What are the key HR skills, strategies needed to lead as an HR in a leading semiconductor company like STMicroelectronics? Niloy from BISinfotech in an exclusive-extensive interview with Rajita D’Souza, President, Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility, STMicroelectronics pans around the skill-sets of talent acquisition, tabling her hefty experience in this new window of opportunities, being women in tech and programs to abridge the talent-gap. Most importantly the veteran also highlights her plans in this post-pandemic world where working culture has dynamically changed and how she is keeping the balance and shaping ST in this new normal. Much more in this edited nub below.
1. Rajita D’Souza, now you will be leading ST’s global HR organization, tell us about your journey till now and how you strategize to drive ST’s programs in coming years?
I joined ST in Jan 2021 and am still learning about the organization.
Fundamentally, I believe that the HR & people strategy must align with the business strategy. The approach I will follow will be to work closely with my colleagues to understand and get to know our expectations for the next 3-5 years, understand what we want to do and what capabilities, processes, and investments we need to focus on in talent development. Based on that, we will build programs and create opportunities to develop our people, close gaps of capabilities, and teach and coach our people on the technologies in this new digital world that we need to embrace. We also need to recruit people with the best technical and leadership capabilities we can find from everywhere in the world to help ST grow our portfolio and achieve our strategic goals.
2. What it is like being a women-leader in a tech company. How responsibilities and strategies are drawn and evaluated on a day-to-day basis and your thoughts as global companies move towards gender equality?
Women leaders in global Tech companies are making lots of news and will continue to make their presence felt in C-suite roles. It is very important and satisfying for a female leader to be considered for, and promoted into, roles for the capability and experience they bring to the table instead of for their gender. Most women leaders have collected enough stories about their sacrifices, addressing gender bias, balancing work/life, and the difficult competition at work.
Gender diversity will continue to be a priority as companies implement diversity policies and take constructive actions to build cultures that are inclusive so that everyone feels that they belong and is treated fairly.
Being a women leader in a Tech company in some ways is not different from being a woman leader in any other company. If there are differences, it may be in thought processes or in the way organizations approach things, and these are certainly not triggered by gender thinking. However, in Tech companies, the challenge is from the strategic side and less operational on a day-to-day basis i.e., strategically, being able to coach yourself, and groom and guide capabilities within the company to be very agile and quick and to take calculated risks, and to make sure we ride innovation to serve customers and put ST on the map for new products that we want to roll out.
Gender equality is already in place at ST and we will set further clear targets to drive it as well as putting in place lots of different initiatives to support it. This includes speeding up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs by, on one hand, going to schools to influence girls and young women to think about having a career in an industrial environment. And, on the other, directly addressing the challenges that most women have of trying to balance career and family, home, and other obligations. We (both the executive team at ST and Women Leaders) must create an environment that encourages and fosters open conversations on gender equality and the importance of cultivating diversity within organisations. We also need to teach and educate all peers to understand the differences in approach and thinking that women can have and how those peers can support, interact, and coach women in their teams.
I have had the pleasure of working with some fantastic women leaders in my career. We look at problems and challenges in a broad framework and tend to make our decisions not just on what the best strategy or action is but also think through what the impact of these decisions will have on all stakeholders.
3. You bring along an experience from co-related yet diverse fields. How different you see the strategy and programs in the semiconductor workplace when it comes to talent acquisition?
One big difference is that the semiconductor industry requires specific highly specialized skills, and the availability of these skills is very limited. The number of students studying the kinds of electronics or electrical engineering that we want is small and sometimes the employed base of these skills in the industry is very low. And, of course, with the industry boom, there is a high demand for the kinds of profiles we’re looking for. So, to drive talent acquisition becomes even more challenging: you have to appeal to candidates with the job and the company by offering them a complete value proposition, such as giving people an environment, community, opportunity to grow and change, to do different things and to inculcate entrepreneurial skills and an innovation mindset, while still following guidelines and compliance with company rules and norms. Infact, talent acquisition for manufacturing technology is particularly challenging.
The strategy we have in place at ST is to secure quality talent and new-generation talent, whether male or female, as there is a shortage of both. ST’s value proposition and the experience we offer employees has to be full spectrum. We have to provide a stimulating environment to foster the ability for someone to fulfill his or her desires and we should have a performance-driven culture that also encourages entrepreneurship so people can be innovative and creative.
Another requirement is flexibility – because the younger employees want flexibility; they don’t want to be in an office building or at a desk, from nine to six. They have different ways of thinking and want a balanced life.
Covid-19 has forced many of us into home working, which is also another challenge in our talent acquisition strategy that we have to consider. Employer branding and the awareness of people with different cultures in different countries that we operate in are also paramount when identifying and hiring new talent.
4. You have around two decades of experience in your respective field-leading different responsibilities. What will be your one suggestion to women seeking success in the HR field?
We are living today in a largely technology-driven world where virtual connectivity has, to a large extent, replaced in-person and personal connectivity. There is an ever-present challenge of losing touch with your internal and external colleagues and associates. My mantra, even more, important in my HR capacity, has always been to engage often with colleagues. This may not be easy to do, but successful engagement leads to higher retention. So leaders need to communicate, share their vision, listen actively, and finally provide open continuous feedback.
Tied into the need for connectivity, to be successful in any field, you need to speak the language of the business as well as understanding that business as deep below the surface as you can. The most successful HR programs are the ones that address first, the interests of the business supported by the human capital in the company.
5. How would you shape the workplace and company culture in ST?
ST already has a strong culture in place as I’ve discovered from spending my first few months doing a lot of what I call “listening tours,” although due to Covid-19 global travel restrictions, I’m using the new way of virtual sessions.
ST features a strong culture of innovation, collaboration, and a sense of belonging. These are some of the expressions that I have heard constantly and consistently from all geographical and functional parts of the ST world.
So rather than focusing on changing the culture or reshaping the workplace, I think we should further strengthen the solid base we have – to create more agility, increase cross-functional collaboration, inject more inclusiveness of different people and share the diversity of our experiences.
Most importantly, we need to step up our existing programs and initiatives on Diversity and Inclusivity company-wide. This I believe we have much room to expand and facilitate.
As organizations are striving to become more global, digital, and transparent, they can’t overlook diversity and inclusion because employees have become more exacting in their demands for respect for diversity, inclusion, and gender equality. Today, HR is a custodian to promote diversity and inclusion among employees and this can, in turn, help companies become more efficient, innovative, and productive.
Just to reiterate, ST’s Diversity & Inclusivity philosophy and practice, which says that as an organization we are convinced that diversity and inclusion bring value to our business through effective innovation, (organizational) attractiveness, engagement, and agility. Also one of our ongoing objectives is strengthening the role of women in building ST’s future. Our ambition is to create value from the diversity of our workforce by ensuring that all employees reach their highest potential in an environment that respects and harnesses the richness of our differences for both individual and collective success.
6. What are the qualitative and quantitative results of the talent acquisition strategy and how it has changed over the years?
Changes in the talent acquisition strategy extend beyond the Semiconductor industry. I think technology has also pushed the frontier in talent harnessing, talent development, and talent retention.
Today, companies constantly invest to attract and retain the right talent by using social networking, new cognitive technologies, and big data. Taking a simple example: physical job fairs have been largely replaced by social media channels like LinkedIn; online forms and Skype/Zoom interviews have spread like wildfire. This has sped up recruitment and reduced costs. Nevertheless, employees’ experience is not to be discounted.
Organizations are also using multimedia to strengthen competencies in, for example, performance management, coaching, and leadership development to boost the career development of employees.
So, while in my view training and mentorship programs remain fundamental, the avenues for such programs have changed from traditional methods to using more digital tools.
For us, talent retention is very challenging as this young generation is highly mobile and ambitious. So, it is imperative to have good plans & programs in place to increase employees’ interest in staying with ST as well as monitoring the effectiveness of HR initiatives implemented by our competition in the industry.
7. What trends will shape Human Resource departments over the next five years?
The digital world has gradually redefined the HR function. More than just the way we manage our people, it has also redefined how HR operates. From recruitment to performance management, we are seeing automated processes being used.
I expect Bots will continue to take over the mundane function of sifting through applications to select the qualified few. In other words, extend the paradigm shift from human-driven to digital-driven in recruitment. AI has also begun to play a strategic role in HR functions. So that’s a huge part of the change.
The other area where I believe the shift will continue is that HR has to continue to up its game as a consultant in terms of know-how, competency building, agility, and flexibility to provide advice on many aspects of employees’ well-being and welfare. Here the consultations must cut across different organizations, different projects, different countries, different languages, and different cultures.
In short, while preserving the relevant aspects of traditional ways of working, we must embrace automation that will greatly enhance job productivity. Usage of AI will also enable us to address whatever is the next level of complexity for recruitment, as chatbot services have found a niche in most companies.
And as far as ST is concerned, we have already started the journey and process of digitization, wherever possible and relevant. This is particularly challenging for ST where a large percentage of the employees are operating in manufacturing environments.
Regardless of whatever trends will shape the future of companies and the human resources function, enhancing employees’ engagement in the company is critical. The bottom line is to significantly increase employees’ engagement and satisfaction level in this ever-demanding and ever-changing industry we operate in.
In addition, organizations around the globe are looking for a new type of leader – one that has both a strong technology-infused capability and is largely grounded in using human touch to manage dynamic and diverse teams in continuous learning and development and in taking accountability for their work and career. So really, as effective as it is, my priority at ST is in helping make the company even more engaged and empowering to its employees.