HR managers connect the value of human capital to the company's bottom line.

Doctorate in Management Studies from ISBM and an MBA from Welingkar Institute of Management Studies, Neha is having over a decade and half years of experience across various industries, Media, Hospitality, Marketing, etc. Currently, she is working as a HR Consultant and a Career Coach. She is an avid traveller.

 Thank you, Neha for agreeing to this interview. We value your time. We are looking forward to your candid and honest response as you always are.

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

It was a call centre interview. I was fresh out of graduation and was looking for a job. This was in 2002. So, it was a routine – Group Discussion round, Telephonic round and a personal interview. I did not prepare at all. In fact I never prepare for any interview. Don’t remember what they asked me exactly but I was selected 😊

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

All my interviews have been very interesting so to speak. I cannot recollect one specific interview though but I would like to share some episodes in brief –

One of them was for CRY – an NGO. They had a process of several rounds before they finalise the candidate. The first round was with the HR. Then there was a psychometric personal interview round (Yes, it wasn’t written. It was oral). She had asked me to narrate a real-life incident – personal or professional and in-between kept throwing questions to understand the nerve perhaps. That to me was very intriguing. It was deep and I learnt a lot about my communication skills during that process. Unfortunately, I did not get selected but it was a learning experience for me.

The other I recollect was with BBDO – an advertising agency. This was just a Skype call but the questions asked were very relevant.. The CFO had taken my interview. He asked me questions like “What has been your major contribution and which policy is your favourite that you have ever drafted / implemented?” AND “What according to you should be the first and the foremost policy that should be of prime importance / essential and / or that is close to your heart?” I was quite intrigued with the way he conducted the session. I was shortlisted. However, did not get selected. But I got a very proactive feedback that was very good and positive. He remarked “Had I been the decision maker alone, I would have selected you for sure 😊” He was very happy with my answers.

“The Management expects the HR to partner with them in their business needs, counsel them on workforce management issues and literally take away a part of their ‘table’ work related to people / manpower / employees”.


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

While my first job was at a call centre, later I joined a company that was into Nursing Recruitments and I would like to call that as my first ‘job’ per se. It was a proprietary firm, a small one, with just one shop like infrastructure at Nariman Point. I reported directly to the owner of the firm. It was more of a secretarial / administrator role where I had to take dictations, prepare his emails, understand his workflow pattern to help him run his schedules. However, I got into internet research for nursing recruitments in the US; took initiatives on recruiting these nurses from India; got involved in Visa and other legal documentation; etc. He was very happy to see this proactive behaviour and rewarded me with a bonus too within a year of my span there.

4. 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?

I think fresh graduates should be entitled for training. The first year in your first job is always the everlasting one. That’s where you, as an individual and as a professional, are taking baby steps towards something crucial in your career progression. You are most vulnerable and immature as far as the culture and the norms of the so-called corporate houses are concerned. Fresh graduates should undergo a thorough induction and orientation program / training by the company and I think HR as well as Functional Heads should take this initiative. My personal experience was different in these terms. While I was never given any hand holding in any company, I always took proactive steps to learn from my colleagues and adapt to the culture. It would have been nice if I had “Go To” personnel especially in the beginning of my career. One feels very lost and unattended or even ignored if not treated well in these aspects.

5. 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 other profession you would have chosen for yourself?

Honestly, HR just happened to me. I did not choose this profession at all. However the more I started getting involved, I realised this was something I liked a lot. Recruitments and TA got me grooved. I always feel extremely energised and undergo a severe adrenaline rush with the challenges I come across while recruiting and diving deep into the ‘what’s and whys’ of the process and people management. If not HR, I would have been into several things – Creative space like Dancing, Any Artist (Stage), Writing, Adventure sports / Instructor OR a Teacher, Counsellor, Mentor, etc.

6. 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?

I think gone are the days where HR was just considered as a secretarial role for CEOs and businesses. Today, the Management expects you to partner with them in their business needs, counsel them on workforce management issues and literally take away a part of their ‘table’ work related to people / manpower / employees so that they can focus on other bigger aspects of business i.e. sales and profits.

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

It is still a sad plight to know that employees from different walks of life in the same organisation still feel that HRs are only placed to prepare letters and generate employee codes and ids. They are just ‘service providers’ and not ‘solution providers’. In short, they are just support not professionals. It’s high time such a mindset needs a transformation.

8. 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.

There are many reasons why managers may fail to deal adequately with staff that experience work-related stress. These include: inadequate awareness of the issues; reluctance to concede that their management styles may be associated with ill health or stress in their employees; different staff may respond differently to the same working environment and the management style. This may lead managers to conclude that a problem is the individual's – rather than accepting the need to acknowledge and respond to differences in their staff; managers may be reluctant to be educated in this area if they do not consider health and safety to be part of their responsibilities; managers may be concerned that raising stress with staff may create an issue where none existed; managers may be reluctant to 'intrude' into a worker's private life, although stresses arising outside of work can spill-over into the workplace; Managers may find it useful to get training or coaching in communication skills, in having difficult conversation or in basic mediation to manage conflict.

“Different organisations will evolve at different speeds with the frontrunners setting the standard for other companies to follow. HR is at the heart of the business and must support the business through the change”.

9. 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?   

The discussion around Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace has been around for years, but as we approach 2019, AI is finally becoming a reality in the workplace. Chat bots, robots, and virtual assistants powered by advanced algorithms are rapidly joining the ranks of workers in every industry and profession. This leads many people to ask the question “will robots take away my job?”

How should businesses best use AI to their advantage? Is there a way to implement AI without negatively affecting employees? Are businesses choosing not to automate jobs to keep employees? Do we need AI? Is it being pushed by the vendors or pulled by businesses? Even if AI is brought into the workplace, will people revert to old ways as they do with many change programmes? The younger generation was born into the digital world (iPads, iPhones, contactless payment, etc.) How can organisations best utilize their talents to help improve and revamp older business practices? There are benefits to bringing artificial intelligence into the workplace, including increased productivity and the opportunity to automate mundane tasks. With the rise of AI, it’s important for businesses to build a culture around continuous improvement.

Although automating jobs means increased productivity, it also means shrinking labour demands with an expected one in five jobs terminated as a result. This leads us to beg the question – is AI sustainable or overly aggressive in terms of pace? Will AI cause a big disruption in society?

In the future, will we have more temp workers with big skills gaps/lack of appropriate skills?

Is there a ‘skills gap’ or a ‘wills gap’ – if a business provides the training, will employees take it on-board?

Are people tired of change and not taking AI as seriously as they should?

Will AI take over your job or provide a supporting role to make you better at your job?  

How should a business prepare its workforce for this change?  

The areas of HR being impacted are: Talent Acquisition, Targets, Onboarding, HR Technology, HR Admin, etc. HR needs to take a leap away from being a “support function” to being more of a “marketing function.” HR should not be reactive, but rather forward-thinking, commercial, and values-lead. Use the data to challenge the business – HR as the same credibility as Finance and IT. Different organisations will evolve at different speeds with the frontrunners setting the standard for other companies to follow. HR is at the heart of the business and must support the business through the change.

Businesses should think about their change management, org design, and structure and build awareness through communications.

When changing and thinking of new technology and people, HR must help people move on and re-deploy more easily.

“HR managers connect the value of human capital to the company's bottom line.”

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

HRs help their companies remain viable by attracting top talent, recruiting the best candidates for each position and enabling employees to develop their skills and talents for their own benefit and that of the company. HR managers connect the value of human capital to the company's bottom line. The key competencies required I feel are Commitment to ongoing learning; Critical Analytical Skills; Ethical Approach towards the tasks; Communication skills; etc.

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

*This interview was originally published on [Date: 13th August 2018]

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