CULTURE is - EXPECTED and ACCEPTED way of WORKING - in any organization.

Shrikrishna Gandhe has completed MPM from Pune University.  He has completed Professional courses from well-known institutes on HRD Audit, Job Evaluation, PMS, Recruitment, Compensation & Benefits, OPQ-32 etc. 

Mr. Gandhe has over 30 years’ experience in Manufacturing & Engineering Industry. He has worked in Kalyani Sharp India, Kirloskar Brothers, McDowell & Co., Suzlon Energy, Virgo Valves & Controls, Sigma Electric Manufacturing. His last employment was as Group HR Head of Unitherm Engineers Limited. He was also appointed as Director on Board at Aichelin Unitherm India Limited, an Austrian JV during 2019.

Mr. Gandhe has completed several overseas assignments and has international exposure of working in countries like China, Singapore, Belgium.

He is a passionate HR professional and received many Awards for implementing Best HR practices. Mr. Gandhe has also received several rewards for his Best Performance. He was Executive Council Member of NIPM Pune Chapter from 2010 to 2014 and also Executive Council Member of QCFI, Pune Chapter since 2005.

He is an expert in Strategic HR, Talent Management, PMS, designing Systems & Processes for HR, Training & Development, Industrial Relations, Productivity Improvement initiatives, Employee Engagement. His belief is Human Resources is a major source of competitive advantage for any business.

Thank you, Shrikrishna, 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. 

My education up to graduation level was in Marathi (mother tongue) whereas the interview was in English. I had graduated with first class in Commerce from Pune University in 1987. My father got retired that year from government service and hence for me, it was necessary to earn, before I do my further studies. So, to be able to get the job, I had learned shorthand & typing as this skill was in very high demand.

I got a reference of the vacancy from a person known to me, the vacancy was in M/s. Kalyani Sharp India Limited, a manufacturer of Optonica TV, for a position of Assistant. My father helped me with some probable questions and answers. My father was excellent in English and his advice was very helpful.

The interviewer gave me dictation from the newspaper, and she told me to take 45 minutes to make it, I replied why should it take 45 minutes, I can just read it. That manager was shocked, She thought I must have read the newspaper hence I could do it. So, she gave me some difficult text with engineering phrases, technical words, and pretty long. She asked me to take another half-hour and I replied madam, I can read this also. And I read it easily. She ran to her Head of Personnel Department (that time HR was not the terminology, it used to be Personnel). And he also came to me saying, “you have great skill” I was assigned to Company Secretary Department. The questions asked to me were regarding a) my family background, b) why I was looking for a job, etc. which were easy to answer. They offered me a good salary.

[Hear I would like to bring in two points –

a) Market Survey - I was aware which skill was in high demand, hence I mastered it with the right people and the right way.

b) Clear about what is important & readiness for efforts - It was clear to me that I needed to work hence without unnecessary going in to further studies, I first ensured that I got a job in hand, and I could build on it. I accepted the opportunity even though the company was 50 kms away from Pune at Koregaon Bhima and it used to take 2 hours one-way journey]

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 of your employer and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

It was a time of collaboration between Kalyani of India and Sharp Corporation of Japan. I was in the Company Secretary Department and a lot of work used to be there until late night. All the work used to be extremely critical and with topmost officers. I was working with my Company Secretary. The time difference between India and Japan was making us work until late at night. Also, the work used to involve interaction with the highest authorities in the company. Our parent company was Bharat Forge.

I had to sometimes work for 18 hours – like doing two shifts. The life in the office is totally different than in college/home. Here you are responsible for your duties, and responsibilities. Everything matters. You are valued because of your actions, your results.

I learned many professional skills in this tenure. Also, I got the opportunity to interact with few Japanese people, hence, I could get familiar with cultural diversity as well.

In college, teachers accommodate you for every mistake, but in organization mistake is a mistake – like putting a foot on fire, it will burn, irrespective of whether it is by mistake or intentional.

I owe a lot of gratitude & respect to my Boss who was Company Secretary, he literally trained me in everything, the manners, etiquettes, office work, communication skills, how to dress, how to handle documents, how to deal with other departments, etc. I am extremely thankful to him, I was very raw young, just out of college but he mentored me with lots of affection.

[My greatest learning is ‘only your dedication and results will bring you success, put in efforts wisely and success is yours’]

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

I can remember my most intriguing interview was at Virgo Engineers Limited, it was for the HEAD of HR role. I was working in Suzlon Energy Limited and an Executive Search Firm contacted me for this role, there was a brief given to me about the company, role, etc. It was a multi-location, multi-product, large organization and my role was very exciting. By this time, I was having about 15 years of rich & diverse experience. I was interviewed by many persons of different levels. The entire interview process was very good, there was clarity among interviewers of the skills required and challenges the role would face. All the interviewers were by non-HR, hard-core Operations persons, so very hard practical challenges and issues were discussed, no non-sense, no jargon. Finally, I was put to the Chairman of the company and I just cannot forget my first interaction with him. It was special, very memorable as he put his expectations direct and straight, no mincing of words with a lot of assurance of his support. 

As far as the preparation of the interview is concerned, it was not something different, but I was to say what I did, how I did, etc. I collected a lot of information about the company and a search firm helped me with this. Also, being from HR, I knew what the problems company was facing.

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

I was fascinated by HR from my first organization. I could sense the importance of the HR department and limitless opportunities it provides you as a person, as a professional. There is only one department which can say the entire organization is my department and that is the HR department.

My motivation for selecting HR department is that there is literally the sky is the limit for you to add value, take initiatives, and create an impact on the lives of people and organization. There is lot to experiment, so much to reach out to maximum people (and their families), society and put yourself to the limitless world of professional development and achievements.

It was always interesting to see that the variety of issues and people, the dynamic environment in which you operate, every location, every department, every occasion, all are vastly different. And you are at the center, sometimes you are in a comfortable happy situation and sometimes you are in a life-threatening risky moment. Many times, you are surrounded by many people but alone - when it comes to take a decision. I was aware that through HR, you can influence positively the lives of people, help them to grow, help them to be a better person, a better citizen, and dedicate yourself to build the society like a soldier dedicates his life for the nation.

I got the opportunity to work in HR (erstwhile Personnel function), in my second organization i.e. Kirloskar Brothers Limited.

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

Mentors and coaches bring immense value and great importance not only for the fresh graduates but also for experienced professionals. For fresh graduates, one needs to be there always for timely help and a guide to whom one can approach without fear. There are many situations where the fresh graduate is in between to be or not to be, what is good and what is correct, whether this will help me or not, etc.

This pressure should not become unbearable, in fact, it should be helpful to channelize his energy into meaningful career choices, drive his energy to the proper path, and ensure his actions are right. Coach or mentor has to do this role very wisely and with lots of care and sensitivity, here the experience matters most, the right advice, proper suggestion, helps the young focus his efforts properly. The mentor or coach know both the sides of the current situation and future opportunities, the capabilities of young graduate, and the challenges he may face, the trends of the future, and the challenges of today. I, therefore, say with conviction that the role of a coach is important and critical for not only for young graduates but also for experienced professionals.

For me, with the grace of God, I got a mentor in every organization, it may be in the form of a senior colleague or member of the top management team. It is very helpful and at times very critical. It proved to be very beneficial for me and as I look back, the advice I got was very qualitative and advantageous in the long run.

Have you ever been a mentor to another aspiring leader? How did you go about establishing that relationship?

When you are in the role of Head of HR, it is many times a very natural choice for many that they choose you as their mentor. It is not always employees in the HR department as such, it can be any other departments, it is not always superior and subordinate, it is not many times between more authoritative and less authoritative. This relationship’s foundation is Trust, its pillars are sensitivity & understanding, its final objective is to navigate the mentee to his identified path, and he does it with confidence and with least resistance. You need to be his confidante and well-wisher.

I have been a mentor to many and mostly it starts with some advice which he/she is finding useful and then a relationship starts, you know the person better and he/she understands it better.  Actually, it is a very informal and natural process which should be, and it works best if it is like that. There is no limit, this relationship extends and continued for years even though both mentor and mentee are no more working in the same organization, it continues even after they leave their respective organizations and have achieved different heights.

For me, there is not selfish moto or compulsion in this relationship. It is not done for any monetary benefit or any such return. You just share your insights and experience to help someone to be successful.

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 brought an unprecedented situation which no one thought of and that too very fast very quickly. It was so fast that no one knew on April 20 that they were already in the middle of the mess. Everyone thought it is only at Wuhan but by then damage was done. Some of the effects of this pandemic which were unimaginable six months back but are real are as under: -

  • The world is standstill - Everything has stopped, nothing is moving, no trains, not flights, no vehicles, everything is standstill, you cannot move.
  • There is a complete shut-down - The offices/plants are shut, the roads are empty, the school and colleges, the marketplace and the favourite restaurants are closed.
  • It is a locked society - The people around you have vanished, your driver is not able to drive your vehicle, your maid is not coming to your house, the milk-man, the newspaper, the vegetable is all vanished, everyone is locked and the end of a tunnel is not in sight.
  • Chaos, uncertainty, fear, hopelessness, and vulnerability are evident everywhere at all levels.

Learnings of the above exceptional situation: -

  • There will be dramatic change the way we used to work. We have to master the art of being connected being far away physically. We have to develop an understanding of communicating remotely, we have to get things done with less interaction and less proximity. There will be less face to face interaction, there will be less direct communication. 
  • The relationship will change from formal and hierarchical to result based, activity based. There is no place for ambiguity or doubts. One has to demand clarity, seek more information if required, but finally deliver the results for which you are responsible for.
  • Not everyone will be available at your disposal which we were habitual of. New ways of living will have to be found and integrate into our daily routine. One will be away from his office or workplace for quite a time but that will not be an excuse for not delivering. The results will be more specific and direct, it will have a direct linkage to your pay and perquisites. One needs to find ways of the least path of resistance.
  • New skills will emerge - As more and more complications emerge; the new solutions and alternatives will have to be found. It will no more be “given” to you or, “told” to you, but one has to find answers and solutions to its own situation. The innovation skills, creativity will be the single most skill that will help you sustain and then grow.
  • Working in New laws and regulations - The changed method of working, non-availability of physical presence, the pressure of delivering results, extreme restrictions in the overall movement, changes in the usage of resources, the dynamic change in the relations will throw a lot of challenges for existing laws and regulations to be effective. Therefore, new rules and regulations will emerge, and we have to understand and accommodate those changes while we work effectively.
  • The use of social media will be more and more required. One has to understand it completely the dangers and risks while using such apps and digital solutions.
  • The world will be different geopolitically. There will be new friends and new enemies, there will be new alliances and groups with different objectives. The foundation for this will be humanity and trust. The world will be different. Old treaties and agreements will see the changes, and this will change the economic, social, political, and strategic partnerships across the world.

The SILVER LINING OF ABOVE SITUATION IS this pandemic will bring millions of opportunities for growth and prosperity. The only condition is that one has to reskill itself with a new mindset, new skillset, and with lots of HOPE & POSITIVITY.

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?


I absolutely agree that organizational culture is very critical in the overall journey of any successful organization. Generally, culture is “what is expected and accepted way of working” in any organization. Culture is a cumulative effect of the Vision, Values, long-term goals, the result-orientation, and what the organization wants to be known as. I have seen that if the organization is committed to customer service and is honest about it, that organization will be known as Customer-friendly organization. However, if it is not a customer-centric organization, no matter how many millions you spend on branding / advertising, that organization will not be known as customer friendly.

The culture determines what values and beliefs over a period of time are imbibed in that organization by the top management. It all finally comes from the top and gets percolated down the organization. The big boards on the wall with heavy sentences but zero in action, such organization will struggle and have shorter life.

  • The organization breaths its culture, which means you can actually sense the culture in every walk of life in that organization.
  • How this culture is built? First of all, in that organization, VALUES have to be defined in such a way that everyone understands those values. Those values need to be owned by each and every employee and each employee should believe that those are the values that are the basis of their every action.
  • All employees should have complete clarity as to how they can exhibit or manifest every value from their every action, be it just a call with an employee or a big deal with a customer. I have personally experienced the great force each value brings when every employee understands it and when management is very honest in propagating such values, it has multiple long-term benefits.
  • Once such values become your normal behavior, these behavior guide actions of employees, and eventually the fabric of culture gets weaved in the organization.
  • There will be many hindrances and obstacles in the life of an organization, but I have experienced that strong cultures can easily rise through these obstacles and becomes successful.
  • A culture in the organization becomes a guiding principle or torchlight to steer the organization successfully during this VUCA world and whenever tough situations arise.   

What are your thoughts about layoffs? What is the role of HR in layoffs? According to you, what is the appropriate way of managing layoffs?


What is the most unfortunate of this Covid-19 is the Layoffs - Organizations will be compelled right-size its headcount if they are not in a position to offer meaningful employment to its employees. Finally, the organization is a business entity, it has to deliver results to its stakeholders who are bankers, investors, governments, employees. If an organization has to be sustainable, it will have to take such unwanted decisions.

  • No organization will want its high-performance employees to get laid off. It will always separate the employees with a bad attitude or poor performance first before laying off good employees.
  • HR has to be very sensitive and exert empathy when it is laying off employees. The rationale behind such action should be clearly communicated to all employees, the entire process of handling lay-off has to be very respectful and should minimize the burden of pain as much as possible while communicating with an employee. If possible, all his immediate economic needs should be taken care of which is generally the main reason for all the painful part of the separation.
  • The layoff, especially, if it is arising out of such a pandemic, there should not be any stigma attached to the layoff. The documentations should be very clear and nowhere such stigma be put in the letters and certificates being given to an employee.
  • Organization has a wider and bigger role when it comes to a lay-off from giving a sense of togetherness to leaving employees. The organization is in a better position to help the employee find a new job with its vendors/group company or giving him short assignments if these are available in the company. All this is important to minimize the immediate shock and to help exiting employees find an alternate career option.
  • Organization must help the leaving employees to reskill themselves and any such learning resources can be provided to employees, it will be very useful.
  • The medical insurance or help to the employee and his family will be a big help for parting employees, in such cases the “value is more important than the cost”.
  • It is the best time for an organization to show its true culture and true face to the world.

What do you think 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?

  • It is true that talent is getting more and more costly and, in some cases, there is a shortage of talent, especially in high demand, low supply situation. It is also true that it is not available when you want, and you cannot play freely with it as it is becoming a major source of frustration for HR Heads and CEOs.
  • If an organization has a proper and systematic Annual Business Planning system, it can accurately understand what type of talent it will require, it can do talent mapping and based on its availability, should focus on its acquisition.
  • However, the trusted and tested way is to build the pipeline of this talent within the organization, by recruiting the GETs or Trainees and groom them within the organization. The successful Trainee Scheme will fetch far more trustworthy and beneficial talent pipeline than any other source of acquiring talent.
  • There should be Annual Talent Review every organization must-have. Such annual talent review has many aspects of succession planning, promoting critical talent, de-risking the criticality of such talent and insulate the organization from this loss of talent.
  • One very important point about Talent that no adhoc action or decision is useful while managing talent. The organization must have proper systematic Talent Management System, which should be driven by CEO himself, if not by HR Head. The HOD of each function is responsible for building critical talent and making sure that critical skills are available within the organization.
  • All retention policies, Hi-Pot management, Fast-Trackers and De-risking the jobs have to be practiced systematically within the organization and that is the only method of long-term Talent Management Practices.
  • Additionally, an organization should practice buy, build, borrow, bind and boost strategy for the availability of Talent in the organization.

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

  • Good Companies generally have very robust and systematic Business Planning Processes, which are long-term and short-term processes, where they estimate their focus areas, the growth areas, the challenges they may face, and their action plan. This action plan is in other words the Strategy of the organization as to how it will conduct its business.
  • The most critical part of this is Human Capital and Talent Landscape, the headcount numbers, the costs associated with it, etc. it is a very important document for Human Resources which guides all its actions related to workforce planning.
  • There are other processes in the organization such as Talent Review, Performance Analysis (generally it is carried after PMS is over), identification of HI-POTs, Retention Policies, etc.
  • One such the process is Identification of Competency or Competency Mapping. Every role and every position at every level is screened and the competencies are identified which are essential for the success of that role. There are different types of competencies, critical, essential, etc. Along with the above the skill set is also identified as must-have skills etc. In the context of rapidly changing economies, competition, technology, cultures, and ecology, holistic capability development has a fresh sense of urgency. The bottom line for any organization is to generate good revenues, control costs, and expenditure, leading to good profitability. Effective managers not only accomplish common organizational goals but also helps people to connect with their immense potentials and enable them to overcome challenges. This collaborative process gives individual contributors a sense of personal accomplishment and fulfilment.
  • To face today's VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world challenges, we need to be updated with a wide range of skills and competencies. Effective and collaborative working teams are the key to the performance and growth of any organization both internally and externally.
  • Especially for managers, the basic process of developing managers starts with need gap assessment on the futuristic competencies. This is one of many processes.

What’s the biggest misconception your co-workers have about you (or your work) and why do they think that?

I can without any doubt mention the misconception my co-workers have about me is I am a workaholic and demand more than 100% dedication from my colleagues. Eventually, we as an HR Department or any other function, it is our sole responsibility to deliver results on time, every time.

Those who have worked with me will always excel and have their career fast-tracked than their batch-mates as they build the competencies and expertise while working with me. It is always my moto that we should make our department proud by its achievements in the organization.

I have always raised the status of HR function wherever I have worked and brought glory to the organization and that is all because of the great cooperation of my colleagues and co-workers and they have seen the benefits of such dedication.

How Social Media has changed the workplace dynamics?

  • There are different profiles of the employee and nowadays it is a social profile that is being considered especially for important roles. This profile consists of all the social media representations in one place and how the employee is thinking, what his opinions are, what his beliefs are, and whether an employee is Socially Fit for that organization. It is therefore evident from this perspective that social media plays an important role.
  • There is another important dimension to Social media, as it has become an extended part of the life of every employee. The more and more time is being spent on various social media apps but how much it is useful for a person to build its career is questionable. Building a brand is different and building a career is different. The brand is temporary and has limited shelf life whereas if someone spends more time building competencies, critical skill set, rich experience, the better customer connects, it will have long-lasting positive benefits for one’s career.

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 going to be far-reaching effects of these radical changes brought in by COVID-19. The biggest change in the workplace is the style of working, the science of working remotely, the physical disconnects but connecting virtually, the restrictions of socializing, the use of technology, new apps, and solutions.
  • There will be a different type of Performance Management System with new performance measurements methods, there will be different training and development mechanisms, new ways of conducting meetings.
  • The topmost challenge will be to the Leadership challenges – leaders will have to constantly evolve themselves to cope up with the external challenges. Tremendous innovative skills with a sharp focus on implementation will be the key and humane and sensitive approach to the needs of people (internally oriented) with a sharp focus on desired outcome / result (externally oriented) will be a key differentiator in this period. 
  • Those leaders who are well connected with its people, include and involve them at every stage of business operation, listen and use their potential will have more possibility of success than those who will not be people centric.

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

  • Fresh Graduates should feel very lucky as they are entering the world when there is a lot of disruption. There is always a benefit of being a first-mover or first entry. They will get this benefit. There are limitless opportunities and you need to be aware of what skills are most in-demand, what are emerging career opportunities, what is required by the majority industry, make yourself robust, and sturdy to face the challenges with confidence.
  • This is VUCA world and this world always provides a place for everyone. Therefore, keep focus, develop an understanding of business, of people, learn from the success stories of others, be extremely watchful of the developments taking place around, be a good human, and a better person. Develop good habits, do not put yourself in meaningless activities, add value each day every day.
  • Most importantly all your concepts should be clear, discuss and deliberate those concepts with friends and experts, be champion of your subjects, study the subject from a practical perspective, always think of implementing your concepts, adapt to short projects to understand how it is implemented on the ground, be careful that you will develop step by step, no one becomes President or Director of HR in one day. Every day is important, and every opportunity needs to be utilized to its full potential.
  • Money is not everything in life and it has its value to a certain extent but what is more important is that you live life meaningfully and maximize your potential. Work is worship, there are no short-cuts. Efforts and hard work build a career, it is the foundation of a strong personality.
  • There will be fewer opportunities for full-time employment, one has to be ready for short-term projects or assignments. This will be very useful in building your competencies and shaping your career. You can select such projects which will enhance your skills and expose you to the realities of the workplace. 

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

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