Article: Organisations where leadership is not ‘noun’ but ‘verb’ will be most sought after by talent: Volvo Group India CHRO Amit Sharma

Employee Engagement

Organisations where leadership is not ‘noun’ but ‘verb’ will be most sought after by talent: Volvo Group India CHRO Amit Sharma

In the current talent scenario, the three top factors that a company needs in its employer brand include leaving society in better shape for the next generation, that employees be cared for and listened to, and the ability to design one’s own career, says Amit Sharma, chief human resources officer, Volvo Group India.
Organisations where leadership is not ‘noun’ but ‘verb’ will be most sought after by talent: Volvo Group India CHRO Amit Sharma

Efficient and sustainable transport and infrastructure solutions are essential for a prosperous society. Every day and across the globe, vehicles of all kinds, engines, construction equipment, and financial services make modern life possible.

Amit Sharma, chief human resources officer, Volvo Group India says for those who want to make a real difference to society, the transportation and infrastructure business is where one wants to be – now and in the coming years. “With major technological changes ahead, there has never been a more exciting time to work in the transport industry,” he adds.

During an interaction with People Matters, Sharma talks about what sets Volvo apart as an organisation, the role of employee value proposition (EVP) in attraction and retention of talent, and the top factors that a company needs in its employer brand today.

Here are the excerpts from the interview

What do you see as the top-of-mind characteristics of your organisation's EVP? How did these become central?

Every day, we’re working with some of the sharpest and most creative brains in our field to leave our company and society in a better shape for the next generation. We are passionate about what we do, we aim for high performance and thrive on teamwork. We are almost 100,000 colleagues united around the world by a culture of care, empowerment, and inclusiveness, where each one of us can give our very best

At Volvo Group India, what sets us apart are:

  • Inspiring purpose: It’s about building a better tomorrow, being a responsible brand, and caring for society.
  • Innovation: Providing an ecosystem where all ideas matter, employees are partners in co-creation, and they innovate for a safer world.
  • Strong Culture: Our foremost priority being the “Employees”, ensuring that our values bring them all together, and hearing every voice.
  • Growth: A workplace where each individual can drive their future, is empowered to grow and is provided with equal opportunity.
  • Recognition: Offering competitive & fair bouquet of total rewards, ability to choose the benefits as per their personal needs, and being part of one large Volvo family.

Many companies boast of an inspiring purpose, or innovation leadership, or a strong culture with growth opportunities and fair compensation. It is the combination of all five that sets us apart, and why people want to work and do business with us.

Do you think that EVP works better when leveraged as an attraction factor, or as a retention factor?

When an organisation is delivering true to its stated EVP, it works for both – attraction as well as for engagement. Retention is an outcome of various factors; hence I would not create a direct linkage with EVP; but yes, there is a direct correlation with engagement when an organisation is true to it.

For attraction, it’s about making that compelling pitch (through various channels) that creates an impact of being a desired employer and talent starts to aspire to work for it. When this magic is created, then the conversation moves on from designations or compensation or benefits to the pull of what it will be working for that organisation, the sense of pride, internal satisfaction, social status, and overall experience - all this is nothing but the EVP.

When we consider engagement, one of the key aspects that an employee values is trust, and trust comes with transparency, honest communication, and delivery on promises. An EVP is what an organisation is promising to deliver to its employees. To ensure that an employee is engaged, living up to this trust by honestly delivering on the EVP promise is critical for organisations. And even in cases where there is an aberration from the organisation on delivering on EVP expectations, an honest and transparent communication does wonders for engagement.

EVP can be a very powerful North Star for the organisations – something that consistently guides the policies, processes, ways of working, and decisions; and leveraging it is a powerful aspect of employee engagement.

What strategy works to communicate your EVP to talent outside the company? Do you find that different approaches are needed for different demographics?

While communicating the EVP to talent outside – whether they are prospective employees or other external stakeholders, the key aspect is of providing them with a virtual experience of these EVPs, even when they are not employees. It should not be just a plain speak or sharing of the phrases that make the EVP, rather it should be sharing of the live stories and examples where the organisation has lived up to the principles enumerated in the EVP.

And these stories or anecdotes need to lead the audience to the EVP. The channels can be any - print, audio, video, or presentation, but the content therein needs to be storified. Stories touch us deep within and have better recall ability. People may forget the words/phrases of the EVP, but they will always remember the stories you shared and that will bring the association with the EVP.

Communication channels are always about the receiver and not the transmitter. Every receiver has a frequency, and it will catch the communication only when the transmitter is beaming at that frequency!! Same is there with human beings, depending upon the demographics, the communication approach needs to be customised.

When communicating to prospective employees, the communication needs to generate a pull towards the organisation. Existing employees or alumni serve as a key medium towards this; what the media writes about the employment practices and policies also generates that magnetism.

However, if we are communicating to our customers, then it should focus on how our EVP is helping them win and ensure customer success, and how our employee practices are leading to better business outcomes for the customers.

For suppliers, the communication needs to focus on how the EVP is helping them by making it easier to engage with the company.

The larger point is that, yes, there needs to be a different approach basis who the audience is.

There often seems to be a bit of a gap between what prospective hires are looking for and what the HR team is prioritising. What are your thoughts on this?

Generally, agility in the organisational (including HR) processes and ways of working are paralysed by multiple factors.

First is that any process/policy is created in a particular context. As we know, the contexts change quite rapidly but the agility in changing those processes is not that rapid. Hence many aspects, which HR is prioritising generally get dated and hence, are not in sync with the current realities of what the prospective and even existing employees are looking at.

Second is the resistance in the HR team itself to change something they created. It’s what I call a creator’s dilemma – that one gets so attached to what one has created that one continues to defend it even when it has outlived its utility.

Third is how the organisational leadership in general, and HR leadership in particular, think. Are they agile enough for change or not? Are they standardisation-oriented or flexible enough to take into consideration the diversity in the employee requirements?

Fourth is the larger culture of the organisation – is it traditional in its approach, contemporary or futuristic; is it innovation-driven; is it agile; is it process-driven, or principle-driven; …?

Ultimately to be successful, there needs to be a strong alignment between what prospective hires are looking at and what the HR team is prioritising and there is a third dimension of alignment with the business requirements. If an organisation is able to successfully avoid the above four pitfalls, then there will be better congruence between all.

What do you think are the three top factors that a company needs in its employer brand today?

An employer brand is what an organisation professes as its identity to prospective and current employees. Considering the current talent scenario, the three top factors that a company needs in its employer brand are – leaving society in better shape for next generation; employees being cared for and listened to, and ability to design one’s own career.

Talent of today has a clear sense of purpose on what they want to do and associating with socially responsible organisations. Organisations that believe in leaving a world that future generations will be proud to inherit and those who conduct their business responsibly and sustainably shall have a higher pull. The pride of working for such an organisation shall be a key differentiator towards employer branding.

An employer brand that speaks of a culture where the organisational success is attributed to its employees, where the brand exhibits a culture of caring for and listening to, which values inclusion and diversity shall score over others. The concept of Human Resources is passe which implicitly denotes that the employees are resources that are utilised for business!! It’s now People & Culture where there is collaboration, a diverse and inclusive working environment against a backdrop of trust, respect, and open communication.

In current times, people have multiple choices in various aspects of their lives. They decide what they want rather than following some linear beaten path. Hence an employer brand that espouses these values of flexibility in designing one’s own career, supporting, and encouraging to be what the employees want to be - whether it’s learning and development, making new experiences available, or empowering to leverage the length and breadth of opportunity available within the organisation shall be the preferred choices.

In terms of leadership and the kinds of value a company offers to employees, what works best to make the company competitive on the talent attraction front in your sector?

Organisations, where leadership is not a ‘noun’ but a ‘verb’, where the espoused values are what the employees experience, where the primary focus is health and wellbeing of the employees, where there is open two-way communication, shall be the organisations that will be most sought after by the talent.

Aspirational organisations of the future shall be those where leadership is not by hierarchy but by competence in managing the situation, where the leaders in one situation can be followers in another, where careers shall grow not by bands but by building various competencies, where compensation and benefits shall be basis who is adding what value to the organisation and not by seniority or job levels.

From an organisational perspective, successful and sustainable organisations are those which continuously engage themselves in shedding old ideas and mindsets and embracing new ones. This builds innovation and creativity and hence leads to an agile and human-centric employer brand.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Talent Management, Employee Relations, Strategic HR, #HRCommunity, #RedrawingEVP

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