Managing talent

Managing talent

“The old adage- People are your most important asset is wrong. People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”— Jim Collins in his book “Good To Great”


MILIND THAKUR Vice President – Human Resources

Elder Pharmaceuticals

India is predominantly an agriculture based country and therefore manpower was always in demand. Even after industrialisation the situation has remained more or less the same. However post liberalisation this situation has changed drastically, because the Indian industry which was protected so far by the Government started facing acute competition from the global players.

It is a well known fact that management has to manage four M’s namely, Man, Money, Machine and Material and Market, then MAN is the most important element, responsible for taking care of other Ms as well and MAN happens to be variable and unpredictable hence, the most difficult to manage but most important asset. Therefore in today’s context it is not people but the ‘right people’ who are important assets of the organisation. And so the biggest challenge before Human Resources (HR) is ‘Managing Talent’, which means managing the right people. According to me talent management covers a gamut of HR function as it includes – making, retaining and developing the best / right people and also downsizing without loosing them.

Making the best people available

‘Transformation begins by first getting the right people on the bus (and wrong people off the bus) and then figuring out where to drive’-Jim Collins.

We have to locate the source for the right people and then attract them by using appropriate strategies.

At Elder we have decided to create a ‘talent pool’ because in the current situation it is difficult to get the right talent since there are many opportunities available now in other sectors such as IT, ITES, BPO, call centres, credit card marketing, etc where they also get relatively better salaries than in the pharma industry. Also pharma sector is small therefore there is always a pull and snatch of talent. As a result the price of a mediocre pharma marketing person is also very high.

Every year Elder engages management trainees from pharmacy colleges and business schools. After locating the source of talent it is equally important to select the right candidate. At Elder we have a robust recruitment and selection process. The candidates have to undergo a written test (technical and psychometric), group discussion, Powerpoint presentations and personal interview by a panel consisting of representatives from marketing, sales and HR. In case of recruitment other than management trainees there is a process in place depending upon the level in the organisation.

Retaining the best people

The biggest challenge faced by any organisation today is to manage the superstars. Some of the important points which greatly influence retention strategies of the organisation are as follows:

  • Reward System – There has to be a fair reward system which can accommodate the individual’s needs and yet stay within the budget allocated by the company. At Elder we have a flexible compensation policy within the fixed structure and budgeted cost. Normally at a young age an individual needs more monthly in-take due to requirements like marriage, accommodation etc whereas in case of middle age and above, their expectations are more on retirement benefits. We design the compensation package looking into such requirements. The basic purpose of our compensation policy is to get the right people and not to get right behaviour from the wrong people.
  • Work environment – Work environment is intangible and has to be experienced. It is a part of the culture of an organisation. At Elder it is always our endeavour to create an energising work environment so that employees enjoy work and do not feel it is a burden. We are creating such an environment that each employee should be charged to come to work place every morning rather than forced to come. We provide free of cost hygienic and balanced food at most of our locations including our head office and also celebrate various festivals and conduct cultural programmes.
  • Provide challenges – Talented people always need challenges; an organisation should identify such people and provide them challenges. At Elder we have a system of periodic review of each functional head to ensure that the goals are achieved. We believe in empowering the functional heads. That itself works out to be a big challenge for an individual.
  • Effective Communication – Communication plays a vital role in building employee morale and belongingness. During our cultural programmes or review meetings members of our top management team meet all employees to establish informal and formal communication with them. We believe that each and every employee including his / her family must have feeling of belongingness with the organisation. We also have a house-magazine.
  • Growth Opportunities – Talented people are always ambitious. An organisation has to identify them and provide them growth opportunities in terms of role and / or status. We have a procedure of identifying talented people where we use mini assessment centre and performance management and review techniques.
  • Developing the best / right people – This stresses the significance of Training and Development (T&D) process. T&D is a continuous process because competencies required in people are changing very fast and the organisation has to keep pace with these changing competencies by developing people. Organisations have realised that they require competent, committed and satisfied employees for its survival, growth and excellence and this can be only achieved through effective T&D of employees.

T&D is divided into two parts namely – hard skills (functional) training and soft skills training. Both are important for the performance of an employee. However, as the person goes up in the hierarchy then soft skills become more important for superior performance.

A well designed, effectively implemented and rigorously followed training programme creates wonders in employee performance and improves the bottom line.

The following steps are essential to make training effective in any organisation

  • Identification of training needs- most commonly used method of need identification is performance appraisals

  • Designing the training module based on identified needs

  • Delivery of training module. This includes the logistic part of the training.

  • Follow-up on training to ensure that the training inputs are implemented at the work place. One step missing out of the above will make training ineffective.

At Elder, training is directed towards development of basic competencies that ensures average performance and on exceptional competencies which ensures superior performance.

Downsize without losing the best / right people

In his survey, Collins also found that getting the wrong people off the bus is another attribute of a successful organisation. Therefore in this era of downsizing, it is very important to clearly identify the right people and the wrong people before any action is taken.

As Collins says in his book, Good to Great, “Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, technology, competition or products. It is one thing above all others:

The ability to get and keep enough of the right people”.