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When it comes to talent, versatility is the name of the game: TVS HR chief

In an exclusive chat with Moneycontrol, R Anandakrishnan, President – HR and IT at TVS Motor Company, talks about the issue of moonlighting, the skills needed in the automobile industry, and innovative talent management practices.

December 19, 2022 / 01:05 PM IST
R Anandakrishnan, President – HR and IT, TVS Motor Company

R Anandakrishnan, President – HR and IT, TVS Motor Company

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The profile of the talent that auto major TVS Motor Company acquires, develops, and retains is very different from what it used to be, says R Anandakrishnan, President – HR and IT, TVS Motor Company. This has led TVS to hire talent from across sectors and not just specific to the auto industry.

Despite the major disruption in the talent market in the past two years, the Indian multinational motorcycle manufacturer has managed to keep its attrition at around 6 percent.

On the hiring front, Anandakrishnan doesn’t see speculation about a downturn affecting recruitment.

Edited excerpts:

How do you view the issue of moonlighting as an HR leader? What is TVS Motor’s stand on this?

Somebody who works for TVS cannot work for any competition whatsoever. And this is governed by the policies and agreements that we have.

How do you see India in terms of talent availability with regard to the skills needed in the automobile industry? How have things changed in the last 4-5 years?

These days it is all about electrical, electronics, software, and so forth. This was not the case in the automobile industry 10 years back, or even before. Our industry was largely mechanically oriented.

Now, the profile of the talent that we acquire, develop, and retain is very different from what we used to in the past, and this applies to any industry. Hence, there are a lot of imports from other sectors. But when it comes to specific fields such as data and analytics, you have a very different set of competing industries. It is not autos at all.

In a nutshell, the automobile industry, typically, now has various job profiles — manufacturing, data analytics, AI, electronics, software, mechanical and of course program management. This is how the composition of talent in the automotive industry has changed.

TVS Motor 1912_001 (1)

Concerning the availability of talent, India has abundant talent, and it is up to us to retain talent here rather than exporting outside the nation.

What are some of the most innovative talent management practices implemented by TVS in light of recent disruptions?

Right from TVS Motor’s inception, there has been a saying that the group believes in “making ordinary people extraordinary”. And the way talent management practices have evolved in TVS as a group is very different from the cliched way of looking at talent management.

At the entry-level, every year we have around 25-30 young talents getting opportunities to pursue higher education, either in the IITs or IIMs or outside India. This is a standard career development workshop that we carry out every year. Despite Covid or the recession or whatever, these people are sponsored every year.

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At the mid-level, TVS has three structured leadership programmes called emerging leaders, leadership plus and advanced leadership. These programmes run for 1-2 years. There is also a special programme where the experienced ones are sponsored for master's or doctoral programmes in international universities.

Besides, our talent marketplace ‘Propel’ allows employees to post and apply for projects creating their own career path. The platform also offers mentorship opportunities. The platform unleashes careers and also enables collaboration within and among functions, and fuels networking and connections among employees.

What kind of progress have you made on internal talent mobility?

We make sure that for any new position that opens up, the hunt starts with internal hiring, and then goes external. We offer two weeks for people to get on board if they are keen to take the job. And if not, then things go outside.

In the last four years, we have built an organisation that has about 200 people in its digital and AI-related roles. Among them, at least 30 were hired internally.

We achieved this through a programme called ‘citizen data scientists’, where people who have functional skills have been trained in digital and AI skills, and they have been subsequently assessed to move to a particular role.

What kind of attrition have you suffered?

We are still in the low single digits — around 5.5-6 percent, which is normal, and we continue to stay there.

The expectations of talent have changed. How do you see this happening in the auto industry currently?

Versatility is the name of the game and bringing in flexibility is exceedingly important. Here, we have done quite a bit of work.

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Previously, we used to swipe at a particular time. But now, we talk about the work to be done rather than the time. In our hybrid work model, TVS had this arrangement for years before Covid. But there were not too many takers because people were wondering how a manufacturing organisation could work in hybrid mode.

However, Covid accelerated the adoption of hybrid working. But unlike the tech industry, it is very hard for us to get people to work from home. Everybody wants to come into the factory or to offices.

Our head of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) keeps on sending messages to the various functions, saying: “Your particular function is only 15 percent working from home. So, why can't you step it up.” That is how there is pressure on the other side.

We also have a work-from-anywhere model, where people in digital are working from Delhi, Mumbai etc, and coming to office once every two weeks.

What kind of progress have you made on diversity and inclusion?

One of the key agendas for us in ‘Reimagining TVS 2030’ is the diversity, which has three aspects: (i) regional and international in terms of ethnicity, (ii) gender, and (iii) people with disabilities (PwD) and we have targets for each.

We have been acquiring in the last few years and expanding outside India as well. Currently, TVS has about 1,000 non-Indian employees across the globe. Though we have a multiplicity of ethnicities through acquisition, we will be starting to work on building the talent up in these places.

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In terms of gender, our target is to have 25 percent of women in the workforce by 2025. It’s a steep target because we have around 16 percent of women in non-sales functions. At the senior management level, we only have 2-3 leaders but we are endeavouring to push our envelope hard there.

For people with disabilities, we started an exercise four years ago to make sure that our workplaces are tuned to receive them, since most of our factories are old.

As of today, we have 1 percent — about 250 PwDs working for us — and we have targeted reaching about 5 percent by 2027.

Do you face any challenges in attracting and retaining women workers in the auto industry?

This is an opportunity I think we have missed utilising. But the profile of talent is also changing; there are lots of women available in the program management, data and analytics space.

Apart from ensuring physical safety and reducing unconscious bias, we made sure the supply side is equal. Wherever we hired from campus, we looked at 50 percent of women candidates. And in the last four years, we have averaged between 33-40 percent.

Are you worried about a downturn impacting TVS in terms of hiring and retention of talent?

Concerning new applicants, there has always been an uptick.
For instance, in our recent hiring process at a management college last week, we were looking for 20-35 people for 10 job roles. We had 448 students applying for the same.

We recently published a report that highlighted the increasing number of crush injurie in the auto supply chain. How are you addressing this issue?

When we talk about safety in the workplace, we talk about safety as a whole — not only at the workplace, but outside of it as well.

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Safety is one of the critical aspects and if we talk about even our minor injuries, there are only one or two in a year. The machinery we have is always designed for safety.

Besides, we have regular safety programmes to make sure people follow safe practices.

Abhishek Sahu
Abhishek Sahu covers HR and Careers at Moneycontrol.
first published: Dec 19, 2022 12:31 pm