Date: October 29, 2011
Rajesh Vidyasagar is currently Director, HR Client Services at The World Bank. He has worked at the Bank for sixteen years, and has been the Bank’s HR manager for Latin America; the Middle East and North Africa; and Asia Regions. Prior to the Bank, Rajesh worked as Vice President for HR in the Tata IBM joint venture and was also General Manager and Member Personnel on the Tobacco Division Board of ITC Ltd.
He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College and has a Master’s degree in Economics and Politics from Oxford University. He is a former National President of the National HRD Network of India.
Rajesh has a deep interest in organization effectiveness, talent management and strategic alignment of HR policies to support business growth and employee well being. He has kept in touch with young people everywhere he has worked, and has taught in courses at the IIM Calcutta and at The Lawrence School, Lovedale.
Rajesh lives in Washington DC. He is interested in theater and his volunteer activity on weekends is reading to the blind.
Mr. Rajesh Vidyasagar gave an insightful talk on “HR challenges for global business organisations: the World Bank experience”
He first spoke about his organization World Bank. He gave the historical perspective, saying World Bank and IMF were started after the 2nd world war. The focus area of Word Bank over a period of time was as follows:
He then defined poverty in a new perspective as lack of health, education, work, food, future, security and clean drinking water, and above all the lack of voice, to freely express one’s needs and problems.
Mr. Vidyasagar said that according to a study, the major reasons for being attracted to work in an organization were purpose, autonomy and personal growth. World Bank gets the best talent in the world, because of its major strength; its purpose of providing development to countries and help eradicate poverty.
He talked about the major challenges that World Bank faces. Being a global organization with 12,500 employees from diverse cultures and 120 offices in different countries, it is difficult to localize cultures in different countries and yet bond all World Bank employees with a common culture, a familiarity in all World Bank offices be it in Africa or India.
With dual career couples, and children’s education at stake, given the unpredictability of the tenure of projects in various countries, it becomes necessary to shift places, thus posing a major challenge in terms of work life balance for its employees.
World Bank deals with developmental activities in various countries that occur over a period of time to render benefits in the long-term. Mr. Vidyasagar cited an example of a Dam project, whose benefit can only be realized after 7 or 8 years. Thus, it becomes difficult to measure and appraise the actual performance of an individual in 1 or 2 years.
As employees of World Bank have had a wide experience of being top performers, it becomes difficult to make high individual performers to work in teams, especially with cultural differences.
The HR department of World Bank has successfully faced these challenges and made World Bank a preferred place of work.
In the interactive Q&A session, Mr. Vidyasagar said that basically companies expect to find a match in values of the organization and the individual while recruiting. When the money lent by World Bank is not utilized properly by the countries, it is a question of attribution of error, one has to decide who is to be blamed, the government, the agency involved to implement, corruption in between or the World Bank. To another query about managing work life balance, he said that at World Bank they follow flexible timing and telecommuting, that allows people to work from different places. In order to work effectively across cultures, it is important to be sensitive to the most minor details of any culture. As For example unlike the US culture of free expression, the Japanese often do not speak before the older colleagues have presented their ideas and the Norwegians raise their hands and wait till they are asked to speak. To manage a cross cultural team all these factors have to be taken care of.
The students got a real life picture of the global challenges in HR especially while working across cultures and the ways to deal with them.