Engaged Workforce | Bala V Sathyanarayanan, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif

Creating a Diverse and Engaged Workforce

Meet Bala V Sathyanarayanan, the Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif a 145-year-old Fortune 500-sized global leader in the industrial packaging products and services industry. Greif operates in over 220 locations spread across 40 countries and four continents.

He is an NACD Certified Corporate Director with a passion for creating the highest standards of boardroom excellence. Bala currently serves as Chairman and Board Director of Balmer LawrieVan Leer Limited and as the Board Director for Columbus Council for World Affairs. Additionally, he is on the board for the Center for Executive Compensation in Washington, D.C.

Bala’s parents always encouraged him to work hard and serve the people around him. A lesson also taught by growing up an Eagle Scout. So, he took lifelong advice and worked very hard to make a difference to the individuals, teams, and organizations he has worked. Servant Leadership is at the core of who he is and how he leads.

He says, “I believe that when you give your energy to an important mission, you are helping every stakeholder achieve clarity for their organization. You can do this by sharing your goals with others, inspiring them, and giving them hope for their dreams, or just showing them what is possible when you set your mind to something.”

Bala graduated with an Advanced Management degree at Harvard Business School. Additionally, he has received a Master’s in Human Resource Management from Rutgers University, New Jersey. He also holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Communications Engineering from SVCE and an MBA from the University of Madras.

Before joining Greif, Bala served as the Executive Vice President of Xerox Corporation, where he led the HR and Business Transformation of the company. Prior to that, he served in multiple leadership roles at companies like Hewlett-Packard, Avaya Inc, Coca-Cola, and Otis Elevator Company.

A recipient of many global awards, Bala was also named in the list of Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business by the Asian American Business Development Center (AABDC), Executive of the Year by Columbus CEO Magazine, Top Inspiring Business Leaders of the Year in 2020 by Industry Wired Magazine, 10 Most Influential Business Leaders to follow in 2021 by CIO Insights Magazine.

Helping Companies with Path Breaking Products

Founded in 1877, Greif is a leading industrial packaging and services supplier. Spread across 40 countries, Greif remains committed to being the highest performing customer service entity for its global and regional customers. The organization’s core values shape its future and have helped it to stay on top of its competitors.

Greif ‘s Global Packaging Division helps its clients with steel, fiber, and plastic drums; intermediate bulk containers (IBCs); FIBCs; container liners; closures; filling, and reconditioning services. These products are used to protect and safely transport shipments around the globe. Bala says, “Our colleagues are here to help customers develop new packaging solutions or to partner with them to solve difficult supply chain challenges.” Greif ‘s technical expertise and years of experience enable it to guide customers through their product selection journey.

On the other hand, the Paper Packaging and Services (PPS) division of the organization manufactures containerboards, coated recycled paperboards, uncoated recycled paperboards, industrial and corrugated products, and offers recycling services. The PPS division serves the construction, paper products, textiles, automotive, explosives, and many other industries in North America. The Paper Packaging and Services Division has a closed loop system that successfully recycles recovered fibers, which provides Greif a competitive advantage through flexibility, supply security, and sustainability.

Tackling Challenges

Bala and his team’s biggest challenge related to talent optimization lies in the heightened focus and need to develop, attract, and hire new talents required to align with the organization’s business needs in the labor market both for today and in the future. Additionally, they need to balance the need to hire and maintain Greif ‘s essential workers at the plant while optimizing the firm’s approach to creating a more flexible, responsive, and engaging work environment for those who have an ability to work in a hybrid setting.

“We’ve been faced with rethinking our approach to learning and have pivoted to the launch of a completely virtual Greif University to continue meeting the need to educate our colleagues and ensure our investment in their continued global growth. This also results in us revamping our Leadership Development approach to stay in front of the trends in learning approaches that will likely be sustained post-pandemic.“- states Bala.

The Pandemic

Just like most other companies, Greif also had to adapt to every changing phase of the pandemic to develop, adapt, and update its protocols and monitor the safety of its Engaged workforce in more than 40 countries worldwide. Throughout this devastating pandemic, Bala and his team have developed various new protocols and either needed to change or emphasize them as more information became available in the public domain. From the beginning, the entire team followed the science and was guided by the best scientific organizations. Bala explains that they were also able to put various global and regional task forces in place, which led Greif through this pandemic.

The Future

Bala and his team’s primary mission is to create a world-class, motivated, diverse, and engaged workforce to help Greif deliver its global vision. Bala says, “My role is that of a strategist, an activist inside the organization to shake things up, helping the organization become more innovative. My mission as the Global CHRO is to manage the present while laying the foundations to help sustain global success for the future; we call it our Build to Last strategy.”

“My future aspirations involve helping others and using my unique gifts to make a difference by creating thriving communities across the countries that Greif operates.”– Bala adds. He plans to achieve these goals by focusing on the strengths of the organization’s Executive Leadership team which includes being candid, the love of learning new things, and the desire to make a positive impact on Greif ‘s global customers by providing them with excellent customer service.

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