New Manager

Raymond seeks to be ‘the complete' employer

Gokul Krishnamurthy | Updated on February 26, 2019


K.A. Narayan, President – HR, Raymond Ltd

The engineering-to-apparel group's transformation, initiated four years ago, is rooted in its people practices.

Four-and-a-half years ago, when K.A. Narayan met Gautam Singhania, CMD, Raymond Ltd, he was told that the organisation needed a change.

He was told that there was huge brand equity for Raymond; that the potential was underleveraged. The brief was to deliver change that would trigger off the untapped potential of the people in the company, and that of brand Raymond.

The mandate was comprehensive change without losing the human touch and the values Raymond stood for. Narayan, President – HR, since he received that brief, has turned out to be the complete man so far in delivering on that mandate. But the transformational journey is still on.

“We were keen to ensure that every single people decision made should not cause any pain. The educational process has been in place since the beginning of this transformation, to ensure we don't lose out on the core values,” explains Narayan at the end of another long day, post working hours, at Raymond's sprawling campus in Thane.

All about performance

A lot has changed at the 80-year-old company with over 25,000 employees across different units ranging from engineering to apparel, including around 3,000 in the managerial cadre. And every bit of change is targeted at improving the performance of the company.

So understandably, the performance measurement model has been a priority. The current model was created in-house, starting with KRA-setting, with individual weights for each KRA (key responsibility area). A rating between 1 and 5 helps measure performance, paving the way for improvement. According to Narayan, the performance needle has ‘moved significantly forward'.

The HR President traces the origins of these changes: “We drew up the strategy for growth four years ago; it was born from the fact that the organisation was moving at single-digit growth. Deliberations with the top team started back then. This year we saw 22 per cent top line growth.”

A rejig in the people strategy followed the deliberations; performance measurement is one of the many changes that have ensued. The top teams sat together and articulated a vision from the people standpoint; a road map was agreed upon. Diagnostics followed through large-scale interaction processes.

The 150-member HR team started getting feedback on what Raymond should: (i) start (ii) stop and (iii) continue, on the people front.

“We went to the drawing board; we went to the root of HR practices. For an organisation of this age, it was an inflexion point when we figured how to renew the organisation,” explains Narayan.

The following were identified as focus areas: (i) new processes (ii) inducting fresh talent (iii) changes in the organisational culture and (iv) aggressive performance metrics. Employee engagement levels were then studied through a Hewitt study.

In the last one year, old policies have been redefined, renewed recognition programmes put in place, and compensation linked to performance substantially. Goal-setting and performance reviews are the norm now, in a clear move from the past.

Leadership leads the change

“How do we walk the talk? What are the leadership competencies relevant for Raymond?” These questions led to a definition of the ‘Raymond way of leading'. Seven leadership competencies and five behaviour archetypes were listed.

Leaders were held accountable for their behaviour. A weighted score for behaviours, mapped through a 360-degree process, was put through to the performance appraisal.

Then the team created a leadership pipeline across levels. A list of 200 people was drawn up through assessment centres created for the purpose, and they were put through a leadership development process. From Welingkar's Institute of Management to IIM Bangalore to Michigan University's Ross School of Business, partnerships are in place to train leaders of the future.

For an organisation focused on growth, it was recognised that there needed to be churn across businesses. Internal Job Boards came into existence.

Vikram Mathur, handling business development with an engineering business, now runs the accessories business within apparel. Anupam Agarwal, again from an engineering business, is now managing one of Raymond's apparel brands. Hetal Kotak, who was managing brands in apparel, has moved as COO of ColorPlus. The churn is across levels.

What employees want

The Hewitt study to understand engagement was first carried out in 2011; the second is underway. The 2011 study revealed some key insights. Employees expressed the need for (i) recognition (ii) diversity of thought (the freedom to have a contrary view) and (iii) transparency in policies and processes.

Differentiated rewards for the top performers were introduced, and seem to have worked well for Raymond.

“Now, as a culture, there is linkage of compensation to performance. But it is different in the sense that the average performer gets a certain reward; but a good performer will get almost twice that reward,” explains Narayan.

Individual performance coaching is in place; and a relative ranking, clearly quantified, forces people at the bottom of the performance chart to chart their exit routes.

This has had an impact on attrition, and not all of it is understandably unwelcome. Four years ago, the attrition hovered around 5 to 6 per cent. Today, it is between 12 and 14 per cent. This is not an issue of serious concern, notes Narayan, who estimates 40 to 50 per cent of this to be ‘desirable attrition'.

“At the senior levels, attrition is as low as 6 per cent. And there is a crop of new talent coming in, across levels — a lot of it has come in at the level of General Manager and above. For instance, Rakesh Pandey moved in from Marico (Kaya) where he was CEO, as President — Retail and Corporate Marketing with Raymond; there are senior colleagues in marketing and finance who have moved in with experience in groups such as AV Birla, Reliance and Essar,” he adds.

The trickle down of the management's vision to the last rungs has been kept in mind. A house journal, Raymond Times, now goes out every two months. An open house in each business chaired by the business head is in practice. Even the CMD is part of an open house twice a year. The idea is to have two-way communication, true to the framework arrived at over the last four years.

A nine-box grid for talent evaluation is also in place. Selection and hiring have gone more scientific, with psychometric testing in place. So is a spot appreciation programme, besides rewards and recognition in each business. Employees wanted it; and Raymond is trying to deliver, transparently. The entire HR process has been e-enabled.

Internal surveys show that there is a positive feeling, one of hope, and that the organisation is changing for the better, according to the HR head.

“We are seeing early results. For the first time in a decade, people say they are able to sense the power and impact of this change. There is an amount of energy and momentum that has been unleashed. We've set a never-before growth target for the next four years,” explains Narayan.

Raymond is admittedly not the most aggressive of recruiters on campus. But over the last two years, it has emerged as a preferred employer (day 0, 1 or 2) in premier B-schools such as IIM (Lucknow, Bangalore, Kozhikode, Indore) and MDI.

The intake from B-schools has doubled over the last four years to 25, and from T-schools (technology) to 20. The average employee age has dropped in four years from 40 to 35 years now.

“We are on our way,” surmises Narayan. On their way to being ‘the complete employer', one might add.

Published on May 04, 2012

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