Gaurav Gulati specializes in regional rewards (compensation and benefits) and performance management with over 15 years of extensive APJ and India experience. Gaurav also worked in the IT Industry for some of the leading companies in both Software and Hardware covering over 16 countries within the region.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Gaurav shares interesting insights on talent management strategies, total rewards programs, and workplace of the future.
What role does reward play in a talent management strategy? How do you manage talent in your organization with extraordinary rewards?
Total Rewards is integral to any talent management strategy for an organization. Pay for Performance or any other kind of performance management approach always hinge on Total Rewards and on Compensation (Cash is still King)) within the Asia Pacific region. How an organization recognizes and then compensates or differentiates their rewards between top/critical talent and the others is key to retention and any people strategy that an organization is trying to drive. Even when it comes to attracting the best out there, rewards is one of the integral components apart from culture and leadership. Very few companies have been able to ‘Walk the talk’ when it comes to Talent Management and more importantly Performance Management in my opinion. The vision or the mission statement around Talent Management is usually quite grand but being able to actually drive it and see it be successful on the ground is something most companies have struggled with.
What rewards would look like in the workplace of the future?
The mantra is ‘Do more with less’. With the constant pressures on both the top and bottom line across industries, and organizations focusing more and more on reducing cost, rewards will need to get creative and focus more on 'Return on Investment'. How do I make the most of each and every dollar that I spend? Data analytics is going to play a much more significant role in the future to be able to first identify the areas where we will get 'more bang for our buck’ and then ensuring that programs and solutions are achieving the results that were targeted.
It’s also going to be about flexibility. How we cater our Rewards solutions and offerings to the different demographics and generations who are looking for different things is dependent on their individual and family needs. Finding that balance between driving global policies but also allowing local flexibility that caters to cultural, competitive landscapes which are so very different across the regions and even across countries within the region. Programs/solutions will need to be very different for Japan where there is an aging population for example as compared to Indonesia or Thailand where there is significant growth and much younger workforce with high expectations.
How do you see technology disrupting the reward space in different organizations? Is it helping companies to use it more in a meaningful manner or its creating trouble?
I have seen both extremes in my experience with different companies. Technology when used well can really help an organization achieve their objectives when it comes to effective resource management, data management and more importantly performance management. A number of companies have used technology to their advantage to also be able to communicate rewards and showcase their offerings to their employees through Total Reward Statements, Online Benefits Administration, Leave Management portals, Recognition Platforms, etc. It all comes down to being clear on what you want to achieve with technology and whether the organization is ready for this change and will accept it for it to work. Where companies fail is when the change management around introduction of technology and its acceptance is not given enough importance and is driven purely as a cost-saving measure instead of a tool that will further enhance capabilities/engagement.
Do you think rewards systems need to evolve to cater to the need of work and their workforce?
Yes, they do need to evolve and I see that happening already in pockets. Organizations have already introduced flexibility through flex benefits plans. They have looked at doing away with performance ratings and performance labels and concentrating more on performance conversations. There is a lot more focus on data analytics and even using AI within HR and Rewards to drive solutions and ensure results. So how rewards are delivered and the impact they have within the Employee Value Proposition is changing and evolving constantly. Again, there will always be early movers and others who will get there a little later which is fine but some of the fundamentals of rewards will continue to be the fundamental like Pay for Performance, Differentiation, Total Rewards Philosophy, Leveraging Variable Pay and Equity, etc.
Research shows that many Total Rewards programs do not achieve their objectives, not because they are badly designed, but because they are poorly delivered. Do you agree? If yes, what is the solution?
In my opinion, the failure can in most cases be attributed to 'Communication and Sponsorship'. If the programs are key and strategic for the organization like introducing a global recognition program or altering the Global Variable Pay Plan, then the communication and sponsorship need to start at the top even at the CEO/CHRO level and then get driven very clearly and effectively through the organization. The messaging and objective of the program or the change need to be clear and consistent. Programs fail because the understanding and buy-in of the programs and what they are trying to achieve is not clear to the front line managers or the employees and if this population doesn’t buy-in then the program will not be effective. Not enough effort is put on communications and supporting the program. The communications also need to align with the culture of the organization and drive the change management needed, this is another aspect that gets missed when new programs are delivered or changes made…sometimes keeping it SIMPLE and direct helps rather than trying to market the offering very aggressively.