“Reward can’t be seen in isolation,” says Praveen Gandhi, a global reward leader with experience across consultancy and corporate worlds, working out of Asia. “Reward must be seen in context of the country, the economy, the social structures and cultural expectations.”
Having worked in India, Singapore and China, building reward systems for Asian and Western communities within corporate companies, Praveen recognises that context is king. And yet, he is quick to acknowledge that there is much to learn from other countries’ approaches to inform and refine reward systems as appropriate.
Praveen is articulate on the unique India-specific challenges that he sees reward as having to meet. He strongly believes that there is synergistic relationship between employees, employer, shareholders and the surrounding community. This is, he believes, one of the fundamental criteria for any of his proposed reward solutions.
He emphasises that greater participation of women in the workforce is critical for the accelerated growth of the Indian economy and is focused on devising rewards systems and processes that help drive change in the workplace around issues such as gender equality and diversity.
“Gender diversity is a particular topic and we’re a long way behind many other countries in getting women into roles,” he says. “How can we use reward systems to incentivise women into the workplace or make it easier for them to be there?” He also notes that learning and development are a real current focus, with: “upskilling and reskilling becoming more important because we are already seeing jobs replaced by AI and automation, or new jobs created by AI for which people don’t have the skills yet.”
The gig economy is an emerging sector in India and other developing markets poised for rapid growth. However, it is likely to lack the necessary reward systems and regulations for gig workers. While gig work with unskilled or semi-skilled workers is not a new concept in the industry or any geography, the focus has now shifted to skilled or highly skilled gig workers and their evolving needs. As he explains: “In India, we can draw upon some of the strategies that have already proven successful in the United States and other established markets when it comes to compensating gig workers, given their prior experiences with this trend a few years ago.”
Praveen also strives to meet the difficulties of what he calls a “misalignment between skills, goals and rewards.
“More and more often one role requires many skills and if we don’t accurately reflect that in our reward system, employees are treating unfairly , being set unrealistic goals or given undue rewards. That is not good for the organisation or the workforce.”
In his current role, Praveen may now be deeply enmeshed in the reward systems specific to India, US and Europe, but it belies an insatiable, lifelong interest in exploration and awareness of the wider world. It is something that has secured him an interesting career and undoubtedly makes him effective in his reward roles.
“I’m adventurous by nature,” he admits, “it’s an innate quality. I was the child who was always off on my own climbing hills and getting lost. As an adult, I have made a conscious effort to take jobs in different countries to explore different societies, cultures, places and people.” Whether living in Shanghai or Singapore, Praveen made a point of avoiding the expat Indian community to help him learn more about the social fabric of the country itself.
His adventurousness – and an intense job – also sends him towards high octane sports in his spare time. He counts ultra-running as a hobby. It provides the opportunity to challenge himself and ‘problem-solve’ his way to running for over 160km at a time, while also meeting an inspiring new community. “You learn so much from the people you met, networking is something I really enjoy.”
With his open-minded attitude and an interest in people coupled with an inclination for and ease with numbers, it’s easy to see why Praveen ended up in reward. “I am very happy in this profession,” he says. “And even better is that the challenges will only keep coming as the future of reward is going to be very different. There will be plenty of problems to solve for a long time yet.”
Praveen is interested in the future of reward and his broad perspective across emerging and mature markets on past changes and current priorities help him to shape insightful predictions about what could be coming in 30 years’ time.
Some things won’t change, he believes, namely because “people will always expect timely and relevant reward and appreciation,” but he thinks the reward system will need to become multi-faceted in order to be inclusive for a very diverse workforce. “That will be difficult to achieve when we see such polarisation in communities, talent pools and countries as a whole. The workforce is changing fast and we need systems that can cope with that. ”
He expects technology to not only influence jobs but also help support reward systems to be more effective and transparent. “Having a good reward framework is only one part of the solution. It counts for nothing if it’s not delivered and understood by the people who use it.”
He believes delivery is a current, serious issue for many companies, leaving staff unhappy with reward offerings and ultimately resulting in below-optimal performance. “Can’t we use technology to be more effective as reward leaders and create a ‘wow’ factor and boost productivity?”
With the changing employment landscape of the future, he contemplates whether the design of an internally-focused reward system (centred on factors like internal parity, promotions, standard benefits, performance evaluations, and various other internal procedures) will become obsolete. This consideration is especially pertinent in a burgeoning gig economy, where a significant portion of the workforce comprises skilled individuals hired for specific tasks or projects within the broader marketplace.
TR2050 provides what Praveen sees a fantastic forum in which to start discussing these ideas further. He quickly joined as a Member when he learnt of its existence. “TR2050 is a way to bring together joint intelligence and experience to consider the disruption that is already happening so we can be more resilient as a profession,” he says. “We really need to be resilient.”
“Many networking platforms tend to be in national or regional silos, but by working with global experts, we are more efficient and can truly learn from each other and each unique context. We can analyse what went wrong or right to help us create and test new models.”
TR2050 also, fortunate for this adventurous people-person, provides an opportunity to meet new people, understand different ‘worlds’ and problem-solve with likeminded experts. The TR2050 Membership is fortunate to have such a driven, experienced and open-minded Asian representative to enhance discussion and help develop solutions for the future of reward.