Rendezvous with Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra Director – HR, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd on its Performance & Rewards Strategy
Ranjan Kumar Mohapatra, Director- Human Resources, Indian Oil, Chairman, LANKA IOC & Chairman, Indian Oil Mauritius Limited is a firm believer in the power of possibilities. He is also the President and Board Member of International Federation Training and Development Organization. Trustee Secretary of Indian Oil Foundation, Member, Advisory Committee, Institute of Chemical Technology – Indian Oil Odisha Campus, Chairman of Skill Development Institute, Bhubaneswar, Member of Board of Governors, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, Amethi.
He joined IOC in 1987 and since then has taken up different assignments in the fields of Terminal Operations, Supply Chain Management & Logistics. Currently, at Indian Oil, he envisions aligning Human Resources initiatives to Strategic Corporate Vision and has pioneered several efforts to usher in a vibrant culture focused on higher growth and productivity.
With cross-cultural experience, He has been invited to Europe, USA, Africa, and Southeast Asia, to present papers and deliver lectures at several international forums.
He is a graduate Mechanical Engineer from BITS, Pilani, has done Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.
Q- How do you see the HR challenges especially when it comes to managing employee performance in current times?
We are in an Essential Services Industry, and we need to operate 24×7 throughout the year, without disruption. As the nation’s leading fuel supplier, our seamless functioning is critical for the public, economy, and strategic sectors like defence and industries. And in turbulent phases like these, an organization can excel on the service front only when it prioritizes employee well-being.
One cannot deny that employee stress and anxiety have hit an all-time high amidst the ongoing pandemic. Recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management highlights that work-related concerns have left more than 40 per cent of employees feeling exhausted. At IndianOil, we treat this challenge with extreme sensitivity and compassion.
Workplace exhaustion and stress intensify during performance appraisals. Indeed, some organizations have decided to skip the process altogether. But the real solution will emerge when HR installs a robust and transparent performance management system that is capable of aligning with the aspirations of the employees with organizational vision. This is super-critical to ensure business viability in the long run. I must add that balanced and consistent rewards, and recognition schemes can go a long way in strengthening the Appraisal systems.
Let me also add that for me, the most pronounced transformation that we have witnessed during the last two years is the proliferation of remote working. I am really happy that despite being an organization that largely operates on the frontlines, we could harness the power of technology to extend the comfort of remote working to several employee groups. Importantly, we backed up our remote working set with a set of compassionate policies.
Carefully crafted and robustly implemented measures like these have helped us boost employee morale and improve workplace happiness substantially. And ultimately, they have contributed to enhanced performance that enabled us to overcome massive odds to keep India energized. Let me reiterate; the pandemic has established that the need of the hour is to always provide wholesome wellness support to the employees to deliver business excellence.
Q- What is Indian Oil’s performance and reward strategy for 2022?
Today, our organization is showing a high degree of commitment towards reinforcing reward practices aligned with other HR practices such as goals or performance. I have already spoken about our efforts at integrating various HR practices in line with our newly crafted Talent Vision. This vision is based on principles of DARE2 – Dexterity, Adaptability, Resilience, Engagement, and Empathy.
For me, the Reward strategy is no exception. However, you must understand that we do not have a reward system that includes ESOPs, profit-sharing, or equity-based incentives as a socially driven PSU. We believe in rewarding our people through an enabling culture, recognition and instilling a sense of belongingness. Therefore, our reward strategy largely revolves around intangible aspects but is directly or indirectly intertwined with our performance metrics. This helps us create a culture of healthy performance aligned with organizational vision. I have given several instances earlier. The integration of our talent practices and the new PMS in 2022 will provide further impetus to these efforts.
Our performance is based on principles of Management by Objectives. We have a well-laid down mechanism for KRAs, KPIS, and evaluation. As a philosophy, we have a bouquet of rewards for our people based on a combination of their performances and competencies. This bouquet continues to expand and has already seen some new aspects this year, such as MoU Awards based on goal achievement; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Awards based on performances of our divisions.
In addition to these, Structured Coaching, Sponsorship for Higher Education (MBA/MTech), Advanced Management Programmes, Recognition upon reskilling/creativity/learning, periodic rewards under Suggestions Schemes which directly affects the organizational performance tangibly or intangibly are linked with the employee or departmental performance.
Q- What are the factors that are changing performance management today?
As I mentioned, the New Normal has drastically altered workplace dynamics with increased remote working and improved performance monitoring technologies. Given these, there are a few essential qualities that modern performance management systems must embrace.
Firstly, organizations must adopt a dynamic OKR (Objective and Key Results) methodology. The objectives must be reviewed periodically to keep up with evolving workplace expectations.
Secondly, while technology is bringing in sweeping changes, we must not lose the human touch. It is times like these that evoke fear within employees regarding their performance. So, managers must understand the need for and importance of maintaining regular contact with employees. Let me share, to me, ‘Hriday Se'(Straight from Heart) is the mantra that drives all my communications with my team.
Thirdly, the criticality of continuous feedback cannot be overemphasized. When aided with constant and timely feedback, a robust goal-achieving strategy can go a long way in improving employees’ productivity and goal-achieving capacity. We maintain a regular MoU and monitor it every quarter. Further, we are now exploring options for setting up a continuous engagement mechanism across the organization.
And finally, let me talk about trust. It is one of IndianOil’s core values besides care, innovation, and passion. How do we uphold this value? It begins with empowering our employees with the privilege of clear communication, especially regarding personal matters. Many aspects of human lives are unclear while working remotely, so having faith while all of us are struggling is wise. Thus clarity and faith must be imbibed in the performance management systems to inculcate trust among employees.
Q- How are you integrating new work-life priorities as part of Indian Oil’s performance management process?
We have been undertaking various initiatives to integrate the emerging work-life priorities. It is important to note that Leadership Assessments and Domain Knowledge Assessments provide coverage across competencies. This approach is a pivot for various HR processes ranging from Career and Succession Planning to Learning & Development.
IndianOil has been setting inspiring benchmarks on work-life priorities through a slew of empathetic measures. Without going into the long list of varied initiatives, let me touch upon how we have been leveraging the power of learning to enhance the work-life happiness of our people.
Take our flagship Mid-career Training program Madhyama for instance. This program has been rolled out to keep our officers abreast and future-ready. Here executives, all completing an equal number of years in the Organization, are provided two weeks of mandatory training on different aspects of the business and necessary behavioural inputs of that phase of the executives’ career.
Then, of course, there is Swadhyaya- Our pioneering e-learning initiative launched in 2019 to provide convenient and customized learning avenues to employees. Already, the platform has witnessed a phenomenal one and a half million-course completion.
These are just two instances of how we are nurturing a learning organization that enriches an employee’s job performance and aids his personal happiness.
Q- How soft skills can be used to optimize performance across functional areas?
LinkedIn carried out a study in early 2018 across 100 metropolitan cities in the United States and discovered a shortage of 1.4 million people with communication skills. Since soft skills, such as communication, can lead to the prosperity of your organization, training your workforce in these vital abilities makes sense.
After all, abilities such as communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving underlie every aspect of business operation. In every department and job role, employees must hone their interpersonal prowess to improve customer service stats and build a more vital team dynamic. Essentially, we strongly feel that soft skills would help manage reality.
In an Organisation like ours, where we have the entire spectrum, starting from a process industry environment to an infrastructure centred focus to a highly customer-centric requirement, we realize that Soft Skills are equally essential as hard skills. And we also do realize that the same can be harnessed to ensure optimized performance for the Organization. Harvard Manage Mentor, Reverse Mentoring, and Coaching are just a few such initiatives by us, which have helped us to make it a reality.
Q- What is your feedback system to engage millennial employees?
According to Deloitte’s research on millennial values, “while employees believe that business should consider stakeholders’ interests as well as profits, the millennials experience employers prioritizing the bottom line above workers, society and the environment, leaving them with little sense of loyalty.” Every company must know millennials switch their jobs not because they are perennially dissatisfied but because they do not find any opportunity to thrive.
So how do we create more such opportunities? Companies need to inculcate a sense of purpose in employees’ jobs that inspire millennials to give their best every day. Let me share an IndianOil endeavour here. We introduced a Fitness Challenge to help employees come out of their pandemic impacted sedentary lifestyle. We incentivized our employees to participate in the GOQii Corporate Challenge, where executives from different organizations participate in a 2-month long online step challenge. The response has been most encouraging, and millennials are leading the way.
Also, as far as catering to the aspirational needs of millennials is concerned, we must analyze the performance trends of employees to make informed decisions for the business and come up with developmental initiatives. IndianOil has created an HR Analytics wing that provides beneficial analytics to us and helps us in a considerable amount of savings in every sphere. More importantly, analytics is equipping us with invaluable insights into the millennial psyche and let me tell you; they are our greatest strength as far as on-the-job innovation is concerned.
I am happy to share that the empowered and driven millennials of IndianOil are emerging as genuine agents of change. They are undertaking crucial reverse-mentoring roles that substantially enrich our workplace culture. We launched Integrated Corporate Mentoring Framework ‘Abhigyan’, keeping in mind the immense opportunities that we can harness through reverse mentoring.
Q- What is your hiring plan for India in 2022?
Attracting top talent is essential to the future of any organization. With the growth of the Corporation and diversification into various new businesses, the requirement of the right kind of talent to achieve the desired business goals assumes significance to maintain business efficiency.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated issues of work-life balance, financial pressures, and fears about job security. Greater empathy from IndianOil as part of everyday culture helped address these problems. Even in the most stressful times where damage to the job market appeared deep and prolonged, we at IndianOil hired more than 1100 executives from various recruitment channels in these two eventful years.
Our Hiring plan remains unchanged. However, the way we had been recruiting has certainly undergone some changes. Embracing the constraints that COVID pandemic imposed on recruitment exercises – over the way we conducted earlier – we opened additional test centres, conducted Personal Interviews ONLINE, staggered the recruitment timeline and recalibrated the recruitment processes to ensure greater participation from students in our recruitment exercises – be it through campuses or All India Open Examinations.
Apart from visiting top-notch campuses for our recruitments, we also visit campuses located in strategic locations in North-East and J&K. Our recruitment portfolio includes diversities of all kinds – be it Gender, regional or societal.
As far as the existing workforce, both direct and indirect were concerned, there were no layoffs and no job cuts. These acts of compassion from IndianOil have increased employee engagement and deepened employee loyalty while driving innovation and diversity in our IndianOil family.
Going forward, we plan to recruit executives in similar numbers for 2022 through campuses and All India Open examinations. And I have the pleasure of sharing that the recruitment plan for 2022 is already in an advanced stage. Advertisements have been released, applications are being received, and I believe we would have more vibrant, more energetic and it should culminate in best minds with bright academic records joining the IndianOil family by year-end. In a nutshell, I can say Covid 19 has neither deterred us nor even limited us from meeting the aspirations of young hopefuls of joining the Organisations.
Thank You, Ranjan!