Flying in from all corners of the country, braving monsoon rains and traffic jams in Mumbai, the HR chiefs and CEOs of leading companies queued up at a suburban hotel last Friday, with one question in mind: How had they fared in the coveted list- India’s Best Companies To Work For.
Given that India Inc is in the throes of a slowdown, talent management has become crucial as industries marshal resources against the tough times. So this year’s The Economic Times and The Great Place To Work Institute study had special importance. For some years, the study has provided the industry with a much-needed barometer to judge how companies fare on the people front.
The 2013 study, one of the largest in the world, covered 550 companies spanning 22 industries, surveying 98,998 employees. So it was but natural for the 60 CEOs and some 300 HR chiefs to wait with bated breath as the list was read out. In the end it was Google which once again took the top honour of being the best workplace in India.
And why did Google come out tops? Well, simply because, ‘the 50-billion dollar startup’, as they like to call themselves, has some unparalleled processes and non-traditional practices. For example, last year, all tech Nooglers (new hires) traveled to Mountain View, California for a central tech induction; a program called ‘Googler 2 Googler’ (g2g) enables the employees to share their knowledge with peers through various media on subjects ranging from tightrope walking to advanced Python programming. A few months ago, every manager at Google was given a budget, called ‘play dough,’ to spend on a fun group activity outside office.
Google is different. “We have an incredibly empowering environment and let people figure out how they get to their goals,” says Rajan Anandan, managing director, Google India.
Google voted best workplace in India, followed by Intel and American Express
With growth numbers sluggish, the HR departments of the companies have been walking the tightrope by keeping costs in check by weeding out low performers, cutting benefits and doling marginal salary hikes on the one end while still having to attract, motivate, and retain the best talent at the other end. It’s a difficult balancing act given that employee engagement and job satisfaction dips during these tough times. In such an environment, the HR’s role as a multi-faceted and critical business partner rather than just being a support function has increased.
And people matters are not just the domain of HR folks, today. Even the CEOs are increasingly spending more time with their HR teams and on HR-related activities. “The whole aspect of talent management is supercritical. HR function is a core component of leadership team. The quality of people we hire directly translates into business results,” says Sanjay Rishi, president, American Express.
That’s not all. Repeated studies have shown that the companies which work proactively towards becoming the best workplace, build in a formidable competitive strength vis-a-vis its competitors. “The top 25 / 50 best workplaces have not only shown significant improvements over the last decade, but also built a formidable entry barrier to this select club” says Prasenjit Bhattacharya, CEO, The Great Place to Work Institute, India.