“Our people policies are designed to create a future-ready workforce”

Since its inception in the early 1990s, Dabur Nepal has been one of the major healthcare FMCG companies in Nepal. Anil Puri, HR Head at Dabur Nepal, attributes the success of the company to efficient people management. In a conversation with the HRM, he talks about people management practices in Dabur Nepal, the changes and challenges in managing people post-pandemic and the ways Dabur Nepal has responded to these changes, among other topics. Excerpts:  

How has people management played role in the success of Dabur Nepal?
Dabur Nepal is one of the leading FMCG companies in Nepal and a global leader in Ayurveda. Dabur is synonymous to Ayurveda; through the intersection of this traditional wisdom with modern scientific knowledge and research, Dabur has been able to build brands and business with products to meet the dynamic needs of our customers over the past 30 years in Nepal through our dedicated and committed group of people.

People are our most important asset. We add value through result-driven training while encouraging and rewarding excellence. Dabur Nepal is committed to providing a safe and motivating workplace for each of our employees. Across all our operations, Dabur seeks employees to follow the Dabur Culture of Trustworthiness, Innovation, and Creativity. And as an organization, we are committed to offering a workplace that enables and empowers our employees to showcase their talents and achieve career aspirations, be rewarded for their performance, and be given the best development opportunities. Being a progressive organization, we firmly believe in the strength of our most vital asset – our people our pride.

To maintain our competitive edge in a highly dynamic industry, Dabur recognizes the importance of having a workforce that is consumer-focused, performance-driven, and future-capable. In keeping with this, a number of policies and initiatives have been drawn up to ensure a healthy balance between business needs and individual aspirations.

What changes have been there in people management in Dabur Nepal over these years?  
When Dabur Nepal was established, Human Resource Department was referred to as the “personnel” department which mainly focused on administrative works like keeping records of employees, managing, attendance, wage, and benefits, complying with rules, laws, and regulations, and other employee-related benefits. Over the years, we have been able to transform the importance of the HR department in the way it operates. Today, the HR department not only focuses on personnel management and administrative tasks but is a strategic partner to the business that ensures linkages of people management and development practices to long-term business goals and outcomes. Our HR Department today focuses more on managing talent, bonding with employees, managing employee engagement, and strengthening the culture while most of the administrative-related work is done through HRMS technologies.

At Dabur, the role of HR is fast changing from compliance officer to employee advocate, demonstrating concern and interest in the long-term well-being of the company’s employees.

We at Dabur do not agree with the ‘One Size Fits All’ approach when it comes to people management. And we believe in giving accelerated and customized career opportunities for our top talent and leadership team across the globe to stay competitive in the industry. Our People Policies are designed to create a future-ready workforce while empowering them and enriching their experience at Dabur Nepal.

What challenges have emerged in the FMCG sector in people management, particularly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic?
Changes are inevitable, and organizations need to be future-ready for any changes and challenges that come along. The last two years of the pandemic have only reinforced the fact that we are living in an ambiguous world and we as an organization, need to quickly adapt to the changes in the operating environment around us. In these unprecedented times, economies are facing one crisis after another. We had not yet recovered from the aftermath of the pandemic, and a consequential crisis of high inflation hitting us.

Another big change is the adoption of digital technology and overall digital transformation in most organizations in Nepal. In order to successfully mitigate these challenges, organizations will need to tweak their style of working in order to be more nimble, agile, and responsive.

How is Dabur Nepal responding to these challenges?
We, at Dabur by all means, are prepared to overcome the challenges posed by external dependency. At Dabur, the role of HR has become critical during the time of pandemic and even more after the pandemic. HR has become more broad-based. HR function which was seen largely as a support function has become more integrated into the organization. The HR function will continue to retain the same level of significance if not more. So, in alignment with the business interest and top management, HR in Dabur is very mindful of driving positive interventions when it comes to People Management in the post-pandemic world.

As the employees are the core aspect of any organization, our major focus is aligned with the well-being of our employees. Hence, all the activities that we do encompass the betterment of our employees. Some of these will be – creating an organization of empathy and trust, fostering better work-life balance, providing flexible working hours and work-from-home (WFH) options, greater enablement through digital interventions like Laptop, tablets, internet connection, multiskilling and upskilling for agility and nimble footedness, creating a culture of rewards and recognitions and lastly, the most important being introducing several interventions to safeguard employees health and well-being both in the physical and mental realm.

We at Dabur firmly believe that our learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic have forged us into a more responsive, resilient, and responsible organization. Our integrated thinking approach coupled with consumer-centric innovations has helped us stand the test of the most challenging times and preserve our 30-year-old legacy. As we navigate through extremely dynamic times of ambiguous external environments and an agile business approach, one of the key strategic pillars of business growth Dabur has identified is Internal Talent Capability which includes Upskilling Talent to enhance performance in current roles as well as enabling people to deliver in new operating models.

How is Dabur Nepal fulfilling its workforce needs?
Attracting, enabling, and retaining talent have been the cornerstone of our Human Resource function and the results underscore the important role that human capital plays in our business growth. The organizational culture at Dabur nurtures leadership through establishing personal excellence, succeeding through people and driving sustainable growth. Our talent acquisition strategy is to get candidates with the right competencies required by the business at the right time, involving a judicious mix of developing and promoting internal talent, lateral hires, and trainees.

Up-skilling, re-skilling and multi-skilling of skilled workforce, retaining its employees through reward and recognition, attractive compensations, and benefits to attract talent, driving innovation and creativity, and fostering the culture of learning and growth has been the prime focus for us in the recent years.

How is Dabur Nepal collaborating with business schools and other educational institutions to hire fresh graduates?
Dabur is collaborating with various b-schools in Nepal for the last few years to provide opportunities for young, vibrant, and aspiring students.

Dabur Campus Bridge – a platform to reach out to students across premium b-schools, engineering and other colleges. Our young campus recruits not only contribute to our current business but are also groomed for future leadership roles in the organization through a structured career path, focused training, and pre-defined interventions.

Our campus suite is full of programs catering to a different set of students, we have our flagship programs for post-graduates which include the Young Manager Development Program (YMDP) and Young Sales Leadership Program (YSLP) for Internships we have the Dabur Campus Star Internship program. For undergraduates, we have Graduate Engineering Trainees (GET) which is for our factory. One of our recent collaborations was with the Ace Institute of Management and the Kathmandu University School of Management (KUSOM) for the YMDP program.

Also, through Dabur Campus Bridge, a program where selective senior leadership members are encouraged to go to b-school for knowledge sessions in designated premier b-school campuses. It helps to deepen our Employer Branding Proposition and touch base with bright young talent in Nepal. Further, various other initiatives under Dabur Campus Bridge are planned and many are underway.

How much priority is given to training and development programs to enhance the capacity of the staffs of the organization?
We are recognized for our ability to attract and generate talent. We have been investing all resources necessary to train and develop our professionals, empowering them to be at their best and enabling them to innovate. As an employer, we believe in nurturing their skills and investing in their leadership potential. We have in place a variety of measures to engage our employees and ensure career progression, helping them move from their current level to a higher level. These include giving our employees multiple exposures, job rotations and even special projects. This, coupled with special custom-tailored training programs, ensures that there is a continuous learning process for the employee.

At Dabur, we believe in promoting the development and growth of employees already working with the organization. That’s why the company is committed to training and internal promotion as mechanisms that build potential and creativity. Our Career Development Centre (CDC) has been specifically instituted for providing career development and advancement opportunities for our employees. The CDC helps us identify and reward talent and allows us to look internally for filling key positions, rather than just laterally. The process runs with complete transparency and feedback sessions are organized for both successful and unsuccessful candidates.

We consider investment in training to be a key element in encouraging the growth and development of our employees. At every stage of an employee’s career, we promote and organize regular training sessions, and also give them exposure to development programs overseas. We use “The Performance-Potential Grid” assessment tool that assesses an employee’s current and potential contribution to the organization. The Grid is constructed with a horizontal axis showing the performance (3 years Avg. Annual appraisal ratings) and the vertical axis showing Potential (Measured on specified parameters – Mental agility, Result agility, Change agility, People agility and Self Awareness). The correlation between the two determines the employee’s current standing and where development may be needed. Last year we conducted Peoples Day at Dabur where senior leaders openly discussed each individual performance and potential which helped us to access our current pool of talent and where we need to focus to be future-ready.

Our L&D talent strategy is driven by business & our success is attributed to the people who run it to ensure high performance and employee development as core focus areas. We have created a learning culture in the organization where every employee is motivated to acquire new learnings and self-analyze their strengths better. The structure we have created is to bridge gaps in the journey to an individual’s true potential. We believe in a 70:20:10 (70 percent on-the-job training, 20 percent exposure and 10 percent education and continuous learning) learning model and align our policies, processes and programs accordingly.
Besides our focus on our existing talent, we also focus our energies on creating a pipeline with talents for the future. We have close relationships with educational institutes and universities. This year, we have taken it a step further. Dabur has started a unique program to connect with students at eminent b-schools and introduce some of our youth-focused brands at the campuses. This is a part of Dabur’s strategy to become future-ready and is the first of several new initiatives that we are planning with b-school students.

How does Dabur Nepal ensure that its employees are happy and satisfied?
Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment and it’s an outcome of the state of mind. The pandemic has shifted the world of work, hitting the fast-forward button on several workplace trends. It’s now more important than ever for companies to keep their employees happy and productive.

At Dabur, we believe that everybody’s voice matters, and we work to make sure that everyone is heard, regardless of their position. We follow an open communication policy with our employees and use various interactive forums to reach out to our workforce in an open and transparent manner. We organize Town Hall meetings and an internal communication channel to regularly reach out to our employees. Last year, we launched the Dabur Chautari, an HR initiative to bring our employees closer. It’s a platform where we connect with a group of employees in smaller batches to understand their personal and professional well-being and to increase the touch base with individuals and imbibe a feeling of “We Care” by speaking to individuals on any issues pertaining to their personal & professional life.

We also launched Dabur EAP. This initiative was to reiterate the holistic well-being of our employees during an unprecedented time. Our tie-up with the 1to1 Help included aspects of mental well-being, psychological well-being and emotional well-being.

Employee surveys and other feedback systems have also been deployed as key management tools at Dabur. These surveys also help us identify areas of improvement, especially with regard to processes and structures. We have an open-door policy at Dabur, under which any employee can walk up to the HR department at any time with any query and grievance, and all efforts are made to address the same in a time-bound manner. We believe that a vibrant company culture that supports and nurtures employees is so important that it is the key to our success and a unique and sustainable competitive advantage. We aim to build a good employee experience throughout the individual’s journey within Dabur.

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