Equal opportunity is our motto

With 1,100-odd workforce (excluding people at the factories), CenturyPly strives for being the frontrunner in applying innovation at work, says Sugata Halder

Equal opportunity is our motto
BSE-listed Century Plyboards (India), which manufactures an entire range of commercial, marine, shuttering and decorative plywood, laminates, veneers, doors, MDF, face veneers, exterior laminates, Nesta furniture and modular kitchens, enjoys a large market share with a premium consumer brand in the Rs 18,000 crore plywood and laminates industry. It has also forayed into the growing eco-friendly fibre cement solution market. The manufacturing units of the company are located in Kolkata, Chennai, Guwahati, Karnal, Kandla, Myanmar and Laos. With 1,100-odd workforce (excluding people at the factories), CenturyPly strives for being the frontrunner in applying innovation at work, says Sugata Halder, head the company’s HR. Excerpts:

How do you hire fresh talent and groom them?

We mostly hire those with a year or two-year work experience. Absolute freshers are hired as part of the management trainee programme from select campuses, but this is not a regular activity. When it comes to grooming, post hiring, all joinees are put through a very detail classroom induction programme that lasts for a full week. This is supplemented with a very detailed film on the manufacturing process of our products – this to give the new joinees a fair orientation of the varied products we have and their features. Post joining their respective roles the on-job orientation continues for a few weeks with handholding by line mangers. Periodic training programmes (structured and on job) keep getting done as per need.

What is your current head count and hiring plans for the next one-year?

At present we have an employee base of over 1,100 excluding the factory staff. We do not plan to increase this headcount significantly except for new businesses, which we propose to launch over the next six –eight months.

What would be the men: women ratio in the company?

This is a dynamic number because people keep joining and exiting as a normal process. However, the majority of our women staff is based out of our head office at Kolkata as the departments they are part of are mostly head office-based, i.e., purchase, marketing, HR, logistics and so on.

How important is it to provide equal opportunities to women employees and what are the steps you take?

We are an equal opportunity employer. What matters is performance and capability, which alone is the deciding factor.

How do you build your future leadership team?

We have critical talent ma­nagement activities like “Talk Tomorrow Today”, po­pularly called T3. This is a structured career development discussion platform for select top few middle managers. Many middle managers roles change and growth happens as a result of this activity. For first-line managers we do talent ide­ntification through a regular performance management system followed by assessment centres and the like.

Could you throw some light on your appraisal policy and strategy and their impact on employees?

We follow a half-yearly appraisal system. The annual performance management is an elaborate exercise where employees are assessed on set key performance areas (KRAs). Annual appraisal process concludes with a revision in compensation with higher performance ratings earning higher increments. Essentially the culture embedded here is ‘performance matters’

What are your employee retention strategies?

For frontline sales staff, we carry out different training programmes, including just-launched online certification courses. This to enable them to grow their bandwidth while at Century Ply. There are several incentive programmes and reward recognition activities that are carried out to ensure performers are recognised. We have launched a programme called “Dil Ka Connect”. For the middle and senior middle management team, we run talent management programmes, as explained in an earlier question above, apart from relevant incentive schemes, variable pay for performance, overseas trips and so on.

What are the growth opportunities that an employee gets working in your company?

As explained earlier, performers are indeed grown well and fast! In the last six months, we have had 5-6 middle managers growing to different/higher roles as part of the talent management activities. Interestingly most of our present sales heads that manage big business in different parts of India, are all home grown talents!

What are the most significant changes you have brought in on the HR front in the company and how have they helped?

Design, cascade, implementation of a corporate vision and values to align the organisation culture, new hiring models to manage the volume and scale of hiring needs, on boarding of senior resources with varied industry background to lead the organisation to a bigger future, structured induction process and implantation, refinement of PMS and compensation policies and introduction of automation platforms to manage scale

Technology keeps changing very fast, making constant updating and up gradation and fine-tuning of skills very important for the industry you are in. How do you do that?

For different departments, relevant training programmes are run to keep people abreast of major technology upgrades. Presently a major organisation-wide automation drive is on to bring in sales force automation (SFA). Similarly HR backend is being automated through introduction of employee self service (ESS) where employees run their transactional HR work online.

How important is it to create a distinct culture within the organisation and how do you do that?

Culture change is not a fad. It’s a requirement as part of a continuous change. We do it only when we believe it is aligned to our business goals and corporate vision. We designed our new vision three years ago and since then, we have done numerous activities to embed it within the organisation. For instance, we have designed and implemented online employee portals called Centurion to run multiple activities. All our external touch points carry the vision and the logo, periodic activities are run to identify and reward those who live and demonstrate our corporate values under the activity called “Value Champions” and so on!

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