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Above all, leaders must be human
Swati Yadav always follows through on her commitments. From her first years away from home at college all the way up to her current position as Director of People and Culture at Roche, the determination to succeed is what drives her. After 13 years in the HR sector, she is clear on what values companies should focus on to hire well.
Yadav emphasises how important it is for leaders in India at this time to be human before anything else: creating a culture of trust, honesty and transparency. In her role dealing with employees every day, she ensures that the company values every single employee for their potential, with learning opportunities to grow in all directions.
Swati Yadav has never shied away from responsibility. Her grandfather, a veteran, often reminded her while she was growing up that one should always follow through with their commitments. She followed his advice and today she is the Director of People and Culture at Roche, the world’s largest biotechnology company. One hundred and thirty-seven million people with serious illnesses are treated with Roche’s medicines, according to the company’s website.
Yadav, who has been working in Human Resources for 13 years, has always had the support of her family to take risks and explore unchartered areas. They put her through the grind, shaping her work ethic by pushing her to become skillful and independent from a young age. She distinctly remembers the morning she left home to join college, and how her father drove her to the bus stand at five a.m. with a trunk and suitcase, told her to explore her way to other cities and literally to life ahead.
Yadav went to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences for her post-graduate degree before joining a string of top FMCG and healthcare corporations. Her professional journey started at the Saharanpur Factory of ITC, as a summer intern which built the right foundation for her. Before joining Roche, she worked with MNCs like Johnson and Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive. Yadav values the lessons from each of her stints. “If I had to reflect on my journey as a professional, I would call it a learning journey rather than a career,” she says.
Yadav also believes that creating a culture of trust and transparency is of utmost importance. "It is essential that leaders and organisations are exceptionally transparent. If you are saying or doing something which you cannot say or do with the door of your office open, you should probably not do it."
Throughout her long career, she has also picked up the following insights and lessons about successful hiring, HR management and leadership:
Every employee has leadership potential
She dismisses the old-school HR idea that companies should invest only in the top 5% of the talent. Everyone is a talent at Roche, according to Yadav, and more strategic investments in human resources can make all the difference. In India, where companies tend to reward only for vertical growth, Yadav is trying to do something unique. "We focus a lot on building the capability of our people in a manner that does not simply focus on one’s current role, but defines where his or her interests lie and then help them build it for the long term."
She doesn't believe in traditional job training. "What we are trying to do instead is to focus on creating a network learning organisation. It is based on the belief that capabilities exist in the organisation in a pocket somewhere, what we will need to do is to connect between where the capability exists."
Diversity is essential to today’s companies
Yadav is also focusing her efforts to nurture diversity in the company. "A company with a diverse set of people will never be stagnant, as the employees bring in different ways of exploring a problem." This belief directly correlates to women in the workplace, since female employees are still rarely seen at the management and C-suite level in India. “That's because traditionally as a culture, we have not broken the ceilings of women being in sales and marketing.”
The ability to transform her ideas into sustainable policies has made Yadav one of the few women leaders in the pharma sector. "If you look at HR, Finance or Marketing, you will find women in top roles. However, the moment you come to commercial function - or the value functions as we call it at Roche - where they do product strategy, that's where you do not see a woman leader. There are three to four life stages where you lose female talent in business. So I think as an organisation, if we can support people in those life stages, we will be able to retain them in the organisation.”
Yadav has more insights to share - finish reading Swati Yadav's story at the Powering India's Future main page.