April 2015 | Gayatri Kamath

'People policies are linked to the company’s strategy'

Employee engagement is critical to improve staff morale and the sense of belonging in the company, says human resources head Chetan Tolia

Tata Power has been transformed over the past last few years. What are the changes from a human resources (HR) perspective?
At Tata Power, we believe that the growth of the organisation is linked to the evolution of a better work culture and the growth of our employees. It is our constant endeavour to establish people policies that are consistent with the needs of the strategy of the company, and to mould its culture.

The demographic profile of the employees has periodically changed, the markets we serve have grown within and beyond India, and the kind of activities our organisation undertakes has expanded. As a consequence, we need to review, leverage and adapt our people policies to the changing needs.

The HR team has realigned itself around the company’s people perspective, which is articulated thus: ‘Enable employees and associates to achieve and unleash their full potential to deliver outcomes in a sustainable way.’ This is manifested by concentrating relentlessly on delivery.

We have a balanced approach on HR delivery and long-term planning for sustainable and prudent HR utilisation, as per the changing needs of the organisation. While business HR focuses on the optimal utilisation and deployment of people resources, strategic HR plans the strategy to build our capability and HR road map for the organisation, for short-, medium- and long-term requirements.

What are the HR challenges involved in running such a dispersed and diverse enterprise?
As an organisation Tata Power is more than 100 years old. The incumbent hierarchy has been in existence for several years. At the same time, there is a transition where the majority of the workforce now comprises young professionals, in much greater numbers than existed a decade ago. A programme for young professionals had to be designed to put promote them on a fast track. These young professionals come from diverse background. We had to develop suitable tools in order to assess the right talent and identify developmental needs.

Employee engagement is a key factor to improve morale and a sense of belonging in the company. This is essential for the retention of young talent. To deal with this issue, we have developed the Tata Power Skill Development Institute, which benefits some 600 power sector professionals through various training programmes. These modular programmes have been strategically designed to train, test, certify and accredit our workers in a phased fashion, thereby honing their professional skills. The objective of the initiative is to bridge the skills gap that exists across the value chain, and to help build a more capable workforce.

Another point is that Tata Power has constantly endeavoured to create a woman-friendly workplace. A detailed survey was conducted recently a to understand aspirations, hindrances in reaching leadership positions, developmental needs and women’s expectations from the organisation. The company has also developed a customised woman leadership programme for our female employees. It included interactions with organisational leadership, gender sensitisation, experience sharing with successful women leaders and topics on work-life balance, people management, emotional intelligence, etc. The programme covered a lot of women employees and, going forward, it will cover all women employees.

What is the company’s people strategy?
We constantly align the people strategy with our business strategy. Consequently, our people strategy is based on four pillars: capacity, capability, culture and systems.

  • Capacity: Based on organisational strategic intent, organisation structure is continuously aligned along with required manpower planning.
  • Capability: The competencies required for sustaining as well as growing our business are identified and tracked at the individual, decisional and organisational levels. An innovative measure — called ‘human capital readiness index’, which tracks functional as well as behavioural competencies — has been designed. Necessary development plans are organised for filling competency gaps.
  • Culture: The required cultural pillars for achieving organisational goals have been identified and interventions like organisation transformation have been designed.

Support pillars for capacity, capability, building systems and processes are constantly updated, with the focus on automation.

How does the ‘invisible goodness’ theme reflect in the HR function and across your people and teams?
Tata Power has announced several special initiatives, including salient dedications in line with its nation-building spirit, in this centenary-year celebration. About 1,000 Tata Power employees committed to volunteer for community initiatives undertaken across the country. One of the unique offerings for Tata Power employees and the public at large is the promotion of exercising bicycles-cum-charging stations for laptops, tablets, mobile phones, etc to encourage healthy, pollution-free living.

Know more about Tata Power's fascinating journey:
Overview: 100 years of high-wattage performance
A century ago, Tata Power ran a single hydroelectric project in India. Today it has grown to a $5.6-billion global enterprise, with coal mines in Indonesia, wind farms in South Africa, energy projects in Turkey and Zambia and technology partnerships in Australia. It is India's largest integrated private power producer, spanning power generation, transmission, distribution and trading
'We will continue to bring new technologies to India'
The path that Tata Power has chosen for itself is global and clean, as the company’s chief executive, Anil  Sardana, explains in this interview
'The consumer will reign'
Tata Power’s chief operating officer, Ashok Sethi, who has clocked 39 years with the company, shares his views on the organisation’s evolution
'We have to slog our assets'
There are challenges as well as opportunities on the path that Tata Power has chosen to take, says chief financial officer Ramesh Subramanyam
'A climate of respect is vital'
Chief culture officer and head of business excellence and transformation, Vivek Talwar, on what makes Tata Power a sustainable organisation
The going is green
A presence across hydro, wind, solar and geothermal makes it easier for Tata Power to target a cleaner energy portfolio
Chain of excellence
From renewable power to consumer friendliness, Tata Power’s associate entities have set the standard for the industry
For country and community, in the spirit of giving back
The corporate social responsibility initiatives of Tata Power have made a tremendous difference, in a wide variety of ways, to the lives of the countless people they have touched
'We were getting marginalised'
Tata Power had to think beyond Mumbai to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry, and that’s what it did, writes Prasad Menon
From dependable to adaptable
Tata Power has grown spectacularly in scale and spread thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, says Adi Engineer
When 'farmers' became 'hunters'
Where once reliability and continuity were prized, Tata Power has moved on to find its balance and to flourish in a business arena rendered volatile, writes Firdose Vandrevala
'It was easier to run back then'
KM Gherda remembers the days of Tata Electric Companies, of ‘reasonable returns’ and a business where the big complexity was accounting for three rather than one
A pioneer all the way through
FC Kohli on the company where he made his mark as an information technology whiz, at a time when government permission was needed to get computers installed