Dr. C. Jayakumar, CHRO, L&T on HR Challenges in 2023

Dr. C. Jayakumar, CHRO, L&T on HR Challenges in 2023
My personal view is that Moonlighting has been there for ages, however in recent times, due to WFH, incidents of employees having multiple offers have increased, and that too with conflict of interest.

Dr. C. Jayakumar is currently working as Executive Vice President & Head – Corporate Human Resources (CHRO) at L&T (Larsen & Toubro Limited), an Indian Multi-national Conglomerate.

A highly result-oriented, HR professional with 34 years of experience in successfully planning, designing, implementing, and managing various strategic HR Initiatives.

On the academic front, he is an alumnus of Madras School of Social Work, XLRI – Jamshedpur, and London Business School where he specialized in Leadership & Human Resource Management. Qualified in Law (LLB) and has a doctorate in leadership from the University of Madras, he is also certified in OD from the NTL, USA.

Dr. C. Jayakumar has made an immense contribution to the Human Resources arena over the years. He presides on the boards of esteemed professional bodies and on the Board of Studies of various prestigious educational institutions such as AHRD, AIMA, etc.

He has been honored with HR Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022 by FICCI and in 2021 by Economic Times & People Business.

Q- After getting promoted as CHRO, what has been your vision for L&T, and what are the changes that you brought to HR?

I took over as CHRO of L&T which is a large responsibility in April 2020. This was a period of the pandemic and lockdown which was never seen before. The first one and half years of my tenure were all about managing the Covid situation.

We ensured the safety and welfare of employees, including migrant workers, and arranged adequate quarantine facilities, vaccinations, supply of oxygen units to many hospitals, etc. The focus was also on ensuring business continuity. We were committed to safeguarding the employees financially as well and ensured that the salaries were paid on time. There were no layoffs at L&T.

Aligned with our Company vision, we have a perspective plan for 10 years and a strategic plan for 5 years called Lakshya. We also possess an HR Lakshya plan which is aligned with the business plan, and as part this, we have identified some 5-6 broad areas to work on such as:

  • Talent management and mobility to develop a leadership pipeline. There are 23 businesses under L&T and talent development is a key focus area. We are working on succession planning and career development, especially for the senior roles.
  • Real-time Performance Management System, linked to rewards with continuous feedback, in line with our core values of meritocracy, transparency and trust.
  • Enhanced employee experience at all touchpoints, right from talent acquisition, onboarding, training, performance, and exit management.
  • As pioneers in HR practices, we are looking at alternate talent models suiting our business. We have a special task force to look at processes for talent mobility across our businesses, scope for employing GIG workforce, flexible working operations, etc.
  • Another major area is diversity and inclusion with focus on increasing gender diversity, where we are looking at ways to induct, retain, motivate, and develop women leaders. We are also focusing on hiring more trainees and increasing the intake of female employees. ‘Winspire’ is a programme for women leadership development while ‘Renew‘ is for women on a break due to pregnancy or marriage in our career portal and around 2-3% of women employees have been recruited through this. We have ensured safety and welfare facilities for all women in our firm.
  • Digitalization and automation of the HR function and leveraging analytics for effective decision-making is another focus area for us.

Q- What are the top HR challenges CHROs are facing right now?

CHROs must be prepared for-

  • Getting the right talent, especially specialized talent, and leadership talent. Talent acquisition for niche roles is always a challenge for HR Managers.
  • Bringing in agility and adaptability in terms of structure, policy, and practices based on the changing needs and being a trusted advisor to the CEO.
  • To keep pace with digitalization and automation, skilling, multiskilling, upskilling, and reskilling the existing talent.
  • Motivating & engaging employees and bringing in a sense of purpose and meaning in the work to enhance performance, productivity, and ownership.
  • Managing total employee well-being, including emotional, mental, social, and financial well-being.
  • Learning opportunities for employees to build a career and grow in the organisation. L&T is known for giving challenging assignments and learning opportunities to employees to enrich their career growth.

Q- How do you see buzzwords like Moonlighting, Quite-Quitting, and career cushioning in your industry?

My personal view is that Moonlighting has been there for ages, however in recent times, due to WFH, incidents of employees having multiple offers have increased, and that too with conflict of interest. Moonlighting is ethically and legally not appropriate if it is against the terms of appointment of an employer and if there is a conflict of interest with the present employment.

However, foreseeing the market scenario, we need to have an open mindset and manage talent requirements by leveraging alternate talent models in a competitive world. Employing the GIG workforce is one such opportunity wherein employees could be engaged for a specific task.

It is also important to have effective performance management that rewards employees for the outcome than for the efforts to ensure accountability and results.

Q- How do you ensure employee performance, productivity, and retention in 2023 in your organization?

It is an interesting question.

  1. L&T is synonymous with Pride and Purpose. We are called Builders to Nations, and we make things that make India proud by building landmark projects  that provides a natural sense of pride and purpose to the workforce. Pride and purpose at work enhancees performance, productivity and retention.
  2. L&T provides challenging assignments to its employees. We have built the tallest, deepest, largest, fastest longest, smartest, and most complex projects. We are continuously growing year on year, which provides ample opportunities for working on challenging projects.
  3. Learning opportunities are huge at L&T. We are often called a Learning and Training organization. We have 18-19 training centers providing extensive training to employees at all levels to continuously develop their competencies. The focus is on all-round development of talent, by way of behavioral, technical, managerial and leadership training.
  4. We leverage technology for sustainable growth. We have embarked on a digital transformation led by none other than our own CEO & MD Mr. SN Subrahmanyan. We use high end technology and digital tools in our operations. This provides opportunity for young talent to work in a highly automated and digital environment, which helps attract and retain talent in addition to improving performance and productivity.
  5. Last but not least we have a culture of Caring, trust, and continuous learning. We have a Culture of Meritocracy wherein Performance is the only differentiator. Above all, we are a socially responsible organisation… contribution to ESG.

Q- How important is a regular feedback mechanism to evolving employee performance and how to give effective employee feedback?

Feedback is one of the most pivotal processes in any performance management system. We make enormous efforts to ensure continuous & constructive feedback to employees from their superiors. We have an online performance management system with the option of providing continuous feedback.

The system enables us to break down the goals into activities with timelines and based on the performance the superior can provide continuous feedback. We also conduct periodic training programs on Giving and Receiving feedback with role plays, activities, etc. to provide experiential learning.

Most importantly, Goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) for enhancing performance, giving a sense of direction, and measuring performance objectively. It is equally important for managers to be specific while reviewing the employees’ performance and while providing feedback i.e. what went well and what went wrong, what needs to be done, and how performance can be improved.

It is good to check if the employees are ready to take the feedback, to begin with, positives and then to the gap areas. The timing of feedback is equally important and should be given with a positive intent to improve performance. Feedback should also be data-driven focusing on performance issues rather than general statements that may demotivate a person. These are small and simple things but if applied in letter and spirit, they will considerably enhance the effectiveness of the feedback process.

Q- What are your hiring plans for 2023 at L&T?

We have a huge order backlog of 3.75 Lakh Crores and the biggest challenge is to execute these mandates on time within cost, quality, safety, and to the satisfaction of our customers. Most of our hiring is through campus recruitment. More than 3000 engineering trainees were on-boarded through various campuses this year.

As we enter newer business areas such as Edutech, Sufin, Data Centers, Green Hydrogen, etc. we recruit people at the middle and senior levels. However, most of the conventional roles are filled by internal movements and promotions. We strongly believe in building our internal talent, so we focus more on Talent development.

Q- Your career advice for aspiring HR professionals?

  1. First and foremost, you must be strong in your domain area.
  2. Learning is a continuous process. Learning agility and a digital mindset will be important competencies for the future. You need to continuously upgrade yourself and need to have the zeal to learn new things.
  3. Nothing works like hard work. Hard work is the key, “nothing comes easy”. It is important to put in your best efforts.
  4. Finally, be humble.

Through these simple things, we can grow abundantly.  

Thank You, CJK!


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