TETE-A-TETE : Stoic As A Sufi

Pramod Sadarjoshi, Senior Director - HCM Strategy & Transformation, Asia Pacific, Oracle India Pvt. Ltd has straddled the world of HR, training and talent management across industries, across countries, across cultures, and has played ‘guru’ to top CEOs and CXOs. But, there is another side to him—he is a Sufi poetry aficionado. What attracts him to Sufi poetry, and what higher ‘notes’ does he learn from it?

When you listen to Mr Pramod Sadarjoshi expounding the salient features of Sufi poetry, it takes a while to realise that this is no expert on literature but the Senior Director, HCM, Strategy & Transformation, Asia Pacific, Oracle India Pvt. Ltd. that you are talking to. What does Sufi poetry have that fascinates this man so much? The answer, “The ability of Sufi poetry to strike a balance between one’s higher aspirations and the continuous struggle with the world and also with oneself – that hallmark of Sufi poetry makes me want to listen to more and more of it.” Struggling and surviving. Surviving and then succeeding. These two steps together form the sequence of events that have led Pramod to the position he now holds. The man, an expert in HR & Training, and a specialist in Talent Acquisition, who has coached more than 25 top-ranking CEOs, worked with top-notch companies all over the world and been through a period of struggle not only in India but across the world, is now at a point that makes him look back with satisfaction but not complacence. He has contributed towards industry-academia synergy by being a teaching faculty member and an adviser at leading B-schools and technology institutions like IIMs, IITs and other premier institutes. Pramod is a registered Executive Coach at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. He is also a speaker at various industry forums and seminars.

Pramod has demonstrated introspective and diagnostic capabilities, coupled with a high-impact communication prowess and an effective blend of content and connect, of structured exercises and unstructured experiential facilitation. His forte of deep thought-leadership coupled with ethical values ensures least invasive, yet deep-dive transformation for individuals and enterprises. Pramod is a thorough professional, a team-player with result-orientation, trust, credibility and a positive attitude empowering organisations by empowering people.

Pramod holds within his persona not just the heaviness of human existence tied with tools for survival and success, but also the sagacity of Sufi poetry to give the process of human struggle the right touch of philosophic stoicism.

Excerpts of a candid conversation with him:

Tell us something about yourself and your journey to the top.

Creating and adding value to people and organizations is my forte. I have generated organizational growth, effectiveness and leadership interventions - systems-driven, metrics-based, business-centric, potential / performance optimization - resulting in tangible results. My key accomplishments have been in domains of Business-HR synergies, Change Management, OD interventions, HR systems, Leadership Development, coaching interventions, having coached approximately 25 CEOs and about 60 CXO level executives. On PMS I have trained approximately 14,000 employees. I have been into Talent Management, spanning sectors as diversified as Banking, IT, ITES, engineering, electronics, and pharmaceuticals to name a few. I have been part of companies in India, US, Europe and the Middle-east. I have partnered with CEOs and CXOs, on interventions involving applications of MBTI, DISC, TKI, assessment centres, competency-mapping, gap-analysis, PCMM etc., at organisations like JP Morgan Chase Services, Microsoft, Citibank, CSC, Cognizant, HDFC Bank, HSBC-OIB and Siemens. As you can see, my adaptability is reflected through diverse cultures and ecosystems.

Gone are the days when salaries and incentives ruled the roost. Today’s employee can join/ quit a company for the oddest of reasons. It is for the employer to gauge the talent in an employee and make conditions conducive to retain him/her’

What are the factors that have seen a sea-change in circumstances with reference to the way professionals are now being hired?

When I began, there were very few companies that laid stress on training to retain. Most of these companies’ top managements held the view that a good salary plus incentives was enough to make the employee want to continue virtually forever in his/her present job. At that time, the growth of these companies led to a loyalty factor that has been present since the Industrial Revolution. With IT growth came the VUCA factor, and it, with great speed and intensity, infected other industries too. For the uninitiated, VUCA is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. These factors became predominant in the world markets because there was no way for an international regulatory body to have control over any one or all these negative factors taken together. These words also become existent realities when people fail to consider politico-historical-economic situations and developments.

When we speak of ‘talent acquisition’ what do we search for? How do we convey it to the potential candidate that s/he should have these qualities/skills/talents/virtues?

The days of applying standard parameters are long gone. The basic qualifications required re-main the same. You don’t have to look at potential candidates with an eye on whether their performance will be consistent over the next few years. Instead, you have to have an eye for the cluster or group of qualities that can make this person perform with exceptional grip over his/her actions, leading to terrific results. When I am in charge of coaching/training, I make sure that my ‘students’ are aware of what is expected of them. Thinking ‘out of the box’ is also becoming passé and one has to develop a totally different method of thinking and acting so that one can definitely perform beyond the expectations of one’s superiors and also peers. However, as of now, no particular pattern can be used to gauge the performance potential of an individual. ‘Gut-feeling’ gains predominance, and has served me quite well in judging how an individual or team will perform. Once again, formalities cannot be dispensed with.

What kind of places do you think will become crucibles to foster such qualities?

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that educational institutions such as Balaji’s can definitely create conditions conducive to the generation, sustenance, maintenance and development of such qualities. Faculty, campus management, infrastructure, adherence to curricula, and the necessary stress on integrated syllabi are essential if we are to produce more and more Murthys and Premjis. Additionally, it is vital that the faculty constantly impresses upon the students that life in real situations may not be in consonance with life on the campus.

How should a job-ready individual in today’s competitive market ready himself for an interview? How should he prepare for the worst and hope for the best?

One of the biggest pitfalls in any interview is the interviewee considering that s/he is the fittest candidate. This mindset must change. Not that one should give up at the very beginning. The ability to accept that there are others too is essential. Secondly, where talent is concerned, no matter what the world does, talent will surface. It is a matter of time. In today’s competitive world, one needs to possess that cutting edge so that one can get into the groove, so to speak. The interviewee must also realize that she has to contribute to the potential employer and only then think in terms of salary and incentives.

How do you view attrition? What steps should an employer take to reduce its occurrence?

As stated earlier, gone are the days when salaries and incentives ruled the roost. Today’s employee can join/quit a company for the oddest of reasons. It is for the employer to gauge the talent in an employee and make conditions conducive to retain him/her. Another image that has to be broken is that a talented individual is necessarily unhappy. A talented person who is happy can instead take the company to still higher levels. It is these kinds of employees that an employer must keep an eye on, for there is a possibility of these employees being most vulnerable to ambush marketing.

Finally, how can success be measured and retained? How does one hope to constantly retain that flavour of well-being as an employee, and as an individual?

It is not in that one moment of achievement but in the collection of a number of moments towards a goal that one can relate to success. First, has the individual/company set a goal? If not, then why is it in existence in its present form? Secondly, we have to realize that it is not only in the ‘what/why’ but in the ‘how’ that real satisfaction and pleasure is derived. On their wedding night, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor (having remarried each other after a number of divorces on both sides) bid adieu to their guests and went to their bedroom. Elizabeth grew impatient when Richard took time to come to bed. Slightly uppity, Elizabeth asked, “Don’t you know what you have to do?” “I certainly do,” replied Richard, and continued, “but I’m figuring out a way to do it better this time so that there is greater pleasure and satisfaction for the both of us.”

By Vinay Sethi