Yuvaraj Srivastava has been in HR since 1997 after serving in the Indian Army for 6 years. His passion to understand people around him started in college where he was a part of the student’s movement, student leadership and contested elections for the University. With a degree in Psychology and his experience in the Indian Army, he laid the foundation and platform for his passion for Human Resources.
He has been in the corporate world since 1997 and has done various roles in different type of industries, from manufacturing to hospitality to FMCG, multinational to a telecom corporate and IT. Hence, diverse roles and industrial experience contributed to his experience in understanding people of a mixed society. He has been leading HR for Makymytrip for the past 1-1/2 years.
Yuvaraj’s wife shares a similar passion and belongs to an HR background as well and currently works for Wipro. He belongs to a family of lawyers and government officials however, he broke the professional tradition by serving the Indian Armed forces and later pursued his degree (Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resources) from IIMT Ghaziabad and joined the corporate private sector.
He describes the current talent workforce as a picturesque landscape of crossroads. He claims that as a country or as an overall landscape, we are not very diligent in terms of giving a high profile talented workforce in niche skilled areas. This workforce can be defined as a pool of skilled workforce high on learning ability, adaptability, working with people, not hierarchical in their ways of looking at things and people who can be very innovative.
The need in these areas is critical as they have an exponential room for growth and expansion such as business, data analytics, online product management or skills like online marketing which are nascent and new for the country. These are high impact business roles but at the same time there is a dearth of talent in this field. We should aim at focusing on the roots by understanding what sort of talent is getting produced at college level, curriculums being practiced in the various engineering colleges and management institutes and eventually if these are in line with the demand in the market. When we view this landscape from 30,000 feet, there are different types of talent available in the country but there is no niche skill talent pool from where one can recruit in bulk and deploy them in the organizations. There are more people who are average than superlative.
Organizational Culture today Vs A decade ago
Culture can be defined as agnostic to the industry it belongs to, however when we view culture of an organization, we can observe a trend.
- Ten years back, IT as an industry had an informal open door casual dressing culture and today it has broadened even more
- The manufacturing industry was far more structured, process driven and hierarchical. It would not have evolved in the same manner and it would have further broken down some of the hierarchies because people are younger as compared to the overall workforce what it was 10 years back.
Even though the culture is diagnostic in various type of industries it has definitely become far more adaptable, receptive and far less hierarchical.
Willingness to learn from other industries has increased and it has become more open to embrace new trends, technologies and diverse set of people. Hence if we look at initiatives like diversity and inclusion, 10-15 years back people would have acknowledged and reviewed this concept differently. Nowadays, culture of the organization states that one must practice diversity because it directly affects business. Culture has evolved and it has evolved for good and become open across all the industries. Organizations are learning to know about the best practices and deploy those best practices in their own business model.
Challenges for Organizations today
- Understanding the Ecosystem: Every business has dependency on the external ecosystem in which it operates. These include government regulations or competitions, investments coming within the company in the same industry. The challenge is to foresee to unpredictability in this system to be ready for the future.
- Predictability about the ecosystem: It has become difficult to predict the ecosystem today as opportunities across the spectrum of industries have increased. Challenges include the patience to invest and wait for fruitful outcomes in the long run.
- Start-ups have created a different type of culture to look at the organizations: One needs to look at more in terms of the valuation of the organization, create bigger wilt for the people rather than primarily focusing on building a sustainable organization.
Challenges for Leadership today
- Finding the right people for the right job – Leadership should understand the landscape and how talent can be leveraged.
- Engaging people – Majority of the workforce is below 30 years and keeping people engaged in a meaningful job is a challenge for a leader because people have a shorter time span. People don’t want to do repetitive assignments and seek better outcomes in shorter time span.
- Maintenance of internal parity – All the concepts of job evaluation, internal parity and batch parity are now blurry.
- Leaders in this environment – Their communication with the rest of the workforce to bring all these issues in perspective has become a challenge.
- Management of a vocal employee workforce – Employees seek answers basic principles, policies and ways of working, which are difficult to address. Thus leaders should know what are they talking about and be wiser than what people would expect them to be able to address these concerns.
Diversity as a tool to address challenges
- Diversity brings diverse mindset to the problem. It brings a healthy mix in the workforce and one can tap resources across the country, across profiles and across genders.
- Diversity is far beyond gender. He aims at making people far more tolerant about diversities from one region to the other.
- Breaking stereotypes in the minds of people when they talk about different regions. Do not expect everyone in the team to be an A-lister. If there are too many A-listers in the whole team then that may not always be productive.
People of different caliber and background bring in a different mindset and all this put together give us the best solution and make an organization far more sustainable and robust in terms of thinking approach.
Yuvaraj gives more priority to inclusion than diversity to ensure that the workforce is stronger as inclusion needs to be set in first and then perhaps diversion. Strategy aims at placing some internal policies to ensure that clear-cut inclusion barometers are given to managers. At Makemytrip, there is a great deal of work in terms of managerial skills and how people can be more inclusive in their behavior. They aim to make employees realize how inclusive they are in behavior when it comes to working with team members. As a part of the Company’s strategy, the focus is not only to hire Inclusive employees but also inculcate inclusion as a concept to also ensure that it is an integral part of the leadership framework.
Steps towards an Inclusive Leadership Model at Makymytrip
- Informal sessions in terms of either “nukkad natak”,group discussions and training sessions to focus mostly on inclusion rather than diversity. They are aimed at encouraging people to appreciate the differences people have and how one can really leverage the strengths of people who are different.
- Team based evaluation where inclusion is an issue. They work with those teams separately rather than really working with every team across the organization in a similar manner. Thus different strategies for different teams based on an inclusion score.
- Working with managers who have these inclusion scores based on an assessment.
People are placed in 4 quadrants based on “high on inclusion” and“low on inclusion”. The focus initiative is around these people and how they bring in more inclusive approach towards working and understanding the group of people who feel the need to be included.
- Include employees in remote locations. There are 17-18 retail branches with employees who are away from 80% of the population. Hence the challenge is to include them. Even if there are policies and processes in place for them, the challenge is based on how they can also contribute and be a part of the larger system.
Impact of Diversity and Inclusion on the business
Yuvaraj shared a case of D&I‘s impact on how revenue was increased for the hotel contracting team at Makymytrip. There is a team which has a mix of employees from FMCG as well as hospitality, therefore the hospitality employees give their perspective on what works in the hotels and FMCG employees give their insight on how to negotiate. Therefore, based on this model, the contracting team has notched up their numbers in terms of hotel contracting to higher than 25-30%. Their overall earnings have to be shared in terms of earnings through alliances such as contracts with the hotels and also convince hotels to put their ads on their site. This has had a positive impact on earnings just because right mix of people had been brought to complement it.
In order to monitor the progress of Diversity, there is a D&I council at Makymytrip, which consists of 25 people. It is a self-made and self-driven group which is not monitored by anyone. This group works on certain agenda, gives it to the right people and executes it. Right from planning to execution, everything is done by this group and they work on awareness, through calendared programs around D&I. Every group has a self-nominated leader and Yuvaraj sees the presentation of these groups on a periodicity of every quarter. He only tries to look at enabling them to do things rather than really monitoring them and driving them to do certain things because the efforts are voluntary in nature. It is not something that can be driven in metrics. So if they have decided or worked out a plan to increase gender diversity in a particular function, HR only sees and checks who are the stakeholders who need to deliver this and really facilitate that interaction and links it with their deliverables which leads to a monitoring mechanism. It is a self-driven group and it is not presented as HR.
D&I – The future of Indian Organizations
Two years ago, D&I started seeping into the minds of people through its beneficial outcomes. An example of breaking stereotypes shared by Yuvaraj was when PepsiCo hired female Management trainees in sales to challenge the taboo around women doing sales jobs. This batch of female trainees surpassed performance of all the men and overall productivity of the regions where they were deployed was excellent. It gave Yuvaraj and his team a good pilot study to create traction around diversity within PepsiCo. Therefore, people realized that they can also be a part of sales workforce and it started working in favor of HR as people started realizing the benefits of it.
It also brings in a lot of discipline at the workplace, changes in the mindset and more vibrancy at the workplace. It is becoming more or less critical and people understand that one really cannot have a workforce which is devoid of 50% of the population of the country. Number of women who are working women nowadays is more than what it used to be 10 to 15 years back. Thus the overall contribution of women in the workforce of the country has increased considerably.
Today’s workforce believes in transparency and in being vocal about upward level feedback. It is easy to lose a good employee if he or she is not comfortable with their management and the organization does not take any steps in improving that. There have been cases where people have been good to their team members and those teams have done well however there are also cases where people have been extremely good to their teams, but the teams have not been productive because they are very relaxed in terms of their work and delivery. Management has to be efficient in all aspects in terms of mentoring, guiding, process layout, carrying people along, setting agenda for people, walking the talk and being inclusive and also ensuring that they handle diverse workforce in a manner that is productive for the organization. Thus, training managers on diversity and inclusion areas definitely has its positive impact on the retention of the company.
Yuvaraj throws light on the millennial workforce and thinks they are born in a context that is relevant. It is important for the managers who handle them to be in the same context rather than being out of the context especially considering the context of time. People say that millennials have different aspirations and they need to be handled differently but he feels that there is nothing negative about that. He feels that people who are now in their 40s need to evolve rather than evolving the Millennials. Being the wiser ones, they need to understand and calibrate themselves. The Millennials move at a faster pace and are spoilt for choices in case they have to look for job changes without the need to really fend for themselves. They are moving away from the theoretical aspects and deliver based on practical knowledge. Thus there is a need to really take care of their aspiration. They do not like to be micro managed as it hampers their focus and they are more open to feedback because they are not insecure.
They want to learn practically and are responsible enough to understand their priorities and commitments.
The Future Work Environment
Yuvaraj sees a trend with a positive impact on reduced cost structure wherein office infrastructure costs will go down. People will prefer working from home and be able to assist with multiple assignments at a time. Flexibility will increase in terms of less time spent in travelling which will positively impact the ecology as well and render work life balance.
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo! Introduced a concept to working in offices where only 20-30% worked at the official location and the remaining had work flexibility. According to Yuvaraj, if we design those flexibilities, for example if we have 1000 workstations in the office with 2000 employees, infrastructure cost will be 50% of the total cost. There are certain policies such as leave, attendance, learning calendar will eventually be redundant. Thus, by 2030, organizations or the workplace will not be very policy driven. It will be people driven and there will be voluntary contributions towards work, which will define the workplace and the delivery of business. People have started moving to project entrepreneurial models rather than full time employment.
Viewing this from the leadership perspective their ideology would need to be progressive and solution oriented. Leaders will need to listen to employees better and managers will have to have a better understanding of people’s behaviors. Every manager will thus be a human resource manager, but we only say human resource manager to an extent of driving the processes.
Yuvaraj has seen a significant change in the work environment in the Indian Armed forces as well. From a time when the workforce had to be very obedient and diligent in front of the officers to the present when the work relationship is much more relaxed with the jawans playing musical instruments at the yearly function of the regiment and enjoying with their commanding officers. If we apply the same concept in the corporate world, 15 years from now, employees will be demanding and will not believe in hierarchy and positions. People would not be excited with the designations, people would be more excited by the role and the work that they do. Retention will be a challenge if the workforce does not get the right simulation from the job. Therefore, employers need to be flexible in terms of working with the future workforce as they will have ample opportunities to choose from.