Corporations who outperform their competitors can create their own powerful identities. Employee engagement and commitment builds upon the vision, the identity and they become the company’s strongest brand ambassadors. This belief is endorsed by Vedanta, the diversified natural resources company which has Tier 1 assets across geographies, with majority of its operations in India.
While natural resources companies globally have gone through a cycle of downturn, leading to muted hiring in the sector in the recent past, Vedanta continued to attract top leadership global talent during this period.
Navin Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta Limited and Cairn India Limited, dedicates over a third of his time and focus to people management, and with his leadership, the company has acquired an enviable reputation for institutionalizing best-in-class HR practices and leadership development. The company has recently been recognized as “Top Companies to Work for in Asia.” Mr. Agarwal shares with us the pioneering approach of the company towards making Human Resources (HR) a transformative value driver to the business while leveraging technology and digital trends.
Q. Vedanta is positioned as a leading natural resources company globally. What is the role of its people towards the goals of the company?
A. Employee engagement is regarded as a critical aspect to focus on, to achieve business success, and the Vedanta leadership commits its time and mindspace towards this. Of the leadership strengths that Vedanta’s talent contributes, what is most essential is their ability for performance excellence in operations, with finely tuned analytical, benchmarking, planning and exceptional execution skills.
The company’s continuous growth and efficient operations require significant management resources. Our leaders are passionate about the potential of the company and are driving the next phase of growth. Our senior leadership is passionately involved in mentorship programs and processes to identify proficient young leaders.
Accountability in every role is important to develop a culture of responsible stewardship, innovation and sustainability which leads to operational excellence. We have the right mix of homegrown and external leaders from global companies with the right skill sets required for a world-class organization.
Q. The key trends in people management are?
A The latest trends in people management leverage technology, which is now more than just automation, and also about intelligent decision-making and actionable insights from data benchmarking. It is important to assess the long-term value of potential leaders for the organization. We are working with niche analytical firms, funding startups in this area, in order to leverage the technological trends.
Vedanta is present across four continents and hence, our digital footprint is important for brand awareness and hiring global talent. We have introduced a digital cell to lead the digital transformation across our businesses. The Chief Digital Officer will be a part of the Leadership EXCO.
Q. How are you managing the dynamics of a global company? What’s the relevance of diversity in Vedanta?
A. The executive management and senior leadership teams have experience in best-in-class global organizations, with of course global education degrees. Our diversified workforce is our strength. Diversity of ethnicity, thoughts and experiences bring in an expansive skill set, and for Vedanta, which has operations across four continents, it is a business imperative, which is why, we also hire from our host communities.
Our Global Internship Program brings to our business, talent with international experience and an opportunity for interns to be our brand ambassadors.
Vedanta is a great employer brand globally with the top leadership talent competing to join in the growth journey of the organization.
The company is also focused on gender parity, although the natural resources industry is traditionally not known for women in leadership roles. We have a group-wide commitment to appoint women in key leadership roles. Vedanta has arguably, the highest number of women in senior management as benchmarked against our peers and 20% in our leadership team are women. Our support for gender parity has been reiterated by Vedanta becoming a signatory of the ‘CEO Statement of Support’ for the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEP) – ‘Equality Means Business.’
Q. What are the present business imperatives?
A. Vedanta is poised for its next phase of evolution and growth and there is potential for each of our businesses to grow at an average of 50% or more. This roadmap is clearly defined – to drive business efficiencies and growth through Outsourcing, Innovation, Digitization and Technology. Our people are empowered to drive excellence and innovation to create value for our stakeholders. We demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, environment, sustainability and community development.
Q. What are the ways of addressing challenges?
A. Vedanta’s approach to people management has continued to attract top leadership global talent even as the natural resources sector faces challenges that include sourcing the technical talent and retaining them.
We have been able to address these by institutionalized outcome-based scorecards for all employees to ensure that results are aligned and that each wheel in the cog is driving the company in the right direction. An inclusive culture of providing a platform of sharing ideas and valuable insights drives the business forward and also helps us in attracting and retaining the best talent.
We have best-in-class people practices and progressive policies and several innovative employee programs designed for skill and personal development. Our remuneration policy is designed for ensuring a safe working and sustainable environment with a commitment to zero harm and high IT focus to ensure safety and sustainability. Apart from successfully bringing onboard the best global talent, we also continuously hire young bright talent from top universities in India and abroad.
As a result of which, we are today an employer brand that is well-recognized in the global talent markets and we have one of the highest retention levels in the industry.
We have also recently been recognized as the “Top Companies to Work for in Asia.”
Q. Expectations from HR to address the impact of changing patterns in human behavior?
A. The role of HR today is of assimilating transformational changes. Our HR teams consider the impact of changing patterns of human behavior. India has the advantage of a demographic dividend with a large population under 35 years of age. To cater to their aspirations, it is imperative to give ownership of roles and larger responsibilities than their current profiles. Taking these steps develops a sense of commitment and loyalty among our younger leaders.
While mentoring/coaching is being continuously used for talent growth, it is all the more important today, for the youth to have anchors, who can help them understand the direction of the company, provide encouragement and act as a sounding board for ideas.
As a diverse company, communication between teams is encouraged through workshops and regular engagements with the senior management. Continuous learning and encouraging innovation explores the potential of employees. Creating a competitive platform by way of performance differentiation and performancebased rewards and recognition capitalize on the global opportunities offered by technology, big data and analytics in how we recruit, integrate, engage and develop the talent.
Q. What advice would you give to leaders in engaging people?
A. Successful leaders work as entrepreneurs with an ownership mindset, empower their teams and lead by example of sharing knowledge, seeking knowledge, creating an environment of mutual learning and generating ideas without fear of failure. This is the key task of all our leaders.
When I was in school, every student knew who the house captain was, similarly in Vedanta, I am very keen that every employee should have the access to a mentor. Leaders can make or break the culture of a company, and a leader as a mentor is a powerful way of engaging our employees. We have undertaken a massive mentorship journey for over 12,000 employees called V-Connect to ensure our employees can discuss the broader business as well as focus on their individual development through this program.