Yeshwinder Patial, HR Head, MG Motor India, is a seasoned HR professional with diverse experience across various facets of human resources and business strategy. He joined the company right from the inception of its activities in India, and since then has been playing a key role in developing people strategies that embrace performance culture and developing a future ready team.
During an interaction with People Matters, Patial talks about the new world of work in the automotive sector, what it takes for organisations to retain and hire talent in the sector's talent war, and how MG Motor India is committed to making a difference beyond cars with its brand pillars of community, diversity, experiences and innovation.
The automaker has successfully integrated 37% women employees into its workforce, including in the factories, and aims to achieve 50% by December 2023.
And as part of this endeavour, MG Motor India, to assist women who have lost/quit their jobs, in 2019 launched ‘Drive Her Back’, a programme that enables experienced and qualified women to return to the workplace with dignity and pride. This returnee-ship programme aims to create a diverse pool of highly talented women whose skills can cater to the needs of MG Motor India. Under it, the company offers women access to coaching to help them regain corporate vigour and strike a favorable work-life balance.
Here are some excerpts from the interview
Automotive sector's new world of work: ‘Hybrid is here to stay’
Things are changing faster than before in the automotive sector with the pandemic. MG is known to disrupt the market and be one step ahead. I won’t say we have adapted more of the hybrid work culture right now, but we’ve gone a step ahead.
We had a flexible working style even before the pandemic hit us but now there is a better focus and clarity in terms of hybrid working.
I stress on hybrid rather than remote as the automotive industry is a manufacturing industry. One can’t build a vehicle at home. Certain activities would require the workforce to come to work, but hybrid definitely would continue.
Managing hybrid teams: The importance of building trust
Hybrid working would become the new normal wherever possible and leading those hybrid teams would be a key challenge for leaders... not much for new generation leaders but leaders from the previous generation because they have been used to meeting their teams in person.
Trust is the most important binding factor in a team. Building a trust in the team would be a key factor in managing hybrid teams successfully.
To build that trust, leaders will have to go an extra mile to ensure that the team members treat each other with respect, trust and fairness while they build their teams. This will take hybrid working culture to the next level.
To advance in the game, we, as leaders, have to come out of the old thought process and will have to be flexible by adapting the flexibility.
'Work has no gender’
At MG, we believe that that work has no gender as such and hence, we can’t say that X work can be done by men and Y by women.
The first step towards gender parity at the workplace is getting out of that mindset. Right at the time of inception, we decided we would not have stereotyping of job roles.
However, there are certain criteria. For example, a production activity requires a person of a certain height to operate a particular machine, irrespective of gender. We can’t put a man there who is less than the height required. Leaders at MG have this clarity and are completely aligned on this. We need not differentiate work in terms of gender.
The automotive industry, being one of the oldest industries, may be lagging behind on gender parity but is picking up fast.
At MG, we started at zero in terms of gender parity but we soon accelerated and currently are at 37% overall gender diversity ratio. It may not be evenly spread across all the levels but is a pyramid.
People at the topmost or senior leadership have better representation, however, we are building up the future pipeline and in the next 5-6 years, we will have more of a balanced gender parity across all levels.
And while most organisations have huge plans on the D&I front, when it comes to practically looking at budgeting exercises, there is no special budget allocated for these initiatives. It may be a part of the overall HR budget and they always have budget constraints for such initiatives while the budget overflows in some other areas.
At MG, we haven’t allocated any numbers to our ‘Drive Her Back’ programme. We go with a completely open mind. All we look for is the required skill set and the right attitude, technical knowledge - as we would need some skills related to the automotive industry, zeal and attitude to be successful in life - we go for it. And there is no budget.
‘Let people join back with dignity’
Several organisations have career relaunch programmes for women today. The key differentiating factor here would be letting the people, irrespective of gender, join back with complete dignity.
A person joining an organisation under relaunch programmes is like a second entry, unlike fresh talent joining an organisation. They fairly know the industry but still need a similar kind of hand holding and a detailed induction programme when they come back.
Ten years ago, taking a career break, even for education, was not normal . There was always a concern on how you will rejoin after that break. Today career breaks are normal, even if just for rejuvenation. It is all welcomed because once they take that break, they charge up their mind. Today it's all about innovation and fresh ideas and once those fresh thoughts come in, that's what will disrupt the market.
There is no denying the fact that most of the organisations have women at the centre of their relaunch programmes because they are the ones normally who have to sacrifice their careers. There are many talented women candidates the corporate sector is losing because of this very reason.
However, these relaunch programmes are going to improve the talent pipeline. We are in the third year of our relaunch programme ‘Drive Her Back’ campaign and have had a good success ratio. Interestingly the majority of women who joined us as a part of the programme were from the non-auto industry.
The first thing we need to do here is, learn, unlearn, and relearn because things are going on changing at a very rapid pace.
At the end of this one-year programme, if we have a suitable position, they join us. We have had approximately 30% of women joining us in these programmes as our employees.
Retaining, hiring talent amid the talent war: The role of culture
The talent war in the last two years has been tough. There is no one tip or mantra to retain people in these times but one thing leaders should focus on to have a competitive advantage is organisational culture. It acts as an important key to attracting or retaining talent.
And how organisations build that culture becomes more important. What is the belief an organisation has, what are its core values, diversity and inclusion (D&I) practices, work style, flexibility, career path and the purpose of the organisation... all these questions need to be answered.
Gone are the days when people would only look at designation and salary while choosing an organisation. The young generation is looking at the purpose of the organisation and if or not it is good for the society and the community. Here, the D&I space is playing a key role.
Reimagining performance management in the post-pandemic world
Managers are not here just to manage the performance of their employees.
At MG, we look at developing our teams so that they can acquire new skills, achieve new heights, and their entire employee experience with the organisation is wonderful.
We have removed the word “performance management” at MG altogether. When you're talking about employee development, it is performance development.
The next step is evolving and moving out from the traditional system where the employee sets the goal, a manager approves it and a biannual review is held. This development system has a two-way continuity, wherein both the employee and the manager are equal partners and work closely to achieve success.
The manager's success also lies in the success of his or her subordinates. It cannot be that a manager has a larger say and the subordinate has less or vice versa. They both have to work in a business partnership kind of role, which works towards development of the employee, and ultimately leads to improved productivity.