A human touch, connect, ideation is something can never be created or driven by any technology.

Jayanti Phadke is a thorough professional with over 25 years of experience with 11 years' experience in Human Resource Management & 14 years in operations with reputed organizations. She is an innovative Operations & Human Resources professional, with capabilities in functions like astute business acumen, people management, performance management, coaching, high-performance work team development, compensation, compliance, organizational development, R&R and HR Systems along with precise Operations Management experience.

Jayanti is currently associated with Toll Group – Toll Technology Center as Head HR – Global ITS and TTC. Jayanti’s prior professional stints encompass Tata Consultancy Services as AVP – HR; IBM Daksh Global Process Services Pvt. Ltd. and then Concentrix Daksh Global Process Services Pvt. Ltd. as General Manager-Human Resources & handling a location of 8000+ strength; IBM DAKSH Business Process Services Pvt. Ltd as Sr. Operations Manager and handling a team of 600+ employees; Pagepoint Services Pvt. Ltd as an Assistant Operations Manager where she managed a team of 300 employees; and MODE Research as Market Research Executive.

Jayanti holds an Executive MBA from XLRI. She also holds a Bachelor in Commerce and Diploma in Marketing and Sales.  

Thank you, Jayanti, for agreeing to do this interview for us. We value your time.

Let’s start.

We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview. 

My first job interview was with Dr. Beck & Company, as a Marketing and Sales Apprentice. The memories are still fresh in my mind as it was the gateway to the corporate world journey.

The massiveness of the manufacturing unit, the security guards (who then seemed like Police), the thought of the interview together had made me nervous that day. I witnessed four persons seated calmly as I entered the interview room. They drilled me with some marketing concept questions along with some light-hearted questions related to my Hobbies, about Marathi Theatre, etc. I left the room as if I never had to face an interview and somewhere the whole nervousness had faded away. After a month’s wait, I did bag the apprentice role which was fulfilling at that time.

Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail? 

This interview was way-back in 2006 when I had appeared for an OPS Manager role interview with a large corporate organization. This was my life’s first encounter to appear for a role in a large corporate organization. The first point of contact of that day was the security guard who was stringent while checking my identity details, bags, etc., which kept me thinking, that why was he doing all these, as I was only an interview candidate and not a thief. Post completing all the formalities, I was sent to a cabin of the Location Head who was quite a professional. He greeted me well and asked me to relax, which I really appreciated as by then I was nervous. After checking all the personal details, he asked me a few questions which were less academic and more of a situation and experience based. I remember one question which he asked me which I was told by him later that my response to that question bagged me that job. The question was, "What will you do with the person who is not performing from your team.” I had never attended an interview where I was forced to think practical, so I was not prepared. But I believe that honesty with your thoughts always works the best. 

As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job. How was your experience? What were your expectations from your first job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

My first job was as a Sales and Marketing Apprentice, and it was really good experience. The job role demanded from me to create the invoices for the distributors and type the orders and memos. It was initially a setback for me, and I did feel, that I was more of a Typewriter than a Sales and Marketing apprentice.  But eventually as time passed, I realized that just being with the marketing team while typing the memos, taught me a lot. Listening to their discussions, observing their negotiations, etc. enhanced my knowledge and skills.

Now when I look back, I feel that any learning from your surroundings, from your experiences (whether good or bad), is something which will remain forever with you and will always positively uplift you. 

Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience? 

When I started working, I did not have any official mentor or coach, nor these concepts were so prominent in the industry. But with us, without any designated coach or mentor, I found a lot of my managers were attributing that role. When I started learning these concepts, I found my lifetime mentor in one of my managers. I think it’s important to have a coach in your organization and a mentor within or outside your organization. They make you aware of your blind spots at times and make you understand your strengths. Being in a circle of problems, at times, it is difficult for us to understand the same.

Organizational Culture is a key differentiator between successful and not so successful organizations? What determines the organizational culture? What is the role of HR in creating organizational culture?

Organizational culture is of utmost importance but is an “Unseen” factor. This is one of the key factors for the success of an organization. Every organization has its own personality trait just like we all have ours. This unique personality of the organization is referred to as its culture. HR has an important role to play in communicating, demonstrating the cultural traits of the organization through the policies & processes it builds for the organization. HR must play several roles strategically in building along with sustaining the culture of the company. HR can make an impact by consulting and collaborating with the leadership team and get them aligned to the performance management process & practices, its vision, mission, values, and principles. I also strongly feel that culture cannot be created only by HR. All the leaders, managers, leads in the organization has a major role to play in creating and demonstrating the culture of the organization. It always flows from top to bottom. As I said above, culture is an invisible but powerful force which influences the behaviour of the members of that organization.

What are your thoughts about Talent Shortage? What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEOs and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

This thought is very much industry-specific. I don’t see ‘talent shortage’ across all industries. In the industries where we think is a shortage, the HR and business team should be ready to hire a 70% ready resource and should be prepared to groom them, initiate on job training, classroom training wherever possible. The most important thing to look through the candidates during these days is, his or her learning agility and appetite to take on challenges. If the attitude is right, every resource can be groomed for the role within three to four months’ time. HR should help business build the hiring projection and start hiring the resource two months prior before they get productive. It’s the responsibility of the Managers to make them learn the tricks of the trade and then assign them to the job.

Have you ever been involved in the employment termination of your team-member? How did you prepare for the conversation?

This has become a routine job for the Human Resource team. I had to do this as a manager for one of my team members in the past. The important thing to do when you are connecting with the resource, is to be absolutely prepared to inform about the How, Why, and What. You should also prompt the questions and be ready with your answers. You should be ready to listen and be empathetic to what the employee is saying. I have always experienced that if you are genuine in your discussion and the points, the employee understands the issue and agrees to support by tendering his/her resignation. This is applicable only for the roles which are getting redundant or you are asking the person to move because of performance issue. The termination due to behaviour issues will be totally different and is completely fact-based. The only important thing for you as a Manager or HR is that, you should have all the discussions in line with your organizations code of practice/conduct.

Please share an experience when you acted under pressure from your management or reporting manager even though you knew it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done? 

As a leader or manager, you do get into such situations wherein you have to follow the directives of your leadership. You as an individual might have a difference of opinion but accept that you might have limited information available to make a judgemental call on the same. In the past, I have got into such situations but have reached out to get additional information from my manager or up-line to ensure I knew the why and what of it. It has always helped me to get the additional information and then execute the task. I have not executed any task wherein I myself have not bought in the rationale or idea behind it.

When we talk to fresh graduates and junior level employees as well as non-HRs, they understand Employee Engagement as – Birthday Celebrations, Picnics, Diwali Rangoli, Christmas Celebrations, Cultural Day Celebrations, etc. Please help us understand what employee engagement is and why it is necessary?

Employee engagement is not just these “Fun” activities; but it’s probably just the 10 to 20% of activities initiated for employee engagement.

To me, ‘employee engagement’ is all about how the employee feels passionate about one’s own role, job, the organization. You engage employees in a manner where a force of commitment from employees end for their respective organization is created. Employee engagement is different from employee satisfaction, which many fail (fresher as well as experienced professionals) to understand. HR has a major role to strategize and design the employee engagement initiative. How to create the Career path; Upskilling; Learning & development opportunities for the employees; how to connect with the employees and understand their issues and respond; how to initiate the manager one-to-one connect with their team members; how to drive Skip level meetings with up-line manager’s, etc. are the majority aspects of “Employee Engagement”.

Self-awareness is a very critical leadership trait. What you think makes you an amazing team-player and a wonderful team-leader? Please share a few examples.

I think as an experienced employee and leader, you should be aware of your own shortcomings. I know that I am a short-tempered person. I try to avoid my anger to the surface while handling any conflict/issue but at times it does reflect. If this happens at any point in time, I do not hesitate to go back to my team members or anyone else and apologize for my reaction. It is OK to say sorry if you really feel it. This way your team also accepts you with your flaws and is ready to work with you as a team. Apart from this personal trait, I am also very task and execution focused. I try to avoid being a taskmaster most of the time and give space to the team members after sharing the deadline with them.

According to you, what are FIVE things managers should STOP doing and what are FIVE things managers should START doing to be more impactful in managing teams?

Five things the Managers to ‘Stop’ immediately:

Micromanaging, Prescriptive, Criticize without explanation, Only Email communication, Gossip

Five things Managers should start doing:

Be honest and transparent with your team members, communicate professionally and timely, develop your team members, Motivate, learn to trust your team members.

What kind of soft skills does a fresh graduate need to get a career break and to be successful at the beginning of their career?

The fresh graduates should be open to taking up any role which will give them learning opportunity and grasp a foothold in the organization. They should be open to learning new things, stop holding an attitude of ‘knowing it all’, learn to listen, show respect to all irrespective of the hierarchy.

If you need to draw a landscape of the future workplace, how will it look like? What disruptions do you foresee in HR over the next FIVE years?

There are a lot of ongoing discussions, on the future availability of HR roles in an organization. But I know that the role of an HR will surely exist in future if we shift the focus from being Police to be a Partner with the business. There are a lot of things which even a people manager can do now which HR used to do earlier but the percentage is less. This might become a large part of the manager's job in the future.

HR must recreate a niche for themselves in the next 5 years by understanding the business they support, the operating model, etc. HR analytics will be very much in demand going forward. So, how HR upskill themselves and create value within organizations is of utmost importance.

HR is at the crossroads, yet again. According to you, what will be the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robots, etc. on the future of HR Function? Please also highlight how social media has changed the world of HR practitioners?   

I always believe that technology is always a boon as well as a curse to the living beings. The future of the world is AI, Robotics, Drones, Driverless vehicles. These technologies will surely surge productivity and generate income, but we should use it for good purposes like research and development for the boost of our economy, etc.

The impact of AI in the HR domain is a debatable topic. However, I feel, the application of technology will be merely a way of becoming more efficient, transforming function in a more paperless and digitalized way. AI will surely impact transactional work, which is repetitive, rule-based, and where high accuracy is demanded; it will speed up activities, make an error-free workflow, and will reduce costs. But this is only 40% of the work of HR which can be controlled through technology, but the rest 60% will always be human-driven. A human touch, connect, ideation is something that can never be created or driven by any technology.

There are quite a few aspects where we did witness a change with the evolution of Social Media. For me, the biggest change and improvement has been in the recruitment process through the social media platform. Apart from this, social media has eased our way to communicate about our work, appreciate our team/ employee performance; share the positive drives initiated by the company, etc. by just one click!

Technology is changing the corporate landscape. At this stage of your career, if you need to choose an alternative career, what career options will you consider?

It depends at what age of my life I get into such a situation, but I would look at working in an NGO helping them create future talent who have issues getting the best of the learning from their surroundings. For the living, I will look at some options with consulting for HR, Learning & Development for any organization who is setting up a new business or want to transform their employee practices.  

Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? And, what are the key competencies one must possess to be successful in this profession? 

My message to all those who are looking for an HR career in the near future, “It’s Only You who can bring the change or fulfil your dream which you dream off, and no one else can do it for you, so believe in yourself and chase your dream!”

The word ‘Growth’ is a subjective word, it can differ in meaning from person to person. But for any aspiring HR student, my advice is, in the initial days of your career the term ‘Growth’ should only mean to you is to learn and absorb as much as possible from your surroundings. Start at the grass-root level, of even just typing the names of the interviewees and remembering their names. Down the line you will realise, that this is your biggest strength of remembering each employee whom you have hired. Mastering any skill requires learning and implementing while working on it.

This role does demand for communication skills; analysis skills; relationship building and to fearlessly lead-in situations when things are tough. But the primary skill which one should have is to hold an attitude to accept work positively (without thinking any work is low profile or high profile) and learn from each experience.

Thank you very much, Jayant

Previous Post
Next PostRecruiters helps in creating a brand identity for the Organisation that they represent
Leave a Comment