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“How HR is different across sectors” - Yuvaraj Srivastava
Prajjal Saha | HRKatha | New Delhi | Tuesday, 03 November 2015

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Yuvaraj Srivastava spent more than five years with the Indian army before he moved to the corporate sector. This certainly makes him a differently talented HR professional.

Post his army days, Srivastava dabbled in different sectors starting from an industrial unit (Asian Paints), moving on to hospitality (The Oberoi), then to FMCG (PepsiCo) before joining a new age company (MakeMyTrip). His exposure to HR management in different sectors has contributed to the richness of his experience.

Srivastava, CHRO, MakeMyTrip speaks to HRKatha on how human resources is same yet different in varied sectors. He has coined different terms for each of his experiences. He describes how serving the armed forces has taught him to be a better HR professional. Excerpts!

Has working with the armed forces, made you a better HR professional? What are the learnings from the armed forces that you have implemented while managing people in the corporate sector?

Yes, I do believe that my stint with the army has helped me become a people’s person. I learnt my basics of HR in the armed forces.

In fact, there cannot be a better management education than spending time with the armed forces. It has taught me to appreciate diversity in people and leverage their strengths. The other important thing is that it teaches one to respect people and co-workers.
In the armed services, it’s all about managing resources and the most precious resources there are the soldiers who serve with you.

If I draw a parallel between HR in the Indian army and India Inc., the gap lies between practising and preaching.

In the corporate world, it’s not difficult to find people who do not practise what they preach, and the irony is that such people can easily survive in this world.

In the armed forces, on the other hand, one just can’t afford to do the same. There, one is taught to lead from the front and walk the talk. Just imagine working with people who can sacrifice their lives on your instructions. They trust the decision makers completely and believe in their decisions. This is what human resource management is in the armed forces. An officer's success depends greatly on gaining the trust and camaraderie of his men.

You have worked and managed people in a large Indian company, a MNC and now a new age company. Do you find that the approach to HR in each of these sectors is unique in terms of importance and significance? How?

Yes, I have been fortunate to have experienced HR in various forms in different industries. As a result, I have come to realise that the significance and uniqueness of the HR approach is governed by two factors – the stage of evolution of the organisation and the kind of industry one operates in.

I started my career in a manufacturing setup, and mostly HR in such setups is ‘process centric’. This means, one does not deviate from the processes for fear of setting a new precedent or getting trapped in unnecessary ‘union–management’ issues.

There cannot be a better management education than spending time with the armed forces. It has taught me to appreciate diversity in people and leverage their strengths.

My stint with the hospitality and service industry, taught me about ‘customer-centric HR’. There, the HR process needs to ensure that customers' or guests' interests are not affected by the company’s policies. As a result, one has to ensure that one is hiring the right person and also rewarding the right set of people, who bring delight to the customers.

My FMCG experience exposed me to an entirely different dimension of HR, which can be termed as ‘competition-centric HR’. There, the focus was on practices and performance of market forces. In other words, either proactively or reactively, one has to align the approach and delivery of performance against the market competition.

Now, in a new age company, the HR approach has changed further taking the shape of being ‘people & flexibility centric’. In a new age company, HR is tested for its agility, flexibility and out-of-box thinking. One has to work with millennials and one needs to reward people based on the value and niche skills they bring to the organisation.

Of late, there have been discussions on startups needing an organised HR, given the fact that talent is an integral part of any business success. Do you agree with the notion that one needs to have a specific department or a person to manage people? Isn't people management also part of a start-up environment, where everyone is used to multitasking?

I think, this concept is not only relevant for startups but equally applicable to the evolved organisations.

HR management is everywhere; the only difference is in terms of its applicability and those who drive it in the organisations.

In process-centric HR, one does not deviate from the processes for fear of setting a new precedent or getting trapped in unnecessary ‘union–management’ issues.

The differentiation is also in terms of the context in which organisations operate. In any organisation, there are some pall bearers or custodians of the people's interests and perspectives. In startups, founders and key people wear this hat too besides managing regular business. However, when there is growth and expansion, organisations tend to get experts and seasoned professionals with exposure and experience to create a balance between people and business, and create short-term and long-term strategies pertaining to the people.

Any organisation thrives on three basic KRAs -- business, people and customers. For successful and sustainable existence and delivery, both startups or evolved organisations need to have the right set of managers at the helm of affairs to handle things effectively.

What’s the biggest issue or challenge faced by HR face in the ecommerce sector today?

I think the biggest challenge continues to be the retention and attraction of the best talent. It is also challenging to identify the right set of people for the right job since gestation period for settling in a particular role is shorter.

The workforce is also relatively younger and their hunger for new activities and urge to work on quick-win projects poses a challenge for the managers, who have to think of ways to keep the work regimen exciting and high octane.

How do you think technology and data has changed HR in recent times? Do you think there is absolutely no space for gut feeling in the new scheme of things?

HR, in terms of data savviness and technology adeptness, has evolved to a great extent but it still needs to cover some distance. The challenge comes when HR folks try to implement stuff, which is not closer to reality but more aspirational.

HR, in terms of data savviness and technology adeptness, has evolved to a great extent but it still needs to cover some distance. The challenge comes when HR folks try to implement stuff, which is not closer to reality but more aspirational.

Ability to understand and gauge the level of organisational readiness is important to scale up data-driven decisions and technology-driven automation.

I believe that managerial wisdom and experience cannot be replaced by data and technology. Using technology and data as enablers and complimentary processes is the right way.

Is acquihiring the new trend in talent acquisition? Do you think this is a sustainable model? Will we see more of it in the near future?

Acquihiring is a trend that cannot be followed at a scale. This works well when one is looking at talent in a niche area. Again, it comes back to the organisational appetite to train, develop and prepare people for critical jobs.

Market and speed of business requires one to hire ready people, who can hit the road running, and acquihiring is a unique way of doing it.

Who is the real winner in acquihiring---the promoters of the company being acquired, the company acquiring or the employees of the company being acquired?

Good question and my answer is simple….this is a win–win–win proposition. In the process everyone gains.

At MMT, what unique measures have you adopted to keep the attrition low. What’s the normal growth cycle for an average employee?

At MMT, we focus more on deploying people on exciting projects, arm them with great skills, provide them a superlative work culture and exceptionally good talent to rub shoulders with. Having put these in place and also ensured rapid improvement, retention is natural.

Our internal employee communication processes are very strong, and our people policies are debated, discussed and shared with employees before we roll them out. In today’s fast-paced environment, we believe in providing an empowering work culture. A culture possessing all the ingredients of a fast-paced startup and at the same time equipped with the wisdom and maturity of a seasoned organisation. And I think this is a lethal combination that works for us.

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Tuesday, 03 November 2015

13 comments

  • Comment Link kala Wednesday, 18 November 2015 posted by kala

    Indeed a very thoughtful and experience base info..
    Thank you for sharing with us!

  • Comment Link Kiran More Friday, 06 November 2015 posted by Kiran More

    Very interesting read. And articles helpful for improve our knowledge. Thank Sir

  • Comment Link Saurabh Yewalkar Thursday, 05 November 2015 posted by Saurabh Yewalkar

    enjoyed reading this interview ..very thoughtful and practical insights..

  • Comment Link Hasnain Suber Thursday, 05 November 2015 posted by Hasnain Suber

    Indeed, very good and informative article.

  • Comment Link B S Cheema Thursday, 05 November 2015 posted by B S Cheema

    Yuvi , it was a great read. Thanks for a detailed insight.

  • Comment Link Prem Vas Thursday, 05 November 2015 posted by Prem Vas

    Gr8 read Yuvraj ! Crisp thoughts eloquently conveyed. Nice to read of your experience across industries.

  • Comment Link Prem Vas Thursday, 05 November 2015 posted by Prem Vas

    Crisp thoughts eloquently conveyed ! Nice to read your experience spanning across industries.

  • Comment Link Vinay Sharma Wednesday, 04 November 2015 posted by Vinay Sharma

    Crisp insight into aligning one's HR priorities as per the business needs. Captain brings in diverse HR experience and that too successfully. Good read.

  • Comment Link Vijayraj Manuel Wednesday, 04 November 2015 posted by Vijayraj Manuel

    Thank you, Yuavaraj, Good Insight in knowing the difference in functions with experience in various sector of H.R. KEEP POSTING.

  • Comment Link Rabiya T. S. Sange Wednesday, 04 November 2015 posted by Rabiya T. S. Sange

    An interesting read. Very concise and to the point. I enjoyed reading the article

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