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India: Five HR Transformation Takeaways

During November 2013 The Chapman Consulting Group co-hosted a number of HR Leader Sessions in India with ACS, Citi, DSM, Genpact, Liberty Mutual Group and TE Connectivity. Over 400 HR Leaders joined us in six meetings held in Mumbai, Gurgaon and Bangalore. The topic for discussion was ‘HR Transformation and Change Management’ and the sessions were lively and interactive. With a focus on change, five key takeaways emerged from the conversation, which are briefly outlined below.

Aligning HR to the Business

It was agreed that in order to make change effective, HR and the business must be aligned. One of our hosts, Piyush Mehta, Group CHRO for Genpact commented, “When going through change in an organisation, it has to be jointly owned by HR and the business. We can still learn best practice internally, to be reminded that improvement is always possible.”

HR Can’t do it Alone

Understanding the business and enabling the HR team to deal with change is as important as partnering. Our host, Manjit Singh, HR Head for India at DSM noted, “Without engaging the business and speaking the business language, HR cannot get the buy in needed for change. We are driving a culture, as well as organisational change. At DSM we have invested time in coaching and developing the HR team, as a lot of the change work sits with them, but it must also be sponsored through the business if we want it to stick.”

Changing Behaviour Changes the Organisation

It was noted that behaviour must be modified, in order to change the organisation. Suri R, the HR Head for Shell India shared the journey that Shell has been on. “We have been transitioning to a truly global model since 2009. Having been in the organisation for the last two years, it has been interesting managing and helping with the embedding of the new approach.”

The group recognised that business transformation can only be successful when underpinned by behavioural transformation. Suri explained, “One of the things we did was simplify our core leadership attributes, and that now manifests in every element of our HR strategy. This ranges across performance, reward and promotion, right through to hiring. The key attributes we use today are authenticity, collaboration, performance and growth.”

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Acquisitions = Catalyst for Change

Acquisitions seem to present one of the best catalysts, and therefore opportunities, for change. Arpana Mehra, our host and APAC HR Head with Xerox Services, contributed, “Since the acquisition we have been re-examining the function and the business structure. This is a great chance to hear from others on how they have approached challenges.” Arpana added that in the transition following an acquisition, “It’s important to focus on the customer and the business outcomes — not to think solely about the HR function.”

HR Transformation as a Journey

Everyone at the meetings agreed that HR Transformation is a journey, not a process. Host Arun Kakatkar, APAC HR Head for TE Connectivity shared the transformation that was occurring in his organisation, focussing on the challenges, as well as the opportunities, to be found in Asia. “It is an evolutionary process from being a ‘service provider’ to being a ‘partner in business success.’ As HR Leaders we have to be clear in how we are interacting with the business. HR can be for the business, to the business, with the business or by the business. As we transform our function we need to remember that we move from ‘for the business,’ which is a service provider position to ‘with the business,’ which is a partner position, and ‘by the business,’ which is a strategic thought leader/ coach/ facilitator position.” Arun concluded that with TE Connectivity, “It has never been just about cost cutting or synergy alone. Transformation at TE is about creating a strategic HR function which creates superior value for the business.”

The one inevitable facet of business today is change. From our discussions in India, it is clear that HR Leaders are doing their best to ensure the most positive impact on the business, as a result of these certain changes. Many thanks go to our hosts in India, and we look forward to reconvening in May 2014.

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