Data is the New Corporate Super Power: Interview with Abraham Joseph, Vice President – Global People Function, Aequs

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Abraham Joseph, Vice President – Global People Function, Aequs said that the goal is to get to a place where competitors are imitating our work culture, not the other way around. Talent management, according to him, is just the vehicle one takes to get there.

What are the steps you take as a leader to embrace innovative disruption?

As an HR professional involved in digital transformation efforts, innovative disruption is easier said than done in traditional brick and mortar industries like manufacturing. The resistance to disruption is far more than the willingness to accept disruption. Maintaining a status quo is what most want.

At Aequs, we have taken some initiatives to embrace innovative disruption and ensure that this disruption is accepted and sustained over a wider spectrum.

  • We encourage new hires to share their observations which help us get fresh perspective on existing practices. They are also motivated to speak about new opportunities that have scope for process improvement.
  • Brainstorming on innovative initiatives helps everyone get on the same page prior to actual execution. We deep dive into the idea with competitor analysis, impact analysis, etc. to make everyone comfortable about the idea of change.
  • Few times, we call in external advisors who can offer an objective picture of our organization’s status compared to the larger market and can provide direction and next steps.
  • We pay close attention to exit trends to make sure that we are not losing talent to upstart competitors.
  • Agility is the key to innovative disruption. We are in the process of fine tuning our operations across functions/operations so that they get more agile and help innovative disruption be, well, less disruptive. For instance, we have embarked upon a journey by bringing Finance, HR and Supply Chain into the fold of Shared Services, moving all transactional activities under one umbrella. In manufacturing we have set up Flexible Manufacturing System to improve our productivity, reduce manpower and bring in greater overall efficiencies.
  • We ensure that our internal stakeholders across all levels in the organization are present at the table of innovation for better strategic planning and setting up of processes for execution.

What are the strategies you employ to upskill your workforce?

Considering the novelty of a niche and aspirational sector like aerospace, there is a scarcity of aerospace centric education and vocational training in engineering colleges. This industry has a zero-error policy and requires a highly skilled and effective workforce that can act as differentiator. We believe that training and upskilling of our workforce is the cornerstone of our success in a competitive and ever challenging space like Aerospace.

To this end, we align training to individual needs by undertaking a detailed competency and Skill Gap analysis of all our employees and tailoring our training around these competency and skill gaps. We have designed specific training interventions around middle management to improve their leadership skills.

We also believe that specific and focused E-Learning course modules are of great help and we have successfully initiated e-learning across the organizations.

We are also instilling a coaching culture by training our managers to see themselves first and foremost as coaches.

How do you win at talent management? 

At Aequs, we believe that talent management is about hiring talented candidates and nurturing them into life-long employees. For doing so, we have built our Talent Management Strategy around these Five Pillars:

  • Articulating Our Organizational Goals

One can’t design a successful talent management strategy without stating one’s company goals first. The goals and objectives facilitate the evaluation of our existing staff as well as enable us to assess new roles. It also helps us understand where we’re headed as a business.

  • Investing in Employees and Focusing on Internal Hires

We strive to fulfill our hiring needs by looking inward first. This not just ensures cost-savings but also helps us win the executive buy-in needed for a successful program. External candidates expect an average 18% to 20% more in salary.

  • Structured Talent Review Process

We undertake a detailed and structured annual talent review process and key talent is nurtured for career progression, laterally and horizontally. All promotions and exceptional compensation corrections are based on our talent review process.

  • Barometer to Measure Success

Positive change is incremental in nature and requires fine tuning based on ongoing assessments. We measure progress with hard data than potentially biased perceptions. Tracking retention levels, as well as turnover, particularly among high-performing employees, provides a useful measuring stick.

  • The right mix of initiatives

Our key pillar is what I call as the ‘Concoction of Initiatives’ (Cocktail). We believe that our talent management strategy should really be exclusively our own. While we do respect and look at benchmarks, we strongly want to use a cocktail of initiatives that would best suit our talent strategy. We don’t shy away from taking inventive initiatives and programs to draw talented recruits and establish a culture of performance and learning.

For instance, we did away with a cumbersome onboarding program for 3 days and moved to a day and half onboarding based on automated whiteboard presentations. At the end of the day, the goal is to get to a place where competitors are imitating our work culture, not the other way around. Talent management is just the vehicle one takes to get there.

Download your copy of Winners Circle to read insights from top HR leaders like Abraham Joseph on talent management lifecycle and upskilling ‘for the win’ now!

What role do you think culture plays in increasing efficiency at work?

Organizational culture and efficiency are closely related. Efficiency is the art of getting the company’s products and/or services to the customer at the lowest possible cost at the earliest with zero defects. It is also a result of motivation, and motivation thrives in a good climate.

At Aequs, to transform this fragile good climate into a long-lasting culture for success, we focus on bringing Organizational Clarity by involving all members of the organization in the goal setting and planning process. Similarly, we also develop Organizational Vitality, a measure of boldness of the organization’s goals and responsiveness to changing conditions. To ensure a high vitality score, we allow our employees to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes to make improvements. We have developed a system that encourages employees to take risks for the betterment of the organization without the threat of punishment and find ways of helping them learn from their mistakes.

What role do you think technology plays in talent management? How can technology bring about a change in the talent management lifecycle?

Less than a decade ago most companies were reluctant to use technology for talent management fearing it would fail to infuse human ‘touch’, or instincts, into process. Not so anymore. Talent management is being redefined by the rapid changes and maturation of emerging technologies. Technology has revolutionized the entire spectrum of talent management. As rightly said: “Data is the new corporate super power” – Technology has enabled organizations in taking smart talent decisions by piecing together every bit of available data.

Today, SaaS based ERP systems are providing capabilities in HR management from onboarding to payroll to workforce management to benefits management. There are software products and online platforms that help recruiters identify right candidates. Online learning and development platforms are enabling us to upgrade the knowledge and skills of our employees.

At Aequs, we focus on “being agile” in all our people processes; which is pivotal in building an organization for future. We have developed a performance management software that assists us in setting and measuring goals in more collaborative and efficient manner. The online application has reduced the drudgery of the employees in filling the goals in spreadsheets and maintaining it. The application is geared with smart algorithms to help the HR team in tracking the status and draw out various reports for management decisions.

We apply advanced data analytics to identify key trends like individual progression, skill gaps, exit trends, etc. With these insights, we are able to understand the overall organizational design, talent retention, and ultimately undertake long term strategic planning of the business.

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