Coworkers

Meet the HR pro who’s spent 26 years at one company

Shalin Kothari is the VP of people and DE&I strategy at Schneider Electric
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Shalin Kothari

· 4 min read

In this edition of our Coworking series, in which we chat 1:1 with an HR Brew reader. Want to be featured in an upcoming edition? Click here to introduce yourself.

Shalin Kothari is a “lifelong veteran” of Schneider Electric, having spent his entire 26-year career (and counting) with the energy company, where he’s now VP of people and DE&I strategy. Kothari has a background in finance and computer science, but pivoted to managing compensation to apply his finance and analytics skills to HR. Kothari says he’s stayed at the company because of its “people culture” and the many development opportunities within the organization, adding that Schneider Electric’s focus on sustainability also aligns with his personal values.

Kothari is developing programs that serve Schneider’s blue-collar and white-collar workforces, especially in a “talent crunch.” This includes experimenting with programs like its inclusive leader initiative, and developing an inclusive workforce for the company’s future that might look different than a workforce of 10–15 years ago, including a “returnship” program and apprenticeships. Kothari says what he’s focused on right now is training managers and leaders to lead in this new talent landscape.

What’s the best change you’ve made at work?

Our recharge breaks. Every three to seven years, people can take anywhere from six weeks to 12 weeks off. It’s partially company funded, and it’s partially employee funded, just to demonstrate that if this is something that is important to you, then the company will also match because it’s important to the company as well. We’ve developed a program where we encourage you to take this every three to seven years to just recharge yourself…we think this will actually add more productivity to the workforce.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

As the vice president of people and DE&I strategy, many people emphasize the “strategy” portion of my title. However, it’s not only about coming up with the strategy—it’s about the execution of that strategy. My job is to develop tactics and concrete plans on attracting, retaining, and engaging diverse talents that will not only drive business results, but adhere to the values of our people culture in an inclusive manner.

What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

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What I really appreciate about the job, at this company specifically, is the trust and collaboration provided by the business leaders and by my HR colleagues. Together, we’re able to drive Schneider Electric to truly be “the best company to work for.”

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

I’m optimistic that the world is moving toward a skills-based economy where we will increasingly create more work for people in the long run, without putting them into a box of specific, defined jobs. Companies will look to hire talent based on the current skills they possess, such as freelancers or gig workers. In many cases, it will be based on the company’s temporary needs to address immediate problems or tasks they have within the organization. This creates a win/win situation: for companies, to be more agile and productive, and for talent, to pick and choose the assignments they want to work on based on their skillset and interest.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

A dilemma we are struggling with is providing flexibility for all employees in an equitable manner. Since the pandemic started, many companies increased the degree of flexibility for their white-collar or back-office employees in choosing their work-from locations. This has created inequities with front-line workers whose careers are contingent on working from a specific, in-person location, such as retail workers, firefighters, doctors, etc. However, I believe that addressing this inequity is not inconceivable—it will take time to learn how we can offer other ways of flexibility in those front-line fields.

Tell us one new or old HR tech product or platform that’s made your life easier, and why.

As a people and DE&I strategy leader, I analyze a great deal of data in order to better understand our global workforce. I review information daily to evaluate the successes and challenges of the workforce and of our company. That means having solid people analytics tools that seamlessly connect to our HR data-lake are a necessity. In order to do more with less, Schneider Electric introduced an AI-based “data discovery and self-service analytics” platform, ThoughtSpot, that “frees up energy” to help our HR team undertake more effective strategic decision-making.

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Our HR newsletter delivers need-to-know industry news and insights to HR pros every weekday for free.