In an exclusive interview with Uday Kiran Poodipeddi, we caught up on his journey and his thoughts on the importance of agile and diverse workforce and investing in capability building models. He also shares his deep insights on the critical role of Artificial Intelligence and how happy employees lead to happy customers.
With your versatile and rich experience across different industries in Human Resource, how eventful has your journey been like? What successes are you most proud of?
My journey so far has been extremely eventful, enriching and revealing. Eventful because I got to work with some amazing leaders and path-breaking institutions; enriching because of the very opportunities they provided me with and revealing because, in my career of 14 years, the leaders that I worked with through their style of working, tutelage and belief in me, were able to bring the best out of me and make me the professional that I am today, something which I was also oblivious to and looked far fetched at one point of time. In hindsight, I also realise that my journey has also been about my passion, focus and result orientation which have been the key components to my success and satisfaction. Success keeps my adrenaline high and satisfaction keeps me grounded. What also keeps me going is that I want to do so much more.
On your second question, it is very difficult to attribute pride to any one of the phases/projects of life, especially when your life has been continuously eventful, enriching and revealing. But if I were to pick one phase that is closest to my heart, then it has to be the achievement of the title of 20th Great Place to Work, India (certification by GPTW), 21st Great Place to Work, Asia (certification by GPTW) and the AON Best Employer for “Employee Experience”, all for one organisation that I was a part of.
Tell us a little about your role and what you’re focused on currently at IKS Health?
IKS Health is the premier partner for ambulatory care organisations nationwide (USA). Our global delivery system coupled with executive healthcare experience brings in an integrated solution set to help organisations perform more effectively for better clinical, financial, and organisational outcomes. In my role at IKS health, I primarily aim at driving fair and people-centric practices resulting in enhanced employee experience thereof. My team and I, while being critical of ourselves at all times are continuously working towards building a sustainable HR centre of excellence inclusive of talent acquisition, employee relations & communications (employee life cycle), capability building and driving a culture of meritocracy through “Pay for Performance and Promote for Potential” model (Talent Mobility and Management). Our ability to constantly critique ourselves and act agilely has only made us employee-friendly and future-ready.
An agile, motivated and diverse workforce is the key to achieve strategic goals. How important is workforce diversity for any organisation in order to build strategic capabilities and drive performance and growth?
Diversity has always been perceived to be an HR agenda, but in reality, it is not. It is, in fact, a business strategy whose needle is driven by HR. Leadership teams have to first embrace and accept that they cannot build a winning organisation without diversity. This is indeed the first hard stop but not impossible to achieve. It all begins with a belief of every individual being capable and having the potential to do the undoable. Secondly, the leadership needs to decide on “Why diversity is required rather than focussing on “How or What” needs to be done. And that is where HR leadership and the team will play a pivotal role in putting some real logic and hard numbers on the table. Once the “Why” part is clear, the “How” becomes a lot easier. Since people from diverse backgrounds will always be up for new experiences, it becomes all the more important for organisations to create challenging opportunities and assignments to stimulate their creativity and innovation. Eventually, in doing so you would have created an agile, motivated and diverse workforce which would go all out to achieve the strategic goals.
The adoption of automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) is accelerating dramatically. Therefore, it’s important to maintain that “human touch” through constant communication and persuasion, hence striking the right chord.
With a growing age demographic and shrinking talent availability, today’s healthcare is challenged by talent shortages. How are you attracting the right people? Why is it important to get the right people?
Well, that’s not true for any sector, leave alone healthcare. In my mind, it all depends on how and from where are you seeing it. At IKS health the guiding philosophy has always been to create an “Impact at Scale” in whatever we do. We strive to do that with our ability to see an opportunity in everything we do (Entrepreneurship), the seriousness and the rigour with which we do that (Commitment) and how quickly are we able to do that (Speed in Execution). In doing so, we were always cognizant of the slowdown the growing age demographics and shrinking talent would bring along with it. So, from a very early stage, we started investing in our capability building model. We believe that when capabilities are built, employees will walk the extra mile in getting more like-minded people. This also stems from the fact that people bring/ join people. We call it the Talent Magnet program. In addition to that, we also focus a lot on our candidate/employee experience. Any experience ranging from good to great, the word travels faster. We are ok with not being great all the time, but definitely not ok being anything less than good. We are also exploring supply chain models like Hire, Train, Deploy and the Campus to Corporate, to address the exponential growth we have set for ourselves.
As to your second question, it is extremely imperative to hire the right candidate. At IKS health we insist on hiring the right candidate and not the best candidate. The best candidate will bring in continuity but the right candidate will always bring in loyalty, and that’s what matters.
Speaking of talent availability, what are some of the creative solutions that healthcare HR professionals will require to lower turnover and increase retention at all levels of staff?
I am reminded of a quote from a book called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins in which he talks about great organisations being ferocious and yet humble. Ferocious enough to build a culture devoid of red tape and humble enough to seek feedback and encourage fairness, ownership and innovation. So, in my view, a culture focussing on employees’ Well Being, Performance, Potential, and Rewards, is a determinant of good employee experience. And, good employee experience is a determinant of organisation sustainability. Recognition not confined to certain occasions or timeframes, constantly communicating and articulating the cause to the team, being able to inspire the team through pointed and constructive feedback, encouraging ideation and capability building and creating a medium for wealth creation through LTIPs and Ex Gratia, in my view are some creative solutions that healthcare professionals should focus on. It will not only bring down employee turnover but will also ensure retention.
At IKS Health we insist on hiring the right candidate and not the best candidate. The best candidate will bring in continuity but the right candidate will always bring in loyalty, and that’s what matters.
AI is on the verge of becoming a critical part of the healthcare infrastructure. Do you think advanced technology has the potential to transform both recruitment efficiency and effectiveness for the better? Where do you see the biggest challenge for HR Healthcare Professionals?
There is no denial in the fact that Artificial Intelligence has a critical role to play in the healthcare infrastructure. In my opinion, it has also played a major part in quantifying efficiency in most of the recruitment practices, purely because of the ease with which relevant data can be accessed and the computational power it exudes for faster decision-making. But that said, I am not really sure of the time AI would take to replace the human sensitivity and sensibility that is required since HR professionals are supposed to balance fairness between the employer and the employee by seeking business insights and co-creating practices that will help in getting the right talent. Now, that to me is
a challenge difficult to address, because, at the end of the day, people join people and are comfortable only when they are dealing with people.
Employee engagement and customer experience go hand in hand. How important do you think it is to connect Employee Engagement to Customer Engagement and why?
I remember a quote that says “Your customers will never love your company until the employees love it first”. I am a firm believer in this. If your employees don’t love you, if they don’t seek pride in you, it is very unlikely that the customers would be happy with you. Because the product or the service you are offering is as good as what your
employee is exhibiting right there in front of the customer. Happy employees mean happy customers. Period!
If your employees don’t love you, if they don’t seek pride in you, it is very unlikely that the customers would be happy with you. Because the product or the service you are offering is as good as what your employee is exhibiting right there in front of the customer. Happy employees means happy customers.
How do you personally define leadership? How important is it for you to continuously motivate and empower your team members and offer a great employee experience?
In one of my favourite books “The Leadership Moment” by Michael Useem, the author describes leadership as the act of making a difference. Whether it was about revamping a languishing practice or being able to mobilize all of us to get the job done, when I look back at my leaders (under whom I worked), I am always left with a feeling that they indeed made a huge difference in my life.
What I try to follow diligently with my team and employees of the organisation, is to ensure that I speak to them freely, because it helps me to find focus. Most of the time, I multitask and try to effectively manage my time by understanding the criticality and timeliness of deliverables. I regularly track and review multiple things on my plate to make sure that my team doesn’t lose sight of something important to something urgent. I am a sportsman myself, and my mentor also once told me that a true sportsman is a shining leader in the making. He said this because it had taught him three things: The first, a higher pain threshold. “You have to be able to perform despite discomfort. Second is recovery time. “You might have a really, really bad day. The next day, can you jump back?” The final, what do you play for? “If you only play to win, you are going to have a fairly short career.” And that has stayed with me ever since.
Lastly, leadership is all about having a shared vision. If you don’t articulate it well to them, then it is unlikely that they will walk that extra mile.
Quick Facts About Uday Kiran Hometown: Bhubaneswar, Odisha Things He Values Most: Fairness, humility, being respectful, loyalty and compassion towards animals Passionate Pursuits: Movies and spending time with his dogs Greatest Influence Growing Up: Family, friends, and colleagues Sports He Follows: Cricket and tennis Favourite Books: The leadership Moment, First Break All the Rules, Good to Great, any fiction