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Dalmia Bharat Takes a Huge Leap in Its Digital Journey

In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Shalini Kapoor, Deputy General Manager – Human Resource, Dalmia Bharat Group, informs how the company has adopted a digital path to bring about a cultural change in the organization.

For Shalini Kapoor, joining Dalmia Bharat Group was perhaps one of the most important decisions she has made about her career. Coming from a different organization with no prior knowledge about manufacturing organization and its practices, Kapoor was initially very skeptical as to how well she will fit in and be able to make a place for herself.

“I had heard a lot about the organization and its people practices and especially after interacting with HR leaders during the interview I was totally thrilled about joining the company,” Kapoor recalls on what motivated her to join the organization.

Dalmia Bharat Group, an Indian conglomerate and has a very strong presence in the cement, sugar and Refactories businesses, cement being one of its biggest businesses. The company that started its operations way back in 1939 has witnessed an exponential growth both in terms of its capacity, as well as the production, over the decades. Today, its turnover stands around a thousand crores rupees.

In terms of the people’s growth today, the group companies collectively employ over 8,500 people. The New Delhi-based company has a strong presence in South, East, and Northeast India. Globally, it expanded its presence in Japan and Germany and is planning to set up offices in other European countries soon.

Kapoor, who joined in March 2016 as Deputy General Manager – Human Resource, Dalmia Bharat Group, says, “No two days have been the same since the day I joined Dalmia Bharat Group. I got an opportunity to work on assignments that I had not done in past, explore areas within HR that I was not introduced to in past. It was an experience that any HR professional would aspire for – right from institutionalization of Dalmia values to designing leadership development programs, compensation strategy.”

“What also was encouraging was to see that the leadership is acutely cognizant of the potential that every employee brings in,” she says. Also that the organization has a strong value system – based on trust and respect, integrity, commitment, and humility, Kapoor observes, these values are part of our upbringing at home as well. So, every employee feels at home, and most importantly, when you see that your work has a direct impact on society it gives you a sense of purpose.

Managing the uphill task

Despite the joy and pride of working with an organization that has a strong value system, there was this unique challenge Kapoor and her team was expected to solve. She says, “When a company has a legacy as strong as Dalmia, you are bound to find these ways of working or thinking which are not always very modern. So, getting people comfortable with technology was quite an uphill task.”

She believes, on one hand, though the organization has grown manifolds both organically and inorganically over the last decade and a half, undertaking multiple acquisitions – and with each acquisition, acquired a unique set of culture and processes – one cannot look at them through a single lens and needed to respond to them in different ways and at the same time, helping them assimilate into the overall organizational philosophy.

“With mergers and acquisitions, we ended up having different sets of processes plus different platforms for each activity. So, we were doing a lot of things, but not everything converged into a common purpose and ideology. That was the biggest challenge that we had to address while conceptualizing our digital journey,” she says.

It was then that Kapoor and her team started looking for solutions. The company zeroed in on a cloud partnership with Oracle to continue its digital transformation journey.

Explaining the process, she says, “The representatives from Oracle had come over for the first set of presentation. I think we gave them a very hard time as we asked a lot of questions, there were multiple meetings and then demo after demo. So, we spent a year in this process.”

But what Kapoor and other executives appreciated was that they were able to get answers for almost everything that we were looking at from the vendor. “And once we were confident, we decided that Oracle is going to be our partner in this journey. We started off with four HR modules, which were covered the hire to retire processes. In phase one, we took talent acquisition, core HR, the OTL, and the absence module, because these run right at the core of our operation. We wanted to bring these first also because if we could do things right around this, it will just help to instill in a lot of confidence in people pertaining to our new platform,” she says.

This was followed by a performance management system, again which was about talking of goals as well as the performance reviews. Post that, the compensation module was slated for implementation.

Adopting a digital path

Kapoor informs that by moving to Oracle at HCM Cloud, the company adopted a digital path, which was aimed at not just to deliver a speedy solution to people, but also to help us bring about an entire cultural change in the organization.

“When I say cultural change, I mean, we wanted to reinvent the way people look at operations. I can talk specifically about HR as a function, our ability to track, to monitor, to review, analyze all the business solutions and deliver them proactively, has helped us, to position ourselves as a strategic business partner. And I think that is a very key ask from every HR professional,” she says.

With this implementation, Dalmia was able to integrate multiple platforms running HR Operations. With Oracle as inputs source every single platform gets an auto-update making it a single unified transactions, so that has helped the company bring out a lot of efficiencies and effectiveness in its processes.

Kapoor highlights that the most important benefit was that it helped transform the entire perspective of people towards HR solution. “The UI is much easier and intuitive. We did not have to perform too much training as people found it easy to use it. I would see it as one of our biggest achievements while looking at the struggles of the past.”

The other aspect is efficiency. The HR team was spending 8-9 hours doing the routine tasks, which is no longer the case. So, it is the case of increased efficiency there.  In fact, on an average, around 25% of our bandwidth has been released to do so much more meaningful work. And there are so many more, employee-connect and other initiatives that we, as an HR function have been able to plan around learning or leadership development around communication.

The solution comes with a mobility option and has been simple to use. As Kapoor says, “Our people have been happy around the fact that they do not have to depend on their machines. We have been able to build in the kind of repositories that we wanted to all along this time. Access to information for everybody is so much better. That is where I think people are seeing the benefit. And we as the HR team are happy in terms of our efficiencies and that all of it is now kind of in an autopilot mode.”

Kapoor informs that the company has seen around a 32% increase in the usage of HR platform. “This 32% increase in usages coupled with the mobile and the desktop and in the performance management module, the adoption has been much above 90%,” she says.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the fact how cloud has helped us to streamline our operations. Our digital transformation has helped us to realign our DNA,” she adds.

Dalmia’s HR digital transformation has speeded up and we now cater to around 5,000 employees with a faster and precise solution. We spent minimal time in training, and we did not have to worry about whether people will use it or not, whether they like it or not. That has been a great boon in terms of the overall implementation.

“We have been able to acquire businesses faster, and we do so much more meaningful HR work with people. Our turnaround time has shortened. We have been able to devote time to create great experiences by building strengthening our connect with people. All this happened because we were able to take care of our operations through the HCM cloud and devote that time in strengthening our relationships,” says Kapoor in a relaxed manner.

The success of businesses lies at the intersection of technology intervention and employee’s expectation, believes Kapoor. When it comes to introducing a new practice, we must be cognizant that one size does not fit all.

“One must not follow a trend or bring in a new solution because everyone else is doing it. A company should not implement new technology without considering the culture of the organization and expect to see positive business outcomes. Most importantly, the workforce expectations need to be managed. The workforce must be at the center stage of everything that businesses design,” she asserts.

Kapoor believes a strong foundation of digital transformation constitutes a strong culture of innovation and an adaptable employee mindset. “That is where I think the leadership team including the HR managers plays a key role.”

According to her, “We need to stay connected with people and always have a real time pulse of people’s expectations to keep our initiatives relevant at all times.”

She also believes that technologies like AI will be a defining factor in the times to come but human influence or that judgment will never really go away despite digital transformation.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com