A pursuit, never a destination – The journey of being a Great Place To Work

Somnath Baishya

Head of People (CHRO) - Global Business Services & Bengaluru

Colleague Stories

A pursuit, never a destination – The journey of being a Great Place To Work

July 2, 2021     16117 Views

The Great Place to Work Institute announced the 2021 list of Best Companies To Work For in India a week ago. This year was Tesco’s maiden attempt on the rankings, and breaking straight in at #25, was commendable. 2020-21 had been a year that had transformed the workforce and workplace to a different reality. The anticipation and excitement leading into the event and the expression of pride and joy that followed was remarkable. To be amongst the best of the best from over 850 participating organizations, was more than just receiving another award. It was the fructification of a vision set by the CEO and the leadership four years ago. It is the catalyst that now makes the dream even bolder.

Over the last decade, I have had the opportunity to be core to the progress made by multiple organizations to become great places to work and feature consistently in the top ranks, including the prized #1 Rank. I have interestingly seen two genres of thinking – the ‘doubters,’​ who consider participation in the rankings as a marketing gimmick, and, the overzealous who singularly focus on the quest to find the secret sauce – that would catapult them in the top rankings instantaneously. A quick look at the ranks over the last few years would show that some organizations make the onward leap, but are unable to sustain and are nudged out the very next year. Quoting Jim Collins, author of the timeless Good to Great, “Greatness is not a function of circumstances. Greatness, turns out is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”​

Three years ago, in a case published by the Indian School of Business (ISB) and Harvard Publishing, I had shared that being a great place to work meant doing things right through the 364 days of the year, to be able to stand under the spotlight on day 365. At its core, it is an authentic and relentless everyday pursuit of being better. Participating in the rankings and knowing where one stands vis-à-vis other organizations is an aid to navigate and reach the envisioned ‘True North.’​

Traveling through my first 90 days at Tesco and reflecting on how we live our intent of ‘doing it right through the 364 days of the year,”​ I found a few unique anchors that get represented in our thinking, expressions, and action. The Tesco core purpose of ‘Serving shoppers a little better every day’ connects our colleagues (employees) to our customers, directly or through another colleague, no matter where they are in the organization. Creating value and delightful experiences drives both the what and the how of everything that we do. As part of my onboarding, it was heartening to hear customer-fronting colleagues narrate stories on how they created those crystal moments for our shoppers because they felt empowered and supported by the Tesco processes and culture. Our core purpose also instills a mindset to challenge continuously and push the bar. Having been in this environment that has embraced continuous improvement as a mindset, I find that I now more often ask “What did I learn today?”​ It is very different from “What did I do today?”​ Finding those small windows regularly to reflect drives tremendous positive energy, authenticity, and a zeal to go for more.

Every organization has its own set of jargon. One of them that struck me early during leadership conversations was AOP. Once decoded as the “Art of Possible,’​ it underscored the leadership passion to shape the future. The pandemic over the last year and a half was unplanned and impacted the speed of progress. But, now powered by the availability of vaccines, and belief that we will overcome this virus too -albeit, over some time, it is amazing to see how business is fueled with the ambition to fight back, move faster, and claim lost ground. Such a positive frame of thinking radiates further positivity. Leaders not only voice but role model the ‘Art of Possible.’​

‘Insights should not provide the answers but should trigger the right questions,’​ is how our leader of Analytics challenged the leadership team recently. This curiosity to unscramble the unknown, fueled by data, lends huge objectivity to conversations. Like most organizations, Tesco is also in its journey of maturity on data and analytics. Executive sponsorship accelerates the progress and makes the culture pervasive deep down in the organization. While discussing objectives with my leadership team, it was fascinating to see how one desired to pursue a stretch opportunity with the Analytics team to build a decision cockpit for the executive leadership.

While I narrate my reflections from Tesco, the core DNA remains the same amongst organizations that are purposefully engaged in the ambition of being great. A multi-year bold vision, an honest pursuit embedded deep in the culture, and shared accountability among the entire workforce is key. Even for the organizations, who have progressed further than the others, it is always a moving target. It is a journey that remains a pursuit and never is a destination.

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