Belongingness or Inclusion starts from home (or yourself).

Kannan Hariharan, an exemplary leader with over three decades of experience, is now embarking a journey with Avtar, facilitating his expertise as a D&I expert. An advocate with social pledges, Mr Kannan, is an advisor and coach to many organizations working towards accomplishing D&I goals. 

1. A quick view of you as a young professional. How well did you plan your professional life?

My professional life was not planned. I wanted to study and work for a good organization that gives me the grass-root experience early in my career. The first 15 years was all acquiring vertical expertise in different aspects of HR. The next 15 years were more strategic and horizontal experience across business and geography. This is a model that I still believe all should aim for, to build their career. In the current context, the number of years may vary/ be short.

2. Three significant accomplishments that come to your mind first.

My first five years were significant. It was loaded with immense learning at the grass-root level of Labor Relations, Employee Relations and HR. This gave me the depth and breadth of experience and the opportunity to be mentored by some stalwarts in the field. Engaging with the Unions and understanding both blue and white-collar employees was the takeaway.

The second significant accomplishment was in the field of Diversity. For hiring women for frontline sales and differently-abled in the shop floor, I was recognized by PepsiCo International with their first Global D&I award in 2004.

The third significant accomplishment was during my stint in Vietnam. Building a robust pipeline of local talent, including women leaders, was selected by the PepsiCo Chairman for a Leadership Program for Community Development in Ghana for four weeks. I was recognized multiple times in 2014 and 2016 for my contributions to business through my Inclusion and Diversity initiatives.

3. Recollecting a challenging event from your past in the space of D&I – what would that be?

Deploying Hearing impaired (PwD) on the shop floor. The variants of the challenge were, building the business case, getting the alignment with leaders and managers in the shop floor, and making it a sustainable model for others to follow for many years.

The other challenging event was hiring 70% women employees for PepsiCo’s Palakkad plant and building self-managed teams. This ensured a union-free, empowered frontline, delivering business results for the plant for over seven years.

4. Your definition of belongingness – a few tips for organizations wanting to accomplish D&I goals.

Belongingness or Inclusion starts from home or yourself. This cannot be something that you can switch-on and off at the workplace. When someone comes to work, they should be able to bring their whole self.

From my experience of working in the space of D&I, the tips I wish to share with organizations are:

  • Set the Business Case, Talent Case and Culture Case for your Inclusion and Diversity journey.
  • Have a clear plan of action with results mapped and communicate to all.
  • Look at all aspects of Diversity. Build a culture of Inclusion and Belongingness.
  • There is no magic wand, it is a journey and keep going.

5. Embarking your journey with Avtar – Can you tell us what you are looking forward to?

This relationship is a soul connect for me. Avtar is a pioneer in the area of Inclusion and Diversity. They have their head, heart, and hand in the game. I wish to contribute to see them stay on top, explore more frontiers of Diversity, be bold and remain a role model and leader for years to come.

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