In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Jaidip Chatterjee, Head HR at SREI, explains why it’s time to re-design traditional company structures. He also shares his insights on the challenges faced by CEOs & HRs in C-Suite hiring and how can HR department ensure preparedness and stability during the change process.
Looking back at your career to date, you are a seasoned HR professional with nearly 2 decades of rich and diverse global experience. How has your journey been so far? Can you tell us what your favourite aspect of your job is?
The journey so far has been terrific, to say the least, I grew up in a city of Art, Culture & Literature and moved initially to the temple city of India, Chennai for a brief stint and finally moved to the Financial Capital of India, Mumbai to spend a major part of my professional journey before moving overseas. In all these stints, the constant factor has been “Learn”, “Unlearn” and “Relearn” and co-create a winning partnership with business, people and communities. The most favourite aspect of my job has been “Partnering” with one and all, and creating value as a function for the business.
As digital technologies make it easier to work in a distributed manner, flat structures will become increasingly common. In your opinion, why it’s time to redesign traditional company structures? Also, how will leadership work in these flat structures and self-managed teams?
With organisations facing new challenges, there is an increasing need for companies to become more agile, nimble, adaptable and innovative since bureaucratic structures are often not ready to face difficulties that may lie ahead. In the new digitalized world “structures” will become obsolete and “leadership” at the moment will be crucial and critical. Time will be of the essence and “speed of execution” will be the cutting edge factor that will determine the best from the rest. The pyramid will be flat, and the layers will be deleted to enable faster decision making and “managing self” from any location, place or venue and facing the task at hand will be the key vector. Thus the organisation design will be flattened.
As we all know Merger and Acquisition is a change process that agitates companies. According to you, what is the right strategic approach to ‘change management’ and how can the human resources department ensure preparedness and stability for change?
Change is only successful if the whole company wants it and benefits from it. HR needs to ensure that others accept it, they need to help employees better understand the need for change. Everyone in the organisation must be on the same page. According to me, the correct strategic approach to change management would be to follow these principles below.
- Build a team – and the senior-most member leads it.
- Go for quick wins – these are the best ways to keep the momentum going.
- Let the change mature – let it take its own time to get integrated into people’s lives and organisation process before you say it’s “over”.
Can you tell us what are some of the profound impacts that Mergers and acquisitions (M&As) tools have on the employees of the organisations at every level as two organisations attempt to integrate into one?
In this constantly changing corporate world, the one who welcomes change stays ahead of the competition. Mergers and acquisitions have become quite common in today’s global marketplace and when companies merge, there are usually instances of redundancy. This can lead to lay-offs or shift in the roles of employees. While it is impossible to avoid layoffs, reducing uncertainty amongst employees is best. In terms of the impact that they have on people are primarily on these aspects.
- Culture – How I adjust to the new culture and ways?
- Individual – What’s in it for me?
- A new vision for the organisation – How do I upskill and be relevant?
HR is evolving and gradually becoming a partner with the top management in the growth of the organisation. Can you explain how can organisations benefit from HR and management collaboration and by aligning HR Systems with business strategy?
The traditional definition of business HR role no longer meets the challenges of the present world. Today, “People” are at the heart of the business and growth depends on the right team, organisation structure and value system. HR is the binding force behind these three pillars and creates a collaborative platform that is mutually beneficial to the business and stakeholders. Often, wide gaps exist between HR and business strategy of an organisation and this misalignment can hinder growth. Therefore, it is crucial to translate business strategy into business-specific HR approach and have HR roles embedded within the business. A well-integrated, simple to use scalable HR system enables faster and more effective decision making in today’s hyper-connected world.
Most organisations, small or large, are not happy with the leadership talent that they are able to hire. In your opinion, is it because of a leadership talent shortage or poor succession planning? What are some of the challenges faced by CEOs & HRs in C-Suite hiring?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge faced by CEOs or HR Leaders in C-suite hiring has been “shortage of ready-made talent”. We look for the perfect fit and not the nearest to the perfect. A weak recruiting process is also one of the top challenges faced by CEOs & HR. A strong succession plan and talent structure will provide a competitive edge and an effective recruiting process will be enough to capture the top talent’s attention. In addition to this, the constant changing dimensions of business result in the changing criteria of evaluation until the last minute – all these together pose a huge challenge.
When we talk about Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Machine Learning on strategy, innovation and execution, how is SREI undertaking some unique experiments in this area? What challenges have you encountered so far in implementing these strategies?
We at SREI are early adopters of technology and understand the potential of leveraging technology and transforming it into performance. In times of disruptive technologies, there are constant new avenues for innovation, in the form of digitized lending platforms to leveraging technologies for innovative pricing. We are constantly innovating our methods and are (early) adopting to stay one step ahead.
As an organisation, we are focused on looking “outside-in”- constantly evaluating our products, services and systems through the lens of what is going on in the wider world. The organisation actively looks at gathering information from a variety of sources to seek out potential opportunities. Within our industry, this includes our customers, manufacturers, and the entire ecosystem within which we work. The organisation also monitors what is happening in the world of technology to spot what could be enablers as well as where the disruptions are likely to happen and how these could be leveraged.
We believe that the right technology increases efficiency multi-fold. Better technology has enabled us to “Do more with less”. We have leveraged technology in such a way, that it no longer supports our core strategy, but our core strategy is based on technology. The investment in technology development has enabled us to expand our core financing business and has also enabled us to develop new, diverse activities. In the recent past, investment in technology development has helped us to efficiently connect with our vendors-partners, customers, de-risk business by using advanced analytics and asset tracking solutions, and reduce customer acquisition time and cost.
Some of the areas where SREI has recently invested in technology include:
- ‘Uberization’ of Equipment Market
Leveraging its strength as a ‘holistic asset solution provider’, we at SREI have launched a platform which will bring together lenders and borrowers; and using algorithms, match those seeking equipment loans with lenders. This first-of-its-kind initiative has the potential to revolutionize the industry. We also offer real-time equipment for short term rentals to its customers.
- Business Intelligence
Our BI comprises tools that enable us to gather data from various sources, analyze the data and produce reports in the form of data visualizations and dashboards which support the decisions of the management and other employees.
- Business Analytics
We employ superior technology-driven portfolio-analytics which enables us to pick signals of future defaults in advance and undertake better credit portfolio diversification. We use big data, analytics and AI in order to enhance our decision making.
- Digitization of Sales
To decrease the turnaround time in the financial disbursement process we have opted for the digitization of the sales process.
- Mobility Devices
We at SREI have empowered our collection field force with hand-held devices which help them operate efficiently, on-the-go. This also helps in providing real-time customer solutions and services.
- Asset Tracking System
SEFL extensively deploys GPS on the equipment being financed. These devices enable it to track the equipment, both in terms of location and usage, thereby empowering it to take proactive risk-mitigating decisions.
As the technology landscape keeps evolving, the demand for specialized skills also increases. In your opinion, is skilling in India adapting to emerging trends such as automation, AI? As an organisation how are you coping with sourcing the right skills?
We have collaborated with best-in-class institutions such as Singularity University and INK to ensure our employees are aware of coming trends and cutting edge technologies. We seek to continually understand the disruptive technologies that are emerging and what these could mean for our business. We communicate this quickly and are able to respond rapidly as well.
I believe that organisations need to be agile and should be able to adapt rapidly and this ability to learn is one of the key factors that can help them to effectively implement changes. At SREI, we have strong leadership that keeps abreast of what is happening in the outside world and has its pulse on the markets, research and customers and how we can best reinvent ourselves whenever required.
Speaking of market research, I feel organisations also need to keep themselves up to date with research and best practice relating to organisational design and what changes are required as organisations move from a traditional command and control structure to one that facilitates the quick flow of information and fast learning and agility.