Article (June-2018)


Distill learning and convert into an actionable agenda

Sameer Nagarajan

Designation : -   Head HR and Administration

Organization : -  Dabur International Limited, DUBAI (U.A.E.)


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How do you define culture of excellence in today's business world where it seems to be captured and governed by digital technology?
SN The fundamentals of a culture oriented towards excellence remain the same : they will continue to revolve around strong customer and consumer focus, excellent quality, incessant attention to detail, strong focus on human resources and a demonstrated commitment towards doing good for the community. What has changed with digital are the following aspects :
  • Immediacy of data and feedback : there is virtually no time lost between an event and information on its effects.
  • Reliability : with minimal human intervention, there is little reason to doubt the data (leaving aside macro issues of big data influencers such as Cambridge Analytica, etc. - but no concern at the micro level).
  • Automation of lower order tasks : the nature of work may change and probably for the better, as routine and manual work gets replaced by bots and robots. 
It is an exciting time to be in HR and in business at large, as the pace of change continues to accelerate.
What are the key characteristics of the new-age culture of excellence at work place?
SN Millennials in the workforce represent a disruption, yet potentially a huge opportunity to drive positive change, as they are also largely vocal about their drives and motivated by the greater good. Entire systems in HR Management - whether selection, training, performance management or rewards - will need to be redesigned to more closely connect with emerging ambitions and aspirations. The initial signs of the change represented by this new workforce are already apparent :
  • Hierarchies breaking down.
  • Most employees spending a few years in each job and seeking change and variety faster; in addition, very comfortable with the idea of multiple careers in a lifetime.
  • Relative ease with technology, digital and social media as workforce tools (as opposed to merely being tools for social connections or leisure).
  • A sense of the larger good and identifying more with organisations that have a community face.
  • Physical workplaces that facilitate a greater sense of connect and service.
  • Work and life as a continuum rather than as sharply divided realities; flexible and remote working, flextime etc are consequences of this.
Essentially the nature of work is changing and it is important that HR change to keep pace with this change.
How managers should manage the change and instill culture of excellence in approach and attitude of new-age workforce?
SN In my opinion the key is to manage less and lead more. The classic approach tends to conserve and protect the status quo, with changes being both incremental and assuming a bounded, predictable context. That context has already changed and is changing further at incomprehensible speed. The workforce, internally, is changing as well. The key therefore, is to embrace the change courageously, acknowledging that we may not have all the answers - indeed probably do not have all the answers - but have the capacity and capabilities to find the solutions.
Second, it is important to recognize that even the new-age workforce does have its own training needs! In the first place, settling into the organization is paramount and effective, structured induction plays a significant role. This has then to be supplemented by real-time, relevant training that keeps the employee abreast of the changing context and environment.
Third, create a culture and environment of sharing, cooperation and speed. Remove barriers and silos and help employees realize their potential to the fullest. Recognize their desire to contribute and change and channelize it to action: that would be one of the strongest challenges to HR in the coming years.
What are the challenges likely to be encountered in developing and sustaining the culture of excellence?
SN There are two main sources of challenge. The first is that the environment is rapidly changing and to make sense of a constantly changing environment in a meaningful way, to distil learning and convert that learning into actionable agenda for a business - all the while running - can be a major challenge which calls for special capability. The catch is, that special capability has to become commonplace very fast!
The second major challenge is the established status quo, invested in the current situation that resists change overtly and subtly. Change management strategies of a higher order need to be employed to overcome these.
In the current scenario how do you suggest developing a culture of excellence?
SN Constantly re-evaluate everything that HR does; focus on the touch points, the points of impact on employees that make a difference to them for the duration that they are with the organization. 
  • Keep the customer and consumer central to everything in the organization.
  • Break silos, bust bureaucracy.
  • Emphasise the role of values and ethical behavior in everyday dealings. 
  • Use big data and analytics to measure, measure fast and feedback quickly. 
What is the role of HR in setting organisational expectations for excellence?
SN Make all of the above happen! I do believe that the role of HR is so central in an organization, when managed and led effectively, that there is nothing that is beyond scope or beyond the function. The only limitations exist in the mind and it is for us to make our own future a reality.