In a decade when talent is the most sought after resource, HR is central to a company’s growth. And with pressures on the HR department increasing, it is also going through a series of changes to deal with the new reality, the adoption of assembly line techniques being one of them.
A key component in the move towards automation and standardisation has been the adoption of technology. The rapidly scaling Bharti has already implemented an end-to-end automated solution which has resulted in standardisation of the recruitment process as well as helped in building a central repository of talent for the business. They are trying to use technology to the hilt to streamline recruitment process.
Also in this transition, the HR folks are working to leverage the learning from one business into other group companies as well. Of course, the change has not happened overnight, nor has it been smooth sailing like any other change management exercise, but companies are learning from mistakes and making suitable changes.
In 2003 when ICICI announced a voluntary retirement scheme, it had not factored in the kind of impact that almost 1500 people leaving the company would have. At that time they failed the business. After agreeing that they had made a mistake, they also questioned why we weren’t borrowing learning and processes from production management as what is needed to do wasn’t different from how procurement managers plan their materials supply. There were others in the team too who had a background in production and manufacturing, and this came in handy when it came to actually implementing the changes they had envisioned.
At Wipro too, people were pulled out from different parts of the company, who had some sort of production background, into their recruiting team to make the process more streamlined. It is easy to define a set of processes, but changing the mindset is where the bigger challenge lies. They have people who are supply chain practitioners who bring in much needed expertise in quality, vendor management, sourcing, cost optimisation and process enhancement.
However, not everyone wants to restructure their processes just yet. While the recruitment process itself has evolved to embrace a whole lot of new functions, it continues to be run in the same way as before, with each company doing its own hiring.
Recruitment has grown from being a part of HR to being the activity, but apart from people intensive businesses like BPOs and retail, hiring patterns and process remain fairly stable and unlikely to change for the rest of the group. The 115,000 people-strong group plans to add close to 30,000 people over the next few years.
The realisation has hit companies that talent is not a problem in India. The raw material is there but turning it into finished goods is the challenge. So initiative is being undertaken by leading companies to fill the gap. They receive more than five million applications in a year but the quality of applicants is a turnoff. So rather than hiring for skills, the company identified basic characteristics which the candidate was required to have. Beyond that, it would take responsibility of training him as per its requirements.
ICICI has set up The Institute of Finance, Banking and Insurance with NIIT, which on an average churns out 5,000 candidates for ICICI, and an additional 3,000 people for the rest of the industry. The bank also set up the ICICI Manipal Academy for Banking in collaboration with Manipal Education, which would provide another 1,000 employees to the bank. For the more niche functions like wealth management and debt management and recovery, the bank has set up, and is in the process of adding, its own Academies of Excellence.
Not only does this make sure that the candidates hit the ground running from day one at work, it also means a huge saving for ICICI in terms of the salary it would have paid to them if they were on its rolls while still undergoing training. Similarly, for its retail business, Bharti has set up the Bharti Academy of Retail which provides short training courses for the retail business.
They then hire people who have been certified by the academy, which is like an internal talent factory for us, who are already trained in the retail business. As a result, companies are shaving a large part of the employee training and salary cost off their balance sheets by bringing in trained talent and controlling the quality of talent coming into the system. Wipro has set up a Talent Quality Group to ensure that procedural compliance, quality of recruits and other parameters are met throughout the hiring process.
The advantage is that having switched to JIT hiring, the quality of the candidates has also improved. Earlier they hired simply to fill positions in a rush; that is not the case anymore. In the coming days, Bhatia of Aspire India says, it’s going to be a matter of time before the human resources model completely starts resembling a manufacturing model. And the thought leaders may well be from India.