Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Turning Organizational Culture Around - Life at Ramco : A Case Study

Organizational Culture is something that's in the DNA of every organization. We all experience it, and read about it, and some of us study it. It's there, it's essential, and it's not a deniable variable of an organization's overall experience.

Over the last couple of decades, organizational culture has been gaining tremendous importance. The concept of "Best Places to Work For" have become a popular and established method of assessing an organization's quality and worth even. 

'How to make the workplace suitable for the Millenials' is a discussion that most HR professionals have witnessed / attended / if not directly been a part of.
And a question that many companies are having to face.

How does one keep the- easily distracted, not exactly loyal, adventurous and comfortable with quitting to find a better fit or even just to find oneself - workforce as their workforce?
The recruitment teams are stronger than ever. 
[Almost 30 years ago (Just 30 years ago) when my dad was recruited to his first company, he said there was an operations manager and one guy from HR. There was no recruitment guy, and most definitely not a recruitment team! But the law of the land / rules of the game - whatever you call it, it has all changed now.]

And yet,

Attrition is at an all-time high - some companies embrace it, some accept it, some resent it, some are trying to do something about it, and very few are actually succeeding in doing something about it.

Theoretically, it’s simple. The workforce has changed, so all one has to do is change the work culture to fit the workforce. Right? Easier said than done.

The big giants like Google and Facebook were clever and forward enough to be the change, and in a way start the trend. They let the world know that work needn’t be done from cubicles, or even from desks while wearing formals.

(Open space workplaces were first started around 1950 – when after the world wars, resources in general were scarce, and it was easy to set up tables with dividers in a large open room, rather than build separate cubicles for each employee!)

Luckily for the world, what started as a resource saving technique turned out to become an organizational culture shift strategy.

Open spaces have since become a part and parcel of the common organizational structure – the norm. The initially shocked baby boomers accepted it. They keep the Gen X happy.

Gen Y and Z came along, and open spaces were not enough anymore. They wanted perks. Extra amenities. So organizations started introducing small things like “Team Outings”, Small attached gyms, Food Courts, Sports Day and so on to keep them happy. Which worked well enough.

Then the Millennials. Like I said – companies like Google and Facebook; which are the ones that actually accelerated the rapid changes in the generation gaps, empowering smarter technology – have been able to keep up with the pace they set. Many start-ups with their small teams and big ideas manage to keep up with the pace. What about the more established traditionally run companies?

How do they adapt to the swift changes of the current world?

The Ramco Story

[ #LifeAtRamco – A Case Study of Ramco Systems ]





As someone who has been avidly following the changing trends in management (As keenly as some of this generation follow Game of Thrones!) I was very interested when I was invited for an evening at Ramco – to specifically experience “Life At Ramco”.
No further details were given. But it got my curiosity aroused.

[A brief background – Ramco Systems, a very tradititional Indian company, is one of the top players in the ERP space. ]

You see, I’ve been to Ramco for a meeting about four years back (in 2012). It was as boring as any corporate setup.
Start naked white walls. Contrasting blue felt, and the occasional green on the neat workstation layout. A plant in one corner. Some random motivational quote made into a poster. (I know many of us are either thinking: “Tell me about it!” or “Hey! Don’t make my workplace sound so dull!)
Why do I remember something so unremarkable? Because I was made to wait for an hour on a boring couch, and the girl who I met after the hour (who made no apologies for making me wait) said she’d called me back, and never did.

I went out of curiosity, and I accept, some spite. I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised!

Every organization derives its culture from a variety of aspects, including, but not limited to:
  1. Top management vision
  2. Top Management's management style
  3. Core Values - The written and accepted ones
  4. Core Values - Unwritten and understood
  5. How well the management style percolates through to the lower levels
  6. The work environment
  7. The flexibility offered
  8. The dress code 
Ramco has taken the trouble to change each and every one of those items on the list above. They’ve been able to transform from a boring old company of the last century to a happening work place of the future!
Let’s go through them in the logical order – Why, When, How, Where and finally What the change is

Why:
Any such major changes start with a vision. Here it was the vision of the new CEO. He realized that they need change from a traditional company – in their policies, work style, work space and general outlook if they wanted to gain market share and make substantial profits again.
His vision brought out the theme that employees shouldn’t wait for Fridays. They shouldn’t have to balance Work and Life on separate scales. Work Life on its own must be amazing.
Just vision is not enough for a company to get ready to invest a huge chunk of money into things like infrastructure. Though we know that the people make the company, it is not an easy decision for the company to invest so majorly on the top line.
Here is where the belief that the management team had in the vision came into play. They backed his decision, and have been fully supportive.
Many of us repeatedly asked the various employees (who had turned temporary tour guides from the evening) “have these changes actually affected your bottom line?” “Have you been able to prove substantial increase in productivity?” And their answer: A laugh and “Of course!!! When work is so much fun, productively will obviously increase!”

When:
The transformation process was started three years ago (from 2013)
It’s still an ongoing process, they tell me. Like continuous improvement. Ramco has realized that there is always something more that can be done to make employee’s work life better. So they keep at it!

How:
Ramco realized that if they’re changing, they might as well do a damn good job of it.
Changes in the company are right from the HR policies – Flexible work times, Work from anywhere, no formal dress code.
Flatter reporting structure to the extent that – an organization that not so long ago used ‘Sir’s and ‘Ma’am’s to refer to one another is now completely on a first name basis. THAT is the most radical change if you ask me. It’s easy to go from wearing formals to casuals, even for the senior members of any company. But to suddenly have junior members be allowed to call them by first name – that takes conscious acceptance of the change by each and every individual.
They have redesigned the entire work space into a colourful, fluid and fun concept.

Where:
In all their work places – in all the branches across the globe, except those situated inside government offices / or customer sites.

What:
In two words: Almost Everything!
Yes, it hasn’t been overnight. But they have managed to turn the place around – completely!
It’s a workplace that’ll keep any millennial happy and content. If it’s distractions that keeps a normal millennial away from work – it’s distractions optimized that’ll keep him in Ramco.
They’ve got Fooseball tables to keep the adrenalin pumping, Zumba to keep fit, Zen corners – for those who want to work in peace, Plush soft couches to sink into, in house masseuse, A café with pumping music, Games screened, A full restaurant scale canteen that offers a wide variety of cuisines, Healthy snack dispensing vending machines, Swings in lieu of seats,  themed sitting areas … You get the drift (I’m stopping as I’m feeling a jealousy surge all over again!)
I’d like to highlight however, that each of those aspects seem to have been well thought out and carefully picked out. None of them are things one would get bored of in a hurry! And almost everything can be replaced or upgraded as necessary. Good strategy I’d say!
I’ve got some pictures here which will tell you more than I can describe J




After seeing all that, the question screaming in my head was: “How do you get any work done here?” And I managed to ask it to a few managers as well as team members.
And the responses?
 “Sometimes, when I’m bugged, I look at my manager – and he looks at me. And we both pack our laptops and go over to the café, and continue to work there in peace. I think the corner table there is more mine than my actual seat!! Haha
Here at Ramco – this Ramco, not what he had 3 years ago, even staying overtime for a deliverable does not feel like work at all!
I’m really good at Fooseball now, as I have so much practice at it. But I’m very good at my job too!
Our productivity has increased so much, and we’re just getting started!”
We all love to work here. And we want to do our best for the company that does so much for us!”

All that can be said for Ramco and Ramcans now is:



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