“We have been reskilling our workforce to be competitive globally”

Since its inception in 1996, Innovate Nepal Group (ING) has been at the forefront of education and technology. The Group has some of the best business and IT colleges in Nepal such as Islington College, Herald College Kathmandu, Informatics College Pokhara and Biratnagar International College in its education network. Similarly, top-tier Nepali IT companies such as Vairav Technologies and Innovate Tech are part of ING. Subita Kapali, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at ING Group attributes efficient people management to the success of the group. In an interview with the HRM, Kapali talked about the importance of people management, the role of HR in the efficient operation of organizations and changes in people management after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, among other topics. Excerpts:

Q: What role people management has played in the success of ING Group?
A: At Innovate Nepal Group, people are the heart of our organization. The success of ING Group is largely due to the excellent people working with us. We believe in passionate people and at ING; passion and discipline are the key ingredients of everything that we do. Our employees believe in the company’s mission and vision and take pride in being able to contribute to the greater purpose of the organization. This belief has been instrumental in the success of the ING group.

People management has helped to improve employee morale and engagement, reduce attrition, optimize performance and enhance communication, foster good relationships throughout teams, and increase organizational effectiveness.

Q: As a group that has its key focus in areas including education and technology, how is ING managing its people to meet its objectives in different sectors?
A: If we look closely at both sectors- education and technology- complement each other. In fact, it forms the basis of the ecosystem that the ING group believes in.

We provide world-class education in the ING group of colleges which in turn produces very talented and capable graduates who can start their professional careers in either education or technology. As ING grew from over 200 to more than 1,500 employees within a short span of time, the scaling up was very challenging. Hiring quality people in large numbers requires a lot of hiring activities and stringent processes.

Recruitment is just the beginning and we need to keep growing our talent and make sure that the skill set required to compete on the world stage is prevalent in the organization. Hence, employees are motivated to work in a more agile manner and a culture of rapid upskilling to build a learning mindset has been inculcated.  We continually train our team members with the resources and ties we have abroad, which ensures that are moving along with the changes that take place globally.

Q: What changes have been there in people management in ING Group since its inception in 1996?
A: The start was visionary as ING was established with a clear purpose to provide world-class education and revolutionize the education system of Nepal. Over the years, the company has evolved a lot and so has the people management. We have digitized and automated many routine and cumbersome processes. We have maintained the best facility, pay, and working environment over the years. Top-grading is in our DNA and we continually reward high performers and manage low-performers so that the productivity of the organization keeps growing.

In addition, we ensure our employees have a good work-life balance and there are numerous events throughout the year that help our employees relax and feel at home. We all are, one big ING family.

Q: How do you observe the changes that have occurred in people management, particularly after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic?
A: As the Covid-19 crisis sent shockwaves, like everyone else we too had to find out ways to work from home and this required strong commitment from both employees and the management. We are able to adapt ourselves as the pandemic unfolded.

Keeping tabs on employees and their family’s well-being remained a challenge as well as an opportunity to reaffirm that organization cared for its employees. We had to sometimes manage oxygen cylinders, ambulances, and ICU beds for employees. Those were difficult and emotional times.

Once we started getting back to normalcy, it was again an effort to make employees present at the office and incorporate the hybrid working style in respective companies. The pandemic led us to a renewed focus on employee experience from different dimensions.

Q: What challenges have emerged in people management in the last three years?
A: The last three years have been very challenging due to the impact of the pandemic. The dynamics in people management have changed. Now many people prefer flexible working hours and remote working and also people have realized that life is precious and uncertain, so people want to enjoy their life, and give more time to their families than prior to the pandemic.

We witnessed the change and challenges in the landscape in terms of talent acquisition, optimization, and retention while providing continued support for the business and guidance for the employees.

Q: How is ING Group responding to these challenges?
A: We believe, ING Group managed Covid-19 days well so our employees trust us and are willing to work with us as they know the company will be standing with them during difficult times and won’t throw them out when it starts to rain.

We have been reskilling our workforce to be competitive globally and our employees are not resistant to change and see any change as an opportunity to improve and thrive. We have also incorporated the hybrid work model for our employees so that they have the flexibility to enjoy their life as well as provide meaningful contributions to their work as well.

Healthy initiatives such as encouraging our employees to plan their diet better with counseling from a certified nutritionist, having an extra day off if they quit smoking, gym subscriptions and adding health benefits to even family members of our employees have been implemented. These kinds of initiatives have been meaningful for our employees and have helped boost employee trust and loyalty as well as attract talent.

Q: There are fears that businesses in the service sector like IT, education, and hospitality are likely to face a shortage of workforce in the coming times as more people are flying abroad. How is the availability of human resources at present?
A: Finding good people is always a challenge as they are few and far between. As I have said earlier that we have an ecosystem where we hire good graduates from our own colleges and are able to attract better candidates because of our facilities, working environment and opportunity for growth.
However, there are certain verticals like cybersecurity, machine learning and others where resources are scarce locally, so we coach and mentor such human resources in-house and make them industry ready.

Q: How is ING Group fulfilling its workforce needs?
A: ING group has one of the highest employee NPS (net promoter score), which means our employees refer their friends and families and also talk highly about our organization so there is a steady flow of talent and we keep increasing their capacity and as mentioned earlier top-grading helps. Performance matters the most. Also, we have stakeholders and hiring partners helping us to fulfill the talent needs.

Q: What specific set of skills ING Group seeks while recruiting employees?
A: We look at the attitude and aptitudes of people. Skills can be taught and learned. Attitude is internal to a candidate and is the result of long-term life experiences and lessons learned from those experiences, so we make sure that we hire the candidates with the right attitude and the next is the aptitude. We can provide all the skills to candidates who have the willingness and the desire to learn and excel. Also, we look at their past performance if they have been delivering results or not.
Normally good performers perform well wherever they go.

Q: How much priority is given to training and development programs to enhance the capacity of the staff of the organization?
A: Capacity enhancements to increase productivity are the essence of a successful HR strategy. We need to be able to do more within the same time period. The world is getting competitive and staying competitive and to survive in the global scenario, we must be able to perform at the highest level. We have institutional ties abroad which help us to increase our standards and our employees benefit from the world-class training and resources that are available to them.
In addition to training, we have platforms where our employees can participate, learn and share their experiences. We do have a lot of events that help to hone the skills our employees have acquired. Training, development and performance management are at the core of all strategies of ING. Hence, the role of HR has fundamentally changed to ultimately optimize business performance.

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