The Tactician: Gomathi Krishnamurthi, HR Director, Malaysia & Singapore, Sodexo
A while back, we introduced four main archetypes that characterise HR leaders and professionals in their working life. Since then, we've heard from HR leaders who fit the various types, whether in preferences or capabilities, approach or aspirations.
Today we introduce Gomathi Krishnamurthi, HR Director for Malaysia & Singapore at food services and facilities management multinational Sodexo. Because Sodexo's business revolves so much around people – the company employs nearly half a million people worldwide – Gomathi initially thought she was more of a Counsellor, a people expert. But her real inclination is towards the strategic aspect, and here's why.
It's about making the business strategy make sense at a people level
“My career journey started in strategy work, corporate planning in the financial industry. And I loved what I did. But I always had a question: how does corporate strategy and corporate planning work actually create impact, without really looking at people and how we drive change in the workforce? So I made the switch to HR and the people function. And there's so much we can do to align and translate the business strategy so that employees understand what we want to do, so much we can do to bring them with us. That's what really attracts me to the job."
"I see myself as the strategic partner to the business, and I've always loved that part of my role.”
Someone's got to turn the concept into execution
“The ability to look at the big picture and break it down into smaller pieces is very important. We have limited resources and can't do everything in a single day or even in a year. It's a journey: breaking massive concepts down into bite sized actionable projects, initiatives, and processes so that you achieve the end goal. I just love that part of my job!”
Developing HR strategy is fun!
“First of all, you must stop and ask yourself: why are we running these HR processes? What is the goal that we are trying to achieve? What value are we adding to the business and employees? And that is such a fun topic, discussing where the business stands and what challenges we are facing today, drawing up key strategic pillars to help the business achieve its goals and at the same time, growing our employees and ensuring the journey is a positive experience for them.”
The hardest part is stopping to consider the future
“We tend to take a very current, short-term view of strategy, because we are fighting fires on the ground. We are looking at current challenges and current scenarios. But more often than not we have to look at the future. How do we as HR make sure that our organisation and workforce is future-ready? It's a very tough question. We have to run, but we also have to sit back and look at all the scenarios we are facing today – in our workplace, in the industry, in the economy – and ask ourselves what we need to do to get our workforce ready for the future. Is it new skills? Is it our organisational structure? Do we have the main business pillars to be able to drive this? It's a tough conversation.”
Her greatest achievement is in getting buy-in
“I've joined multiple organisations over the course of my career and a lot of initiatives that I encountered were run from a process point of view. So my greatest achievement has been to get the buy-in to create change. Every change I've implemented has been a very, very close collaboration with all the stakeholders affected, because I can only build something if everyone involved has the same business understanding. Change management is a collective effort by everybody, and so HR has to be able to influence the business leaders to come on board to drive the change. I think I've done that successfully.”
And her recommendations for making yourself better at getting that buy-in:
“First, you have to unlearn and learn. Regardless of what role we are in, regardless of what seniority we are, every situation and scenario is different, and every person is very different. Second, you need to spend a lot of time with the business leaders and understand where the business is going. Ask the business leaders to include you in their business forums as an observer – that's where you get a lot of knowledge and understanding. As an observer, you will see the challenges in running the business, and you can avoid becoming a roadblock.
And third, have an open mindset. Having an outside-in perspective is very important. When you start building the business knowledge and understanding the leaders, you will be able to close the gap between what you and they are doing.”
What's your HR personality type? Drop us a note if you'd like to tell us more.