x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Handle your talented employees with care

The Life: Ravin Jesuthasan of management consultancy Towers Watson talks abut what are the different ways to invest in employees to retain the best and create a supply chain of talent.

Ravin Jesuthasan says companies typically think about their workforces as monolithic entities, which results in inefficiency. Pawan Singh / The National
Ravin Jesuthasan says companies typically think about their workforces as monolithic entities, which results in inefficiency. Pawan Singh / The National

Ravin Jesuthasan, a managing director and global practice leader for Towers Watson's talent management practice in Chicago, says investment in employees is important not only to ensure a steady supply chain but also to retain the best employees. He has co-authored a book called Transformative HR: How Great Companies Use Evidence-Based Change for Sustainable Advantage, published in 2011.


In the changing job scenario, how can employees retain their jobs?

If you have the luxury of choice, you can choose the business model that you are part of and how your role contributes to that business model. Or you can build a career to weather the changes in economy. A flight attendant, for instance, can actually move on to management or to the hospitality sector.


What investments can a company make in its employees to retain the best?

Several types of investments. One can be talent management, telling employees "here's what it means to belong to the company". This can be anything from, say, perks, competitive pay, free lunches, to a concierge service walking your dog. The other can be in the form of training or grooming the employee to come into management. Or the investment can be in the form of how your contribution gets reflected in the workplace, such as the pay cheque or being put into a high-potential role.


What are some of the challenges and advantages of the HR divisions in Gulf companies?

One of the challenges is that there is great discomfort in distinguishing people based on their performance because it is looked upon as value judgement. But it is not, because some people play a more pivotal role in an organisation than others. The greatest advantage here is the lack of legacy. It can be a burden because it stops you from changing, and you need to change because business models are changing according to the economy.


You wrote a book on evidence-based change in HR practices. What is evidence-based change?

Evidence-based change is about the application of a mental model and logic to decision-making. Just as we have seen with the evidence-based medicine movement as well as the evolution of decision-making in finance and marketing, the impact of HR and people-related decision-making can be greatly enhanced by the application of these fundamentals.


Where does that fit in with current HR practices?

Organisations are very comfortable applying the logic of marketing to segmenting their customers and differentiating the level of service provided based on the behaviours they want from various customer groups, such as more purchases and more referrals. Yes, companies typically do not segment their workforces, choosing instead to think about them as a single, monolithic entity. This results in tremendous inefficiency as companies struggle to motivate talent in different roles with different wants and needs with a single, undifferentiated employee value proposition.