When it comes to the Indian passenger vehicle segment, the country’s leading carmaker Maruti Suzuki India is considered one of the best places to work in the automotive industry. But what does it take to become part of the leading automaker?
Rajesh Uppal, Member Executive Board (HR, IT, Safety, DE), Maruti Suzuki India says “The most important trait that I look at people who want to join us is their ability to learn. Every day you have to keep on learning. So I think, for me, the ability to learn new things is something very important and that’s something which we look at from a fresh engineer to join us.”
Speaking with Express Mobility Uppal shares his thoughts about the changing landscape of hiring in the automotive industry. He agrees that globally the automotive industry is undergoing a once-in-a-century kind of transformation be it the megatrends or the various disruptions.
It has changed the way people are hired, the skillsets required and the factors industry leaders look for when hiring the right talent.
Maruti Suzuki India on average hires more than 300 engineers every year from various campuses across India. In addition, it also has a secondary hiring process across India for people who may have little experience (read in another field) but for the company they may be freshers.
“We hire a maximum of around 700 people at any point of time. For me it is important to know if they are able to learn or not and we’ll build on that. And will they match our culture of learning,” he adds.
The OEM has inculcated key Japanese learnings on its shopfloor also. A lot of its employees who begin their career on the shopfloor get trained, develop skills and progress to senior roles including managerial positions. “Our culture has always focussed on how to develop internal talent to take up the leadership role even on the shop floor.”
The idea is to motivate employees to learn new skills, and earn a diploma or degree along with their work to accelerate their position in the company as well.
Excellence in just curriculum not a key factor for hiring
A key issue in the education system, especially in India, has been focused on theoretical excellence and in-turn academic ranking. But for Maruti Suzuki India, a person’s psychometric evaluation is the key to understanding his or her potential to become part of the organisation.
Responding to how Maruti Suzuki India assesses new joining, Uppal shares, “The majority of the requirement for us is in the mechanical and mechatronics domain.”
“We always look at the basic qualification and when we evaluate people for entry, we look at both, capability like in this case how good your mechanical or mechatronic skills are and also we give even more weightage to your psychometric skills for learnability and other areas. Taking into account these two becomes a qualifying criteria for somebody to join us.”
He says the idea is not just to look at their academic performance, but their ability and openness to learning skills. The idea is that people who are open to learning new skills can be trained and reach new heights, but individuals who lack the desire for new things are hard to work with as a team.
“We have a huge internal training capability building and also with Suzuki as our partner we send a lot of people to Japan for learning over there the technical skills as per the Suzuki standards.”
Dealing with attrition and motivating employees
Amongst the various issues, the Human Resource department has to deal with is retaining the right talent and ensuring the key people are motivated to continue to give their best. The last two years have of course brought the issue of mental health to the forefront and the importance of work-life balance among others.
So how does one ensure and keep the employees motivated? It definitely cannot just be fiscal incentives. “My personal feeling is giving employees challenging work and where they learn new skills and improve their knowledge is the best way to retain people,” responds Uppal.
He believes two things are very important. Firstly, the role of the employee and whether their work adds value. In the case of Maruti Suzuki India, the sense of achievement of working on new products and launching them in the market is a motivating factor for many.
“Secondly, continuous learning is a big motivating factor to the people around. It is important that we consider in our working that you are continuing to learn when you are involved with a new subject and a newer way of working is an important element of the capability,” he explains.
Opportunities galore in the Indian auto sector
Despite the challenges, India’s automotive industry is on track to see one of the strongest growths in the foreseeable future. Uppal says though the global auto industry is going through “a once in 100-years kind of transformation,” the Indian automotive industry is still at a very nascent stage with a very low car penetration. As a result, he sees room for sustained growth.
“We are still at around 32 cars per thousand people. The opportunity going forward in this (automotive) space is going to be tremendous. Thirdly, with the infrastructure improving, and the kind of investment the government is making, the requirement for the industry is going to be much higher than what it has been.
This transformation has to be done by a full ecosystem together. Not only as an OEM but together with supplier and partner base who help co-create the new product. The dealers share the requirement from the market and feed that input to the company.
“The need for skilled people going forward in this industry is going to be tremendous. Maybe it will be, though today its trend is toward IT and those areas to look at that, but having a good domain understanding of automotive business is going to be very critical going forward to perform and run our business as we go along there or sustain this industry,” adds Uppal.
He says that Maruti Suzuki India is deploying new modes of hiring for instance, if the company can onboard young talent during their second or third year in college so to introduce them to the company’s working culture. Much earlier than he/she would normally do.