Investing in talents is vital to sustainable business growth and success

After two tumultuous years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Nepali corporate community is gearing up to adapt to the changes in the new scenario. In particular, people management has gone through big changes bringing both challenges and opportunities for the organizations. Nita Rana is the Assistant General Manager- HR of the Golchha Group. In a conversation with the HRM, Rana shared her observations on the changes in organizational management, HR functions and how the Group is working in people management to face the present-day challenges. Excerpts:

With the Covid-19 pandemic subsiding, what changes in people management have you observed in the corporate world?
The changes are definitely for the better and we are very grateful to be back to our normal routine. As the Covid-19 pandemic is subsiding, I feel the corporate world has become more agile and more responsive to change situations and people management. Our Group’s priority since inception has also been on employee well-being and safety.

The pandemic has forced the corporate world to rethink the way to communicate with employees; the human touch is of most importance while managing people. There has been a positive change in the employees too as they are willing to collaborate with each other, willing to be flexible and adaptable, comply with necessary changes to safety measures and are willing to learn and upskill quickly. Such positive behaviors will enable us, to manage rapid change effectively and be more prepared for the future.

One of the most notable changes has been in the way we work. As companies and employees adjust to new ways of doing work, organizations have realized that they must remain flexible and build a hybrid workplace that fits everyone to the “new normal.” I, personally feel the Covid-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of HR professionals within organizations as never before.

How has Golchha Group responded to these changes?
The changes have been very positive and we are quick to adopt them. We now prefer virtual meetings and seminars which are very effective and easy to organize. The travel time and cost have definitely been minimized. We are also encouraging employees to take e-learning courses. Different virtual training programs are also conducted which has helped us to minimize the training cost and boost the employee productivity as well. We have realized that the wellness, resilience and mental well-being of employees are increasingly paramount going forward.

What are the new challenges in people management for corporate houses like Golchha Group? What are the opportunities in this regard?
The human touch is one of the most important factors in managing people. However, as we get used to virtual meetings and seminars, very soon the corporate houses could lose that personal relation and human touch with their employees.

Also, we are not sure, if, our employees are understanding our viewpoints, as we want them to during virtual meetings. Our understanding could differ, thus, there could be a gap.

There are many challenges while conducting virtual job interviews. A lot of candidates do not have proper internet connections, resulting in a loss of flow during the interviews. This is likely to result in the loss of potential talents and HR officials may choose the wrong candidate for the position.

The opportunities in this regard are humongous.

We discovered that working from home can be positive both for the employees and the company. The benefits of remote working for employees include the freedom to choose. As long as employees are able to finish their work at the same high-quality level and communicate with their core team, as needed, they can pretty much set up work station anywhere with a wi-fi connection. The companies can offer this option to new mothers and employees recovering from accidents. An increase in productivity improved work-life balance, and reduced costs are just some of the ways remote work flexibility can be mutually beneficial.

We have started to promote online payments to ensure e-commerce transactions are safe and build trust among businesses and consumers.

To ensure business continuity, we have established a CRISIS TEAM to act as fast as possible to lessen any negative impact while preparing the organization for future developments that may arise due to pandemics and disasters. This team will be responsible for reviewing crisis and business continuity plans, developing different scenarios and putting them to the test in order to prepare for unknown variables surrounding the pandemic and disasters. The team will act as the go-to personnel throughout the crisis, to ensure consistency across all departments and functions.

During this challenging time, the safety of our employees is of utmost importance. Employees may face different health risks depending on the type of work they do, where they do it and their own health status. For the past several years, our, company has been conducting the employee annual health check-up, which has been very fruitful and motivating for the team. We are committed to carrying on this policy in the future too

As a corporate house that operates businesses in different verticals, the need for the workforce for Golchha Group must be very big. How is Golchha Group fulfilling its workforce needs?
The workforce needs for our Group are huge and continuous. We have structured and systematic hiring processes. There are standard criteria where we set interview questionnaires on the basis of the position required. The criteria include not only qualifications but also additional skills.
We use different job portals, social media as well as personal references. LinkedIn is an obvious choice for recruiting and we are also using Facebook to find desired individuals for the jobs. Likewise, we also use recruitment agencies for headhunting to fill in the key vacancies.
We also actively participate in job fairs conducted by different colleges and companies which help us to create a pool of candidates.
We have started developing our workforce by taking in fresh graduates as Management Trainees and skilled-based trainees to fill in the gaps, as and when required.
Most, importantly, whenever, there is a vacancy in the company, we post an internal vacancy announcement and encourage our employees to apply. This policy has been very effective in motivating and developing employees to grow within the company.

What areas in people management corporate houses here are still lagging? What do they need to do in this regard?
People management in corporate houses is improving in the present times. The role of the HR department is shifting from a traditionally administrative one to a more strategic partner. HR departments are currently involved more in the implementation of HR practices than in the formulation of organizational strategy and the provision of strategic directions.
However, many organizations in the country are still managed in traditional ways. Such organizations have rigid management structures and hierarchies that gate-keep information and communication leading to exacerbate problems among employees and managers the outcome being an unhealthy work environment.
Many corporate houses still combine HR with their administrative branch, where the only HR practices carried out are record keeping and updating salaries. Some big organizations are also stuck at simply implementing basic HR functions that include tasks such as managing daily activities like payroll management, salary disbursement, employee attendance and leave management. They haven’t been able to integrate advanced HR practices into their management system.
Traditional corporate houses lack proper policies and transparency in the company which leads to confusion and favoritism. A proper orientation, induction and on-boarding of new hires are also missing.
Corporate houses are lagging on digital transformation. If a business house is losing work as a result of something their competitors are bringing to the table on the technology front, that is a clear sign that they need to step up their efforts around digital transformation.
I strongly recommend that the corporate houses need to mandatory have proper policy and procedures in the company which is transparent and known by all employees. A proper system of hiring, orientation, induction and on-boarding of new hires should be in place. Training and Development opportunities and Career paths should be visible to all employees.
Effective performance management is essential to businesses. Through both formal and informal processes, it helps them align their employees, resources, and systems to meet their strategic objectives. It works as a dashboard too, providing an early warning of potential problems and allowing managers to know when they must make adjustments to keep a business on track.
Most corporate houses are lacking in proper data management. “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion”, is arguably the best-known quote of Dr. William Edwards Deming, an influential American statistician, and management consultant. It is impossible to improve at managing people if managers do not measure the results of their employee’s work. Thus, it is crucial to first look at key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs are strategic metrics. A KPI is a quantifiable measure used to evaluate how effective a manager, an employee, or a company is in achieving key business objectives.
It’s of utmost importance for corporate houses to have periodic performance management and KPI meeting with their head of departments and supervisors.

What is the availability of human resources in the country at present? As HR head, do you find the right talents for the Golchha Group? What is the availability of competent HR professionals in the banking sector at present?
Unfortunately, there has always been a gap between the avail resources in the country and our Group’s requirements. As I mentioned earlier, we are now using the digital platform a lot to find the right talents and also the HR Agencies are helping us.

What specific set of skills does Golchha Group seek while hiring staffs?  How good and agile you’ve found today’s fresh MBAs to be for the jobs?  
The most important aspect that I look for while hiring staff is ATTITUDE. If the attitude is right, we can train the new staff with the right skills and knowledge. Of course, the required qualification and experience do count.

While identifying a specific set of skills before hiring, I feel that business competence skill is of utmost importance. The candidate should be able to monitor costs and actively take steps to keep them down. Understands the role of their department and the significance of its contribution to Company objectives. Actively seeks to improve the work processes of the department on its own initiative. Candidates should have excellent communication skills, the ability to motivate, a drive to achieve results and skills in coaching and team building. He/she should be strategic, looking at the overall view of an issue and identifying patterns to be improved or areas of opportunity to boost revenue.

Strong analytical skills & critical thinking skills are important too. We, prefer to select those candidates, who understand and analyze a problem or situation and make a decision about what actions to take next. Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Digital literacy skills are also a key competency that we look for while hiring new staffs. Present environment wherein communication is mainly focused virtually, the new staffs are expected to interact with people in digital environments, they must have the ability to clearly express ideas, ask relevant questions, maintain respect, and build trust is just as important as when communicating in person. Practical skills in using technology to access, manage, and create information in an ethical and sustainable way are extremely important.

Innovative & Creativeness skills are valuable workplace skills because they can be a useful tools for developing new ideas, increasing efficiency and devising solutions to complex problems. An employee with innovation skills is usually distinguished due to the visionary thinking in the face of challenges, and the ability to shape his / her or someone else’s ideas with commitment and in a self-acting way. The dynamic marketplace nowadays has caused innovation to be recognized as the mandatory mantra for businesses to become increasingly competitive and provide the best and the latest solutions to the problems of the industry.

We expect MBA graduates to have professional experience, be able to manage a team and always keep the big picture in mind. MBA freshers are energetic, enthusiastic and quick learners. They have great communication skills and a learning attitude.

They think “outside the box” and develop ingenious solutions to common problems. They are very creative, and they always come up with innovative and realistic ideas.

However, we find there is still some gap between the academic courses and real business scenarios. Business School need to rise above the literature and make an attempt to sharpen the practical intelligence of their MBA graduates. Practical intelligence can help them successfully tackle real-world situations and their complexities.

How much priority is given to the learning and development of staff?
Employees are a company’s biggest asset and investing in talents is vital to sustainable business growth and success. Investing in Learning and development helps to retain employees and boosts productivity. An empowered learning and development team improves employee retention. As the business landscape becomes increasingly competitive, improving team performance is imperative within evolving markets.

According to a Gallup study, workgroups that engaged in employee development saw a sales increase and profits double compared to workgroups that didn’t engage at all.

Learning and development at Golchha group are given a top priority. We encourage employees to participate in conferences, seminars, and learning programs that will keep them at the top of their field.

Learning and development are given additional budgets to use throughout the calendar year. The training calendar is set at the beginning of the year after doing training need analysis.

L&D team and department head determine what programs are appropriate for the team while also aligning with the organizational goal and providing business impact. By providing management training, consistent coaching, meaningful conversations, and access to growth opportunities to our employees we ensure that our employees can tap into their full potential and find joy in their accomplishments.

How does Golchha Group ensure that its employees are happy and satisfied?
The happiness and satisfaction of employees are of paramount importance to Golchha Group. Our Vision is to be the most trusted forward-thinking organization in Nepal, defined by honesty, transparency, and high moral standards, our vision says it all.

As a group, we are very transparent with our employees and have an open-door policy, every manager’s door is open to every employee. The purpose is to encourage open communication, feedback and discussion about any matter of importance to an employee.

In the current economic climate, there is more pressure to work harder than ever before. But to prioritize work at the expense of living is very harmful to both employees and companies. Overworked employees may become withdrawn, and tired and are at a greater risk of experiencing burnout. We prioritize work-life balance for our employees and are all set to introduce two days, day -off in a week during lean business months. The objective is to motivate staff to better balance their work & family life, to reduce absenteeism and to reduce the physical stress, employees will be more rested and will be happy to return to work.

We have established a very systematic half-yearly performance management system that helps us to track employees’ performance and tells us whether or not they need extra support, can handle a higher-level position, or deserve a raise Before, the performance appraisal interviews, every quarter, on a monthly bases, we conduct check-ins with every individual employee, which is a one -to -one meeting with their immediate supervisor. These meetings a very fruitful in planning goals and career paths. Showing and planning a career path to an employee will make them motivated, and more engaged in their job and they will have a long-term relationship with the company. This improves not only employee morale but employee profitability as well.

We make sure our employees are happy and satisfied by offering comparative salaries and benefits beyond the basics. We have a policy wherein we offer incentives to our Sales and our Support department employees too. We also offer gym memberships for Managers and above levels, taking care of their health & wellbeing.

Taking a step further, we ensure staff happiness and satisfaction by offering hot, delicious lunches for employees on the office premises, to promote healthy eating habits. It serves as an opportunity for our team to connect and bond over non-work-related conversations. Cultivating these workplace relationships are vital to keeping our employees happy.

In my experience, team happiness spurs productivity and by making our work environment a ‘happy and fun place’, you can take care of our team and encourage them to get more done.

We encourage team bonding and building of team spirit through friendly sports competitions between departments such as inter-department football matches, table tennis, volleyball, chess and badminton along with staff picnics and “Fun Days”, inviting families too.

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