and today it's in the cloud.

AITD: I guess he has raised it to 50 million dollars.

Mr Ranjit Khompi: Now, just think about it why I am talking about this. It's not about how much of the grey hair that you have, how much education qualification that you have or industry expertise that you have today, it is out of the window. What is required for today and tomorrow? Do we have the capability to understand what is required? Can I create tools and team around it, and can I go ahead and conquer it? And the genesis of all this is Agility which is if you go back to the tip of the Iceberg.

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