In conversation with Raj Raghavan, Senior Vice President and Head of Human Resources, IndiGo:
Raj leads Human Resources function at IndiGo, India’s largest airline by market share, and is a key member of IndiGo’s Executive Management Committee. His responsibility includes all facets of Human Resources, Learning & Development (ifly Training Academy), Administration, and CSR functions of IndiGo.
Prior to joining IndiGo in April 2018, Raj was Amazon’s Head of Human Resources (Asia Pacific & Middle East) for its International Consumer Business and Global Technology Development Centers in the region. Earlier, Raj was Head of HR for GE’s Global Research and India Technology Centers. He started his HR career in the late 80’s, Raj has held several senior HR leadership positions in Hindustan Unilever, Ford Motor Company, and HSBC.
A Global Fellow in Talent Management from The Wharton School, Raj previously earned his Master’s in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations from Madras School of Social Work.
Q- Your Industry has been worse impacted by COVID-19. How is the aviation industry responding to the pandemic?
This is a difficult time for the world economy in general as much as it is for the travel sector. Aviation has been through many ups and downs in its history, but this crisis has been unprecedented in its impact.
As we firmly inch our way back to normalcy, at IndiGo, we firmly believe that passenger safety is of utmost importance. Some of these key safety measures include ensuring social distancing at all points – airport entry, baggage drop counters, security checks, boarding gates, coaches, ramp, and baggage claim. All common surfaces such as the baggage drop counters, boarding gates, coaches, ramps, wheelchairs, crew vehicles, and of course, the aircraft itself, are being thoroughly disinfected using approved cleaning agents. In addition, our airplanes are fitted with “HEPA” filters that recirculate fresh air every 3-minutes thereby making the cabin as safe as the cleanest hospital air.
We encourage customers to follow a few additional steps to ensure their own safety and that of others. These include advance web check-in on our website or app, filling in an online health declaration before being issued the online boarding pass, print the boarding pass and baggage tag, affix the baggage tag firmly on the luggage, etc., We have also encouraged customers to carry only a small handbag/ laptop bag that fits under the seat in front, pre-book add-on services like excess baggage and wheelchair assistance.
Q- What are the talent challenges prevailing in your Industry post- COVID-19? How do you re-strategize the workforce?
Due to the enormity of the impact the pandemic, we very reluctantly initiated cost-saving measures which resulted in pay-cuts and reduction in force, among other non-employee cost reductions. As things start to get better, our intent will be to rehire some of our phenomenal colleagues we had to, unfortunately, let go off.
This said, there have been several areas that we were already working on. For instance, our overall talent management framework, “IndiGROW” has continued to evolve post-pandemic resulting in several leadership and talent development initiatives. We recently signed up with Indian School of Business to launch “IndiGOLD 3.0”, our leadership development initiative engaging our top leaders over a 4-month learning journey. Our “Cadet” program that welcomes young aspiring pilots continues to hold the fort and forms the bedrock of our pilot workforce for the future. Our in-house training center, ifly, continues to offer both regulatory and other courses, many of them virtually.
In short, I am of the firm opinion that tough situations like these bring out the very best in great employers. At IndiGo, we believe that there is no better time for investing in our talent than now!
Q- What is your workplace policy, what percentage of employees are working remotely, and how much from the office?
More than 90% of our workforce cannot work from home anyways and that is the way our industry is. Of those who can work-from-home, more than 70% are currently doing so.
Q- We’re in the era of Contactless Engagements, which is more challenging than before. What is your strategy for employee experience in current situations?
During this pandemic, our focus was to ensure that our employees are feeling connected. We say this very often internally, “You are never alone at IndiGo” and this has been our driving force behind building employee experience.
We ensured that our people are engaged and motivated through different virtual activities catering to different interest groups. We are very passionate people who believe that “I am in the “I” in IndiGo” and spread positivity. It is this very fierce 6E Spirit that helps us garner great participation and enthusiasm. There are several contactless engagement activities that we initiated to make our employees feel connected and stay motivated. Some key ones are:
- Emotional Wellbeing: to mitigate lack of motivation, anxiety, and uncertainty, we organized webinars in collaboration with our EAP partners 1to1help.net. They provide online/telephonic support to help our employees deal with anything on their minds.
- Leadership Connect: Rono Dutta, our CEO, and other members of our Leadership consistently communicate about the company, aviation industry, roadmap for forthcoming weeks, etc. Such emails and video bites from Senior Leaders continue to build credibility, transparency, and confidence amongst employees.
- Listen to employees, know their pulse: Our employees answer 4-5 questions every 15 days on various aspects of employee experience through “6E Speaks”. Their feedback and response help us understand the areas of priority.
- Fun and Engaging Contests: We keep the energy going through fun contests like #MakeThatVideo and #6EPowerofPosivity which encourage employees to collaborate virtually, bring out their talent and create share-worthy content (poem/videos/photo collage, etc.,).
- Recognition: Good work and good deed must never go unnoticed. We ensure our exceptionally hard-working employees are recognized virtually through e-certificates, personalized emails by their Leaders, shout-out during virtual meetups, and so on.
Q- What are your campuses and lateral hiring plans in FY21?
As and when we are ready to hire in FY 21, our primary focus is rehiring those we had laid-off due to redundancy. We are committed to providing opportunities to those impacted employees first before going external with our hiring plans.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
Among its aviation peers, IndiGo has always been viewed as a fair and responsible employer both by candidates and our employees alike.
Our “6e Speaks” employee pulse program that I briefly mentioned earlier, ensures we get consistent feedback on employee experience twice-a-month via quick surveys. We introduced the concept of “Net Promoter Score (NPS)” for employees, much like organizations do for its customers. I am pleased to say that our NPS score doubled right during the lockdown, which is somewhat of a confirmation of our employee-focused initiatives during that period.
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