In a quick move to extinguish anxieties and uplift the morale of a shocked workforce after the sudden decision that brought down the chairman and some senior executives of the Tata Group, the company recently announced the appointment of S Padmanabhan as the new group CHRO.
A stalwart within the Tata ecosystem, Padmanabhan replaces N S Rajan, who resigned last Friday following the ouster of chairman, Cyrus Mistry. In an organisation that has just witnessed the sudden removal of its leader, there is naturally a sense of chaos and confusion. And the departure of the HR head at the same time can certainly impact the employee morale adversely. Considering that, the appointment of Padmanbhan as the HR head of the Group, which employs over 6,60,000 people, is both critical and wise at this point.
The appointment is sure to bring some relief during these turbulent times at the Group, as it seeks to bring together another set of efficient leadership in place. However, this move also provides a direction set by the Tatas to promote from within the group, especially for top-level functions like HR.
Padmanabhan, who chairs the Tata Business Excellence Group, or TBExG (earlier Tata Quality Management Services), had kick-started the process of taking the group towards overall business excellence from the initial focus on quality. TBExG had set itself a target of enabling at least 25 Tata companies to achieve industry leadership by 2025. Reportedly, Padmanabhan will continue to oversee TBExG as well. He is also the chairman on the board of Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons.
Now it remains to be seen whether Padmanabhan will introduce a whole new concept along with fresh HR policies at the group or expand on the path etched out by Rajan. In his tenure, after he was appointed as the HR head three years ago, Rajan had implemented the 27 weeks’ maternity leave policy, six months’ paid adoption leave and 15 days’ paid paternity leave, in addition to other policies to ensure diversity and inclusion.
Padmanabhan's experience in the field of HR comes mainly from a stint he served at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) as HR director. His career with the Tata Group at senior executive positions began with TCS in 1982, and spans over 33 years. As executive director (operations), Tata Power Company since 2008, he was responsible for the profitable and sustainable operations of all thermal and hydro generation plants across India, and the transmission and distribution systems in Mumbai.
On a global platform, Padmanabhan's portfolio encompasses project management, customer management and diverse global workforce management. He also played a lead role during the TCS IPO. He is a Glaxo Marketing Scholar Medalist and a distinguished alumnus from IIM Bangalore.