Rendezvous with Thiru A Thirunavukkarasu Chief Mentor – HR Cadila Pharmaceutical Limited
Thiru A Thirunavukkarasu, popularly known as A Thiru, Chief Mentor – HR Cadila Pharmaceutical Limited. He has over three decades of experience in human resources, prior to joining Cadila he has worked as President – Corporate HR with JK Organisation (EZ). Earlier to JK Organisation, Thiru was associated with Vedanta Resources Plc, a global diversified Natural Resources Major as President – Group HR and Member of the Executive Committee, and previously he has worked with companies like TVS Electronics, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Wimco Ltd, and Areva T&D. Thiru holds a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, Personnel Management & Organizational Behaviour from Loyola College, Chennai in 1982 – 1984.
Q- How do you see COVID-19 pandemic impact on HR and its workforces?
It has brought HR and its workforce closer than ever before. The traditional organizational hierarchies have given room for flexibility and expertise to lead an organizational structure, though informally but effectively. While customer-centricity has emerged as the topmost priority of the mind, care and concern have emerged as the topmost priority of the heart. HR leaders who could empower themselves more as Credible Activists during these unprecedented times could do justice to both to their organizations well as the workforce. They continued to engage their workforce, including the contract labour, by not resorting to any shortsighted approach namely lay-off, involuntary separation, compulsory leave, wage cut.
Exemplary organizations like Cadila not only enforced strict rules to fight Covid but also encouraged employee volunteerism as Covid-Warriors. Support was provided beyond workplace to families of employees as well. This has created impeccable emotional association as the Care Continues…
Q- How do you think leadership can be nurtured in companies during stressful times?
Connecting to the larger purpose of the organization and living its core values is the only key through which can one can open the doors for entering into the new universe. In fact, our organizational values such as Authenticity (Being trustworthy and genuine), Integrity (Being reliable and adhering to principles), Responsibility (Being accountable and taking charge) and Ownership (Taking end-to-end ownership) guided us to outperform even during these tough times. Encouraging young professionals to take additional responsibilities and experiment with newer ways to connect with internal and external customers is yet another feature of the new normal. Learnability across functions and levels has significantly improved resulting in better business results. Leaders with empathy could accelerate their businesses and stay ahead.
Q- The Pandemic has accelerated Digitalization, how does workspace digitization enhance employee engagement?
Absolutely. Embracing digitalization has not only moved the employee engagement index a few notches above but more importantly reaching out to customers witnessed new horizons and greater impact. Rewards and recognition through digital media have become pride moments not only for the employees but their families at large. As an organization with a prestigious legacy of commitment to innovation, quality, and affordable care, Cadila’s motto ‘the care continues’ encompasses all our stakeholders including the last man standing. And the care is extended to our employees – our most valuable assets – as well. Their success and recognition are integral aspects of Cadila Pharma. As an organization committed to healthcare and saving lives, our employees left no stone unturned in the pandemic facing challenges with courage and determination staying true to our values. Although this year public gatherings were prohibited in line with social distancing norms, we ensured our employees were rewarded for their superlative performances in driving business growth and for their bravery as COVID warriors.
Technology has transformed the global business landscape and Cadila Pharma was quick to adapt. We chose to not take a step back but forge new paths. Not only did we use virtual tools to conduct business, but also to ensure our grandest occasions did not face any interruptions. This year, Cadila Pharma was proud to hold iamicon – India’s Largest Knowledge and Innovation Conclave virtually. We reached out to audiences in 17 countries from 8 last year and even featured a Nobel Laureate as a key speaker. The conclave was successfully concluded by the Wall of Fame ceremony to recognize and honour employees responsible for making iamicon 2020 a grand success. At the annual Star Nite Awards, we honoured 260 of our best performers on a virtual platform. The presence of their families made the occasion all the more special and exciting.
The past year has shown us immense challenges. However, for Cadila Pharma, our faith to overcome those challenges has never been stronger. Virtual tours to foreign location during such online recognition program was the icing on the cake. These role models among the workforce do become inspirations for others to dream big and make a larger impact.
Q- How do you see the future for work, workforce 2021?
With improved tenacity to scale new heights. The year 2020 has completely changed the way we worked in the past and slowly and steadily prepared us to face any unforeseen circumstances. This new normal has also improved our interpersonal relationships which can help the employees to bond with the best resulting in better collaboration and improved teamwork. Diwali, the festival of lights, is much awaited and celebrated by Cadilians. At Cadila Pharma, we are proud to have a culture of celebration, a sense of community, and goodwill. The annual Navratri celebrations are the grandest concluding with splendid Garba nights for all employees. For Diwali, the excitement is no less. Employees participate in Rangoli making, traditional attire contests, sweet distribution, etc. The day concludes with a gathering over food and fun team games like musical chairs; we even held an impromptu fashion show last year that employees enjoyed.
This year, Diwali at Cadila was different, but enjoyable nevertheless. Cadila’s new normal Diwali or Diwalification 2020 alluded to renewal and renovation after a spell of darkness. Several activities were held under the banner of Diwalification 2020 while maintaining sensitivity toward safety guidelines. The Rangoli competition’s theme was ‘Digital New Normal’ and employees gave it their creative best including elements of digital apps in their designs while others drew rangolis under the ‘Heritage India’ theme. A first-of-its-kind Diya painting competition was held with social distancing norms in place. The traditional attire contest ‘Mr. and Ms. Diwafabulous’ had a regional twist this time with employees dressing in regional costumes representing different parts of the country. A game of housie was played and employee awards were presented to mark the occasion.
Thus the workforce 2021 can embrace changes faster and be grounded as well, with right priorities in not only professional but personal life too.
Q- What will be HR Trends for 2021?
2021 will observe remote work becoming permanent. For many employers and employees, remote work is here to stay, at least to some degree. While the pandemic will not transform every single company that has the possibility to become fully distributed to do so, but working from home will be the next permanent normal. Hence, data literacy, business acumen, and digital integration will be the major drivers of HR efficiency.
Secondly, HR will be redesigning the employee journey by measuring the virtual employee experience. Elements like work-life balance, wellbeing, connection, and collaboration will be crucial both for employee satisfaction and the optimization of business outcomes. Just as companies will continue experimenting with more informal ways of team-building and socialization, HR will be focussing more on formalized online connections and partnerships being piloted at companies all over the world.
In the end, the principle of humility will foster faster organizational growth. Employee Advocacy and Championing Change will be the guiding force for organizational resurgence and growth.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
The pandemic has enabled HR to use its empirical data to help leaders to navigate the pandemic and handle people-centric issues with an all-new approach. Overall, it has been a great opportunity for HR to lock down its seat at the leadership table by using the swiftly-evolving tech tools available to drive business value.
Finally, the pandemic has forced us to revisit all our previously held beliefs (including how we celebrate) and overcome confirmation bias and the need to change the lens at periodic intervals to continue to stay fit and be relevant.
Thank You, Thiru!