As the budding wind turbine industry establishes its foothold in the renewable energy sector, competitive companies are working hard to attract and retain valued customers and employees. At Suzlon Energy Ltd., that means taking an especially disciplined approach to recruiting and developing tomorrow's leaders.
The 15-year-old provider of wind energy solutions offers end-to-end services, including the manufacture, erection, operation, and maintenance of wind turbines. To bolster its training efforts, in 2008, Suzlon hired seasoned learning executive Dilip Mohapatra (formerly of Tata Group) to be its vice president of global learning and development (GLD).
"Suzlon was started modestly with a handful of people barely 15 years ago. Today it operates in 22 countries, has 14,500 employees globally, and enjoys one-fifth of the global market share in the renewable energy sector," says Mohapatra. "We are constantly seeking to top-grade our human capital and obtain and groom the best talent."
One year down the line, the learning group is no longer positioned as a support function, but is instead a partner of other departments helping to drive the company's business strategy. Mohapatra attends business strategy sessions with full authority to build and enhance the competency capital of the firm. His team does so by driving collaboration with business units to progressively transform the company into a holistic learning organization.
Using a hub-and-spoke model, GLD guides business and functional units in establishing their own learning and development disciplines regarding infrastructure, tools, systems, and processes. It provides expert knowledge to develop centers of excellence, bringing its global network and access to expertise. It also offers governance, quality assurance, audits, and learning effectiveness measurement. When courseware is designed and delivered, a system of co-creation ensures constant interaction with business unit and outsourcing partner experts, says Mohapatra.
As part of the hub-and-spoke concept, the learning group has categorized every learning and development initiative into one of two groups - transformation and operational efficiency.
"Transformational" learning solutions are aimed at helping business units implement various change initiatives developed to transition the company from a domestic player to a global entity. These learning events reflect Suzlon's strategic ambitions and are driven by the hub. GLD helps design and deliver change management workshops and creates "change champions" who drive various initiatives across the organization.
By contrast, operational excellence learning events are co-created by business units and are thus driven by the framework's "spokes." The distinction is likely to become even more profound as the company proceeds to implement lean manufacturing techniques to achieve operational excellence, while streamlining the production process at its manufacturing plants.
To execute Suzlon's strategy of attracting and developing talent, Mohapatra has looked to best practices that emphasize campus recruiting, as have other successful world-class companies. "The backbone of companies such as Tata Group was built with young people who have since become the thought leaders of the company. We are doing that here also," he states.
Suzlon's goal is to create a culture of dedication by "catching them young" and casting them into the Suzlon mold from day one, through a modest campus recruitment and focused induction effort.
Working with selected universities, the company hires fresh graduates in both engineering and management streams. A six-month learning exercise includes a nine-week program called "Campus to Corporate Conversion" (C3) followed by continuous mentoring. During the latter phase, trainees are shepherded through a dedicated learning process by a volunteer cadre of senior mentors who themselves are carefully selected and coached by GLD.
C3, under Mohapatra's direct supervision, presents Suzlon's corporate culture and business value chain to participants. Topics include code of conduct and interdisciplinary skills such as communications, negotiation, interpersonal skills, and group dynamics. A technical conversion of each participant's mindset is also emphasized, so the prospective employees can fully appreciate the technical value chain at Suzlon, he says.
Results of the program speak for themselves. Prior to the learning organization's participation with mentorship and other structured learning solutions, campus recruiting efforts at Suzlon saw disappointing levels of attrition. But following GLD's involvement, "we have not experienced a single attrition from the last group," says Mohapatra. This year's recruitment class of 60 people comprises 35 and 25 people from the engineering and management streams, respectively.
Meanwhile, a separate recruiting program collaborates with selected international universities to invite promising students to six-month internships with hopes of making them full-time employees, while also helping to fill the global talent pipeline.
Suzlon has also negotiated with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI; New Delhi) to establish an advanced-degree program in renewal energy engineering and management. Suzlon will contribute financial support, cross-training of university professors by Suzlon experts, and other professional collaboration investment. The academic program will feature a dedicated wind management curriculum, reports Mohapatra.
Another promising initiative helps customers gain confidence with Suzlon's technology and services. GLD training offerings for key decision makers and technical managers are designed with the end-customer in mind, and there are similar programs for market regulators and policymakers. During the last fiscal year, it conducted nine such programs within India.
Suzlon uses customer satisfaction as a key metric to improve the quality of its services by bringing greater accountability to the different stakeholder groups who interact with customers. A survey assesses the nature and quality of engagement during various stages of project implementation and post implementation - presales, sales, project execution, and operations and maintenance.
The company's strategy to become more technologically focused and globalized has underscored a need for internal learning and development solutions that are technology driven, easily accessible, and standardized, says Mohapatra. For example, the GLD felt that training on the important wind turbine generator assembly process was one area where a blended learning solution was needed.
A blend of e-learning and instructor-led courses was designed and delivered internally. A pilot batch was selected for rolling out the learning solution, and a five-day training event was held. The event was deemed a success, and the green light was given to begin distributing e-learning to different geographical locations via the company-wide knowledge portal.
As it formulated its plan to embrace e-learning technologies, the learning group focused on four critical keys: policy, processes, practices, and projects. It also decided that in its operation of general training programs, opportunities to provide specialized functional training were being overlooked. The unit agreed that these issues could be addressed through e-learning, dedicated efforts toward a comprehensive learning solution framework, and stronger supervision through utilization metrics. t+d