Uma Srinivasan, Talent Acquisition and TM – Larsen & Toubro

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“One of the most important dimensions that defines the nature of Leader(s) to be hired is the “Stage of Evolution” of the company.” Uma Srinivasan, Talent Acquisition & TM – Larsen & Toubro

How has your view of leadership changed over the years, in your years of involvement in leadership hiring?

Interestingly, in my two decades of experience in the recruitment industry, we have seen three different generations in the workforce. Way back in the early 2000s, if you take a traditional organisation, we had a baby boomers heading the organisation, Gen X leading the businesses / functions and Gen Y comprising good part of the rest of org workforce. In the last few years, we have seen a host of new economy industries mushrooming up and most of the start-ups in these segments have been created by millennials. From an era, where we looked for Pedigree, Stability, functional excellence, cultural fitment in the leadership hiring, today for these new economy industry segments, we give priority to entrepreneurial mind-set, risk appetite, adaptability, agility, aspiration quotient etc.

Interestingly, irrespective of the era in which we hire leaders, “one of the most important dimensions that defines the nature of Leader(s) to be hired is the “Stage of Evolution” of the company.” This stage has a strong bearing on the Culture that gets created too.

Today, the world is facing one-of-its-kind situation and this period is a litmus test for the leaders across the various segment globally. With this unexpected pandemic rocking the world, the genre of leadership needed to steer an organisation through such unprecedented times are the ones with strong agility, out-of-the-box thinking, risk-taking and ability to connect influence people. In my view, the style of leadership need during this difficult time is somewhat similar to that of a “turnaround expert”. Leaders who successfully survive / thrive through this “Corona Wave” will emerge stronger and wiser, and will definitely be setting higher benchmarks for the Leaders in the times to come.


With over 2 decades of experience in Recruitment Industry across levels and across multiple industry sectors and Volume Hiring across multiple specialties, how has the talent hiring landscape has changed in last 5 years, especially in mass hiring.

Over the last decade the Volume Hiring trends have been gradually shifting. Thanks to the automation / robotics / chatbots. Here we are talking about the bottom of the pyramid hiring in an organisation – be it developers in IT or voice agent in ITES/BFSI or non-voice agents in a financial back office or the blue collar worker in an engineering setup. Over the last few years, we have been observing automation / chatbots taking up majority of the mundane / repetitive transactions tasks. Therefore, the hiring needs for this segment too has been going through a shift. Hiring numbers have shrunk, but the thrust on high quality of the hires in this segment has significantly gone up. Another sector that today focuses a lot on the bottom of the pyramid / volume is ecommerce – the likes of Swiggy / zomato / ola / uber etc.. Given the ‘War for talent’, most of the industry players have started offering attractive perks and benefits for the volume hires too. In the technology sector, we are also witnessing a lot of them offering 5 day working / flexi hours / work-from-home options, investment in continuous learning / upskilling etc. One other distinct change we have witnessed in the last few years in volume hiring across all these sectors is the openness to hire non-graduates as well as the emphasis on digital orientation. We have today started hiring for potential rather than experience and this is a big leap from where we were a decade ago.

Yet another new dimension that is emerging in this space is the “Gig Economy” – Strong technology platform, well-defined processes, robust governance and attractive reward system will soon ensure that the “GIG WORKFORCE” takes over a large part of today’s regular workforce and that too across levels.

For the last 5 weeks the world have been put through a “New Normal” by the Corona Pandemic – with entire workforce WFH, large sales deals getting firmed up over Skype / Zoom / MS Teams and seamless execution of projects happening with high-security technology platforms. A number of industry segments are seeing the positive side of the “New Normal”… better productivity, lower cost, higher profitability, stronger engagement etc…

  

What would be the role AI HR tech in hiring alignment of talent with job, with team organization in next two years. Do you think behavioural skills will play a significant role in hiring aligning why?

In the last couple of years, we are witnessing increasing thrust on digital transformation across industry sectors. Most of the organisations have started added the digital savviness / orientation as a critical competency while hiring. With every department across an organisation disrupted by this digitization, “digi-readiness” has become a hygiene element for most of our hires.

For eg. Let me take Talent Acquisition function. I have spent almost 2 decade in the Talent acquisition world and when I started my career what used to be “100% Brick Mortar” today is 70% Tech and 30% Touch. Right through the hiring journey, technology has started transformed every step..


– How the job-order get initiated

– Decision on the best sourcing mode (based on the historic decision made)

– Knowing the available talent pool in the market (not just in India but across the world)

– Creating a stack ranking of the Best Fits (encompassing all dimension of evaluation including their social footprints)

– Executing good part of the interview process without even meeting his/her in-person etc.

…and the list can go on. The biggest take away in this era has been the leverage on AI ML in the decision-making process – especially leveraging on the learnings from the past decisions and with time the AI engine keeps getting better. Yet another big leap is the overall reduction in the hiring TAT (Turnaround Time). Likewise, even in the Core HR function big data and analytics are playing a pivotal role in critical decision-making process throughout the Employee lifecycle.

Though L T is hugely identified as a traditional engineering conglomerate, in the last decade we have been putting a lot of focus and investment on automation / digitization. It’s in a way becoming our way-of-life and this is a positive impetus given the way both the markets as well as the new gen workforce are evolving.

 

and so, in order to build a capable team to drive the HP culture, it is utmost important to understand the business imperatives, what it takes to be successful, the must have competencies and behavioural skills. The logical starting point is to bring on-board the right leader who is capable of creating the apt eco-system for the team to perform and thrive in this dynamic market place. In today’s context, we often witness multi-generational workforce working and collaborating in a single team and giving importance to behavioural skills is crucial to foster a positive collaborative culture amongst them.


What were the significant challenges in your years of involvement into change management, especially while aligning the leaders with the new business objective?

Way back in the early 2000s, one major change we were all up against was the dot.com bubble burst and the birth of few sunrise industry segments like Telecom, ITES / BPO etc. Back then, I was with a homegrown market leader in the consulting industry and sometime around 2006, overnight a Dutch multi-national acquired us. This journey of transitioning from an entrepreneur driven Indian player to a blue-blooded multinational was one of my first change management experiences. It was challenging yet absolutely enriching experience for me. Surprisingly, less than 2% of the original workforce from the Indian firm could really get past this transition to be part of the new journey and I had the privilege to be one the leaders who lead the organization into the new era (or what we called “Transitioning to a HPO”).

Based on my own journey, I can confidently vouch that in a change management scenario, the Leader has to be in the helm of affairs. He / She has the power to be the Catalyst who can make the process swift yet efficient. First, the Leader needs to believe in the organisation’s business objective and own it up with absolute conviction. Also, it’s just not enough for him to own up the objectives, but he/she needs to get the entire team to align to it and bring forth excellence in execution.

The biggest challenge for a leader is to set aside any apprehension that he / she may have in the transition and lead it with conviction from the front.

One other key dimension in Change management scenario is to ensure that the leader has the right set of people in the team to help him lead the transition. While putting the aces team together, in my own journey, it was painful for me to take some tough calls with regard to people, but still I had to take some surgical decisions.

Some of the most critical aspect that a Leader needs to possess to lead a transition successful are


– Conviction with the purpose (Objective)

– Decision making ability

– Clarity of thought communication

– Transparent to build trust amongst the team

– Excellence in Execution

These go a long way in building the trust with the team and to get them align to the set objectives.

 

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