While hiring a critical talent, Recruitment Leader must map the Job Description AND Cultural Fitment.

Shoma Bose is working as Senior Business Analyst with Zing HR. Shoma has completed MBA- HR from Mumbai University and Executive Program from IIM Kozhikode.

Shoma is a well-versed HR professional, working in Talent Management and Organizational Development with over 16 years of experience. She has implemented major HR interventions and achieved precise alignment of Employee Programs with Business Objectives for both enterprises and organizations. Shoma gained HR multidisciplinary exposure while working with industry leaders from Talent Acquisition to OD Specialist. In Zing HR, her recent assignment is that she is consulting to implement tech-enabled HR innovative solutions and best practices. which includes consulting to implement Succession & Career Planning for Smart Dubai Government, including machine learning-enabled HR analytical models, artificial Intelligence, and integrated Strategic HR solutions for their Business Partners.

Shoma’s key career highlights include  Job evaluation and Org-restructuring, Administering a Mentoring program for High Potential, Conducting Competency assessments & Assessment Centers, Annual Performance Management system, 360-degree Feedbacks, KPI building, conducting training need identification, Compensation  & Benefits, Succession Planning, Creating and executing IDPs, designing the Employee Value Proposition, Employee engagement, and grievance cell, implementing corporate POSH policies.

Thank you, Shoma, for giving your valuable time to this interview. Your kindness is much appreciated. We look forward to your candid responses.

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 after my post-graduation was with a recruitment firm, Omam Consultants. I got to know about the job opening from my campus cell. Being a fresher, I obviously had no experience, but I had my confidence to face the interview. We came to know there would be three rounds and one of which would be our understanding of the manufacturing industry. We did our research, financial performance, and HR practices in the industry. Fortunately, my internship with Tata Steel was helpful and I could smoothly pass both the rounds. I was definitely feeling slightly nervous and tried recalling everything we learned during our MBA sessions on how to face interviews. The Team leaders were specialised in the verticals, and my responses to questions fired at me helped me click the interview. What I realised that they were checking more of my attitude on how I approached each question, they were looking for my inclination to learn and confidence to manage uncertainty more than just HR concepts, which must have helped me. The joy of having the offer was short-lived when I got to understand the complexity of my job profile and that was the first time, I was feeling NERVOUS.

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

One of the most intriguing interviews I had was with the President HR Reliance Infrastructure, Mr. Rajeev Bhadauria in 2007. The Organisation found me through some reference, and they called me for an interview for a Talent Management role. I had hardly got time to prepare for the interview as in a day’s notice I was asked to meet HR. I had worked on remarkably interesting assignments by then with good media, telecom, and consultant background. My only bet was to go by the flow and my experience. I met my first ever mentor, the interview was almost like 2 hrs conversation, but mostly around my efforts taken and why was it done in the way I did. Most of my interviews revolved around what I did, how I did, and what I achieved which impelled me to ponder over the activities I was doing in my day to day job. That was my first big corporate break which aligned my concepts on how HR assimilates to the overall corporate strategy. I was 4 years old in my career and worked with mostly unorganized sectors like media planning and buying and telecom start-up, which had no structures and processes, we lived and functioned for the moment. My journey began with an understanding of Corporate strategy and being responsible accordingly.

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 expectation? 

Oh my it was a year full of anxiousness. My first job was full of blunders and hard work. I built up my responsiveness maximum in my first 3 years of job. I was trying to understand corporate structures, communications, protocols, processes, and volatile business dynamics. My foundation was built by, my then manager, Ms. Sindhu Madhavan advised me to research any subject in depth thus, enhancing my skill to interpret perspectives. This helped to build my confidence and openness to keep learning. I realize that it was the most important skill she embedded in me, openness to newness, change, and learn.

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

Can’t agree more, I have been very fortunate to have always got the right person as my manager and superiors who shaped my career to the way it is. It’s never one, but multiple people who keep shaping and influencing your life and thought process; the key to it is being receptive.  The advantage of this learning is, its experiential, you get to learn from someone else’s journey, and different perspective. It throws many challenges at you and sometimes ruthlessly breaks down your belief system, thereby enabling you to acquire an individuality or an identity of your own.

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?

Organisation culture makes or breaks an Organisation. It’s like a cult, therefore we tend to refer the most appreciated culture by the name of the Organisation who we pioneer, like “The Tata culture” or “Google culture”. It becomes the identity of the Organisation and therefore a Business proposition in terms of customer experience and business revenues. Let’s understand the origin of HR, it starts from the industrial revolution, the existence of this function was primarily to get an order into the system to make workers function in an expected way. This is nothing but a culture-building process and HR, whether Welfare or Personnel function, was the process owners. We are still doing so. In today’s times, when COVID19 has struck the World, nothing has changed for HR; it has again set a working pattern, decorum, and in order to ensure business continuity, the entire run is the sole responsibility of HR.

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?

From what I have gathered from all these years of handling interns and freshers, they already have a great sense of knack to know things, thanks to the digital world we witness today, they are well informed and sometimes we get to learn from them. As a practice, I like to have one of my tea breaks with all freshers of my Organisation, talk to them, know and learn from them.  All I can say is a little more focused on building a strong conscious mind and having perseverance are the skills that will take them a long way.

You have worked as a Recruitment Consultant as well as an OD Consultant, which role do you enjoy the most? What were your primary challenges in both roles?

Both are equally challenging in their own way. Both are highly driven and business outcome centric. Being in recruitment, I have had my learnings to how hiring the right fit is so non-negotiable. You may use any methodology to hire, either campus or laterals, if the hiring strategy isn’t set right it will impact the cultural fitment and therefore may send ripples later. So, I have been careful about finding fitment in terms of values and culture while recruiting. Adopting this has widened my understanding of Business objectives and cultural alignments.

It is easy to identify High-Performing Employees. How do organizations identify high-potential employees and what role does HR play in identifying high-potential employees?

Hi-Pots have always been a point of high focus with whichever Organisation I was associated with. They have prominent but unique characteristics. The primary way of knowing them is through your Business Leaders and their respective business performance. You may validate it and consider various tools to do so. Apart from individual KPIs, potential assessment through assessment centres, inputs from development centers, I have seen many Organisations using a 9-box grid; Organisation specific core competencies and leadership styles need to be considered.  

The role of HR is to keep a holistic view of an individual. Let us understand that the success of a professional has to be overall, and not just about his career. HR should ensure they are helping the individual to passionately pick up his dreams which can be professional, personal, social, spiritual, wellness, and most importantly financial. The decision is very business-critical and the crux engaging them is a strong retention model which must comprise Fast track career planning, putting them in an effective mentoring program, challenging and visible business projects, experiential learnings, and evaluation mechanisms. Ensuring that the individual is at least meeting 70th percentile of the market benchmark on the pay scale. HR has a large role to play here.

From profile sourcing to the issuance of the final offer letter, organizations put candidates through multiple filtration processes. What is your take on using “relevant industry experience” and “excellent academic record (first-class and above)” as filtration tools?

It’s a very tricky one. Sometimes, we leave it on our instincts and take chances, and they click, while other times it doesn’t work. Industry experience on specialised functions has an easy penetration in getting the individual on the job, while for generic & support roles we can get candidates from outside the industry. This brings in new perspectives, diversity, and breaks the monotony. While on the other hand, many organisations give a lot of weightage to academic records, it’s also very situational judgment. Sometimes a role may just need an eye of an average and an excellent candidate may get under-utilized. The pace of the Organisation is also critical in this case, an excellently placed candidate may want to have a fast-paced career graph and the Org may move by its traditional methods. Therefore, there can’t be one answer to this. An HR professional will have to understand the job requirement and cultural fitment very well while recruiting the individual.

Workplace harassment, specifically sexual harassment, has been a topic of discussion over the last decade or so. However, it remained the topic of discussion ONLY. When it comes to action, many times, organizations support the harasser, specifically, if he is in a leadership role and high performer. What are your thoughts on this?

Sexual harassment is socially a grey topic and unfortunately despite visible movements, there are still silent predators and there are victims who get adjusted to this with time. While in the Organisation I worked with, I have personally witnessed intolerance and strong POSH policy stating procedures and strong channels to raise concerns, managing confidentiality, conducting unbiased investigations, and sensitivities around it.

Let’s understand the psychology of an individual who harasses. If he /she is not confronted, there is a high chance that he/she repeats and may attempt it again. While it’s understandable for any Management not to take an immediate action against the harasser unless its proven, but letting the harasser go maybe a short-sighted and unsustainable decision. It doesn’t set the right precedent and therefore the Organization may risk itself for large damage in terms of culture and values. Therefore, either a neutral third party or cross-functional the leadership team should be in place as a committee to carry out an unbiased investigation and come up with needful steps to be taken as per the defined policy. Ideally, the harasser, when confirmed, should be asked immediately to leave.

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.

Self- awareness is human consciousness. Unless it’s in a place none of us can maneuver our lives. It’s like a Pandora’s box which is accumulated over the years and if not known to self may create mental blocks. These blocks may hinder one’s growth both professionally and personally. I have always believed when we say growth, career or profession is one portion of the entire Universe. Holistic growth is possible only when we grow from all perspectives of life. Self-exploration or inner discoveries help you assess your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats to put your best foot forward. Tools like Johari Window or Thomas Kilmann, may help one know us much deeper, get us to succeed in our transactions. Such tools are used in Assessment centers and coaching to help unleash the hidden side of one’s life. It equips one to deal with relationships much effectively and manage conflicts in day to day life.

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

I don’t see Talent shortage. It’s the skill shortage instead. I recommend CEOs and Leadership to invest in developing the right talent from the entry-level. Building leaders from within the organisation is a great investment to have. Upskilling and building a culture of the learning organisation, a practice where communication can flow from the bottom top, which will help organisations to have sustainable growth and a strong talent pool. With technology being so dynamic, it’s empirical to have taken it up as learning goals for identified individuals.

In your career span of 15+ years, what was one WOW workplace experience?

There are many factors, prime being the passion towards the work one is doing, if work is not enjoyable, nothing external will help. So, a constant formal and informal connection with your people will help know their engagement levels. Second, a factor that works magic is building a Learning Organisation where the flow of communication right from the front-end personnel to the last employee will help you know the ground realities and therefore building strategies w.r.t product, policies, customer engagement, and eventually employee engagement. A happy employee will lead to happy customers. It need not be complicated; simple interventions, like personal connection with each employee and let them know that we are an extended family gives you a long-term employee engagement. Third, is preparing your employees to change much in advance. This is of utmost importance, ensuring to get confidence in management decisions, and therefore executing any change may be less complicated. According to me, these are the 3 topmost significant contributors that make a workplace a happy place.

What disruptions do you foresee in HR over the next FIVE years?

Interesting one. I would have responded differently prior to COVID 19, but in today’s context, I see while disruptive technology is picking up big time, HR has a significantly crucial role to play. Let’s accept the fact that COVID isn’t going anywhere soon, ensuring business continuity is of prime importance. Constant employee engagement medium could be technology, but the thought process and building strategies that may be volatile is what I see the role of HR. Adaptability to new norms, unconventional working patterns, handling GIG economy, flexible workforce with agile policies is definitely a huge challenge for the fraternity. This year may change not only the way Business was done but also Human economics. While 5 years is a long time considering what we are just witnessing. I think short term and midterm plans should be looked for the moment, investing in the right technology is a must and automate manual operational processes is where I see HR contributing immediately.

And, the 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?    

The young are not really what we think they are. The generation is way ahead of our times, with respect to adaptability and applicability. They have immense energy and most of them have a goal, which is where the Organisation has to be adopting newer and different strategies to deal with them. They have a unique knack to know things and therefore highly informed, tech-savvy, and abreast. We need to understand that this batch may be restless soon if the work is not engaging and constantly challenging.

I guess the kind of competencies that they can build is getting to have specialisations, which can bring in-depth, and therefore excellence in what they want to achieve.

Thank you, Shoma, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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