Rendezvous with Mahalakshmi R. Director – Human Resources, Mondelez India
Mahalakshmi R. is an HR Leader with over two decades of experience spanning Head HR roles, HR Global COE Leader roles, business consulting roles with Big5 Consulting, and large scale transformation leadership. Currently, she is Director – Human Resources, Mondelez India (Formerly Cadbury), and responsible for leading the HR function for the approx USD 1Bn India business of the world’s largest snacking company.
Mahalakshmi R holds a graduate degree in Physics (major) and a Master’s in Human Resources. She is a certified coach, and passionate about unlocking the true growth potential of individuals and organizations.
Q- How Mondelez India is redefining the Talent Strategy amidst the current crisis?
The pandemic has surely been the biggest catalyst of change – and in many ways been the single biggest catalyst – accelerating the ‘Future of Work”. Whether it’s embracing digital or remote work or even putting Skill on Demand / fluid workforce as a REAL possibility – we can surely credit COVID for being the true DISRUPTOR.
At Mondelez India, our Talent Strategy has played a strong role in Powering Growth.
Our approach anchors on a) Recrafting the organization to grow b) Embedding our winning growth culture and c) Pivoting towards new normal: – across aspects of Capacity, Capability & Culture. Specifically, our talent strategy pivoted on a few aspects – while sustaining and amplifying a few others
What was reset and reimagined
- Recrafting the organization for Growth: We dynamically pivoted the organization design and talents towards growth channels. Equally small cohorts focused on consumer and shopper insights to see the longer term and fundamental shifts to prepare for. We also pivoted our capability agenda to curate programs on resilience and delivered over 10000 hours of relevant learning virtually
- Digital and Tech became our biggest ally: Enabling engagement, capability building, hiring, and even onboarding– helping us create a signature Mondelēz employee experience in moments that matter.
- Geography became history: as we embraced more and more roles as location agnostic – thereby broadening the talent pools we tap into – both in terms of geography, as well as other forms of diversity (including gender, multi-generational and differently-abled) into our workforce; to represent the consumers we serve
Equally, there were elements that stayed constant. eg:
- Prioritizing colleague safety: Prioritizing the safety of our colleagues
- Keeping consumer at the heart: This continued to be our guiding force and this period saw us connect to consumers using our KYC App and Digital Immersions
- Encouraging agile test & learns: Over the last four years – we have been intentional about encouraging a culture of test & learn, and making our curated growth projects a key talent development lever. Through an approach – now famous as “shark tank”, we engaged extended teams in future-forward growth projects, creating a startup-like ecosystem. This cultural anchor played a crucial role in our success during the pandemic where empowered teams had to take spot decisions and pivot in an agile fashion – not only to changing consumer asks but also to shifts in regulatory norms
- Being a workplace that encouraged flexible and remote working: We always had remote work as an integral part of our policies. During this time, however, remote work went from being a choice to be a forced situation to which everyone had to adapt!
Q-How HR can prepare for the Gig Economy during the pandemic and beyond? Gig Economy is on the rapid rise especially post COVID-19, how do you plan to address the same in your organization in terms of rewards, talent acquisition, and culture, etc.?
Like all organizations, we are reviewing the possibility of experimenting with workforce models.
We have been quick to adapt to remote work and already moved a set of roles as location agnostic. This has really expanded the talent pools that are now available to us to tap into!
FlexABLE: We realize that leading remotely – demands new capabilities in our leaders, to inspire, collaborate, and engage without in-person meetings. Our FlexABLE offer focusses on building those muscles in all our people managers.
Having said that when it comes to Gig in its pure form (where organizations review the roles which can more to a fluid on-demand workforce) we are reviewing if it is aligned to our strategy and if there is a compelling business case that ties in with our ethos. As always, we will take a test & learn approach, and have planned a few pilots, initially for 2-3 roles over the coming months.
Q- Post-Lockdown Mondelez International has indicated a dent in business, how is the company prepared for an economic slowdown in India?
Like all our industry peers in India, we did experience some business impact in the early months of lockdown. However, our teams showed amazing agility and resilience; and today we are on the path of recovery. Our work culture at Mondelez India has always focused on infusing agility & growth mindset – and these have been at the heart of enabling our quick pivoting to the new normal.
Did you know that during this period, we have not only continued to provide right snacks at the right moment to our consumers; we have actually launched 6 new products, some of which are absolutely new formats (Cadbury Chocobakes Choc Layered Cakes & Bournvita Fills). While collaboration within Mondelez India has always been part of our winning growth culture, this period saw our colleagues pick innovative approaches and fulfill consumer demand by collaborating with other companies too!
As a responsible corporate – we have also ensured we support India by giving generously both products and safety kits! As part of our COVID-relief efforts, at Mondelez India, we donated a relief contribution of over 140 tons of products (Chocolates, Biscuits, and Beverages) to support relief workers & donated dry ration kits to support over 43,000 beneficiaries in communities.
Q- What is your hiring strategy for the current financial year? May if you mention some plans for campus and lateral hiring?
One of our core values is “Do What’s Right”. As a responsible corporate, we honored all our commitments at our campuses for internships this year. In fact, we went the extra mile. We got to know through some linked in posts that some of the bright talents in the campuses we hire from – had their internships with some other firms revoked in the wake of COVID. Not only did we honor our original internships in 2020, but we also made additional offers & additionally onboarded some of those interns who had, unfortunately, had an offer revoke experience.
We continue to stay focused on growth and our talent plans continue to focus first on the internal build before we go external to hire. Our internal fill rate is around 80%. Of course, we continue to make chanceful external hires too – not only at entry levels but at select mid and senior levels too.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
Now more than ever, talents, and even consumers are choosing companies with a strong purpose. Therefore, organizations need to leverage purpose to propel inspiration
Equally, this period has allowed for some deep reflection – and we see talents really anchor back on what is important in life, what are their cherished dreams – and where can they best realize them.
This is a great opportunity for all of us to anchor back on our personal purpose and find ways to enable it for ourselves and our teams. We at Mondelez India are continuing to live our purpose every day, empowering people to snack right
Thank You, Mahalakshmi!