April 2016 | Sanghamitra Bhowmik

Tata AutoComp braces change and comes on top

From left: Sandeep Chaudhary, CEO, Aon India, Ajay Tandon, MD & CEO, Tata AutoComp Systems, Siba Satapathy, president and group CHRO, Tata AutoComp Systems, Shvetal Diwanji, vice president group marketing and corporate communications, Tata AutoComp and Tarandeep Singh, partner, talent & performance consulting, Aon Hewitt (India)

Tata AutoComp’s president (people and engagement) and CHRO talks to tata.com on the journey and challenges it faced to go from being in the bottom quartile of employee engagement to the top one.

Grooming future business leaders and developing a sound leadership is key to an organization’s success. How do you strike that balance?
Tata AutoComp is an auto-component conglomerate. We have many business units (divisions, owned companies and joint ventures) in our fold. Hence our size and scale works to our advantage as we have multiple options to groom future leaders. Coming to your question, we start the process by ensuring a transparent and inclusive method when it comes to important culture building blocks of the organisation eg When we were recasting our vision, mission and values (VMW), we adopted a co-creation route. We took inputs not only from a large cross section of employees. These inputs were then discussed at a workshop, attended by top 50 senior managers, where we together co-created our vision and mission. This way, not only did we set the tone of the culture of the organisation, got a quick buy-in, but also groomed our future leaders to think strategically.

We have regular Town Halls and communication meets wherein besides communicating the progress on various business parameters, we lay emphasis on building the culture of the organisation. Today, we are proud to say, that we have been able to create a performance driven culture at Tata AutoComp.

As an organisation, how much do you invest in learning, development and training?
We invest a lot in learning, development and training. For our diploma holders, we have tied up with BITS – Pilani that runs a dedicated course at our premise and ensures that these diploma holders gain an engineering degree. We have also tied up with Symbiosis University to offer an MBA programme to our graduates. This way, we ensure that we are enhancing the talent quotient of our employees. Further, we do deploy our people at our customers’ premises to learn best practices in the areas of quality, manufacturing processes, etc. We have tied up with Toyota where senior executives of Toyota conduct special classes for our people on Toyota Production System.

We have run assessment centres for our top 300 people with the help of SHL. The feedback received is used to develop individual development plan for each of the concerned managers.
Besides we encourage a lot of VA/VE, Kaizens and innovation. These could be in the areas of product, process or manufacturing engineering. This helps building a culture of learning, development and sharing of knowledge and best practices.

What are the key challenges you face when acquiring talent and retaining them, especially in the current market scenario?
Besides the normal challenges of attracting and retaining talent, we faced three consecutive years of near flat industry growth. In such a situation, the only way we could retain our talent was by engaging them. We started this with a culture building exercise which we termed as BRACE.  BRACE is an acronym for Building effective teams, being Result oriented, Agile, Customer centric and demonstrating Excellence in all that we do. We put in a mechanism to measure our people’s efforts over these traits and recognised those who demonstrated these traits. Besides we also kicked in a number of measures that would on one hand help improve our business parameters but also be of huge learning to our people eg, we decided that safety at workplace is paramount. For that we not only engaged our people, but got in an external agency like British Safety Council to assess all our plants. Today, I am proud to say that all our 29 plants in India are three star rated by British Council and our goal for this year is to ensure four star rating. Similarly on innovation, we instilled a process to capture constant innovation – both at product and process side and more importantly, set in a recognition mechanism. This way, we were not only able to keep our people engaged but also retain them. Today, our attrition rates are lower than the industry average.

How tough is ‘the best employer award’ journey?
It has been a very tough journey. Three years ago, when we measured our employee engagement, we were in the bottom quartile of the auto/ auto component space. This was an eye-opener for us. First and foremost, it was important for us to sensitize our people on the importance of engagement. We did this through various workshops. The next stage was to ensure that actual engagement was taking place linked to business results. Over the past few years, we have worked on our culture, VMV, leadership, performance (career development, learning, rewards and recognition), work process and task, and enhanced communication. We leveraged all forms of communication eg we have a ‘Whatsap’ group of our senior leaders, our business unit heads and all plant managers. This helped in bringing the employees together and increased the engagement. We also encouraged our managers and line leaders to enhance their communication down the line. This way we could move from being in the bottom quartile to the top quartile of the industry in a period of three years.

What makes Tata AutoComp the best employer?
It is our employees and their families that make Tata AutoComp the best employer. This award is dedicated to them and is a reflection of the hard work put in by the employees and the sacrifices made by their families.

Tata AIA Life Insurance, Tata AutoComp Systems, Tata Chemicals and Tata Communications won Aon best employer awards in 2016. Heads of the human resource departments speak about the best practices which helped each company win the award. Read more:
Overview: Putting people first
'A happy workforce is key' — Kristyl Bhesania, senior vice president and head of human resources, Tata AIA Life Insurance
On top of the transformation game — R Nanda, chief human resource officer, Tata Chemicals
'Creating a great place to work has been a key imperative for us' — Aadesh Goyal, chief human resource officer, Tata Communications