By Andie Burjek
Jul. 3, 2019
As a U.S.-based publication, it’s logical for Workforce to dig deep into human resources issues that confront American companies, but there’s quite literally a whole other world of HR challenges out there. And these global Game Changers are using their expertise to make a difference internationally.
While the program recognizes up-and-coming young talent in people management, 2019 is first year in Game Changer history that the awards are a true 40-under-40 list, partly thanks to the many outstanding international entries. These 10 winners come from six different countries — Bahrain, Canada, France, India, Nigeria and Norway — and each dealt with the unique problems in their company and country in impressive ways.
Employee Angst and Analytics in India
Pritika Padhi made quite the impression in the 2019 Game Changer awards. Padhi, team leader — talent management at L&T Financial Services in Mumbai, India, has had many major HR wins even before assuming her current role in May 2019. She was nominated by her former employer, Reliance Industries Ltd., one of India’s largest private sector organizations, for her accomplishments in the role of lead — talent management.
Before Reliance, Padhi was an HR professional at K12 Techno Services Pvt. Ltd., an organization that runs school chains. She was hired to put new initiatives in place, but knew she needed to address a much more vital problem before any of these initiatives could be successful. That issue was “angst” among school employees. Their grievances weren’t being addressed, causing dissatisfaction.
In a span of 15 days, Padhi said she developed a “branch visit” program that trained the entire HR team to visit more than 50 school branches and meet with employees directly to resolve grievances. “My belief that personal connection is the most effective way of handling grievances was well justified,” Padhi said. “We resolved 441 issues in the first month and witnessed a significant reduction in the number of issues escalated on an ongoing basis.”
In her role at Reliance, Padhi created a recruiting tool that resulted in great success. Finding the right talent for the right job can be difficult, especially when there’s an eligible employee base of more than 5,000 people in the high-potential talent pool. Padhi designed an assessment process that narrowed down the pool to 50 people. “I am proud to say that the process we built has stood the test of time, and is in its third annual cycle,” Padhi said.
She had several passion projects while at Reliance. One project was creating a culture of inclusivity. “Diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice,” she said. “While a lot of organizations focus on metrics that showcase diversity of talent, inclusion is a more fundamental leadership characteristic about the ability to respect different views and opinions.” Some of the work done regarding inclusion at the organization includes unconscious bias training for managers and guidance for managers that can help them identify and change their unintentional excluding behaviors.
Padhi’s passion continues outside of work for big-picture issues that impact people in and out of the workplace. As a counseling psychologist, she strives to promote mental health. This has typically been a taboo topic in India until recently, she said, and insurance companies don’t cover the cost of mental health expenses. Also, most organizations haven’t done anything concrete for mental health. At a time when more organizations in India are realizing the need for mental well-being aid for their employees, Padhi does everything she can to advocate for it as well.
Dharshana Ramachandran, lead — HR management, analytics and technology at IT consulting company TCS also in Mumbai, excels both in and out of the workplace. In 2015, she was selected as one of the top 10 HR icons by India’s National HRD Network. Further, Change.org has recognized her as one of their 30 women change makers in India.
Additionally, she’s passionate about bringing mothers back into the workforce. She recently launched a campaign to create awareness of postpartum depression for new mothers in Maharashtra, India, and leads a Facebook page called “Workplace Needs Moms.”
“Being a well-rounded HR professional along with my passion to create change for society, positively, in any way possible is what will make me a game changer in the workforce management field,” Ramachandran said.
In her current role at TCS, being a “well-rounded HR professional” entails successfully blending digital and human skills like data analytics and storytelling. Having the right data isn’t enough. “While the data-based insights will help, a powerful story designed around the audience along with the right communication strategy can make or break the deal,” she said.
Currently she’s working on analytical tools and frameworks that generate meaningful insights from people data that translate into business performance. As the IT industry has gone though so many technology cycles and changes in the past few decades, the workplace must keep up with these demands to stay relevant. At TCS, Ramachandran uses analytics to build a that superior employee experience with focus on a high-performance culture.
She’s also worked in several areas of HR analytics — descriptive, diagnostic, predictive and prescriptive — for the talent management function to help them with decision-making.
“My work in these areas has led to improvement in the overall employee experience, which has led to career growth as well as increased retention rate of the critical workforce segments,” she said.
Employee Development in Africa
Temitope Azeez, people director at Jumia Services in Ikeja, Nigeria, is recognized as a thought leader in the HR field in the West African nation. In addition to practicing HR, she also coaches and mentors budding HR professionals and speaks at conferences.
One of her passions in HR is employee development, and she’s currently working on several initiatives. Tag-An-Employee is a recognition program that encourages managers to recognize good work done by employees. The JUSME, Jumia Services Mentoring, program is six-months-long mentoring program in five different countries (Egypt, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria) that’s designed to help both the mentor and mentee grow in their roles. And the Jumia Certified Trainer program allows Azeez to create a pool of trainers in each country she manages so they can deliver the right curriculum.
A major HR challenge in her company and country currently is “the unavailability of e-commerce skills,” Azeez said. These important skills include website search engine optimization, data collection and data analytics. As an HR practitioner in her country, it can be easy to be neglected by management or the board, but Azeez is constantly driven to develop herself and improve HR processes. “This has given me a seat at management in all the companies I have worked with regardless of level,” she said.
One noteworthy initiative she’s introduced is the cross-country talent exchange program, which features coaching and job shadowing across borders.
Azeez also has worked to improve the employee happiness score from 56 percent in 2016 to 95 percent in 2018. Employee feedback was key in creating initiatives to contribute to this improvement.
“I would not have done this all alone if it hadn’t been for the employees themselves who report the issues that I turn into projects that bring smiles to their faces,” Azeez said.
Culture Shifts in Bahrain
Organizational culture is the only HR function that creates a difference between a mediocre company and the best company, according to Bilal Ali, head of HR at Sharif Group in Manama, Bahrain. He has adopted a “strict working style” centered around culture ever since he began working in HR.
When assessing his role at a company, Ali observes the prevalent culture and rolls out surveys and questionnaires to employees to get their points of view. Most of the time, Ali said, this reconnaissance reveals a more traditional culture.
“Then, gradually, I start turning the culture more toward progressive models,” he said. Elements of progressive culture models include smartly using learning and development, embracing innovation and caring about employee happiness.
“This is one of the top achievements I’m proud of because I believe that even if I leave for a different opportunity, the organizational culture will stay,” he added.
Just as company culture is a major talking point for American companies, Ali has a similar point of view about organizations in Bahrain. He said there is room for improvement where understanding and shifting cultures are concerned.
Besides culture, data analytics is another of Ali’s people management passions. “We all have lots and lots of data, and all this data is saying something. It needs only an empathic HR ear,” Ali said.
He believes that HR metrics and data analytics have the potential to shake up the entire HR discipline and could be one of the top HR roles in the “upcoming/ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
“I believe that my focus on data analytics and organizational culture makes me a game changer in HR; if not in the world, at least in the Arab world,” he said.
Change Management in France
When two companies merge, there is no shortage of tension. Technip and FMC Technologies merged in January 2017, and Vincent Cavelot stressed the importance of HR playing a role in that big change.
Cavelot, director of talent management at TechnipFMC in Paris, holds the fundamental view that HR can and should be a major player in business transformation. The Emerging Talents program he developed is designed to help the performance management function support the merger.
Further, Cavelot’s involvement with the continuous performance management program is something that excites him, as it touches all 37,000 employees. The program will allow HR to get continuous feedback and transform the employee experience using that performance feedback.
Cavelot also enjoys sharing his HR knowledge and experience. As a guest instructor at The Sorbonne Business School in Paris, he teaches students practical guidance: “The reality of the HR practice,” he said. He also loves opening the minds of students to “the transformative possibilities that a thriving culture and excellent but flexible HR processes can empower.” Further, the advice he gives young HR professionals is to keep an open mind and to “pursue learning every day and always seek a fresh perspective.”
A France-based HR professional, Cavelot maintains a global perspective on HR and chooses teams that are globally diverse. Diversity of any kind helps “overcome the certainty” that any one approach is the only way to get something done.
“I like diverse perspectives, diverse mindsets and cultures and am always recruiting people from all over the world,” he said. “We can’t just stay in the familiar and keep doing the same things.”
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