Of commitment and self-fulfilment, the Harman way

Harman staffers at a CSR event

Harman staffers at a CSR event

Vinita Shrivastava, Senior Director at Harman India, on how to ensure loyalty while helping employees reach personal goals

The fundamental concept of employment is undergoing a radical shift. Just one generation ago, it was common for people to work at the same place for their entire career. Employees valued stability and job security more than individual fulfilment, while employers valued loyalty and consistency. Today, high economic growth and rapid changes in the business environment favour efficiency, speed and performance. Employees, meanwhile, are exhorted to chase their dreams and look for personal satisfaction in their careers even as alternative avenues are opening up.

BusinessLine on Campus asked Ms Vinita Shrivastava, Senior Director, HR and Global Mobility, at Harman India, which designs and makes audio and infotainment products for automotive, professional and consumer markets, what this means for corporates and how they can strike a balance between employee loyalty and self-fulfilment.

Excerpts from the interview:

What is Harman India's approach to hiring, training and employee loyalty in this time of high attrition?

A decade or two ago, employees were expected to remain loyal and demonstrate unwavering allegiance to the organisation throughout their career, in return for a regular and predictable compensation with benefits, and a respectable work environment. This was a pretty much one-sided, traditional concept. The millennial generation, however, is a different lot. Brought up as they have been amid stiff competition for their time and attention, they ask why they need to remain loyal to one employer.

Given the drastic changes in the global business environment, people value personal development more than job security. They would rather freelance as individual contributors than represent one organisation for many years. All this means that, when an organisation recruits a candidate, it can no longer take it for granted that the individual will spend two or three decades with the company. This has huge implications for all aspects of human resources, from the time spent training and grooming individuals, to planning talent programmes in an era of double-digit attrition. Fundamentally, it also necessitates a rethink of the concept of loyalty.

An individual, in his or her lifetime, could move on from an organisation, but continue to contribute in the form of talent and business referrals, public testimonials, ideas and new opportunities. It makes sense, therefore, to assume that every individual in the organisation – whether their period of employment is six months or 16 years – can potentially have a business impact over three decades. Thus, organisations now need to focus their efforts on creating a positive, fair and loyal working environment rather than just expecting this behaviour from employees.

Please outline the steps an organisation can take to inspire loyalty?

An effective way in which organisations can inspire workplace loyalty is by promoting career planning for employees and creating an atmosphere that encourages their skill development and enhancement. Offering learning and development programmes to strengthen existing competencies or acquire new skills makes employees feel valued and important to the organisation. Such initiatives help both the organisation and the employees by building loyalty and increasing the latter’s productivity.

Honest references to future employers when they intend to move on, coupled with factual responses to the inevitable resignation letter, create a foundation that will secure the employee’s loyalty in the future as well.

Another way of inspiring loyalty and trust is by “trusting” the employees. Harman India, for instance, has a flexible work environment and facilitates employees to “Work from Home”. This has promoted a healthy work-life balance. Employees feel the organisation trusts them and values their time and they in turn return this by being loyal, not just in their lifetime with Harman, but even after that

How does Harman keep its teams motivated? Does it promote the personal development of individuals by encouraging them to pursue other interests?

Flexible, employee-friendly policies, a great work experience at all stages of the employee life-cycle, career planning, performance-based growth and timely recognition are all signifiers of an employer’s loyalty to its talent. We actively encourage employees to pursue their passion. For instance, we organise guitar classes for our employees after office hours. Many of them have become accomplished guitar players today!

Can you describe other employee-empowering initiatives that Harman actively promotes?

One example of this is the personal efforts of the Group-Manager at Learning and Development, Harman India, who is responsible for delivery of technical training globally through various interventions.

He has been working on empowering the youth in Jammu and Kashmir, building relations among various external groups to reduce misconception about the youth there, as well as encouraging entrepreneurship among the young people. He formed an NGO, called Aseem, which uses local resources and entrepreneurial skills, to jointly seek progressive solutions to problems of unemployment. ‘Apple-Walnut Biscuits’ is a good example of such efforts. These biscuits are now being sold across India and have earned praise from the Indian Army, Jammu & Kashmir Police and also from youngsters in the region.

Aseem also offers educational scholarships with hostel facilities in Pune for students from Leh-Ladakh. Harman supports many of these initiatives monetarily and many employees participate in these initiatives by e-mentoring. Hence, this is now a company initiative and not just a personal one.

What are the main takeaways for individuals from an organisation? Which are the aspects unique to Harman and its employees in this context?

Empathy towards the employee and opportunities provided to them to spend some time on their passions and interests are positive steps taken by Harman India. Perks and benefits are always great to have, but an open, collaborative, growth-oriented and friendly culture are still the main takeaways for an individual from an organisation. Many employees at Harman have experienced such a positive environment and enjoy such freedoms.

Employees who are loyal and committed are more likely, for example, to make a serious investment of time in achieving a deep understanding of their company’s products, services, culture, and future prospects. They are also more likely to recommend their organisation to others and will complement the company’s activities, even outside formal work settings. It’s time employers invest resources in such initiatives and demonstrate respect for such work and loyalty to their employees.

The article was earlier published in BusinessLine On Campus

Published on April 28, 2016

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