LAS VEGAS — When HCL Technologies Limited made Vineet Nayar its CEO in 2007, it tasked him with transforming the company. As Nayar moved to reverse the decline of the company's "mindshare," market share and talent share, he and his fellow company leaders discovered they needed to prioritize their employees in order to effect the necessary change, Nayar told attendees at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference.
And so Nayar converted HCL's culture into an employee-first operation, he said. Here are three takeaways for HR professionals looking to cultivate employee-first cultures in their organizations.
"Managers can do nothing but infuse, enable employees in the value zone to create higher and higher value. That's how the idea of employee-first, customer-second was born."
When Nayar and his fellow leaders considered how to transform HCL, they asked themselves a few key questions to determine where they needed to focus their energy. First, they asked themselves about the kind of business they conducted. They were in the business of creating different experiences for their customers.
The next question followed: Who creates this differentiation? The answer: The employees. The final meditation focused on, if employees create the differentiation that spurs growth, then what's the goal of management? Management, Nayar said, must inspire employees to generate the value of the business.
"... Create a vision of tomorrow which is so compelling that people will jump out of bed and go climb Mount Everest for you every day."
As Nayar and his team pursued the transformation of their business and an employee-first culture, they were open about the need for change with their workers. This step gave way to the next step on the path of change: Cultivating "a vision of tomorrow" that would incentivize people to work. These two steps fed into each other, Nayar said.
Employees needed to know what the company wanted to change and why, Nayar said. Without that knowledge, they wouldn't understand how they fit into the company's ambition. Without it they would never achieve that vision without comprehending how much HCL valued them.
"Employees do not trust management. The reason is employees can understand thinking behind communication rather than the content of communication."
To materialize the change he envisioned, Nayar launched a series of experiments. He emphasized the distinction between these experiments and the more common top-down initiatives or projects CEOs generally introduce when trying to transform an organization.
Using the scientific method, Nayar said, scientists work hard to prove a hypothesis right or wrong. This doesn't translate to the corporate world. Instead, a CEO sends out a message and employees are expected to understand it and execute it. "Give me a break," he said. "You have to launch it as an experiment."
The experiment model accounts for the distrust that naturally exists between employees and company leadership, Nayar said. Employees fail to trust leadership because they see through communications attempting to cover up a business' weaknesses, Nayar explained. Radical transparency provides the only solution to this problem. Leaders who expose employees to their companies' shortcomings at once shore up trust and invite workers to find fixes.