It’s Not About Providing Solutions Anymore But About Seeing From The Other Person’s Perspective And Co-creating A Path That Leads Towards A Win-win

Vivek Mukherjee, Head - Human Resources, Benetton India speaks to The Human Factor about his views on millennials and how they are changing organizations.

Q. What has your journey been like as an HR professional?
A. My journey as a HR professional thus far has been very exciting, challenging and rewarding. In the last decade or so it has continuously kept me on my toes as there have been so many disruptive innovations which have challenged the traditional way of working and have demanded us to quickly adopt the new ways of working to remain as effective or rather become even more effective.
To add to that the millennials too have added a lot of new and positive dynamics in the organizational culture which again demanded from HR professionals like me to see our existing people practices from their lenses and bring in that required change to strike that right balance.
It was indeed both very challenging and exciting when we had to not only anticipate these paradigm shifts but also proactively work towards taking them in our stride with much agility and adopt newer ways of working! This however has brought HR to the front seat with rest of the core management functions.

Being the custodians of the organizational culture in such exciting times has been a true litmus test for all HR professionals like me. It has been a tough ride trying to keep the cultural heritage alive while at the same time finding ways to adopt the new outlook which is more progressive and flexible! Speed of decision making amidst this ever changing dynamics and ambiguity has been the key differentiator for me in driving it effectively and successfully.

Q. What were the biggest challenges you faced?
A. The times that we are living in are such that effective change management is what poses the biggest challenge to all. It’s not about providing solutions anymore but about seeing from the other person’s perspective and co-creating a path that leads towards a win-win.
It’s important to recognize and believe in the fact that we all want to do good and get recognized at work be it Gen X or be it the millennials. It’s just that we being from a different generation have a different perspective (on account of diverse exposure) of things and thus we need different strokes of engagement and support to be successful.
In such diverse workforce the challenge that I took head-on was to not only be the custodian of the culture but also be the facilitator of change and to drive this change. Before bringing about changes first I adopted a lot of new ways of working, with a lot of agility. I feel it’s all about embrace before you educate!

Q. What are the challenges HR faces in the new era of the ‘digital age’?
A. Digitalization being the biggest disruptor brings with it the biggest wins for all of us. It brings to us the biggest boon in today’s time in the form of Speed, Scale and Sustainability. Having said that the biggest challenge HR faces in this era is to keep that empathy and human touch alive amidst all this digitization. It’s about leveraging the technology in creating the pull way of people management than the traditional push way of it.
In the pull method one has to create and design people practices in such a way that it engages people and makes them want to associate with it on their own without feeling pressurized.
With the attention span only dwindling this method works the best with the new generation who focus on the low hanging fruits and want quick wins.

Q. Any advice you would like to give on how to manage people/teams as the workforce becomes more diverse, and the ways of working change?
A. The times that we are living in are such that no one wants an advice however all they want is to get some guidance and knowledge sharing. Today everybody does not just wish but is equally capable of bringing in newness. All it requires is a bit of experimenting and risk taking. Trust me this is going to be our biggest asset in times to come.
However having said that I would be happy to share my experience and you may decide whether it’s worth an advice or not!
My experience suggests that at all times we have had this challenge of a diverse workforce be it now or be it two decades back and so was the challenge of managing this diverse generation, but what is unique now is the availability of ocean of information at the click of a button. I think this is the biggest differentiator of all ages and we must acknowledge this and work around the same. This era doesn’t need us to get the facts or practices vetted from our seniors or elders as most of them can get the same vetted from the most authentic sources of information available online. This certainly doesn’t mean that the generation of today demean the experience of their seniors or elders but what it means is that they certainly have lesser dependency on others and are thus more independent. As a matter of fact this independence gives them more speed and also some additional risk taking ability which to my mind gives them an edge over others.
I would like to believe that it’s important for all us to remember this key change in the environment that we live in and design and facilitate our people practices accordingly. We need to demonstrate servant leadership and lead this change.

Q. How effective and how important are rewards and recognitions in strengthening employee engagement and retention?
A. The need for recognition and rewards has been there for many years and it remains the key even in today’s time and in all probability it would be equally important in times to come as well. It has however seen a significant change in terms of the way it has been looked at. In present times instant recognition plays a key role in increasing employee gratification and thus strengthening employee engagement and retention.
Instant recognition can be a bouquet of offering ranging from a pat on the back, to exposure to different markets, to higher responsibility, to providing a platform for up skilling, to leveraging social recognition platforms and much more. The line between formal and informal recognition platforms is now getting dissolved.
What is key to remember in all this is that one size fits all kind offering is not acceptable any more.

Q. How can a company attract the best people?
A. Forward looking companies are able to always attract best talent, this is because talent also these days take a very informed decision when it comes to giving their precious years of life to any organization. It’s important to recognize that we are slowly and gradually moving from the information age to the imagination age where people want to have the flexibility to use their power of imagination to create new designs, concepts, products and much more.

Companies which are able to adopt to this new way of working are the ones who are able to attract best talent. Talent these days looks for organizations which don’t merely focuses on the 9-5 job but rather provide opportunity for them to work in cross cultural, cross functional teams, in projects which helps them acquire new skills and hone existing ones.

Talent now days seeks organizations to be one stop solution for them where they not only feel taken care of at work but also off work. It is therefore important for the companies to have a unique employee value proposition to cater to this need of the new age talent which not only wants to deliver their professional commitments but also wants to deliver their social commitments of giving back to the society.

The Millennials have changed the whole dynamics of the organization and its culture inspiring HR professionals to see the world through their lenses and bring about a change to strike the right balance

Q. What is the secret to hiring the right candidate?
A. The secret of hiring right candidate has been very simple. It’s always about the cultural fit! For me intent comes before ability! My personal experience suggests that people with right intent and adequate talent are more effective than people with best talent but missing intent.

Q. What advice would you give to young candidates if they want to stand out and get noticed during an interview?
A. It always pays off to be oneself! While no one is perfect but at the same time we all have such unique qualities which makes us special in our own way.
So all that I would suggest young candidates is “Be yourself as you all have the potential to add a lot of value to all that we are doing and you all have the potential to bring in so much of newness that can help us make things better. Never hesitate from speaking your mind!” It’s also very important to remember that team work is of utmost importance. The power of the team is far-far supreme than any individual alone.
So let’s collaborate to leverage each other’s strengths and cover up for each other’s shortcomings!!! Together we can do a lot more!!!