People management policies at large manufacturing firms must focus on helping employees realize where they can improve and deliver better results, say Shruti Ambegaoker, head (organization development and governance), and Amit Prakash, head of human resources (HR), at packaged consumer goods maker Marico Ltd. This is why Marico Ltd emphasizes systems to address career development and gender parity at every organizational level, from the corporate office in Mumbai to the factories, sales teams, and carrying and forwarding depots around the country. Now, the company is busy addressing challenges that automation and social media will bring to HR policies. In an interview, the two discuss how the firm turns its employees into “Mariconians". Edited excerpts:

What are the core principles that guide how Marico hires, trains and promotes employees?

Prakash: Empowerment and early responsibility are core principles that form the foundation on which Marico’s hiring and grooming strategy is built.

These principles are embodied in our Talent Value Proposition which is “to continuously challenge, enrich, and fulfil the aspirations of Mariconians so as to maximize their potential to make a difference".

We look for three fundamental traits that are critical to being successful in a highly empowered culture. The first, is high initiative and self-motivation. Such people take ownership and make things happen. The second is the ability to challenge existing paradigms or status quo. And the third is a growth mindset, which is important for long-term success.

How do you ensure you are able to reach out to all employees and help them develop their skills and careers in the company?

Prakash: Our development interventions focus heavily on experience-based development. We believe in developing 70% of the skill through on-the-job assignments, 20% through mentorship or coaching by the leaders, and 10% through classroom and other formal learning interventions. An example of this is Ignite, our management trainee programme. Our management trainee graduates, once selected, undergo a structured one-year-long programme which includes, experiential learning through projects, rural immersion and on-the-job training, shadowing and mentoring, and specific behavioural interventions which hones them to take on their roles as managers at Marico.

What’s Marico’s programme to ensure diversity in the corporate office and on the shop floor?

Prakash: We understand that diversity works both ways and this is reflected in our policies and our code of conduct. For example, when revising our parental policy last year, we not only extended the maternity leave but also paternity leave, which will truly empower women. We also included a special provision dedicated for men and women’s physical and mental wellness across grades during this special life-stage. Marico takes pride in successfully bringing most of its female employees back to work after their maternity break and taking care of various factors like flexible working.

How does Marico secure a friendly working environment for female factory staff and factory managers?

Ambegaoker: We have worked towards this by creating basic necessities like clean dedicated washrooms...and specially created changing rooms to cater to their emotional and physical safety. We have dedicated POSH (prevention of sexual harassment) committees in place at each location that we operate in. We educate members on our code of conduct through communication and campaigns, education sessions, e-learning modules and by sharing contact details of representatives in case members have any complaints or concerns. We have also set up complaint boxes at all locations to provide access to our grievance redressal mechanisms.

What are some current challenges in people management that Marico is working on?

Prakash: We believe the biggest challenge of the future lies in paradox management. How we are able to offer standardization with customization, automation with high personal touch are some examples of the paradoxes we need to manage. In order to create a future-ready Marico, we must build a future-ready and robust HR function. Hence, we are investing in building our capability through not just automation but making HR smart and intelligent with the use of chat bots, AI (artificial intelligence) and state-of-the-art HR automation systems. We are complementing this with human intervention to create signature experiences for our members.

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