Realising the potential of a new-age workforce


The panel shared their respective companies’ take on enhancing the potential of their workforce.

An eminent panel got together to discuss the potential of the new-age workforce, i.e. the millennials, at the SHRM India Annual Conference, 2015.

The panel consisted of Abhijit Bhaduri, CLO, Wipro; Gajendra Chandel, CHRO, Tata Motors; Vijay Deshpande, Head-HR, JK Tyres & Industries and Aditya Kohli, global head of Total Rewards, HR Systems & Analytics, Airtel. The session was moderated by Frank Ricciardi, VP and GM, Asia-Pacific, Cornerstone OnDemand.

Ricarrdi began the session by saying that “Before we embark on the journey to realise the potential of the new-age workforce, we need to first realise whether we have the potential”.

He added that normally, the potential of the workforce is evaluated with the success of the company. His counter argument was that a model organisation and its HR would help employees realise their full potential in terms of life and career, and not just work. ‘Potential’, according to him, is a human thing.

In the opinion of Deshpande, the first speaker of the session, the way to realise the potential of the new-age workforce was through empowerment, enablement and engagement. However, he was quick to add that it was easier said than done.

He cited the example of his own company, JK Tyres, a typical brick and mortar business. The company has a mother plant, which was set up some 50 years back, where the average age of employees was 50 years. At the same time, the company also has a plant in Chennai, which is just a year old and the average age of its workers is 27. Interestingly, the Chennai plant is more productive than the mother plant, that too with just a third of the workforce strength of the mother plant. In addition, the company also managed to sign in a long sought after client, Hyundai, only after the latter visited the Chennai plant.

The next speaker on the panel, Chandel of Tata Motors, felt that every organisation had its own strategies to deal with the problem, and it’s not just a strategy at the corporate level but a strategy at the operational level as well.

He talked about how his company has segmented the workforce not just by the usual white collar and blue collar employees, but also by verticals, like, manufacturing, customer-focus and R&D.

The third segment gets the maximum investment to realise the potential of the customer-facing workforce and the last one is manufacturing.

Chandel spoke about how Tata motors launched a specific master’s programme in technology in collaboration with a University, as it found that the normal master’s degree courses in engineering offered by the regular colleges were very generic.

Kohli, the next speaker from Airtel, talked about how there was a large-scale shift happening across the world, in terms of technology, power, economy and demography. All of these have changed the business model dramatically.

If yesterday the growth of a company from one customer to 10 million customers was considered decent, today the new-age companies have to move from one to 10 million to 80 million in just one year.

The challenge in this new ecosystem is to create a promise for the employees and help them adapt, learn and grow with this change.

Abhijit Bhaduri of Wipro made an interesting observation. He preferred to use the automobile analogy like everyone else to explain his viewpoint.

He compared ‘potential’ with the fuel tank, which indicates that a specific distance can be covered with a certain quantity of fuel in the tank. Now, to increase this potential, one has to enhance the engine’s efficiency.

Bhaduri said that the role of the employer was to increase the efficiency of the workforce so that they last longer than they normally do. And to do this, companies have to work towards improving the skill set, experience and exposure of the employees so that they are able to move to the next level.


  1. Facilitating skill set improvement is the most life enhancing value add to a team member. The organisation is by and large selfless when it enables development by which the workforce surge ahead in life and justifiably expects continuity in the organisation. This endearing act of the organisation leads to Employee Engagement and thereby brings down the attrition levels.

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