Employee Speak: Dhruva Dubey, Vice President Human Resources, July Systems; V4 Issue 4


Meet Dhruva Dubey, VP, HR, July Systems

Dhruva Dubey heads the Human Resources function at July Systems. July Systems offers the industry’s No.1 mobile internet platform to media publishers, advertisers and enterprises. Pioneers in mobile internet, July Systems supports more than 80 of the world’s largest brands and delivers over 2.5 billion page views to 40+ million users. With offices in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kuala Lumpur, the company has a service footprint in over 100 countries today. With July Systems’ innovative MiTM Platform businesses can publish, distribute, market, monetize and personalize services for their consumers on the mobile internet and offer them rich and interactive experiences across 7000+ device models. July Systems’ is a privately funded company with a 100 member R&D team and a 200 member Delivery and Operations team.

Dhruva’s responsibilities include driving strategic organizational goals by creating strong HR systems and processes. Dhruva brings with him 10 years of rich experience in the area of People Management in a wide spectrum of industry verticals including Manufacturing, FMCG and Banking. Before joining July Systems, Dhruva worked with BTR Automotives, AXIS Bank and HSBC in multiple roles. He has successfully led large teams, made key contributions in setting up businesses and has been instrumental in contributing towards the business success. Dhruva has a Mechanical Engineering degree and did his Masters in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from XLRI School of Business and Human Resources, Jamshedpur.

  1. How would you define a high potential employee?

    Most people confuse performance with potential. In my experience 70% of employees are not be able to perform in their new roles. There is a high probability of them then getting disengaged or resigning.  To me a high potential employee is someone who is able to perform at a higher level than others in the current role and has the potential to perform in a higher role through a vertical or lateral movement. I am including lateral movement since vertical moves are not always possible given the flat organization structures most organizations currently have and because lateral moves also require a high degree of learning. For instance in July Systems some roles are very difficult to hire from outside since they are very technical. So, a technical person may be groomed to take on a sales role. Basically high potential employees are people who show eagerness to learn new skills and grow continuously throughout their career. They don’t hold stereotypes of how their career would progress and hence are more open to new and challenging roles.     

  2. According to you what is the best way to identify high potential employees?

    One must first identify employees with consistent high performance ie., demonstrated high performance for a period of 2-3 years. Typically consistent performers will constitute 20% of the employees. Then one must cull out from this set of employees, those who satisfy certain other criteria like having demonstrated the ability to play a variety of roles, showing inclination to take on new roles etc. After that an objective process must be used to identify among them high potential employees i.e., those who demonstrate competencies for higher roles. In my opinion a 1-2 day assessment centre is a good tool to do this. Some may emerge as being excellent at one or two competencies and some may demonstrate an average level of competence on all competencies. There has to be clear criteria as to who are ones who will be shortlisted as high potential.

  3. Once you have identified them how do you plan nurture these high potential employees in July Systems?

    There are two ways to nurture high potential employees-through on the job initiatives and off the job programs. A 3 month rigorous off the job program spread over a period of 1 year will work well. These can include real time projects, short term assignments, internships, workshops and exposure to people who are doing this role. Individuals should understand the key success factors for the role they are going to play in future. It is also important to customize the potential development program to the person and the role he/she has been identified to play in future.

  4. In your experience what are the challenges in managing the development of high potential employees?

    One of the biggest challenges in managing potential development programs is the difficulty in measuring the ROI of these programs. Since there is considerable investment of time, effort and money there is an expectation that a huge pipeline of leaders will be created. But realistically speaking out of the identified high potentials only 5% emerge as leaders after about three years. Some of the high potentials will resign; some roles for which talented employees have been identified will no longer be there due to changes in the business. The results should not be measured in terms of volume, but quality. Even if a few CEO material individuals emerge that is really good. The key is to build realistic expectations at the beginning of the program itself.  

    Making the potential development a dynamic process is the other challenge. As you know one does business in a dynamic environment with markets, technologies etc evolving continuously making it imperative for the organization also to evolve its business focus. A standard potential assessment and development process then will not be able to cater to the evolving business needs. Typically the potential assessment and development process is designed to be static. Once it is institutionalized, it becomes difficult to change. Ideally the process needs to be in alignment with future business needs. This calls for a process review once in two years at least. 

    Generally we find once we have identified the high potential employees we don’t know what to do. High potentials want to see action. They want to be engaged. So it is best to identify not more than 3-4% of employees since they require a lot of effort and investments. Also if only 5% of employees have been identified for the potential development then there is bound to be a dip in morale among the rest. This can be taken care to some extent by making the program aspirational. There should be a clear distinction between these people and the rest for everybody to see. It is important to engage positively with people who have not made it now, but can do so in future. Communicate in advance about the criteria for selection, give employees feedback on where they lack and tell them that they can apply next time.

  5. How critical is the Managers role in nurturing high potential employees? What are the key contributions they can make to support the growth of high potential subordinates?

    It is absolutely critical. The success of every HR initiative is determined by the support it receives from the managers. We need the managers’ buy in and feedback on their subordinates to make the program a success. Managers need to engage with their high potential subordinates positively. The managers themselves may not be comfortable managing these resources. They may feel that the current work is getting hampered on account of the potential development initiatives. So, it is important that in parallel to charting out a development program for high potential employees, their managers are also educated about the same and given the required support. Managers can contribute by carving out larger roles for these high potentials and delegating more to them to make them grow.

  6. What role can Top Management play in nurturing high potential employees of their organizations?

    Top management has to be the sponsors and should play an active role. They should conduct a review of the potential development program once in 6 months. They are the role models for the high potential employees. So avenues for these employees to engage, discuss, debate and interact should be provided. It can be through participants going for lunch with them, presenting their projects, sharing their thoughts on important organizational issues etc. This will accelerate the learning and motivate the participants.

  7. With attrition levels being high nowadays, do investments in high potential employees pay off? Are retention levels higher among those covered by the High Potential program?

    Yes definitely, since the organization is engaging with these employees over a longer period of time retention among high potential employees on an average will be more than double that of other employees.