Reinventing HR AND Future of Work

Diksha Fouzdar is a senior HR professional with 12 years of experience in Business HR and Consulting. She has led large scale projects in the areas of organization effectiveness and restructuring, competency framework design & its application setting up integrated HR practices, Talent Management and HR Digital transformation in complex business environments with exceptional stakeholder and project management skills.

She is currently with Strides Pharma Science Ltd. as DGM HR, driving the Culture Transformation & Engagement journey.

Her purpose in life is to make an impact by making difference. She likes to observe people behavior in the context of organization dynamics and pens down her experiences, which she will be soon launching as “Reflections of A Fly on the Wall” – series exploring learnings from workplace experiences on LinkedIn. AI & Tech HR fascinate her, and she watches this space closely to solve for people & business issues.

Welcome, Diksha!
If you can tell us a little bit about your own HR Story and how you grew up to be in your current position?

Firstly, thank you HR Tales for having me featured.

I have 12 years of experience with HR expertise with interest in the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare sector. I joined Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited as an HR Management Trainee in their largest manufacturing location and gradually moved to other BUs. Since then I have been in various roles leading Talent & Engagement, Business partnering, Learning & development, and HR Advisory. Each assignment has added to my experience and capability, but Ranbaxy holds a special place because of multiple reasons. The variety, richness, and complexity of assignments I was exposed to in Ranbaxy not only provided me a steep learning curve but also gave me a great set of mentors who taught me the art of designing employee-centric interventions. It built a strong foundation for my career journey.

An additional layer of my experience was acquired at Diageo which exposed me to progressive HR practices in the consumer goods space and gave me an opportunity to work and learn from some great leaders in the industry.

Currently, I am driving Engagement & Culture transformation agenda in Strides Pharma Science Limited. The role enables me to live my purpose of making an impact by managing the human side of change in an industry that is poised for growth.

What is your take on “Career Gaps” and “Gig economy”?

In my view, Career Gaps are natural. They are available to us most of us as a “CHOICE” now and cannot be bracketed by gender.

The difference arises from how the “gap” is processed, perceived, and projected due to our biases, especially towards women.
Over a decade, corporates have been more inviting to “women returners” and receptive to the needs of a young mother with progressive policies which support back to work transitions.

I have also experimented with GIG out of choice to test the waters, satisfy my creative side, and need to work on stuff that interests me. I had a very enriching experience, had to hone a different skillset, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My transition back into a regular job was equally easy.

It is interesting to understand what has propelled this ease, openness, and acceptance – there are largely 3 factors at play. Firstly, statistics on the untapped talent market drew attention to the fact that

there was surplus talent wanting to re-join the workforce but faced hurdles in the form of sub-par opportunities, less paid roles, rigid work times, and discriminatory hiring practices.
In parallel, focus on inclusive work practices, glass ceiling, and low representation of women in boards gave life to concepts like
“D&I @ workplace”.
D&I initiatives started becoming a call to action for corporates and we saw the launch of “Second chance”, “Back to work” programs. These were the first formal attempts by organizations to tap the “on a break” talent pool.
What it did was generate hope and possibility and gradually organizations started seeing some success in this model
The third factor which accelerated talent mobility was the boom of the start-up economy coupled with technology and e-commerce.
It boosted the talent uptake/served as a platform for talent integrators and opened the option of entrepreneurship for people who were not keen on exploring the corporate world.

This made employees express and own the need to have creative pauses, attend to a life phase, learn a new skill and jump in and out of the workforce at will without feeling guilty or pressured.

COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase? What changes do you see happening at the workplace and in HR’s role post-COVID-19?

COVID has taught me 2 important lessons. The first one is

flexibility and going with the flow.
I had become so habituated to the planned life that I forgot how to live and enjoy life without a to-do list. The second learning was to
focus inwards and prioritize self over everything else.

I feel it’s too early to say what permanent changes can be seen in the workplace because organizations are still assessing the situation post the first-level response of ensuring safety, work from the home arrangement, and talent assurance for business continuity.

Some of the futuristic changes can be in the space of technology-enabled solutions, experimentation with workforce models and reframing of the cultural fabric.

The role of HR is prominent and critical. It’s a new challenge in managing human risk with no predefined solution. The way HR’s role will shape up will be determined by

how the new normal unfolds for the nation, course of economic activity, organization strategy, employee sentiments, and labour market dynamics.

HR in current context is playing the “employee advocate” and “change champion” role at the same time and will continue to do so. Key areas to focus on from an employee advocate perspective are employee engagement and wellbeing in a virtual or part virtual part physical space for employees and mitigating risk not only from COVID but stress, burnout, etc. From the change champion role context, this is the opportune time to understand the cultural nuances, identify the right pivots, and start preparing to embrace the future of work for the organizations.

When we speak of the role of HR changing, can you share with us based on your experience, what are the primary expectations of a CEO from the HR Function, in general, and HR Head, in particular?

I am tempted to quote Dr. Santrupt Mishra, who advocates that as a function

“we should incorporate business principles in HR and HR principles in business to provide an integrated view.”
Any HR function should have the business, talent & organizational acumen to act as a business enabler.

Top 5 CEO expectations from HR Heads are –

  • Partner with business in strategic planning and problem solving for the future
  • Be a neutral advisor to the CXO suite
  • Manage Change for the organization
  • Build organizations’ talent value
  • Coach, Counsel & Enable Leaders in creating the right culture
What are some of the key methods in which HR is driving business growth & success? Do you have some concrete examples of how really HR can make a direct impact on the business?

I can’t think of a better example than now. The way HR as a fraternity continues to ensure business continuity and manage people risk amidst COVID 19. For an organization like ours, which is manufacturing-based and is classified in the essential services industry,

HR has led the way right from being an advisor to the CEO to investing in a high order of workforce planning efforts for talent assurance each day.
The amount of liaising with government officials, hospitals, influencing the locals, assuring and ensuring employee safety while managing COVID. This is a live example of high-impact change management work HR professionals are driving to make direct business impact. Not to forget that while doing this they are also managing BAU and driving engagement in a sensitive environment.

The landscape of HR is changing with COVID, GIG, HR tech, AI. What disruptions do you foresee in HR over the next 5 years?

The top 3 disruptions envisaged in the HR space in the next 5 years are –

  • A major shift in the approach to defining culture, process, policies with employee centricity and experience taking the center stage
  • Technology, AI and Predictive Analytics enabling HR to give it a strategic leverage
  • A huge shift in how organizations think about “talent”, progressing to a marketplace model where we don’t have to own talent but have access to the right talent across the globe
Lastly, what is your message for young aspiring HR professionals & Graduates.
  • Always remain a learner, be open to all kind of work specially in the first stretch of your career!
  • Invest in relationships and build your network!
  • Get yourself a mentor, sponsor, and coach to build your signature brand!
  • Do not let your passions and hobbies fade away!
 Thank you very much, Diksha, for sharing the wonderful insight. 
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