In an interview with SCIKEY, Mr. Sharad Gangal speaks of the various changes he has observed in business in his long-standing career and the modern changes that businesses need to adapt and accommodate to, to thrive in this competitive industry.
In so many years of leading HR practices across businesses, how has HR changed over the years to become a strategic partner?
A significant change that happened was in the year 2000. In the 1990s, a Y2K problem occurred, and so a lot of Indians were taken to US and Europe to do data entry. This led to revelation around the world that our country has a big educated class that includes engineers who can be used for IT and IT related services. The service sector had become a value player.
The focus began to shift from manufacturing to services. In 2000, the insurance industry opened, which was a big opportunity for the private sector. All of this culminated from between 1992 to 2000 and then onwards. Service sector is a resource-hungry industry.
The principal capital they have are people, and therefore the HR function, which is so close and related to people, started becoming strategic. Otherwise, HR never had a place on the executive board.
At a macro level, these are the big changes that stemmed for a small function, with the least number of specializations in HR many. This was driven by the change of nature of the Indian economy and employment and employment practices.
How is the Talent landscape changing? What difference do you see from yesteryears What will the future workforce look like?
One of the biggest challenges that we are facing currently is that talent has become highly portable. The key lies in adaptability. Earlier people considered employers as part of a ‘lifetime employment relationship,’ which isn’t the same anymore. It’s quite clear to employees now that five to six years is the maximum they want to work in particular. To be frank, it is only three years, and that is now a reality. It is a reality because of two things- one, the main driver for employees today is abundance of opportunities.
Secondly, it’s also organizations that want to have an array of skills, and therefore the demands that are put on people are dynamic in nature. The changes are frequent because, as technology changes, obsolescence is also becoming a part of the industry. Therefore, the new definition of loyalty is not about how much time you spend in an organization. The new definition is how much time a person gives his best to the organization.
This is the current scenario of talent, and it is best to be prepared for it. I anticipate that ten years from now the conventional organizational structures will also crash, there will no more be a pyramid. People will come together for any project.
There’ll be a set of specialists with one facilitator. If you are specialized, you can work for multiple organizations with similar domains. So, for example, I may be doing a project in one company that is about to be finished, and I may be having an ongoing project with another company while there is another project with a third company. Technology is enabling more and more of this, so why have a lifetime association with a single organization? This is the mindset.
Since you have led multiple mergers and acquisitions (MA), What were the critical talent challenges that emerged during the transition cycle. What were the practices you deployed to overcome those challenges?
It is statistically proven that mergers and acquisitions succeed when the people aspect is managed well. There is a considerable amount of due diligence that happens on the commercial, governance, legal, and financial front. But I am unaware of how many organizations fulfil due diligence towards people. For example, I have always believed that if you are acquiring a company, you should conduct a capability due diligence of people in the company you are acquiring.
It’s quite common to see that in an acquired organization, it is the leadership that finds a way out. The other model could be ensuring that I acquire an organization keeping existing talent in mind.
In my experience, it is best to run the acquired organization with the people because they have a home ground advantage and are much better at handling that place than you. If your acquisition is cross-border, why would you want to change their culture and make them adapt to yours? They have lived in it their whole time, so use it to your benefit.
With years of experience working in a different geography, do you see any mindset difference in the workforce?
There is a difference, by nature, Indians are entrepreneurs, and therefore, we want to do something new. Secondly, by nature, we are multitaskers whether somebody tells us or not. And thus, that hunger of ambition and aspiration is to do more. One of the reasons why Indians want to leave and seek new opportunities is because they believe that if they get a role which is higher than their current job, then their social hierarchy instantly gets elevated. It’s somewhat unique to India.
Does talent today is becoming more individualistic?
One thing that is happening very clearly is that relationship-based transactions are getting replaced with contractual setting. There are opposing views on this. Technology enables that. This is a significant transformation, and hence the primary reason is technology. And second, in my opinion, society is also becoming more and more individualistic. If you see our community, we started with a joint family moving on to a nuclear family now individualistic.
Earlier people said that they have friends at workplaces. I don’t know if that theory still holds. My colleague, who is my working partner, may not be of the same wavelength.
What could be the reason for this shift?
Individual’s focus on performance, and it has increased considerably, so has accountability. One, because now there are tools to measure accountability. Linear structures make me work for the full contracted time, and therefore there is hardly any time for me even if I want to come and help a colleague. There are multiple factors economic, social, which are driving towards more individualistic based organizations than collective.
What practices have you deployed for improving Employee Productivity to both top-line growth as well as the bottom line in the last five years?
One is that the deliverables have to be sharply defined. The reason is that I can write a paragraph about what I’m going to deliver, but it should all be expressed in terms of deliverables, either in time or money value. This is how one can assess people. Many may complain, saying that it is too numerically driven, but I don’t think so.
If you want fairness in the assessment of people, keep it objective. This is how the other person will experience fairness. I can’t say that an increase in sales volume is on the lines of industry standards. I have to define and promise what I will deliver.
What was the toughest downturn incident in your HR journey that you believe was the most difficult what did you do that favoured the growth of the organization?
There are two. One, when in 1992, India decided to liberalize, and imports became so easy. Otherwise, Indian industry was always operating on the cost-plus, which meant that even if I incur costs, it will be paid by the consumer; if I had to pay 10% more, than the consumer had to pay because he or she had no option. It was more of a pass through. This changed overnight, and that is the difference I have seen. India changed in 1992, to be precise on 28th February 1992 when the budget was presented. Up until then, the import duties ranged till 140%, and suddenly it became zero percent, which was a reality. I think that was the biggest disruption of the Indian economy.
Second, currently, what the globe is going through whatever be the reasons. There are country-specific reasons too, and then there is Coronavirus. This, I believe, has been the most prolonged phase of slowdown globally.
Most engaging HR practice you enjoy doing?
You know, one comes to HR for engaging people and not disengaging, I would like to present an appointment letter rather than a severance letter. You offer an appointment letter with joy, which isn’t the case with a severance letter. However, one must be realistic. Like, I cannot remain static with my skills and I expect the organization to give me a guarantee of employment. So, the biggest joy is, when you can upgrade people on their skills.
What I can do is I can make you employable. And when you make the last employee in the company, who is the most unskilled, to upgrade him and make him more employable in your organization or another organization. By that what you’re doing is, you’re creating an opportunity for a lifetime livelihood for him.
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