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Engineering HR, EN route
Bruno Guillemet (Senior Vice-President – HR, Alstom) lists out the challenges before HR as he laments the academia is just not doing enough, in conversation with Schweta Chaturvedi & Shishir Parasher
Issue Date - 01/07/2012
A graduate from Pantheon-Assas Paris II University, where he earned a DESS in personnel management, Mr. Bruno Guillemet started his career with the Sacilor Group in 1986. He moved on to Danone in 1989, where he managed the HR function. Later, in August 2004, Mr. Guillemet joined Alstom Transport as head of HR and in September 2010, he was appointed as senior vice-president HR, for the Alstom Group.

Q. With such an extensive experience in HR, please tell us some highlights of your career journey.
A. I quit Danone, a profitable firm, after 15 years of my service to join Alstom. My new company had financial issues, which made it stand close to bankruptcy. The switch was in search of adventure and because I found possibility of turning around the business through my ideas.

My first discussion post joining was with the finance department about my next month’s salary, as the company was going through a cash crunch. Alstom went for a restructing and within two years we were able to generate profits and grow.

I have never been a person who frequently switches companies; I will probably be with Alstom till I retire.

Q. How would you describe the HR practices at Alstom and how different are they?

A. We have a strong people management cycle which we consider as an asset to the company. We have more than 90,000 employees and nearly 50,000 managers and our people management practices are uniform across sectors. We believe in equal opportunities, and to me both economic and social factors are important within the organisation.

Q. What challenges do you see at Alstom?
A. The main challenge at Alstom is to have the HR policies in line with the business trends and changes. Over the last two years, there has been a huge change in the business trend and it is the developing countries that have become the major market. For example, two years ago we had 65 per cent of our work orders from the west, specifically the United States and Canada, and 35 per cent from the developing nations. The figures have all changed now. The economy is growing fast and people have to adapt to that. It is a big challenge for the HR to deliver the end product and meet the business expectations.

Q. How do you see skill shortage, as unemployment today is a huge challenge before nations? How can skill development be a probable area of opportunities for the unemployed youth?
A. We used to be a manufacturing company, but now we are into engineering too. We are mainly doing projects, assembling and engineering. The engineer population that we are targeting at is the one that, despite the economic crisis we have in Europe, is very difficult to attract. Like in Germany, we need thousands of engineers, hence we need to explore other ways.

As our business is also moving from Europe to other nations, we are trying to target other countries. We look forward to maintaining good relationships with prime universities in India to meet the demand for good engineers.

Q. Is academia preparing the youth for directly being consumed by organisations or there still exists a gap?
A. The gap still exists. The industry still prefers two to three years of experience. We face difficulty in balancing the workforce needs with business requirements. Our HR policies is not about short-term or long-term performance but focuses on medium-term performance.

We focus on developing people within our organisation by giving them a good career path through sectors, countries, values and numerous experiences.

Q. How is the local talent here?
A. In India, if we talk about engineering institutes, they have a traditional way of education. The course curriculum has not changed as it should have. The pressure is to identify good candidates, as manufacturing and core engineering are not the best places engineers want to work today. Once on board, they need to be developed. Even students from best engineering institutes cannot instantly deliver.

Q. Considering Indians are high on EQ, do you believe that foreign firms in India need to tweek their HR policies?
A. The ‘human factor’ remains the same globally and there needs to be an adaptation of the policies to suit the Indian needs. The good thing is that organisations today are favouring policies that are globally accepted. As HR professionals, we are supposed to share the vision and value of the company.

Q. What do you see in a candidate when you recruit?
A. Engineers should have the capacity to think out of the box. I pay much attention on supporting engineers with intelligence and emotional intelligence so as to drive the company through all areas and not just the brain.
Schweta Chaturvedi & Shishir Parasher           

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