The role of HR in making india an economic super power

                                                                                                                                                                                         By Chitra Mukunnan

Abstract: Mr Mukesh Ambani in his article ” A leader for a Global India Inc” has stated that economic prophets have billed India as an emerging global economic superpower. The imperative of turning these prophecies into reality is compelling. A link strong and unbreakable has to be established from the refinement of the past to the excitement of the present and to the potential of the future. There is a need to think of how to meet the demand and project India as a nation , a challenge on how to leverage holistically a global presence. Of course there is a 20 million strong Indian diaspora in key countries across the globe. Every sixth human being is an Indian. Hence, India has a demographic weight. But, India cannot afford to be fooled by the euphoria of small achievements or succumb to minor setbacks, but must prepare to forge ahead.

The Former  President of India, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, identifies India’s human resource base as one of its greatest core competencies in a book titled India 2020: A Vision for the New Millennium .Quoting Sir Winston Churchill  at the HT Leadership Summit – “India : The Next Global Superpower?” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his speech     said  – “empires of the future will be the empires of the mind.” This statement not only recognizes the importance of knowledge possessed by individuals in determining the destinies of nations, it also subtly hints that the intellectual, cultural, social, economic and political empowerment of these individuals is the basis on which the modern world will be constructed.

A strong Indian economy  which is vying to be an economic superpower by the year 2020 means a robust industrial growth, strong pool of foreign capital pooled with RBI, sound infrastructure, better standard of living, better per capita income,  better employment opportunity for all, mature financial markets,100%financial inclusion, better amenities and hygiene facilities. India with a steady growth and the right environment has been and will continue to attract the world business community .  But it is the HR eco-system that will make the wheels of industry turn. Without it, start-ups can’t get started and established companies can’t weather the tough times or make the investments needed to gear up for the boom times.

In this paper I am focusing on  six  of the most important  characteristic necessary to enable India to climb the pinnacle of success – a right hiring process, effective training programs, motivated engaged workforce,    steadily developing  global-class leaders,  efficiently  managing crisis and wholeheartedly undertaking  change initiatives .

No Square Pegs in Round Holes
India’s strength lies in its demographics which will determine everything that a country does. More than 50% of India’s population is under 25. Dr Narendra Jadhav, a principal advisor to the RBI and a former advisor to the executive director at the IMF, says “India has a great potential to become an economic super power because of its growing young population.” A young population coupled with the second largest English -speaking population in the world will give India an advantage over China.  But this young population though dynamic and rearing to go are also a restless lot looking around for newer  opportunities.  Hence , attracting and placing the right people with the right skills in the right position by identifying the essential skills, interest, aptitude, attitude  and behaviors is  the  first step to developing a knowledgeable and committed workforce. The contribution made by the knowledge driven quality professionals with relevant industry-oriented skills  will tip the global scales in the country’s favor and establish it as a “superpower” in the market.

Nourishment  with Vitamins T and D
India to vision itself as a super power, the corporate  must consider recognition and development of human characteristic as a key company asset. Human capital advantage accrues when the enterprises in the economy are able to recruit and retain people with  high potential.  Human process advantage refers to processes such as learning, corporation and innovation, that release and build on the potential of people.  Both are required to achieve sustained competitive advantage through human resources.  A combination of human capital with human processes for the development of the economy depends on the human resource competence of  the country as a whole. Proactive approach of Investment in Growth rather than the reactive approach of Investment for Growth is truly the essence of employee training and development which can bring about
flexibility ,  adaptability and provide  career growth .Economic explanations for training and development focus primarily on the role of the individual and the returns to both individuals and organizations from the investments in training  Since the human resource yield a potentially inimitable source of competitive advantage,  it is imperative to recognize the potential and the necessary processes must provide the impetus to enable the release of that potential.  Training and development are two vitamins for energizing and providing the appropriate repertoire of skills and  knowledge  to  make India “Go, Grow and Glow”.

Mind and Body, Heart and Soul –Un me  Hai Shakthi Anmol
Yes, if employees engage their mind, body, heart and soul then they have a power that  is boundless and  priceless , referred to as the “power of employee engagement” which leaves employee satisfaction far behind in the race for getting the most out of employees.
But, attrition is inevitable and hence has to be tolerated.  Attrition is necessary to inject fresh blood and bring innovative ideas into an organization.  But, alarming attrition is the biggest killer of an economy. Employee engagement is synonym to business performance as it arrests attrition to a large extent.  An engaged employee unlike a satisfied employee will say, stay and strive.

Engaged employees will ‘go the extra mile’ and put in the extra effort for the benefit of the organization, will be committed and more inclined to stay.  Such employees play a huge role in not only bringing profit of the organization, but also improve the economy of the country.  Hence, arresting  the alarming attrition by engaging employees by the organizations in the economy  is one of the major steps to becoming a superpower. The role of HRM in recruiting the right talent, deploying them to the right jobs, retaining them through employee engagement cannot be bypassed.  There are various employee engagement models which can be replicated  to various levels but has to be customized  to the need of the organization. Hewitt Associates have brought out a model which cover the different aspects  of employee engagement

Drivers of Employee Engagement

Chak De India
Shifting from the necessity of engaging employees, it has also become imperative that India should be able to produce Global-class leaders who are able to work and lead across borders.  Since globalization has become multi polar from mono directional, there are many opportunities to be ceased. It is leadership in every walk of life ( e.g. Leaders for  Creative, Healthy, Educated, Innovative  and the   Women of India)  that holds the key to the future . Without leadership all talk of being a global economic leader will be rhetoric.   Six Indian companies namely Hindustan Unilever, Infosys, ICICI Bank, Wipro, Tata Consultancy Services and Thermax made it to the elite list in a survey called Top Company for Leaders2007 conduced by global human resource consultancy Hewitt, the RBL group, a global leadership grooming consultancy and the Fortune Magazine.  Five companies out of  these found a place among the Asian Top companies while four were adjudged to be in the premier list of Global Top companies for Leaders  that  included companies. Says Ajay Soni, Practice Leader, Consulting, Hewitt Associates, “Indian Companies are adopting global leadership practices as they expand on a global basis. They realize that nurturing leadership talent is a key to continuing success.” Besides,” says Soni, “each of these companies have a maniacal focus on high-potential employees.” Business leaders in today’s borderless global marketplace face unprecedented challenges. The emergence of the knowledge economy has demanded that business leaders become global leaders. Successful global leaders are those with strategies for guiding and empowering a diversified workforce operating in different countries, cultures, and time zones so that they can maximize the returns from trading in a worldwide market with distinct local needs. Competitive advantage can be retained if the leader at the helm has the ability to face challenges head-on.  There is a  need to support and build leaders who have the requisite  “leader behavioral competencies”  as leaders in this century will need a completely different set of skills since their role will go well beyond the confines of their geography and beyond the purview of business.   It is not possible to lead an organization without knowing how to work with regional clients and counterparts, lead a diverse multinational team, implement new initiatives, identify distance management issues, integrate different people and organization , adapt change and  constantly think on the feet to keep pace with the differences.  The new age leaders must lead without any cultural bias and prejudice.  They have to understand that there is nothing called the  “absolute culture”.

HR professionals have the onerous task to identify eligible leaders and train them not only to equip them with requisite skills for the present but also to ensure that  there is a smooth transition from one leader to another. In fact a clear cut “succession planning” should be  mapped out, to ensure there is no upheaval in the organization due to the separation of the leader from the organization which can have a devastating effect on not only the organization but also on the country as a whole, however strong the economy is.   Fortunately,  India is wakening to this phenomenon and in the future ugly fights, family feuds, yawning gaps in leadership  etc can be avoided .  With the right kind of leadership, Leaders of the Global India Inc can confidently call out loud and clear “Chak de India”.


When the going gets tough, the tough gets going
Unexpected untoward crisis can make the going tough threatening to harm economy and organizations.  The tough will rise to the occasion and will get going by resorting to effective crisis management which consists of skills and techniques required to assess, understand, and cope with any serious situation, especially from the moment it first occurs to the point that recovery procedures start. The growing liberalization and opening up of the Indian economy is going to differentiate ‘men’ from the ‘boys’.  Those who have necessary qualifications, managerial capabilities, traits and skills would find liberalization full of opportunities for expanison and growth and managing crisis successfully as the biggest challenge.  Disaster management at Reliance Industries is a startling example.  Though after a cyclone on June 9, 1998  wrecked havoc over Kutch, there were no fatal casualities at jamnagar, where Reliance was building the world’s largest petroleum refinery, but the work painstakingly undertaken since 1995 lay in tatters.  There was a big laundry list of damages.  Yet, Reliance was back to pre cyclone stage in just 12 days.  In fiteen days, 60,000 people were back to work.  The refinery was commissioned in June 1999 as scheduled. Here, the Human Resource Management played a huge role in helping the company and the people to bounce back and continue their work with the same vigour.  The Indian economy has many such examples of not succumbing to calamities, but on the other hand people and organizations have  been resilient.  The “Tsunami effect” in Inda vis `a vis the “Katherian effect” in America was a case in point to prove to the world that the people of India have more  ability ,  capacity and will power  to deal with unprecedented adverse situations unlike their counterparts from across the globe.

Teaching the caterpillar to fly

India is at the door step of an historical opportunity and can bring about a change in economy, society and human life. Raghunath Mashelkar, former Director Genenral of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says that there is a constant battle between the mind which is the engine of problem solving and the mindset which is as a set of beliefs and dogmas.  Mindset prevents the mind from taking bold and innovative decisions based on openness to data and facts.  According to him only those minds that win the battle will make progress.  The leaders in India are taking extraordinary initiatives by adapting to changed circumstances and shifting the mindset. The openness is percolating downwards slowly and positively. This will help to accept challenges and solve problems rather than being in a state of denial.  The McKinsey seven ‘S’ framework  developed by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman,  shows central, interconnected factors that influence the organization’s effectiveness, especially its ability to change.  The soft S’s –  Skills, Staff, Style – are determined by the people at work in the organization and are difficult to anticipate or to influence. It has been established beyond any doubt that the past success is no indication of what has to come in future. However, now a days revenue is not the yardstick on which corporate are assessed. It is the shareholder value  . And this change is happening at such a rapid pace that Indian economy will be able to change from a crawling caterpillar to a flying butterfly only if it is able and willing  to change and adapt to the future.

McKinsey Seven ‘S’s framework

The challenge before India  is to use modern science and technology to ride the new wave of industrialization . It  needs to equip and empower people to take advantage of the opportunities that are rapidly arising across the world. Skilled, confident, healthy workforce with dynamic, creative, enterprising firms, robust  institutions which  inspire confidence, equitable, caring and just polity, acceptable social order which instills pride in the citizen will help India achieve its goal of becoming a super power. Indian economy has seen a fairy tale ride since 1991. Post the economic reforms that led to liberalization, globalization and privatization, India has become an attractive business destination for investors the world over. The booming IT, retail and entertainment industries are being lauded by the Western nations. India will soon create the waves and not ride them. India is the place where the entire world wants to be.

Proven Management Models by Sue Harding and Trevor Long
Beyond the Boundaries _ Leading and re-creating the successful enterprise (second edition) by Doug Stace and Dexter Dumphy
The Wealth of Knowledge – Intellectual Capital and the Twenty – first Century Organization by Thomas A Stewart
Managerial Economics – A Game Theoretic Approach by Timothy C G Fisher and Robert G Waschik
Business Today, January 13, 2008
Article – “Full Steam Ahead” by Dr Gita Piramal – “ The Week, December 30, 2007”
Article – “The Time is Ripe for Opportunities – “ The Strategist of Business Standard’ 15th January, 2008
HRM Reality, Putting Competence in Context by Peter J Frost, Walter R Nord, Linda A Krefting

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