Vijay Sethi, CIO and Head CSR, Hero MotoCorp Ltd, on why it is important to retain and groom existing team members.
“People, processes and technology (PPT) are three words that are an integral part of any CIO’s life. While most CIOs focus on successful implementation and adoption of technology, and ensure that processes are efficient and effective, the reality is that the first two are not possible unless the third leg (ie people) is very strong.”
Don’t worry about the ‘legacy’ mindset
“Where people are concerned, there are two distinct areas of focus—retention and grooming of existing talent and acquisition of new talent. While both are very important, if asked to choose, my priority would be on retention and grooming. You can argue that lot of ‘older’ team members have a ‘legacy’ mindset and can’t be groomed, so you need fresh blood. But I don’t believe that we need to ‘discard’ people just because they are not aware of some of the latest technologies. There are ways of making people adapt to new ways of working and to new technologies. It may not be easy in some cases, but it’s not impossible.
“Let me illustrate with our own example. When I joined Hero as CIO in 2007, we had an IT team of 30-35. Some had joined a year or two ago and some had been there for 15 to 20 years. At that time, we were working on some technologies that would be termed as ‘legacy’ today and some might have been ‘legacy’ even then. When a new senior person, especially an HOD, joins and talks of putting in newer technologies and of modernising, there is an obvious tendency for people to feel nervous and for some to leave. But our first focus was on retention and grooming, and building on the strengths that the team had. Today, after eight years, the total attrition of the original team is zero and we have changed the entire technology landscape of the company and have some of the most contemporary technologies being implemented and supported by the same team.
“Back then, we also continued to focus on acquiring new talent and the team has grown to almost 100. There’s a single digit overall attrition rate, with many people who’ve left coming back. We know salary is not the biggest attraction in the manufacturing sector and each individual also looks forward to what he/she is gaining professionally and the opportunities they are getting.”
“While there is a focus on technical and behavioural training to continuously enhance skills, we’ve also tried to find innovative ways to groom talent.
Special projects: This is one way to give the team a chance to learn and experiment. We give them the option to work/experiment on pre-decided projects in an area completely unrelated to their primary area of work. And we keep aside a budget for this experimentation. This gives them a chance to enhance their knowledge and also their presentation skills. From a company’s perspective, some of the innovative things we are doing are the result of these special projects.
HTPL: This is an internal competition among IT team members where they again work on areas not related to their job role but something that goes beyond their KRAs. They compete, shortlisted teams are given a budget to develop their ideas and make them practical, and of course there are ‘prizes’ to be won.
Business simulation games: While the team specialises in technical skills, it is essential for them to also have good business skills. So we have business simulation games, where over two days they learn and compete on various aspects of business, like solving case studies, analysing balance sheets, manufacturing planning, etc. This also gives them an insight on how colleagues in other areas of the business work.
Sessions with advisory organisations: The team has regular sessions with advisory organisations like Gartner, Forrester Research and other IT thought leaders. This gives them a different and, many times, global perspective of things.
Vijay Sethi is CIO and Head Corporate Social Responsibility at Hero MotoCorp Ltd.