SUCCESSFUL managers have the VISION and ability to take their team along and LEAD THEM THROUGH ever arising challenges or CRISIS.

Rishu is a Management Graduate from MDI Gurgaon and a skilled HR professional with an overall experience of 7 years in Corporate HR across varied roles with the largest Media Conglomerate of the country. Having started her career as a Management Trainee in 2013, she is currently HR Business Partner for Sales & Distribution function with BCCL, driving their People Strategy implementation in alignment with business objectives. She is a self-motivated and result oriented individual with a passion for excellence. With special emphasis on new ideas, Rishu has significantly contributed in areas of Talent Acquisition and Talent Management, People Processes, Employee Engagement, Capability Development, People Analytics, and Business Strategy. Driven by Growth Mindset and Learning Agility, Rishu has always explored uncharted territory. She is soaring to new heights with her recent success in making it to the coveted list of Top HR 40 under Forty Leaders 2018-19. On the personal front, Rishu enjoys listening to music, reading, travelling, and playing badminton.  

Thank you, Rishu, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

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. 

Every first experience of life holds a special place in our hearts. The same applies to our first job interview as well. Being a student at MDI Gurgaon, I was fortunate to be a part of Campus Placement process wherein we had to go through multiple rounds of Group Discussions and Interviews to make it to the shortlist of most companies which would come to Campus. The whole experience of planning & preparing; peer learning, and interacting with Company Representatives, is unforgettable and still cherished.

When the Times Group was on campus and released their Shortlist for Interviews, I was delighted to see my name on the list. Then being a fresher, I was quite anxious and nervous before my first Interview, however, the interviewers were extremely polite and courteous with me which helped me put across my views with ease and confidence. I had 2 rounds of Panel Interviews wherein I was asked a mix of questions based on my previous education, HR knowledge acquired during my course of study at MDI and aspirations for future on the professional front along with a few sets of questions on personal interests and family. There were also some situation-based questions through which the interviewers assessed my approach to handling work situations. While waiting for the Interview results, I still remember how my friends were sitting beside me to give me the assurance that I’d got it and how their words came true when it was announced that I had received a Spot Offer from The Times Group!!

A range of emotions started flowing through my body – the excitement of getting selected and joining the largest Media Group of the country, the sense of relief of having got placed after 2 years of rigorous hard work and gratitude for the support of my friends and family. Such experiences and memories indeed stay with you for life!

Why did you choose HR as a profession? What was the motive and what was the motivation?

Choosing HR as a profession has been a natural choice for me. On a personal front, I like connecting with people and have a keenness towards understanding their values and beliefs. Also, since childhood, I have had a liking towards Psychology, Cultures, backgrounds, and demographics, etc. I believe these interests have helped me maintain a balance of IQ and EQ. Fortunately, soon I realised that my personal nature aligns with the notion of Human Resource and decided to convert my affinity into the profession as in my view, having a good equilibrium of rationality and sensitivity makes one an effective HR.

Further, I realised that the HR profession involves dealing with the most important resource of the organisation – The Human Workforce. HR is directly involved in recruiting and retaining the best talent for their organisation, training and developing employees, maintaining employee relations, and ensuring employee wellbeing. Not only does HR have a strong understanding of company’s values and vision, but they help inculcate the same in each employee. They play an imperative role in creating long-lasting employee relations that are cherished forever.

HR acts as a cover-fire for front-line employees so that they can effectively deliver on the top and bottom line of the organisation. All of this helps in having a positive and motivated workforce and as a result, achievement of organisational objectives. Additionally, HR has the opportunity and the ability to strategically contribute and influence decisions taken by the business at every level of management. Such an understanding of the pivotal role that HR plays in an organisation also motivated me to take up HR as a profession.

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

Definitely! Mentors and coaches play a very crucial role in helping fresh graduates settle well in the organisation, have a better understanding of their role and industry they are working in along with empowering them to take charge of their career by providing a strategic direction. Mentors and coaches listen deeply and offer diverse perspectives which can help fresh graduates to look at their careers in new ways, identifying fresh solutions and opportunities. Having a Mentor or Coach in the initial few years is a blessing and one must commit to having honest and meaningful discussions with their Mentors or Coach on a regular basis.

I had a wonderful experience when I joined BCCL as I had been assigned various cross-functional stints along with Mentors and Project Guides for each stint and project, respectively. Though the scope of my Project Guide was limited to the project at hand, the role of Mentor was of extreme importance, given the fact that they helped me look at the bigger picture and shared their ideas as to how I can add value to business and organisation at large. My Mentors also helped me identify my areas of improvement and offered constructive feedback from time to time which proved significant in my overall development journey through the years. Having Mentors not only shortens your learning curve or sets the direction for your career ahead, but it also provides you a lifelong relationship based on honesty, encouragement, and constant support.

COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase? What permanent changes do you foresee at the workplace post-COVID-19?

COVID-19 has had an impact on the way we live, work, and think. The pandemic has taught

many lessons, not only about workplace dynamics but also about our personal lifestyles which will undergo long-lasting changes.

Given below are some of my learnings during this phase:

  • Keeping the personal safety of your workforce over and above everything
  • Having a Business Continuity Plan in place to ensure that your business is not impacted severely due to any unforeseen crisis
  • Necessity is the mother of invention – Thinking and using innovative ways of working despite being restricted given the lockdown
  • Acting with speed to catch up with the changes happening at such a fast pace
  • Practicing Social distancing but not Emotional distancing – Collaborating more and exercise empathy with others to come out stronger than ever

Even when we overcome COVID-19, I believe the following changes in the Workplace are here to stay:

  • Remote Working/Work from Home is the new normal - Employees enjoy the flexibility to save time and expenses incurred in commuting to work and having more time to spend with family and loved ones; Also, Integration of work with personal lives is seen to have resulted in high productivity levels
  • Employee well-being will continue to be the priority – With employees having limited time to meet and chat in person with their colleagues and spending long hours in front of their screens, it will be imperative to ensure their physical and mental well-being
  • Leveraging Technology will be the key to have faster Digital Integration in our ways of working
  • Distribution of Authority will be of paramount importance for quick decision-making and transparent communication
  • Workplace Infrastructure will also be changed to incorporate Social distancing norms

Nonetheless, the idea is to keep adapting and keep moving forward regardless of all challenges, be at the workplace or in personal lives!

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?  

It is disheartening to see that employee engagement is seen as limited to birthday/festival celebrations, etc. In a real sense, employee engagement is making an employee feel connected to the organisation so that he enjoys his work and finds meaning in his role and contribution to the organisation. If an employee feels that he is adding value and making a difference, he feels engaged. Employee engagement can be hence done by giving employees higher roles and responsibilities/special projects, building their capability by addressing their development needs through learning programs, giving them job rotations or role enhancements, helping them utilise their abilities and potential to an optimum level and addressing their concerns and grievances in the shortest possible time. It is critical to ensure Employee Engagement else you risk having a workforce which is demotivated, have low productivity, and produces sub-optimal work. Engaged employees go the extra mile to contribute to the success of their organisation by aligning their objectives to organisation’s strategic priorities. Employee engagement leads to low staff turnover, boosts productivity, and results in a happy workforce with a sense of purpose, thereby impacting customer satisfaction and business profits, and hence, is very necessary!

As the saying goes,” You have 8.8 seconds to impress with your CV”. You might have come across tens of thousands of resumes in your career. What, in your view, does a recruiter evaluate in a resume in those 8.8 seconds and decides to accept or reject it? Please elaborate.

As you rightly said that a prospective candidate has got only a few seconds to catch the attention of a recruiter and create a lasting impression, and hence, a well-structured, clearly articulated and short resume plays a crucial role in making your application stand out. One must ensure that his/her resume has simple and consistent formatting and is easy to read.

The recruiters would quickly glance through a candidate’s educational background, current and past organisations, and experience he/she carries along with the key achievements highlighted by him/her. They try to relate the profile with the existing position’s job description and if they happen to find relevance and a match, the candidate stands a high chance of getting shortlisted. Additionally, one should put in some effort to add a few extraordinary pointers about oneself in the resume to grab the attention of recruiters, it could be a unique hobby or a distinguished achievement or learning experience. Other than these, one should avoid making mistakes which can result in a recruiter rejecting their profile, such as not mentioning a professional email id, making spelling, grammatical or typo errors, having inconsistent font or formatting and writing too much content leading to a verbose resume running up to 4-5 pages. If one just pays attention while creating their resume and thinks from the perspective of a recruiter, I am sure they would make it to the shortlist.

What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback to candidates?

Feedbacks are pivotal for candidates to understand what went right and in their favour while what could be improved and should be kept in mind for their next opportunity. However, the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback remain the outlook of the candidate, whether the individual is open to feedback or not along with the way the feedback is communicated. As much as it is important that the candidates accept feedback positively, it also matters that the recruiters' state-specific pointers while staying transparent and empathetic at the same time.

Many a time, vague feedback can leave room for assumptions wherein a candidate can take rejection message as harsh, biased, or discriminatory. With Social Media being so powerful in today’s time, a difficult candidate may put your organisation’s reputation at risk. On the other hand, sharing constructive feedback helps the candidates improve their skill set to stand a better chance of selection next while they continue to have a positive outlook of the organisation. Since the candidates are also customers of the organisations, sharing feedback appropriately is of utmost importance to enhance the candidate experience and make them brand ambassadors for your organisation.

What is your take on “Career Gaps”? We come across many people who are forced to hide certain aspects of their employment history because organizations do not shortlist their profiles because of career gaps. How do you address such cases?

I believe that career gaps in a profile should be reviewed with an objective mindset without any preconceived notions. For me, I would like to understand the reasons for such gaps, what the candidate had been doing during that phase, whether they upskilled themselves, and are still up to date in terms of knowledge about the industry or their domain expertise. I would also expect the candidates to be open and candid about their career gaps as organisations do perform background and reference checks for all their key positions. In such a case, if it is made clear that the candidate did not share information on purpose, it may have dire consequences on their joining as well as future career prospects. Thus, candidates should be assured that if they honestly mention career gaps in their resume and share the reasons during the interview, most recruiters would appreciate and find merit in their justification. Nothing much to worry about in my view.

How do companies identify their FUTURE MANAGERS? According to you, what are the key skills and competencies of successful and effective MANAGERS?

Future Managers are quick to be identified by organisations as they demonstrate some key attributes which make them ‘Leader without a title’. Someone who puts ‘We’ over and above ‘I’, the one who has high self-belief, optimism, and a ‘can-do’ attitude, who embraces change in formative years and shows early signs of leadership, can be identified as a FUTURE MANAGER. Senior management should always be on the lookout to groom young employees as Future Managers who show clarity of thought, well-defined decision-making skills, a good mix of emotions and intellect, and ability to deal with ambiguous environments.

Successful and effective Managers have the vision and ability to take their team along and lead them through ever arising challenges or crises. They are proactive in developing their team’s competency and skills for future business needs. They are passionate and believe in the concept of – ‘Doing it the right way is the only way to do it’, thus displaying Integrity. Effective Managers are great communicators as well. They communicate with ease with their team providing them a comfortable environment where they are easily accessible. Impactful managers are innovators and problem-solvers, always willing to learn and improve their own insights that lead to a positive impact on their team’s efficiency and effectiveness.

Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?

I would like to share a few key pointers for any fresh graduate, not limited to HR, as follows: §  Un

derstand your organisation’s business and industry deeply

  • Keep developing a strong Network
  • Be sincere and willing to learn
  • Grab opportunities for growth as and when they arise
  • Respect experience of fellow employees and leaders
  • Take your Career as a Marathon and not a Sprint
  • Always know Success without Integrity is Failure

For a career in HR, one must be thorough with concepts and understanding of HR knowledge and industry best practices. Joining professional HR membership associations like SHRM would help in keeping one updated with current happenings in the industry. Focusing on Soft Skills like oral and written communication is highly advised as HR professionals interact with multiple stakeholders for key decisions. Developing interest and awareness about different backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. would be an added advantage as it would help in engaging with a diverse workforce, especially in a country like India. I am of the tenet that HR graduates can pursue specialisations by developing their core competencies in areas of Recruitment, Learning and Development, Labour Laws, Compensation & Benefits, etc. As they progress in their career, they must remember to stay alert and be empathetic to employees in designing new policies or making amendments while keeping the well-being of employees as a priority. My best wishes to all fresh graduates for happy and meaningful career journeys!

Thank you, Rishu, for sharing wonderful insight.

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