HxGN RadioPodcast

Building a culture for the future

Reskilling, a positive work culture, CSR; these are just a few of the talent-related challenges that organisations are facing today. In this episode of HxGN Radio, Navaneet Mishra, Senior Vice President and General Manager at the Hexagon Capability Center India, shares how he’s building a culture that prepares his team for the future and how his organisation contributes to the larger society.

BK: Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian and today I am joined by Navaneet Mishra, who is Senior Vice President and General Manager at Hexagon Capability Center, India, or HCCI, which serves as the organisation’s largest research and development hub. We’re going to be speaking with Navaneet about creating a positive culture and how he has guided his organisation through the pandemic to emerge stronger than ever. Navaneet, thank you for joining me today. Appreciate it.

NM: Thank you. I feel pretty welcome here. Thanks for your time.

BK: Excellent. Well, I’m glad you feel welcome. That’s important. We want that. Yeah, it’s good to have you here. Well, tell us about yourself a little bit, what you do, and then also, what are you nerding out on? What’s your passion right now? What are you enjoying?

NM: Okay, so first a brief introduction about myself. So, I joined Hexagon, or the R&D center, HCCI, as we call it, around 8 ½-9 years back. Good journey for us. We were around, I don’t know, 800-900 colleagues at that time. Now we are touching around 1,800 so that’s a fantastic growth in terms of responsibilities there, in terms of the technology that people do and touch and create, and also in terms of many new [teams and]practises that we have started. So that is a brief introduction. I manage the operations there and almost all of Hexagon internally is my customer. So that is where it is. Now, passion, yeah, though I’m in management, I don’t read management books at all.

BK: Oh, okay.

NM: So, reading fiction, I would say is my passion.

BK: Nice.

NM: Watching Netflix has become a very good passion these days as well. And I still find my solutions in those nice CIA and FBI series, so that’s a good deal. Yeah. And in addition, if I say, for many years now because of the role, I am happy to create technologists if not the technology itself.

BK: I love it. It’s interesting you said you don’t read management books, so, I’m assuming you’re… In some ways though, I was thinking about this the other day too, because I like to read a lot of things, too. And eventually you go, “I don’t know, am I reading too much? Am I learning too many different things?” And then you get more confused instead of just going out and experiencing it and then passing that on. What has been your journey on this? What’s been your experience?

NM: Yeah. My experience has been, keep your listening hat always, always on because only when you listen there’s a chance that you will learn, and only when you learn, that’s when you are able to add any value to the society. So, I would say that, yeah, don’t prepare too much, but at the same time, keep listening, keep absorbing, keep up and keep the diversity around you always. Because if your situation, if your surrounding is not diverse, your learning will be very unilateral, and it doesn’t work anymore.

BK: So true. Oh, I love that. So, tell us a little bit more about HCCI then, and also what led you to HCCI. Why did you go there in the first place?

NM: Hope it’s not a job interview. So, I was working at a large ERP firm named SAP, it’s pretty well known. I was there for 16 long years, and I realised that the rate of new learning is becoming a bit flat or something, so, I started looking out and that is when this job came up on the radar. And I realised that this is one place where I can influence the product and solutions, and at the same time also work with HR and finance. Not many roles like these were existing, so I made a go for it.

Then coming to HCCI, as we discussed or as you have announced, we are the single largest R&D hub of Hexagon, almost all divisions work out of that, so it’s truly a hub, a microcosm of Hexagon, in that sense there. We have a mix of people say, out of the 1,750 people, we’re having the stats, 20 plus years are 450 and below one-year experience is also 450, it’s a mix of people.

Average age is just around 31 and a half, 31 and three quarters, so, pretty young also A lot of Gen Z as well, that we absorb from campuses now. And barring agriculture, almost all solutions have a footprint at HCCI, so, indeed we are lucky to have almost all of Hexagon within one roof. And yeah, this organisation is the oldest IT multinational of the city, 35 years plus. So, that means we have almost all roles there, you have the product owners, you have the UX designers, you have the developers, architects, technical writers, user assistance, support and services, all kinds. So, that way it’s a complete fulfilling cycle that anyone can explore. And that’s what I would like to highlight.

BK: Excellent. Okay. So, I know that a big topic, a big concern right now is maintaining employees’ longevity and loyalty and their engagement and that kind of thing, too. And I know we’re going to be discussing Gen Z employees, but I know this isn’t just limited to Gen Z employees, it does span generations a little bit. But I guess the first question I would ask is, what is going on? Why are they not engaged? Why are they not staying around? What have you found? I’m just curious what the cause and the problem is first.

NM: Yeah. Okay. I would always say that we should analyse these things along with data. And the data says that the moment somebody is crossing, say, 15 years of experience overall, and they’re with us, they tend to continue with us, absolutely. It is the younger crowd after a couple of years, say two to five years of working with us, those are the most vulnerable set of people. And the reason why they move is I think let’s talk about it in trigger and reason. Trigger is some disengagement; reasons could be after that. In India, the talent landscape is hugely competitive. There is a famous saying that you take a wrong turn, you get hired by another firm because everyone has a large setup there.

And what we have to stop is that the employees should be so engaged, so happy to contribute, so happy with how they are growing and they’re shaping up that they don’t intend to look out. As a manager, our responsibility is making them smart enough to be employable anywhere and at the same time, be a coach that they never look for an opportunity anywhere. It’s just a complex task. Yeah? That’s a complex thing, but this is what we are able to do in some cases, in some cases not. And yeah, we see the results, yes.

BK: I like what you said though, that’s a really nice balance. Wow. That’s good. So how are you engaging them to stay around, and specifically, Gen Z employees?

NM: Yes. Gen Z is, first thing is, it’s not that I have figured this out, it is learning, it’s curving progress. Thankfully, I’m a father to a daughter who crossed her teenage years and now into a job, so I have my own learnings at home.

BK: Yeah. That’s good.

NM: Yeah. I can say I’m experienced a bit. Having said that, first thing is, and though it might sound very counterintuitive, the Gen Z don’t read mass mails at all. That is off the table. So, when you send an organisation-wide announcement, whether you have, I don’t know, a new policy or even new way of entering the premises, or new work from home things that you have to announce, good news or bad news, if it is part of a mass mailer, they’re not reading it, that’s hard.

Let’s look at communication, how are we fixing that piece? First is that [if]all hands meet, they’re still interested, they will tune in wherever they are, because they like to hear the sound bites rather than reading long texts. Then they also certainly look at all hands, which is happening divisional level, because they know that some of the strategies are going to be discussed. Some of the next steps will be known there, so, they listen to that.

We completely revamped our internal employee newsletter. We had earlier, no section for employee corner. Now there is the largest portion, which talks about what employees are feeling currently. And then we are seeing the traction happening there as well. After that, we see those tools like Yammer, Microsoft Teams, etc., are where they’re getting engaged. So there, the traction is very high. It is the long emails they have stopped reading, so that is in terms of your communication.

If you look at the framework, they are not in that sense of managers tell them they have done good; they will be happier if their peer tells them, you have done good. So you create a platform where peers can give a quick thumbs up, quick appreciation to them. And that visibility across their team is something they still cherish, so that has changed.

We have stopped employee ratings completely now, out the window. It is only development dialogues throughout the year, every quarter once. So, these are some of the steps, that kind of framework, which is helping them.

Create an employee club, give them a budget, they then decide what sports happen, what kind of cultural activities happen, what are the things that needs to be done. They take ownership very reverse way, unlike the seniors, the juniors are taking more ownership, the moment they like an initiative.

For example, now what we realise in our D&I thing, that best way to explain people about diversity and beauty that it brings, is to celebrate festivals. And India is more like continent, you know that, I mean, in terms of volume, or the variety, or the size. We are a continent, and so there are different festivals happening throughout. And then you pick a few days where everybody explains what they do in this festival. And then there are quizzes around it, and there are some things done around it. And this is completely run by the youngsters, completely by them; it’s all Gen Z’s who are running it.

So, they are happy to take the leadership, they just don’t want voluminous text here and there, and they want ownership to be driven by themselves. In the future, this has not yet started, but at least I have agreement from my leadership team, my direct reports, that they are ready to be reverse mentored by Gen Z. Okay, I’m saying it now in advance, it’s not yet announced in the organisation. But I know that since I have buy-in that it’ll start sometime, probably another six months or so. And that is when all of our seniors would like to learn from Gen Z directly, by them mentoring us on how they function.

BK: Interesting. I mean, well, first of all, you’re clearly a student of psychology now. Well, you’re getting in the mind of them. And I think this is really important because some of the stuff you’re mentioning, I’m just thinking, is anybody teaching this? I mean, really? Is anybody actually looking at what drives them? What gives them passion to find that ownership? Because it is very different than other generations. And I think it’s neat that you’re actually starting to get… Just for example, they don’t care about their boss’s approval, they care about peer approval. Well, that’s different and that’s the kind of thing that people need to understand and start to recognise and implement. So, I do find it interesting that you are utilising the psychology behind it and everything, and really getting into the mind of them. So, I appreciate what you’re doing, that’s really neat.

NM: Thank you.

BK: Yeah. It’s wonderful. So, okay. Well, I mean, you talked about some of the skills you’re developing for the future. Any other skills that you want to touch on as far as what you’re trying to ensure these teams are developing?

NM: Yeah. I mean, while we talked about engaging Gen Z, the other important thing that is happening is the whole re-skilling of the workforce. So, people who have worked on legacy technologies, on desktop solutions for years and ages, and they are so great at it, but now the demand is web and cloud, so how do you fix that? And if you don’t fix that, then two things will happen. One is the customer base will start losing and second that our employees will become redundant, too, because that’s not what the market is asking for. And this is a fine balance. And this is sheer re-skilling. So, first is that you have to believe that it is possible, the leadership has to believe that it is possible and then the steps can happen.

I mean, if I look at some of the largest team of ours, I would not like to mention which exact solutions, but it is very clear when the transition has happened from the old legacy technologies to the new fully cloud-enabled ones. So, how did it all start? It is like this that somebody does a POC. And what POC has to do is not solve a future problem but solve a current one; businesses like that. So, you start solving a current problem with a very new technology and which fixes this permanently. And while you’re doing that, you have to keep your top bosses in the loop, absolutely. So, they should know the challenges, they should know the options that you looked at and then they should also agree with the solution that you proposed. Once you have convinced them, then they will say, okay, let’s try it some more.
And that is when the first microcosm happens. And then you build a small, again, a smaller team around it and say that all of us, all of these guys in their extra hours, or in their half of the Fridays, they will work on this new technology, architect it with enough confidence so that everybody agrees that this is something that can be built up.

Once that is done, then you start creating smaller teams around these people, these five technologists who knew the domain, but now also know the technology, you start putting a team around them. And where the team comes from, this team comes from the old domain people. They don’t know the new technology, but they’re excited to work on it. They see that other guys who learnt the new technology are the centre of the team, are the most important people. So now it is, oh, okay if somebody knows, they, he or she grows, so I also will try that.

And that is when they start doing this. So, the smart method is, don’t… And this is where we have to protect ourselves, the typical tendency is to go out and hire, go out and hire if you need a new skill. No. Hire a few of them, probably two or three or five, but don’t do the volume. You have people knowing domain, they are ready to learn new technologies, you put them around and replace the legacy vacancies with the lateral hires. So, you have people now who have domain, interest in learning new technologies and have learnt new technologies. We have completely turned it around. It takes around three to four years if you’re talking about a team of 150, 200 to completely turn around, work on new technologies, but it has been extremely successful in retaining people, motivating them and coming up with great solutions with great customer results now.

BK: That’s fantastic. Let’s talk about your work environment. I know it’s positive, and obviously the last couple of years have been a huge challenge for everybody personally, professionally, there’s been a lot of negativity. There’s been a lot of disruption of course, caused by the pandemic among many other things, too. So, how are you maintaining a positive work environment? How did you respond to what’s happened in the world?

NM: A few things. I mean, again, not to be branded a psychologist, but I will start again with the mental reach-out because that became really visible and painful. We started with something simple, something as simple as announcing that you are eligible for additional leaves now if you get infected or your family members get infected. So, either as a caregiver or as a self-person, there is a new quota of leave available. It’s a small thing for our organisation to do, but announcing it, saying it, makes a difference.

Then we create this whole employee assistance portal. I mean, we employ assistance programme that we went ahead with by partnering with some third-party organisation, completely confidential. Anybody could contact them, any of our employees, not only employees, but their family members too, using Hexagon tokens. They could access that and discuss their own problems or challenges completely confidential. So, that was a super hit there.

Then we started encouraging work from home. We had done our hard work before in terms of the infrastructure, testing it out because if you have, at that time 1,300 people, if everybody’s logging in, you better have good infrastructure behind. So, that preparation was all done, so that happened.

And the smaller things like your expense report, earlier things were physical, and we digitised them the moment COVID hit us. So, we realised that it’ll be impossible for people to come to office to submit their expense report, aet cetera. And then we digitalised the whole thing. So, this is where you mentally reassure them that your day-to-day operations is taken care of.
Tangibles were many, I mean, I would say that probably HCCI is one of the safest premises from that, all of our air con units, have the UVC rays there, which kills your 99.99% efficiency, all these germs. And then we have virus attenuators at wherever public can meet. We have those UV scanners to bring your bags in. I mean, you will feel like it’s a military facility if you come there. So that is there.

We negotiated insurance for employees if they want to do, we bought the oxygen concentrators, as a library, created library in our office so that if employees wanted, they could get it, and return it in 10-15 days, whenever the things are over. We negotiated with many caregivers and home support groups so that you can contact them, hospital contact numbers. We then also went ahead, utilised our CSR funds to buy ventilators, to buy beds for hospitals and have a linkage with Hexagon, as well established.

So, these were… the tangibles along with the mental things, I think that these two together. And just doing continuous surveys, finding out what’s working, what’s not working, what they’re looking for and fixing them one bit at a time.

BK: Well, that’s wonderful. All right we’ll talk about how you are contributing to society beyond your employee base. So, the world at large, what is HCCI doing for that?

NM: Yeah. So, this is close to me. So, the answer might take a longer time. We have defined a few focus areas, orphanage[s], women empowerment and education. And, primarily when I say education, I mean higher education. Because higher education, which is, we have enough of people inside so we can really help. So, coming to, first thing, orphanage, what we do is we create infrastructure in many orphanages that we have done. So, either creating new rooms, new washrooms, new computer labs, new playground, aet cetera for them, and that is good. But where we have been able to turn around the complete situation is women empowerment. So, we went to around two and a half hours from our premises, found a couple of villages, found one NGO partner and we started teaching very specific skills to the girl students there.

Girls were typically getting married underage as well, and they were never thinking of employment. That was the situation there. And now that six years of engagement, I can see that there is a complete turnaround there. Yes, we teach math, English, and computer science, we teach focus skills. We give them cycles; we give them Lenovo pads for online learning and all that. And now they are go getting into a hundred percent on, sorry, 96% of the girls got more than 80% scores in their 10th, which is fantastic. They have addressed our all-hands meeting, addressing 1200, 1300 of employees at one shot on the stage and the same girls who were not able to lift their eyes when I first met them. So, this is the change in confidence and-

BK: That’s cool.

NM: They have done cultural performances, and they have been rewarded by district administration for the success. Couple of them have become police constables, etc. And as I told you, three of them entered into one of the top engineering schools as well. And it’s a very interesting anecdote, that in my fourth visit to that place, some of the boys of the village approached us, you’re doing so much for girls what about us? That tells you that that success has happened on the ground level because they are feeling now that they are becoming smarter, they are more job worthy, they are making money and they’re becoming independent. And once you become financially independent, obviously then other social evils you can avoid very easily. So that is regarding women empowerment.

For education, what we started doing is basically collaborating with some of the top universities, opening Hexagon related labs, for example, GNSS labs from our A&P division, a couple of labs from our ALI division.

The latest thing that we have done is opened India’s first AI community centre, free training on artificial intelligence, both for students as well as college-going children. And what we thought will be affected by pandemic, just the reverse happened. We had target of up skilling around 300 people per year, we are now in just two years, have upskilled 1800 of them because everything is online on cloud now, and 500 of them are certified. So great result from this AI community centre. And now certainly government sees us with interesting eyes, they want us to solve some problem for them as well.

So, I would say that our CSR activities have really gone well. And yes, we have also contributed to national calamities, aet cetera, whenever the situation has arisen.

BK: Wow. I mean, I think that’s my word, wow. I’m really impressed with what you’ve done and how you’re contributing, that’s incredible. Thank you for sharing those stories. Thank you for doing that.

NM: Thank you.

BK: I appreciate that. Talk about your learn and lead vlog series that you started on YouTube in 2020.

NM: Okay. So, the idea is not mine, it was one of the employees. He said very clearly to me, “Navaneet, you keep talking about all managers should connect with their employees. What are you doing to connect?” I said, “Well, I mean, I’m telling you to connect.” He said, “No, that’s not enough. And he said that while you must be talking to your direct reports, but that is not enough for connecting to the larger employee base.” So, it was his idea that you think that you have grown your career in certain way and some of these things would have played an important role, for example, I don’t know, ownership or listening, or how to progress a career or how to bring quality in whatever you do. So, his suggestion was, if you have such topics in mind, can you start recording some videos around it and then let’s share it with employees. So that is what it became.

The name also came from him. I was a very individual contributor to this, so my task was to prepare some kind of notes. And again, as I have told you that I unfortunately don’t read management books. So, it was from my own experiences. I made some notes and then I started recording them and first we used to upload them into our own streams channel. And then they said later that why only streams? We should also share it with not only our employees, but also people who are about to join us so that they should hear from you directly. And that will also create some kind of an engagement once we have made an offer to them. So that is how first, to streams and then to YouTube. And yeah, there are, I think, around a dozen videos there talking about this stuff.

BK: That’s great. I appreciate what you’re doing and it’s incredible. So, I mean, I feel like a lot of people could learn from you and what you’re doing and, from basically your entire team too. So where can we go for more information?

NM: You can contact our marketing and communication lead, so she should be able to give more details, as in when we try to find out more. And if she needs anything, she can also come to me, so that’s how it’ll be the optimal way to get it.

BK: Excellent. All right. Well, Navaneet, I really appreciate you sharing all of this, appreciate what you’re doing and thank you for taking the time to join me today.

NM: Thank you. Once again, I really feel welcomed and engaged during this interaction.

BK: Excellent. Well, thank you very much. Well, Navaneet Mishra, Senior Vice President and General Manager at HCCI, thank you for joining us here on HxGN Radio. To learn more and listen to additional HxGN Radio episodes, head on over to iTunes, Spotify, or SoundCloud. You can also visit hxgnspotlight.com for more stories and more from Hexagon. Thank you again for listening and have an incredible day.