Bala V Sathyanarayanan, Chief Human Resources Officer of Greif, Inc. holds a Master of Human Resources Management (MHRM) degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and MBA in General Management and BS in Electronics & Communications Engineering from the University of Madras in India. In addition, he graduated from the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.
Chief HR Officer at Leading Industrial Supplier
Bala V Sathyanarayanan as a CHRO of Greif, Inc. is maintaining a healthy workforce in order to maximize organizational efficiency, reviewing employee performance evaluations, and advising the CEO on human resources issues. Furthermore, developing and implementing human resource strategy in support of the organization’s overall business plan and strategic direction, specifically in succession planning, talent management, change management, organizational and performance management, training and development.
Mr Bala expresses, “Very early in my life my parents taught me the importance of service. That advice is etched in my memory and has stood me well in every aspect of my life.”
William Greif and Albert Vanderwyst founded Greif Inc. in 1877 in Cleveland, OH. In 1908, Greif became the largest cooperage plant in the world. Mike Gasser and Bill Sparks in 2001 integrated Van Leer Industrial, creating The leading industrial packaging company in the world, creating jobs, careers and growth for our colleagues and our shareholders. In 2019 Greif acquires Caraustar Industries, the largest deal in the company’s history. Greif wants to continue to build on this rich history and build for the next 150 years by executing on it’s “Build To Last” strategy.
Greif is the leading supplier of industrial packaging products and services with strategic locations throughout more than 40 countries. Their purpose is to safely package and protect the customers’ goods and materials to serve the essential needs of communities around the world. Greif remains steadfast in its commitment to being the best performing customer service entity for its global and regional customers around the world.
“The foundation on which our business has been built remains exactly the same, our purpose, our vision and The Greif Way (to treat others as you wish to be treated) are all core to who we are today and how we will continue to deliver for our stakeholders in the future.” he says
Greif constantly looks for opportunities to introduce any new goods or services or improve the current ones using Greif’s approach to what they term Intrapreneurship. Every colleague in the company has an opportunity to be an Intrapreneur where a colleague can present their ideas to the company’s Innovation Board and secure funding to test feasibility, viability and desirability of their ideas for the current and/or future customers.
Experienced Servant Leader
Prior to joining Greif, Bala was at Xerox Corporation where he headed Business Transformation and Human Resources for Xerox’s Technology Business and Corporate functions. Previously, Bala led Human Resources for Hewlett-Packard’s Americas Enterprise Business organization. Earlier in his career Bala held positions of increasing responsibility at Avaya Inc., Coca-Cola, and United Technologies – Otis Elevator Company.
As the Chief Human Resources Officer at Greif, Mr Bala V believes “When it comes to being a leader, empathy and vulnerability are two important traits to have. Empathy allows you to understand and share the feelings of others, while vulnerability allows you to be open and honest with your team. Both of these traits play a role in your leadership because they help you build trust with your team. When you can empathize with your team members, they know that you understand their feelings and experiences. This can help build trust and respect because they know that you’re not just some distant leader who doesn’t understand what they’re going through. And when you’re vulnerable with your team, they see that you’re open and honest about your own weaknesses and fears. You’re just as human as they are, and you’re willing to admit it. These two traits help me be the Servant Leader that I have come to be. It goes a long way in helping me build the strong relationships that are essential for any successful leadership team.
Bright Goals and Vision for Future
Bala V asserts, “We have 4 key priorities that we as an organization have to focus on. To be the best performing customer service company in the world we must meet these priorities by 2025. First, we must enhance our customers’ experience through improved digital interactions, automating many of the processes within the organization as we look to digitally advance our systems as well as other tools. We will drive systematic implementation of automation in our plants on a larger scale and we will intend to prioritize spending in this area. We will embed new tools and processes and project management systems into our normal business so that we can become more agile, and transformation becomes a continuous journey. This approach will form part of our enhancement of the Greif Business System to GBS 2.0. We will dedicate resources towards innovation with a specific focus on innovative products and processes that support a circular economy helping our customers realize their sustainability goals. Finally, we will communicate regularly on Progress against our strategy and priorities.”
The long-term Strategic Vision for Greif is to be the best performing customer service company in the world. They’ve built a platform to support their strategic development and drive for this vision’s execution.
Grief’s Build to Last Strategy contains 4 key missions: creating thriving communities, delivering legendary customer service, protecting our future and ensuring financial strength.
As a company that has been in existence for over 145 years, the biggest strength is their people who have sustained the core values of customer service over generations. With over 225 manufacturing facilities in over 40 countries, its competitive advantage in this business-to-business space is its people’s practices of focusing on selecting, developing and engaging the colleagues to deliver legendary customer service.
Grief’s mission is to deliver a world class, diverse and engaged workforce that can execute on Greif’s business Strategy. For Colleagues to execute on Grief’s global business strategy they need to be very comfortable in bringing their whole self to work. Grief makes this possible by enabling a work environment where every colleague feels safe, welcome, cherished and celebrated.
Bala believes, “If a colleague feels safe, welcomed, celebrated, and cherished in the organization, they feel that they belong here. When they belong here, they could bring their whole selves to work. If you are supported by your manager in the organization, if you’re provided a platform to learn, grow, and succeed, and if you could bring your whole self to work where you could feel safe, welcome, celebrated, and cherished, it can help drive organizations engagement up, and that could lead to better customer outcomes. Customers show their appreciation by giving Greif an opportunity to serve them again and again. Done right, this is a nice virtuous cycle where we see a direct correlation of engaged colleagues impacting customer and business financial outcomes positively.”
Words of Wisdom
According to Mr Bala V, “Aspiring business people can be very uncomfortable being vulnerable. It’s okay to say I don’t know. Lean in and ask the question: Can you educate me on how this comes together in the business unit or how this business makes superior margins? Sometimes we hesitate to ask business questions. Let’s not hesitate, because when we asked the questions of our business leaders, they realize they should be asked the question. It’s about time we get comfortable being uncomfortable.”
A piece of advice by Bala V Sathyanarayanan for aspiring Business people is to always be curious and develop clarity. Clarity for you so that you can provide clarity to your team and organization. Be clear about what problem you’re solving, which is another way of saying, understand the business goals. Maintain your composure through every crisis you encounter and stay optimistic; these two will help you stay unflappable and inspire confidence.