Gary Steel, the head of human resources (HR) at ABB Switzerland, feels the term HR has an impersonal ring to it and prefers 'people' instead. Speaking to ET, he says people are the lifeline of any business and employees of the power and automation technology company in India are a role model for the company worldwide.
What are your views on the HR market in India?
With the Indian economy growing at a rapid pace, HR has become attractive to people and is the heart of businesses in India. The market here has a vast talent pool with competence levels that are probably one of the best in the world. The increasing presence of Indians in global teams at ABB shows how crucial the Indian HR market has become for us. I can safely call HR in India as a role model for ABB worldwide as they excel in values, leadership and performance, the key elements of our people strategy.
Traditional HR was limited to administration, but today the focus has shifted to talent. What are the initiatives taken by ABB to ensure operational success in HR?
ABB has started the 'One Simple ABB' programme which aims for a balanced approach between HR service centres and HR business practices. The HR service centres automate transactional HR practices, improving service delivery while HR business partners act as consultants to the businesses by keeping locally relevant knowledge and strong HR skills close to operations where they can add bottomline value.
Speaking of recruitment, what are the skills you look for in HR professionals?
Today, in HR, being good is not enough. One must be good and global, with a global outlook and adaptability. In other words, managerial skills and business acumen fall flat without a global view. One needs to respect local practices, understand the regulatory setup and adapt to the local environment to fit into global roles. Further, they must be curious to learn, eager to develop and desperate to succeed.
Often one hears people debating whether non-HR people are suitable candidates for HR roles. What is your view?
HR is an area of expertise and I believe HR roles should be handled by people with a background in HR as the training they receive polishes their skills. However, that alone isn't enough as an understanding of the business is a must.
Will the ongoing economic slowdown impact opportunities for Indian talent?
Recruitment at ABB for global roles isn't driven by passport, but competence to do the job. We see tremendous potential in the Indian market. ABB had said earlier that we would require 45,000 engineers in the next five years of which we have already hired about 7,000 people. This shows the economic blip won't harm opportunities. Last year in India, we hired around 1,500 people and may need another 4,000 people in the next 3 years.
Attrition is a problem everywhere.
Employees complain about work getting monotonous. What are the steps taken by ABB to prevent stagnation?
For ABB attrition is not a problem. Our attrition rates are below the industry rates. However, meeting our recruitment targets is also a challenge. For professionals complaining about monotony in work, I would say boring people get bored.
At ABB, we allow the employee to choose their career path. Our performance assessment, leadership development and mentoring tools help the employees decide on how to evolve their careers. We plan to start a global mentoring tool too.