Practitioners Perspectives // December 07,2021

Lessons from an HR Leader on Empowering Employees the Right Way

Featuring: Balaji Venkitaramasubramanian , Human Resources Director, SAARC – Dormakaba

Featuring:

Balaji Venkitaramasubramanian Human Resources Director, SAARC – Dormakaba

What are you most proud of?

I have had wide exposure to all components of the employee life cycle within the organization. From hiring to superannuation, I have been making decisions on behalf of the organization. While I am happy about this, it has also put me in tough spots where I have had to retrench and point out performance inefficiencies.  Of course, these are not things that I am proud of but what I did in these situations which I will always cherish is:

  • Introduced Rehabilitation Programs for the retrenched employees with skills training in place. It helped them get some earning to compensate the loss of monthly paychecks. So, giving back in my own little way to these families was tremendously satisfying.
  • Redesigned an Assessment Centre which had a non-negotiable Pass/Fail component leading to stress and pressure on employees. I took the opportunity to redesign this Assessment Centre into a Development Center with the theme of Discover Yourself which gently allows employees to know where they stand from a skills and competence aspect and what they need to do to improve themselves. The relief on the faces of employees was extremely gratifying.

Which one thing do you wish you’d done differently?

There are many. Every project I undertake on leading transformation, I feel I could have done it differently, or used some other method to bring out the best in employees. It is never ending, but I am happy that I am learning everyday how to better these interventions.

Who are your role models and why?

Do you know that role models are everywhere? Even as I speak to you, I am thinking of picking up a thing or two from you. In fact, just a few days back I was impressed by the generosity of my local food cart vendor who quickly helped me pay my taxi bill when I was stuck without change.

In the workplace there are several peers, bosses and team members who have played a vital role in shaping me to be the person that I am today – all of them are my role models.

But where are we without our mothers? My mother instilled the right set of values in me and of course my wife keeps me grounded always and not to forget my daughter who constantly reinforces the “circle of life”.

What are the key aspects during deal making? Say mergers and acquisitions.

Frankly I have been several times at the wrong end of mergers and in fact faced redundancy at least, thrice. These mergers and acquisitions can be quite hard on people and constraints can be far reaching with a long-term impact. But I would urge organizations to look mainly for Value Alignment when these deals happen, once that happens the rest of it can be figured out on a step-based approach.

How do you keep your employees keen and motivated?

This is simple for me, because I follow a two-pronged approach:

  1. Love thy neighbour
  2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

If you use your employees like an app just for its utility, always waiting for the next version, they would also treat the organisation for its utility now and when a better version arrives, they will ‘ctrl alt del’ you.

On the contrary if you create conditions for empowering them, they will contribute with a rare flavour of ownership which gives a competitive edge.

All major Airlines world over have the same aircrafts, food is also from the same/similar caterers but it’s the people that distinguish the best from the rest. The trick is not so much about going for the best but creating a unique smell of the work place where even the “average” employee delivers extra-ordinary results.

What’s the most important factor you consider when hiring someone?

Yes, this is a crucial decision for me, and I look at the following:

  • Alignment of their personal brand with the organisation’s brand.
  • Genuine team player – the belief that the common goals are more important than individual goals.
  • Focus on how he/she positively impacts the stakeholders and lets the performance do the talking.
  • Doing the right things as opposed to doing things right.

When would you make the decision to let a difficult employee go?

Simple, I don’t decide. I help them decide and support this transition. I firmly believe that being employed in our country is more than just a job. It is an emotive topic considering that jobs and the related outcomes have a social, psychological and economic impact.

As leaders we cannot shy away from this obligation and I regret to note that many leaders just don’t care about this. During a major down-sizing operation when I was part of a very profitable multi-billion-dollar business, I had to stand up for this perspective and I earned the wrath of the management.

The organisation was still profitable but the profitability was not very high. Imagine the huge trust deficit you would end up accumulating even amongst those that stay when good times return! Business is not a sprint but a marathon. I have been fortunate to stick to this perspective and ensure that outplacement was effective in the larger interest of all involved.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

I have read this book called Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values by Fred Kofman, and I would recommend this book to every business leader who wants to make a difference to the business environment he/she operates in. I can’t get enough of this book, and I am reading it again and again and every time I seem to gather valuable insights.

QUOTE IN FOCUS

If you use your employees like an app just for its utility, always waiting for the next version, they would also treat the organisation for its utility now and when a better version arrives, they will ‘ctrl alt del’ you.

QUESTION IN FOCUS

What is your take on the promotions exercise and choosing the right ones to get promoted?

Recognition must be an ongoing exercise. If you keep it as a surprise till the end of the year then there will be ill will among teams. Positive strokes given in public and encouraging good performance all through the year so that everybody knows who the best ones are helps in a smooth recognition exercise. This way the ambience is set for the growth to happen seamlessly and successfully.

Balaji Venkitaramasubramanian Balaji Venkitaramasubramanian

Human Resources Director, SAARC – Dormakaba

Balaji Venkitaramasubramanian has over 3 decades of HR experience spanning the entire spectrum of the employee life cycle across multiple industries and geographies. He has deeply studied emerging trends in competencies for the next generation global workforce and was involved in work force transition in Asia Pacific, North America and Europe.  He is passionate about people, their development and leading them in the right direction. Balaji is an accomplished speaker and visiting faculty. He received the “Contribution to the HR Community” award during the Asia HRD awards at Kuala Lumpur in 2019 for his pioneering work on linking the organisation’s diversity strategy with business strategy to deliver business performance.

Leave a Reply

Translate Insights into your Coaching and Leadership initatives Get Started >>>

×
×

In my career leading and building high-performing teams, I enjoy inspiring & coaching employees to unlock their potential for maximum performance. The team's success is my deepest delight. Global Coaching Lab provides the platform to put this into practice every day and fulfill my passion of making others great.




          How are you bridging your gap between your leadership potential and your life purpose?

          The VUCA* world today demands a different set of skills for leaders to navigate and thrive. It is our belief that a holistic, interconnected and a multi-perspective approach is necessary now, for leaders to discover and develop a broader set of skills, competencies and behaviours needed to navigate a fast-changing environment. When this new approach is aided by expert facilitation, the potential for blended learning, and opportunities for peer coaching; the possibilities for positive change in leaders are multiplied.
          *VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous)

          Leaders are now discovering that their knowledge and skills that enabled them to become leaders, are no longer sufficient to address the complex challenges facing them today and in the future. Leaders need more knowledge, better skills, and more effective behaviours that can transform their leadership for the 21st century.

          You will enter this workshop with your Leadership Challenge clearly defined – this will help you keep your challenge at the centre, while you leverage the various perspectives, to discover possibilities through

          • Physical Perspective
          • Managerial Perspective
          • Psychological Perspective
          • Political Perspective
          • Cultural Perspective
          • Spiritual Perspective

          To connect the dots, you will engage in a meaningful powerful activity that will help you translate your insights into commitment for action.

          Through the medium of dance and music, you will learn to discover and unleash the Archetypes within you – these are the hidden powers and emotions that exist within all of us, that we call upon at will, to achieve more.

          DOWNLOAD BROCHURE

          Amplifying your Voice, Empowering your Identity and Discovering your Purpose

          In today’s VUCA world, the successful and smart enterprises are those that leverage the power of diversity to drive innovation. The least common denominator for diversity and paradoxically its greatest common multiplier is gender diversity. There is so much untapped potential that women professionals possess - organizations that can invest into increasing and empowering their diverse talent, are the ones that are poised to secure their future.

          It is our belief that women hold tremendous potential. We believe that with the right knowledge, skills, and resources any woman can become her best. Our VIP Women engagement is an investment for every woman to attain her true potential.

          DOWNLOAD BROCHURE

          Your leadership is about securing your future by Prioritising, Synthesising, and Sequencing the present.
          Recent events have taught us that,

          • Caring for the planet yields greater results in the longer term
          • Embracing technology accelerates ability to innovate
          • Collaborating with ecosystem maximises chances to thrive
          • People and their Productivity get multiplied in an environment of sustainability and technology within the ecosystem

          Our view of the future of Leadership is STEP:

          • S – Sustainable Leadership
          • T – Technology Leadership
          • E – Ecosystem Leadership
          • P – People Leadership

          STEP is a Leadership Development approach that is holistic, interconnected, and comprehensive, so that leaders can unleash their Unlimited Potential. ‘Future Proof’ your leaders and thereby your organization.
          If you are a leader with an urge to accelerate growth within your organization, then this program is for you. Leaders who have been transformed through their experiences with us, tell us about their joys of discovery, about newer possibilities of thinking, emoting, and acting that is helping them achieve more for themselves, their teams, and their organization.