‘HR is your Strategic Partner in Achieving Business Goals’

Y Thiyagarajan, DM HR, Ashok Leyland speaks to India Employer Forum about unlocking business growth with HR, Automation and more.

Tell us a little about your journey and the diverse experience that you have accumulated over the years.

Hello everyone, my name is Thiyagarajan. I started my career in the year 2002. I have 21 years of experience. I’ve worked with various companies like PepsiCo, Comstar Automotives Technologies, MRF Ltd, Nemak Aluminium Castings India Pvt. Ltd. and Rane TRW Systems Pvt. Ltd. Now the company’s name has changed to ZRAI Pvt. Lt.d I worked in these companies in various capacities. In my last assignment, I was a plant HR head and currently, I’m working with the Ashok Leyland Foundry division in the capacity of unit AD HR. I got the opportunity to work with TeamLease in my previous assignment.

How do you see the role of HR in supporting the overall business objectives and growth of the company?

HR plays a vital role in business because HR is your strategic business partner in achieving business goals and people’s results. If the business gets its results without adding its people, it won’t be sustainable. So people’s results mean employees in the company should be working with utmost satisfaction. The place should be a great place to work, the place should be a happier place and safer place and the employees working in the company should feel that they have a work-life balance and they should feel that they are getting better compensation, and getting good career growth in the company. So, these are all the things that play a vital role in achieving people’s results. If the people’s results are achieved automatically and in a sustainable manner, the company can achieve the business. So, an HR strategy partner plays a key role in achieving both in any organisation.

In your experience can apprenticeships provide an opportunity to nurture talent and develop targeted skills keeping in view the future workforce needs of the organisation? 

In my previous assignments and in my current assignments, we have done a lot of engagement activities for employee growth, like Career Development. An action plan will be prepared for each and every employee during the performance appraisal. So, when the appraisal is complete, we will identify the potential in each person. This initiative will help us understand the employee’s capability and perspective. So, based on this potential, they’ll be given utmost care by various training programs, grooming them to the next level, by providing appropriate training for leadership development, by way of executive development programs and motivating them to do their best.

What programs are you deploying for employee development and continuous learning within the company?

In my previous assignment, I have  observed many apprentices who have completed their apprenticeship period. So, certain good talents, we don’t want to let them go. We want to retain them after the apprenticeship period. Many are actually retained for executive training after that. During the apprenticeship period itself, there are two categories of apprentices, diploma apprentices and as well as BE (Bachelor in Engineering) Apprentices.  BE Apprentices will be executing mundane jobs and later based on their performances and challenges we used to provide, once they start performing, independent work assignments will be given to such apprentices. So, talent will be nurtured and we will also retain such talent. In my experiences, I have seen so many apprentices who got a much better career in the company itself after their apprenticeship. So, apprenticeship plays a vital role in any company.

Do you believe automation has reduced labour dependence or do diverse skill sets remain crucial in manufacturing?

Definitely, any company should focus towards automation by which the fatigue of the employees will be reduced. Though the company is getting into a lot of automation, and a lot of technical interface with the machines, matching to that, the talent of the executives needs to be groomed. The executives should be groomed in such a way to handle this automation. However, I feel a lot of gaps, for instance, the executives are not upgrading their skills based on the current business scenario. There are new means, for example, even in the Foundry business also, a lot of automation is taking place but the new technologies and Executives working in the Foundry business are not getting updated. So, it’s the duty of the company to enhance the knowledge level of the executives at par with the industry automation.

Thiyagarajan Y is a seasoned HR professional with a rich career spanning diverse industries. Currently serving as Divisional Manager at Ashok Leyland Foundry Division, he oversees the end-to-end HR processes for 1800 employees. With over six years as Senior Manager at Rane TRW Systems, he successfully navigated the complexities of union negotiations, wage settlements, and workforce management for an 850-strong team. Thiyagarajan’s experience extends to MRF Ltd and Nemak Aluminium Castings, where he managed HR for large-scale operations. Armed with a PGCHRM from XLRI Jamshedpur and an M.Sw. from Madras School of Social Work, he brings a strategic and compliance-focused approach to human resources.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this article, including any accompanying data, are the sole responsibility of the author and should not be construed as reflecting the official policy or position of India Employer Forum.

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