Keeping with the times

Preethi Madappa (Director, Business HR, Greater Asia Region, Intel Technologies India Pvt. Ltd.) in conversation with Arshiya Ismail shares the approach one needds to become a great place to work

With 17 years of experience in HR, Preethi Madappa has immense contribution in bringing Intel the Great Place to Work®, 2013 trophy.

At Intel, Ms. Madappa is accountable for HR leadership and strategic capability development, workforce planning and execution, strategic employee relations, performance management and building strong and capable HR teams for Greater Asia Region. She joined Intel in 2003. Prior to which, she was an HR executive with Warner Lambert India and Titan Industries. She holds a Masters degree in personnel management and industrial relations from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and also a post-graduate degree in economics from Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics.

Q. In your career, you have seen HR grow. Share with us some of your on-the-job discoveries.
A. My discoveries have not been about HR in particular, but about corporate life as a whole. One of the most critical elements is the importance of network and the investment that we need to make to sustain and nurture it. The other aspect is about developing a broader perspective. This can only come from having interests apart from work.

Q. It has been observed that HR has become more business-oriented than employee-friendly. Do you agree?
A. It is just a matter of perspective. It should not be about one versus the other and should not be perceived and interpreted as such. The role of HR has to be balanced and impartial and we have to be both – employees’ custodians and organisation’s advocates. Our role is to serve the organisation’s best interests.

Q. HR is no more restricted to providing manpower, but has been playing a key role in developing it. Please comment.
A. HR as a function has to be about more than sourcing the right talent. When you consider the womb-to-tomb cycle of an employee, it is the development piece where HR adds the most value. We do it through the learning and development function, which is one way. However, the real understanding of needs, capabilities and potential within an organisation comes from deep trust and authentic partnership between HR and the business managers. This is the key to fostering a spirit of development and enabling managers to take ownership of their employees’ development needs. This builds stronger credibility with the employee and is an area where HR can make a significant difference.

63Q. What does one need to understand while nurturing a talent?
A. While advancement and intrinsic growth are important to each of us, every individual looks at development in a different way.

Nurturing a talent depends on people who are responsible to support and enable development. They should engage in meaningful discussion with the employees and be able to relate different needs with opportunities and create solutions that best suit those needs.

Q. What policies and changes did Intel bring in to effectively set their roots in South Asia?
A. We believe in the potential of an emerging market region like South Asia, and the talent that is available in this region. Today, because of our campus strategy, we are a recognised employer of choice. We focus on building a great place to work culture, which makes us one of the best companies to work for. We foster strong relations with the government, both in education and technology, and are recognised as an employer that focuses on diversity, workplace flexibility and CSR.

Q. Being a multinational company, Intel has an inflow of various cultures. Explain the complexities faced.
A. Intel strongly believes that diversity and inclusiveness of thought lead to innovation and create value. Organisations that are spread across different countries provide an opportunity to the talent to come together in the pursuit of a common goal of excellence.

This has its own challenges, like conflicts. However at Intel, every conflict is constructively handled and our values have a high regard for respect and trust between teams. Some of our best ideas come from teams that are dispersed and multicultural.

Q. How much importance does Intel give to HR?
A. HR is a core organisational function at Intel. We are key partners engaged in the complex strategic decisions of the company, besides providing cost efficient and core infrastructure services and support.

Q. Tell us about a unique approach that Intel has.
A. There are several unique policies, and these all come from our core values. For example, one of our core values is about being a great place to work. We place a tremendous emphasis on driving practices, guidelines and employee networks that enable us to become a great place to work.

Q. Cost-cutting has become important for HR. How do you ensure that the productivity is not hampered while doing it?
A. It is important not to interpret it narrowly and see it as cost-cutting. It has to be seen in the larger context of driving efficiencies for the enterprise. At Intel, the primary objective is not to reduce cost, but use new models, tools and resources to deliver products and services in the most efficient manner. So, that way, managing productivity becomes the primary objective.