‘There is demand for more specialised and ambidextrous workforce’

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Updated: August 12, 2016 4:21 PM

Nishant Kolgaonkar, head HR, SOTC Travel, speaks about the HR best practices in his company and what are the challenges in the future By Reema Lokesh

Nishant Kolgaonkar, head HR, SOTC Travel, speaks about the HR best practices in his company and what are the challenges in the future By Reema Lokesh

What is the HR philosophy at SOTC, especially in an industry that faces high turnover?

201608etw36Nishant Kolgaonkar

Our HR philosophy is clearly enunciated through our Employee Value Proposition and our HR mission. Our mission is to serve our internal customers by continually focusing on adding value to business and maximising employee experience through their life cycle. Our HR strategy is designed in alignment with business strategy and focuses on resource optimisation, employee engagement and development, corporate governance, compliance and risk management. At SOTC, we focus on building a culture that enhances employee engagement and communication. This is done through our organisational effectiveness and engagement initiatives across locations. We also encourage employees to brand some of our initiatives as it helps to create awareness, provide clarity and ensure sustenance. Few of the programmes conducted under Organisational Effectiveness are employee engagement surveys (Empower), new joinees’ feedback survey (Anubhav), exit interviews (Samvaad), Buddy programme, amidst others. We also conduct Happiness Audits. Further, we take pride in our gender diversity. More than 33 per cent of our workforce comprises of women employees who are working across various levels.

Is there a certain programme which was designed to give employees the much needed work security?

The nature of work has significantly changed and concept of life time employment has become elusive. Work is now more cognitively complex, dependent on interpersonal skills, technology, and conducted with speed. Employees have to focus on “employability skills or skill security”. There is a difference between occupational and employability skills. Recently an in-house programme called, ‘Develop your X factor’ for one of the business division was created and it was based on OD intervention techniques. The programme aimed at helping employees enhance their employability skills. In addition, there are various products and process training conducted and even tests administered to check occupational skills. Along with formal trainings, we also encourage knowledge sharing through various webinars, articles and videos. Employees are encouraged to work on various projects that are strategic, process improvement, product innovations, stretched assignments, and all of these help in increasing employability skills.

What are currently the important trends in the HR, especially in the travel and tourism industry?

  • Generations are colliding at work place and employees are putting a stronger satisfaction rating on whether their employer is developing them
  • As business environment continues to get more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, competition for talent will get more intensified and HR along with business leaders will have to develop and implement talent management practices
  • Digital strategy, social media and mobile platform will enhance communication and accentuate the migration of HR and business processes from being manual and administrative to more automated and self-service in nature
  • Big Data and analytics will become a reality in HR
  • Organisations will have to consistently monitor governance, risks and compliance
  • Assessment tools and psychometric tests will be used widely in workforce planning, optimisation, productivity measurement and leadership development
  • Mentoring and coaching will become critical for future leadership development

How unique are your training programmes and are there any refresher courses the company encourages the employees to take?

Our trainings vary from product and process trainings, on-the-job trainings, induction, governance and compliance related trainings, behaviuoral, functional, managerial and leadership development programmes like MDP, KMS, innovation workshops, etc. We conduct five day intensive Management Development Programmes (MDP) for our staff to develop their managerial and leadership competencies and business acumen. Our functional trainings cater to sales, product, operations, IT, finance, compliance and risk management topics. In addition, we have also introduced coaching at senior level and currently working on introducing mentoring for employees.

Since you come from a non – travel background and have worked in other sectors, how different is this industry and what are the primary challenges?

Unlike IT, banking, pharma and few other industries where there are entry barriers in terms of education and pedigree, the travel industry is very inclusive in nature since it employs people across all strata of society. Having said that, with the arrival of MBA, hospitality, specialised travel and tourism courses, things are beginning to change. Like any other industry, the travel and tourism industry is becoming increasingly competitive. Technological advances are changing the way businesses operate. Rather than deteriorating the offline travel industry, new technologies are pushing it forward. Amidst these challenges, the travel and tourism industry is growing substantially. There is an exciting opportunity to create new industry standards and best practices. From the HR perspective, regardless of any industries, people challenges across all industries continue to remain the same. Earlier employment in the tourism industries used to be considerably varied ranging from professional, skilled positions to unskilled and semi-skilled work. Over the years the demand is now for more specialised and ambidextrous workforce. In a VUCA world, building capacity and developing capabilities of ‘ambidextrous’ workforce to multi task could be quite daunting.

What is your advice to the millennials who are seeking a career in the industry?

The travel and tourism industry provides exciting opportunity to work in a global environment. Gen Y are highly impatient, inquisitive, innovative, brand conscious, crave for constant recognition and instant gratification. Young employees need to get their hands dirty, be flexible to relocate anywhere, appreciate different perspectives and develop strong learning orientation and domain competencies.

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