In continuation of what has been a truly insightful and galvanizing series, Peergrowth welcomed Mr. Nithin Shelley, the Group CHRO of BMA International to share his story, the lessons he learned the hard way, and his views on how to align talent and the needs of organizations in the ever-changing world of business.
The topic of Talent Management has always been a divisive topic for most organizations. However, the last 2 years have truly catapulted this topic into the professional limelight. As we approach the final few months of what has been an exciting year, to say the least for Peergrowth, Mr. Nithin’s vast experience in managing people, organizational dynamics, and human capital strategy, certainly made this discussion invigorating for us.
The Career Journey:
Prior to being the HR leader, he is today; Nithin started his career within the operations department of GE Healthcare for nearly 4 years before he decided to give the world of HR a shot. After successfully applying to an internal opening within the firm, Nithin had a choice to either switch to the HR function or expand his horizons within the business operations side of things.
Interestingly, Nithin is a 3rd generation HR individual as his father and grandfather both had chosen similar career paths. To face this dilemma, he had found himself in, he sought the advice of his father, who had simply given him his unfiltered thoughts directing him away from the path of moving to HR. Despite his father’s advice, Nithin decided to make the move to be a part of the Human ‘Capital’ team.
Following this commitment, a long and industrious career with Genpact began wherein Nithin experienced the good and bad in multiple geographies, spanning from China to Romania to the Philippines and all the way to the USA. This vast and deep experience he has had with talent and the overall human function, made him a perfect individual to shed light on the topic of aligning talent with business.
The Essence of Talent Alignment:
Nithin started by admitting that in the current state in which the function is designed, there is a significant gap in the alignment of business needs and the employees of the HR function. Nithin states: “When you find yourself sitting in the back office, designing policies and procedures to make the business better without understanding the essence of the business, the policies come out to be nonsensical. What is more dangerous is that due to this lack of understanding of what the business is, the wrong people are brought in and that is a disaster.”
He further adds: “Let’s take the example of a shop manager, the obvious way to look at the role of a shop manager, is to understand that he/she manages a shop but if one goes and visits the shop on the ground and observes the reality, they will see that a shop manager is in fact the CEO of the shop. You can never come to this conclusion if you are not on the ground and involved in the business and that is the first step”.
It is therefore a non-negotiable factor for a successful organization to have its HR department strongly intertwined in the operations of the business and that is the foundation of an organization that aligns talent effectively.
Nithin further adds that it is his recommendation that we (Peergrowth) as talent partners for senior roles, should visit the client site, experience the environment our candidate is going to work in, and understand their culture, and only then we must begin our search. That is insightful advice and will go a long way in ensuring effective cultural fitment for organizations.
How did the pandemic affect talent alignment?
Nithin feels this is a subjective and highly industry-specific question, from a talent acquisition/retention perspective. He feels that the brick-and-mortar part of fashion retail as an industry did not really change drastically. He states: “Some companies had developed hybrid models and that led to several ups and downs as things were quite unclear at the time, for example, how do we measure productivity? Will there be any data security issues? It was really an unknown adventure that everyone was embarking on due to necessity. Initially, we found that most candidates were expecting a hybrid model however, as time moved on and things settled, the expectation from candidates reversed, as they now wanted to move back to offices and shops”.
Can reshuffling help in alignment?
As the discussion moved forward, Nithin stated: “When a certain individual is hired, and for whatever reason, they are not fitting in well, it is always better to correct the mistake. In the last 7 years, I have come across cases wherein the role was not a fit for the individual and the solution we employed was to move them to a different role within the organization rather than replace them. This allowed us to re-engage with our staff and it meant that the employee felt that he/she was developing and growing in several aspects”.
Mistakes do happen, and that’s ok. However, not correcting that mistake, is a bigger mistake. Humans are highly adaptable if they are willing to be and the key aspect for talent managers is to assess whether an individual can create value for the organization. If there is potential, the environment and situations must be created to derive that value.
Nithin adds: “Hiring someone is like adopting a child, if you want them to ‘Always’ work on your terms, work how you want them to create value, you will lose the person for sure. The organization will have to go above and beyond to ensure they help the new hire fit in and this walk must go on for the first 6 months. I do not see it happening in many companies in this part of the world.”
A big part of the region to this day, sees the role of talent managers (which includes the talent acquisition team), largely in a non-strategic / body shopping / administrative manner. It is a must for an HR leader to address this weakening stereotype.
The importance of being heard:
Nithin feels it is very important for individuals within the field of HR to understand that the function was not always the business function it is today, it was always seen as a support function. Accepting this change toward being a strategic function can be quite difficult.
He states: “Having a seat at ‘THE’ table for yourself is the starting point to this change. You will have to constantly find ways to create value until the administrative image is broken and you have a seat at the table. Once you have that seat, only then can the effort be made to transform the way talent is managed. “
This highlights an overlooked aspect of the talent management topic and that is if senior leadership in organizations does not give talent managers strategic freedom to manage, align and get the best out of the workforce it will be nearly impossible for the employees to be completely integrated into the organization.
This session has given the team at Peergrowth, a deep and insightful understanding of the thought processes, philosophy, and vision of an HR leader. In conclusion, it can be said that aligning talent to business is in the hands of the entire organization. From the handholding required in the first 6 months to the continuous engagement of an employee in their current role, effective talent management does not & cannot work in silos. Nithin strongly believes that the entire organization, working as one, in symphony with HR can keep talent engaged and aligned with strategy, there is simply no other way.