HR has to be a change champion in evolving organisations: Cyrus Jalnawala

According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director - human resources (HR), Dow India, HR has to take the lead in equipping organisations facing challenges due to changing business climate

Globalisation and increased competition have forced companies to change their structure and hierarchies. Driving these changes are human resource (HR) department, whose function has also undergone metamorphosis – from being responsible for just hiring & staffing to honing the skills of employees and build organisational culture. According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director (HR), Dow India, HR has to be the ‘change champion’ and keep the people and the organisation agile and transformational.

In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Jalnawala, who is also one of the founding members of the FICCI Skill India Council, shares his perspectives on various HR issues such as talent acquisition and retention, gender equality, Skill India, etc.

How has the role of HR personnel evolved in the last couple of decades?

Organisations themselves are evolving as a result of increased globalisation, rapid technological changes, and tougher competition, resulting in new structures, hierarchies, and new ways of assigning work. At the heart of these changes lies the human resource (HR) function - which in the last few decades has evolved from staffing, hiring and firing to building the culture of the organisation, training employees and retaining talent within the industry. Dave Ulrich (one of the most influential thinkers in HR management) positions HR as a capability builder, technology proponent, change champion, innovator, integrator, and so on. HR is now more agile, knows the business of the business, and is introducing cutting-edge initiatives that significantly impact business results.

However, this level of evolution depends on perception and positioning of the HR individual within the organisation. They have to demonstrate themselves as being credible, with high level of integrity and strong relationship-building skills. More importantly, the HR person needs to be business-oriented, aware of the company’s business strategy and direction, and needs to ensure that all HR decisions are aligned to supporting and growing the business.

Many of the chemical companies point out HR as one of the pain-points of the industry as new recruits give preference to other new-age sectors. How is the situation on the ground?

In the last few years, we have seen a large group of graduates migrate towards aspirational sectors such as IT or retail. This corresponds with the ‘boom’ of these sectors in the country. However, the skills and capabilities required by these sectors are significantly different from what is needed at a chemical company. Therefore, it may not be a really valid comparison.

From my perspective, the chemical companies are equally exciting to work for.

This sector may suffer from a poor perception per se but it is also a matter of how you position your company to attract and retain the best talent. Our company in particular plays at the intersection of all three sciences - physics, chemistry and biology. We offer people the opportunity to work on a hugely diverse range of solutions - from solutions that fuel our space craft to those for better mattresses that help us sleep well at night. In short, we combine chemistry, biology and physics to create solutions that impact people’s lives, and help make the world a better place. What could be more exciting and glamorous than this?

Along with Make in India, government has also launched Skill India campaign. Is there anything to gain for the chemical industry?

The type of skills required in manufacturing sector jobs need periodic upgrading because of the way that the technologies used in the sector change so rapidly. I think that the manufacturing industry in general, and the chemical industry in particular, stands to gain a lot from the Skill India initiative. We do not need just chemical engineers or physicists or biologists; we also need skilled people to run plants effectively. In today’s rapidly changing business and economic environment, even the skills learnt just six months ago can become irrelevant!

What the industry lacks today, and urgently needs, are avenues to enable such people to continuously learn and upgrade themselves, and keep their skills relevant. I truly believe that the Skill India initiative has the ability to fill this gap, and catapult India into the big league. In fact, I am one of the founding members of the FICCI Skill India Council, and I look forward to contributing and further building upon the excellent groundwork that has already been laid.

Talent acquisition and retention are the most critical task of the HR head. How do you ensure it?

A company may have developed the best people practices to help acquire and retain talent, but all of these will not serve the purpose if it is not internalised as values and culture of the organisation and the people, especially the leaders, do not embrace them as part of their day to day working.

A continually evolving organisation like Dow India has three generations of workforce. Our people practices cannot be ‘one size fits all’, but rather has to meet the needs of each of these generations. Our average employee age is 38, the average years of service for our employees is 8 years, and our attrition is 4.5 percent lower than that of the industry. Our leaders are groomed and trained to manage this multi-generational workforce.

Being a ‘Change Champion’, and keeping the people and the organisation agile and transformational is the call of today. HR has to demonstrate flexibility and ability by adapting themselves with the times first and foremost. Right from creating opportunities for growing talent, developing lateral capacity, building diversity and developing initiatives that will help us benchmark performance and benefits across the industry, enable us to effectively hire and retain talent at Dow India.

Why gender equality is important for an organisation? What are the key initiatives of Dow India to maintain diversity?

A global company like ours is naturally diverse. This diversity brings the wealth of varied experiences, backgrounds and perspectives to all our work. It also lays a tremendous responsibility on us to not only build, but also sustain and harness this diverse and inclusive culture.

The first step towards this is to ensure that we have a healthy gender ratio in the company. At Dow India, 22 percent of our workforce are women.

It is also important to ensure that this ratio is sustainable, over the long-term. We have put in place several initiatives specifically aimed at our women population, such as the women’s leadership program with INSEAD, sponsorship by senior employees aimed at developing the next generation of women leaders. We also have policies such as three-year part-time work arrangements for new mothers, creche expense reimbursement, and elder care reimbursement policy. Our India Engineering Center at Chennai also has a day care center, so our women employees can be assured that their children are being taken care of, while they are at work.

Is increased usage of social media having an influence on today’s organisations?

Yes absolutely. Social media is integral to all our lives as individuals and organisations. We encourage the use of social media as a communication and information tool. We have been using social and digital media for hiring. Potential employees also use social media to reach out to us.

Having said that, while the initial contact is online, face to face meetings are a must. People are the mainstay of our organisation; social media serves as a great tool to enhance human interaction, and bring people closer. As we say at Dow India ‘the most important element is the human element’.

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HR has to be a change champion in evolving organisations: Cyrus Jalnawala

According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director - human resources (HR), Dow India, HR has to take the lead in equipping organisations facing challenges due to changing business climate

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Rakesh Rao  |  Mumbai 

Globalisation and increased competition have forced companies to change their structure and hierarchies. Driving these changes are human resource (HR) department, whose function has also undergone metamorphosis – from being responsible for just hiring & staffing to honing the skills of employees and build organisational culture. According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director (HR), Dow India, HR has to be the ‘change champion’ and keep the people and the organisation agile and transformational. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Jalnawala, who is also one of the founding ...

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HR has to be a change champion in evolving organisations: Cyrus Jalnawala

According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director - human resources (HR), Dow India, HR has to take the lead in equipping organisations facing challenges due to changing business climate

According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director - human resources (HR), Dow India, HR has to take the lead in equipping organisations facing challenges due to changing business climate

Globalisation and increased competition have forced companies to change their structure and hierarchies. Driving these changes are human resource (HR) department, whose function has also undergone metamorphosis – from being responsible for just hiring & staffing to honing the skills of employees and build organisational culture. According to Cyrus Jalnawala, director (HR), Dow India, HR has to be the ‘change champion’ and keep the people and the organisation agile and transformational.

In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Jalnawala, who is also one of the founding members of the FICCI Skill India Council, shares his perspectives on various HR issues such as talent acquisition and retention, gender equality, Skill India, etc.

How has the role of HR personnel evolved in the last couple of decades?

Organisations themselves are evolving as a result of increased globalisation, rapid technological changes, and tougher competition, resulting in new structures, hierarchies, and new ways of assigning work. At the heart of these changes lies the human resource (HR) function - which in the last few decades has evolved from staffing, hiring and firing to building the culture of the organisation, training employees and retaining talent within the industry. Dave Ulrich (one of the most influential thinkers in HR management) positions HR as a capability builder, technology proponent, change champion, innovator, integrator, and so on. HR is now more agile, knows the business of the business, and is introducing cutting-edge initiatives that significantly impact business results.

However, this level of evolution depends on perception and positioning of the HR individual within the organisation. They have to demonstrate themselves as being credible, with high level of integrity and strong relationship-building skills. More importantly, the HR person needs to be business-oriented, aware of the company’s business strategy and direction, and needs to ensure that all HR decisions are aligned to supporting and growing the business.

Many of the chemical companies point out HR as one of the pain-points of the industry as new recruits give preference to other new-age sectors. How is the situation on the ground?

In the last few years, we have seen a large group of graduates migrate towards aspirational sectors such as IT or retail. This corresponds with the ‘boom’ of these sectors in the country. However, the skills and capabilities required by these sectors are significantly different from what is needed at a chemical company. Therefore, it may not be a really valid comparison.

From my perspective, the chemical companies are equally exciting to work for.

This sector may suffer from a poor perception per se but it is also a matter of how you position your company to attract and retain the best talent. Our company in particular plays at the intersection of all three sciences - physics, chemistry and biology. We offer people the opportunity to work on a hugely diverse range of solutions - from solutions that fuel our space craft to those for better mattresses that help us sleep well at night. In short, we combine chemistry, biology and physics to create solutions that impact people’s lives, and help make the world a better place. What could be more exciting and glamorous than this?

Along with Make in India, government has also launched Skill India campaign. Is there anything to gain for the chemical industry?

The type of skills required in manufacturing sector jobs need periodic upgrading because of the way that the technologies used in the sector change so rapidly. I think that the manufacturing industry in general, and the chemical industry in particular, stands to gain a lot from the Skill India initiative. We do not need just chemical engineers or physicists or biologists; we also need skilled people to run plants effectively. In today’s rapidly changing business and economic environment, even the skills learnt just six months ago can become irrelevant!

What the industry lacks today, and urgently needs, are avenues to enable such people to continuously learn and upgrade themselves, and keep their skills relevant. I truly believe that the Skill India initiative has the ability to fill this gap, and catapult India into the big league. In fact, I am one of the founding members of the FICCI Skill India Council, and I look forward to contributing and further building upon the excellent groundwork that has already been laid.

Talent acquisition and retention are the most critical task of the HR head. How do you ensure it?

A company may have developed the best people practices to help acquire and retain talent, but all of these will not serve the purpose if it is not internalised as values and culture of the organisation and the people, especially the leaders, do not embrace them as part of their day to day working.

A continually evolving organisation like Dow India has three generations of workforce. Our people practices cannot be ‘one size fits all’, but rather has to meet the needs of each of these generations. Our average employee age is 38, the average years of service for our employees is 8 years, and our attrition is 4.5 percent lower than that of the industry. Our leaders are groomed and trained to manage this multi-generational workforce.

Being a ‘Change Champion’, and keeping the people and the organisation agile and transformational is the call of today. HR has to demonstrate flexibility and ability by adapting themselves with the times first and foremost. Right from creating opportunities for growing talent, developing lateral capacity, building diversity and developing initiatives that will help us benchmark performance and benefits across the industry, enable us to effectively hire and retain talent at Dow India.

Why gender equality is important for an organisation? What are the key initiatives of Dow India to maintain diversity?

A global company like ours is naturally diverse. This diversity brings the wealth of varied experiences, backgrounds and perspectives to all our work. It also lays a tremendous responsibility on us to not only build, but also sustain and harness this diverse and inclusive culture.

The first step towards this is to ensure that we have a healthy gender ratio in the company. At Dow India, 22 percent of our workforce are women.

It is also important to ensure that this ratio is sustainable, over the long-term. We have put in place several initiatives specifically aimed at our women population, such as the women’s leadership program with INSEAD, sponsorship by senior employees aimed at developing the next generation of women leaders. We also have policies such as three-year part-time work arrangements for new mothers, creche expense reimbursement, and elder care reimbursement policy. Our India Engineering Center at Chennai also has a day care center, so our women employees can be assured that their children are being taken care of, while they are at work.

Is increased usage of social media having an influence on today’s organisations?

Yes absolutely. Social media is integral to all our lives as individuals and organisations. We encourage the use of social media as a communication and information tool. We have been using social and digital media for hiring. Potential employees also use social media to reach out to us.

Having said that, while the initial contact is online, face to face meetings are a must. People are the mainstay of our organisation; social media serves as a great tool to enhance human interaction, and bring people closer. As we say at Dow India ‘the most important element is the human element’.

image
Business Standard
177 22