Joy George, Head – Human Resources, CDK Global India
In a candid conversation with All Things Talent, Joy George, Head, Human Resources, CDK Global India talks about initiatives CDK has taken to make the hybrid work model better, the role of Indian talent in the global landscape and the issues related to organizational culture and training.
Q. Please give a picture of the role Indian talent plays for the US Company compared to other countries.
A. CDK Global is a leading provider of integrated data and technology solutions to the automotive, heavy truck, recreation, and heavy equipment industries.
Focused on enabling end-to-end, omnichannel retail commerce through open, agnostic technology, CDK Global provides solutions to dealers and original equipment manufacturers, serving nearly 15,000 retail locations in North America.
CDK solutions connect people with technology by automating and integrating all parts of the dealership and buying process, including the acquisition, sale, financing, insurance, parts supply, repair and maintenance of vehicles.
CDK Global India, Great Place to Work-CertifiedTM – one of the Top 75 India’ Best Workplaces in IT & IT-BPM and one of the Top 100 India’s Best Workplaces for Women as recognized by GPTW – plays an integral role in driving our global business objectives and enhancing our customer experiences.
The talent pool in India predominantly focuses on product engineering, implementation and support using cutting-edge technologies. In India, currently, we have offices in Pune and Hyderabad.
The long-term impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is still unknown. At CDK Global, we do know that the car buying process has been evolving long before this virus began to disrupt our lives and work.
Today, buyers of all types and categories seem to be clear that they will make large–and small–scale purchases online and want to have personalised experiences.
While these behaviours have gained popularity over time, the demand for convenience realised through digital retailing has been magnified as a result of this crisis.
CDK Global India has maintained high levels of employee centricity, focus and engagement during the lockdown period as well through innovative means.
We have ensured with the help of technology that we keep our teams connected and collaborating while they all have been working remotely.
These have helped our employees not only be productive and efficient in delivering more value to our customers – but quite innovative too, as that is the demand of the time and we are constantly looking to innovate.
Q. Handling newly recruited digital batches vs sustaining the older ones. How are they doing this? Can you explain the various initiatives on this matter? When was this concept introduced in CDK? How does it positively impact the company’s retention ratio – before and after?
A. We transitioned all employees on-board to a completely remote working set-up from mid-March 2020 and ensured smooth and safe working for them to maintain business as usual.
In parallel, we started a host of virtual initiatives that included, virtual hiring, on-boarding of new hires, training, engagement programs etc. via innovative communication channels. Further, through the effective use of collaborative tools, we made sure that our employees both new and tenured, always stay connected to and aligned with our values and culture.
We went quite high on our virtual engagement programs that had elements of fun, frolic and social connections, weekly assessment of employee wellness through ‘CDK Safe’ surveys, and a series of zoom sessions that each of the leaders organised for their own teams. Those sessions also included inviting children and family occasions, and that helped sustain the energy levels and overall enthusiasm.
We continued to integrate the new joiners and kept the others in good cheer through new year gifts, hampers, personalised seasonal greetings, and hosting CDK Convergence – the annual family get together on a virtual platform with fun, food and other entertainment. All these activities have gone a long way in building and strengthening our bonds together as one big family.
All these efforts have paid rich dividends by helping us consistently maintain our retention ratios across the board. And those who have joined us remotely during the pandemic feel so positively influenced by our engaging culture that they are looking forward to full-fledged office-based working.
Q. Adapting to being ‘culture fit’ in a hybrid workplace. How do you achieve this? What has been its success? What is the learning – both in India and the US context?
A. Building an inclusive culture is the biggest component of building a psychologically safe workplace. Diversity and inclusion, in general, have always been hot topics for the same reason.
But, when it comes down to practising it by providing all employees equal opportunity in learning, growing and thriving, it just becomes the politically right thing to do for many.
At CDK, our true strength is derived from the diversity of our employees, which is vital to our success. We strive to provide our employees with a unique inclusive culture, a sense of belonging, compassionate leadership, and individual attention to their needs.
And from a business standpoint, building the organisation with unique people from diverse backgrounds with different viewpoints, perspectives and skills only have strengthened us in our ability to be certified as a great place to work.
It is only ubiquitous that we include everyone in the organisation, be it in a virtual, in-person or hybrid mode by making each interaction welcoming and meaningful for everyone around.
Q. What is your view on the current market crunch in finding tech talent? When do you expect things to get back to normalcy?
A. The pandemic brought in a new paradigm shift to work cultures across the globe. Many countries have been a part of this fast-changing work culture, where technology becomes a key enabler for many work processes and structures. During remote working, several semi-skilled or less skilled professionals took up courses to upgrade their tech skills.
Today, good techies have many work options and their expectations from a workplace have further evolved. People want competitive salaries, opportunities to learn the latest and the greatest, an enabling environment, fast track career, and the opportunity to make a difference.
It is a fact that current talent in the market is very dynamic, there are more jobs than people who are qualified, thanks to the tech enablement trends that got accelerated during the lockdown days.
However, added to that, people’s outlook towards work, the purpose of work, expectations from the workplace etc. have also radically changed during these times.
For instance, a lot of people are keen to have better control of their daily routine, what they want to achieve and the pace at which they want to achieve them, and they are out there evaluating career options to make it work for them.
The new phenomena of remote working also opened avenues for tech talent as organisations are open to hiring talent without any boundaries. Tech talent in specific is also finding alternate options of employment, such as platform work to provide specific services in exchange for payment or gig work which is engaging in hourly or part-time jobs etc.
Essentially, these are non-standard work arrangements and have a non-traditional employer-employee relationship that provides all sorts of flexibilities. All of these in a way created a dearth in the available talent pool in the formal employment market that is already bullish on demand.
Sources tell us that this dynamic scenario is only likely to continue for the next eighteen months and the only way for organisations to manage this situation is to invest in hiring and developing fresh talent and upskilling those on board. This is a proven approach and has been the panacea in all such situations in the past as well.
At CDK, we have been hiring interns and grads regularly and investing in building their capabilities over time; this has always helped us manage our talent requirements quite well.
Moreover, as an organisation, we always believe in investing in people to develop their skills and competencies and this has gone a long way in our ability to retain employees at the junior and senior levels.
Q. What kind of training modules the company is implementing for solutions required for emerging business growth?
A. At CDK, one of our core values is ‘Stay Curious’ which highlights the importance and our constant focus on developing talent and making our employees future-ready.
We have been immensely successful in developing a learning culture in the workplace over the years. We achieved this through several innovative changes we brought in over a period of time.
In the first place, we made learning much more flexible, that the overall learning approach is crafted based on learning preferences. Secondly, we made the learning content modular, shifted the accountability to the learner and created a lot of ease in accessing the learning programs. Thirdly, we introduced some of the latest e-learning platforms that have variety and depth in content – such that our employees can learn and thrive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment.
True to the nature of our business and the competitive market, we continue to lay a lot of emphasis on Innovation, Critical Thinking, Empathetic leadership etc. to enable employees to be successful in meeting the current demands and that of the future. Other areas of continued capability development are Change Management, Strategic Orientation, Business Acumen Building, Decision Making etc.
Solely from a technology standpoint, every individual contributor finds varied learning and certification opportunities in their respective areas including AI/ ML, AWS, Tableau etc. At the start of the year, we ensure employees create their own Individual Development Plans that are supported by a formal learning path.
Several community practises are hosted at CDK to promote the creation of a learning ecosystem that is nurtured by innovative practises like Hackathon, Friday learning hour/ Quarterly Learning week, Dev days etc.
We have been making significant investments in developing leadership skills at all levels and organisational capabilities that continued to evolve during Covid times. as well, that we are truly prepared to steer through the current dynamic talent market conditions.
We believe in empowering employees to own their own career, growth and success and that has worked for us.
Q. What is your view on the talent availability in the Tier 2 cities? How is the long-term trend developing?
A. With work-from-anywhere as the new norm, mid-to-senior talent moving away from the bigger cities to tier 2 and tier 3 cities are undoubtedly emerging as future talent hubs.
Many of the IT companies see advantages as well to tap into the talent in tier 2 and 3 cities as they come at a comparatively lesser cost, better tenure and in many ways greater job stability too. The way forward therefore will be to invest in developing talent in tier 2 and 3 cities by helping them build learning and educational infrastructure that are at par with tier 1 cities.
Q. What has been the impact of the Great Resignation for the company?
A. While the overall impact of the highly dynamic talent market is felt both in the ability to attract talent and retain in some ways, the business impact for us has been very minimal. We continue to have a very healthy on-boarding ratio and our attrition rates are below the industry trends.
Our tech company, brand image and great workplace certifications are helping in attracting talent, so too, the workplace culture that is built around earning, learning, fun and pride, in engaging and retaining talent.
Q. As offices are slowly re-opening, what is the strategy that CDK Global is rolling out?
A. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of our lives, including tasks as fundamental as going to work. While many office workers are still working from home, others across the world are now beginning to return to their offices in person for the first time in months.
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other health authorities have issued guidance for companies to make offices safer, reopening plans vary widely between countries and cities.
We at CDK have consciously prioritised the health and safety of our employees in the new normal without compromising business objectives.
With CDK Safe, our wellness app is meant to keep a tab on the health condition of our employees as well as their families communicated via our detailed weekly self-assessments, we ensure to stay informed and take actions to support them in times of need.
As a part of the overall focus on our employee wellness, we organised multiple vaccination drives and reimbursed the vaccination costs for our people, covering them and their families with comprehensive COVID specific insurance in addition to the other insurance coverages.
As we reopen our offices, all these are helping us to ensure only those who are fully vaccinated and have a Safe Badge are working from office premises.
Q. Amplifying the HR resources by harnessing mobile and cloud technology. How was this done? What is its impact and the way forward?
A. To provide superior employee experiences, we imbibed the latest HR technologies and tools to automate the key people processes and increase the team’s efficiency.
CDK Compass, our new intranet which we call the digital workplace, is built on Unily, a SAAS based platform to enable enhanced end-user functionalities like advanced search, social employee advocacy, broadcast and targeted content based on level and functions.
As a part of modernising our internal tools, we launched Workday, an intuitive tool, which will allow us to provide better people data and deliver modern analytics.
PathFinder, our new Enterprise IT support ticketing system, offers employees automated solutions to solve any IT problem or submit new requests.
With these enhancements and our focused efforts to streamline our HR processes to make it seamless for our employees throughout their lifecycle including at the time of entry and exit, we have been able to provide our employees delightful experiences during their CDK journey.
We ensure that while we are an innovative technology company for our customers, the same experience is delivered to our employees too as our internal customers.