HR Head should be able to act as a vital bridge between CEO and the Executive Management

She is an inspirational story-teller. She is a result-driven HR Practitioner. She is Ancy Nimsha Sreenivasan, an affluent Leader with a functional experience of over a decade across the wide spectrum of HR in Technology Industries. An MBA from FOMS –Indian Army, she carries vast experience in leading and managing global teams in a heavily matrixed environment. She has been the recipient of several rewards. Thank you, Ancy for agreeing to this interview. We value your time. Let’s start.

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

During my post-graduation (Master’s in business administration) from Army Institute of Management Technology, most of the college placement was set towards Marketing, Finance and Operation stream considering many of the students in these specializations. I didn’t wait for a turn to appear for HR interviews organized by institute but, following my father’s ideology of creating an opportunity for self, I prepared and charted a plan for the job search with start of my final semester.

I made my login credentials in the leading job portal – and and spent 2 hrs daily to search and apply for all possible HR fresher opportunities. Apart from this, I would tap the print media (new papers) job classifieds and would systematically track all the important information pertaining to the application like Company name, Contact person details, phone number, a summary of job descriptions, date of application sent, status etc. I kept a target of sending minimum 10 applications a day. Follow-ups on applications and question-answer preparation of basic interview Q&A was the next step. From the compiled JD I started getting more relevant information about job requirement. I was able to relate this more to a practical work task scenario since I had wisely used all my vacation breaks in interning with great organizations like GE, IFB, HICAL, and IOB.  This experience came very handily during my interview process and I quite enjoyed the process as slowly victory started flowing in. I got 3 selection offers – from Delhi and Mumbai. Share knowledge and expertise with your circle is a natural behavior in me and I was explaining the whole process to my friends too. The best of opportunity from the 3 was Management Trainee role in Mumbai for both professional and personal need at that time and that’s how I decided to join my first company. Anoop Zutshi who was Founder & CEO of Altitudes had varied experience in Media & Advertising; a dynamic persona, smart and intelligent with wide experience in Times of India, India Today and other leading publications.

I was very fortunate to get selected among the 3 other candidates and had this offer before 4 months of my course completion. An opportunity that I got as a fresher and then to directly report and work with CEO of the company even though organization had other vertical heads was the best part about the role. I was quickly able to adapt and understand my work delivery aspects with a great leader and mentor like Anoop; one of the best blessings that happened to me till date.

Like training need analysis being performed for any L&D program, a job role/description understanding is a key and basic step that any interviewee should be prepared on before facing an interview.

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

An Interview process that I underwent 3 years ago with Volkswagen – IT division of Pune for a Senior HR role was the best interview experience I had so far. The process started with a headhunter call from a recruitment vendor explaining the job role which got me curious to explore the role. At that point, I wasn’t looking for switching organization as varied role opportunity movement at IBM and career growth had kept me glued to work. My first discussion round was a telephonic one with the RPO – Head followed by an in-person round with the HR Head. The interview session was quite a deep dive gauging the aspects of various roles I played at IBM.

The second round was a complete day’s Assessment Centre process which was a unique kind of experience. The session included other shortlisted candidates for same as well as different roles. A fun-filled and practical experience interview, in which, simulation of real-time job role, leadership style assessment, people management aspects, peer programs, etc. were measured through various exercise. Assessment closed with a feedback session on the strength and improvement points they observed. The final round of interaction was separately scheduled for another day with the Global lead of the function. The selection news on this role was like receiving an examination result on a practical paper in which I had appeared with a lot of preparation and research.

Though I couldn’t take up the role then due to a personal reason, this was quite a self-scaling and measuring experience. With an experience of 13+ years in HR, I know varied functional and project specific details about the work role I handled. For solving each of instances that happen live you gather knowledge in all possible ways and resolve issues and hence spontaneity to questions asked automatically plays the part.

The first job is a major milestone for many people. Let’s discuss your first year at the job. How was your experience? What were your expectations for your job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectation? 

I have been super fortunate to get an opportunity to work with valued and respected leaders in my first year of career. My experience was beyond my expectation and is fondly cherished still. The decision of moving from the first employer to Arviva Industries at Navi Mumbai was merely due to a personal reason of finding a job with accommodation inclusion since I wanted to shift my parents to Mumbai for Cancer treatment for my Father at Tata Memorial Hospital at Mumbai. A colleague of mine saw the job advertisement in the Times of India newspaper for a Manager HR role with the company with 5 years of experience. I hardly had less than a year experience then but still gave this role a try. My resume was shortlisted for an in-person interview. The first round of interview was with the Executive Director of the company Mr. Prakash Manglani followed by Managing Director Raju Amarnani. For the question of why I wanted this quick change, I gave candid reasons. My joy knew no bound when they communicated to me at the end that “you have this job now. Go and see the accommodation with the Admin SPOC today itself.”

The trust, appreciation, and value that I saw and learned from this organization were exceptional and I will remain always indebted to all that they did during the toughest time of my life journey so far. Within just tenure of 3 months with the organization, the management went way beyond to support me with a salary advance loan of 2 Lakh INR overnight for addressing medical treatment needs of my father. My Father was greatly touched by this act and was proud of his daughter for getting considered for such a wonderful support from the management.

Post emergency when the funds were returned my ED wrote a letter which was couriered to my Father appreciating my attitude and performance at work and how lucky my father is to have a responsible daughter like me. My direct manager, Cdr. Kwatra, an ex-navy officer treated me like his own daughter while explaining the work task. My first work year gave me the best of my work life experience so far. At the end of the whole event when my Father was addressing the Indian Overseas Bank colleagues on his retirement ceremony he quoted “when we grow old we tend to learn new things from our kids. What I couldn’t do in 25 years of my service with IOB, my daughter did in 3 months”. It was one of the biggest emotional moments for me.

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

As per my experiences, mentors and coaches play the most important part in settling fresh graduates in the initial phase and job. When you are treated in an exceptional manner and looked at with immense trust and ability as an employee you would want to reciprocate in multi folds. I owe my career dedication to these splendid experiences I had. I used to get every day sessions where daily tasks were discussed, and progress update was measured. This made me a more organized professional and trained me to identify critical delivery action items and impact of these to strategic decisions at the very budding phase. They taught me very basic, from email reading to responding, minutes of meeting preparation to flow-through.

My campus to corporate transition was indeed a signature experience from a learning perspective. The better it is the best positive approach is triggered. This positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and sparks extraordinary results.”     

You are an HR Practitioner for so many years. Could you please tell us why did you choose this profession? If not in HR, what another profession you would have chosen for yourself?

I love working with people, helping them to learn, unlearn and relearn. It's a gift to observe people being their best selves and aligning with their purpose and passion. I am a Computer Science graduate but, realized in the very first year, of course, the programming was not something I would enjoy. Since my hostel stay was clubbed with MBA students of the college, I observed the program curriculum and academics and informed my father about pursuing MBA post BSc. I started preparing for MBA competitive exams. Selection to Army College was a dream comes true since I always aspired for an army education background since my father’s early career of 16 years with Airforce. I thoroughly enjoyed/enjoy both academic experience and my career experience in the field and is looking forward to yet insightful and memorable journey.

Maybe, I would have chosen a career as a medical practitioner role, if not an HR. I gave the entrance exam for MBBS post class 12th but, couldn’t clear for a merit seat. Since we couldn’t financially afford a paid seat and I wasn’t in favor of re-preparing by investing another year I decided to pursue Computers.

HR Head should be able to act as a vital bridge between CEO and the Executive Management.

Having worked in a leadership role, what do you think are the expectations of a CEO or the Management Team from its HR Function in general and HR head in particular?

CEOs expect HR Leaders to be very high in integrity and a key player in enterprise strategy, acting as enablers in attracting skilled talent and enhance employee value proposition though adequate workforce planning, engagement, and business partnership. HR Head should be able to act as a vital bridge between CEO and the Executive Management.

From HR Function, CEO expects representatives to work towards results that contribute to the end goals i.e. – Build capability of the organization to deliver its strategy. Initiatives concentrated in maintaining a productive corporate culture, hiring and retaining the quality workforce, regulation and compliance, developing new leaders and leading growth transitions with adequate support to organization vision and mission by connecting to the base of the pyramid is critical.

As a face of an organization, HR should be able to deliver excellence in onboarding and induction process with real signature and memorable experiences. Providing a healthy work environment for employees with a trademark organization culture are default factors.

HR should take regular feedback from employees to empathize with their needs and problems and take required measures to overcome the issues.

In the same breath, can you also highlight about expectations of employees from the HR Function of an Organization?

With the paced digital transformation now, employees have more transparency that HR has the power to create change and they expect HR to be an employee advocate championing the cause of employee. To understand the need and aspiration of employees and to keep them motivated and productive, create the right processes for managing the whole employee life cycle right from recruitment to exit. HR should take regular feedback from employees to know needs and problems and take required measures to overcome the issues.

An effective HR should be able to juggle with many hats and highly skilled to address multi-task responsibilities. Current HR outlook should be more dynamic, and business oriented for balancing both organizational and employee needs.

HR is a very vast function. What aspects of HR do you like the most and which one do you find challenging?

I have an insatiable thirst to improve, continuously grow and advance to the next level hence, I can’t pick a single aspect as I am fair with all the aspects of HR. In my 13+ years of career across IT and other industries, I have gained extensive exposure to multiple aspects of the function including HR strategic initiatives, leadership development, employee relations, talent acquisition & management while maintaining statutory & legal compliance.  Keeping self-updated about the frequent compliance and law regulations changes and ensuring adherence to these ensuring a whole lot of documentation around this is quite challenging.

According to you, what are the key challenges of being a representative of employees as well as a representative of company management? What kind of conflicts you have faced and how did you manage to overcome them. 

Ability to switch gear and executing balanced decisions that will sustain both employee and employer need and expectation is the prime challenge. Enhanced awareness of the basics and knowledge on the root cause of issue vs the resulting impact will enable you to take a calculative decision with risk assessments if any. Establishing an ongoing deep connects with both critical elements is fundamental to solving this. As a key driver of the function, the leader should know grass root level issues /happenings of employee and employer.

Please share an experience when you did something by coming under pressure from your management or reporting manager though you felt it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done?

Resource optimization actions due to sudden business redundancy, retrenchment, global decisions of project shutdown or withdrawal, etc. are unexpected scenarios where unpleasant actions must be executed.

Leadership is about building a team, creating a shared vision and helping people work together to deliver their individual and collective best toward a common result.

Based on your experience, what are the FIVE essential traits every HR Professional must have?

Accomplishing great things takes a great team – you can’t do it alone. I firmly believe that leadership is about building a team, creating a shared vision and helping people work together to deliver their individual and collective best toward that result

As a leader, it’s my job to set the tone for this level of trust, collaboration, risk-taking, and learning. To me, there is no greater satisfaction at work than creating a shared vision and leading a team towards it. To grow as a next generation leader a proactive approach to learn and gain comprehensive knowledge about the dynamics of people management across the industry and heavily matrixed global geography is a key. Knowledge of effective tools, talent analytics, and predictive analytics are add-ons to optimize your work approach.

According to you, what are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback with candidates?

A candid and open interview conversation in realistic scenarios mostly doesn’t put you in the challenging or unpleasant state. For me, it’s only when the candidate reacts in a persuadable manner the process gets little challenging. The quicker you can switch gears and explain to the candidate about the measured gap you could gauge on fitment issue, the easier the process becomes.

Interviewing is a mapping process; every individual has some or the other trait and quality but if the narration of experience or practical answering is totally in a diverse area there is no point in stretching the complete process. 

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? 

Transformation is like evergreen growth process AI, Robotics, agility, cognitive HR – all these will stimulate yet powerful innovation of valued HR practices. These transformations will, in turn, be able to support increasing human demand and need which is a continuous cyclic process. Every change has a reason and result. This too will elevate the employee aspiration need fulfilment to the next level enhancing the HR function to deliver in yet more challenging way.

Social media brought in the biggest changes like services on demand with shorter TAT, enhanced expertise sharing network platform, easy access information and online work with functional experts. The who’s who information got available in a click along with what work dynamics is happening around the world in specific and connected functional area. This expanded knowledge awareness to an unmatched level.

The aspiring HR Practitioners should evaluate varied available options and seek guidance from experienced leaders for making the wisest choices.

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

Think BIG, always instill a positive attitude in self, this is contagious and will enable you to deliver above and beyond. The best part of the process is that this will give you the ability to embrace a seemingly impossible challenge and steer it to a successful and favourable result. No opportunity is small. The aspiring practitioners should evaluate varied available options and seek guidance from experienced leaders for making the wisest choices. As I mentioned earlier, observing and being with people at their best selves and passion is a unique thing. One should join the profession to understand and enjoy the human possibilities in breadth and depth and experience it.

Thank you very much, yet again, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.

*This interview was originally published on [Date: 11th November 2018]

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