HR Head is responsible for creating new leaders within the organization
A marathoner and a cyclist, Smita, is a passionate HR leader with over a decade of professional experience, primarily in the Information Technology and Telecom Industries. She is very competitive and a quick learner, who doesn’t hesitate from seeking guidance and coaching. She is a taskmaster. In her career span till date, she has worked on several assignments of Employee Engagement, restructuring HR Systems, and Performance Management. Thank you, Smita, for agreeing to do this interview with us. We are certain that your professional journey will inspire many youngsters. We appreciate your time and thoughtfulness. Thank you.
We would be pleased to learn about your journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview.
Like everyone else, I was excited to get first exposure in the corporate world after completing MMS in HR from Mumbai University. I got an opportunity to work as an HR Executive with one of the Manufacturing firm in Pune, “Polybond India Pvt. Ltd.” Since it was my first corporate job Interview, I rehearsed and re-rehearsed for probable answers.
I was anxiously waiting outside the factory from 8.30 am, though my interview was scheduled at 9.15 am. Speculating that the Interviewer may ask some theoretical questions, I entered the cabin. My interviewer was DGM HR Mr. Mendolsa. He asked me general questions about me, family background, and educational background. Then he asked me why I was aspirant for Job in Pune. I gave a satisfactory candid reply. His next question was, “How will you manage the situation when no one supports your decision and how will you deal with day to day challenges faced by people in a manufacturing set up”?
I was speechless for a few minutes and looking at my facial expression he offered me a cup of coffee. Then, correlating the experience from my project with Aditya Birla group wherein as an intern I had done recruitment champion independently and successfully selected talent for the insurance industry, I gave my answer. The very next day, I got my first offer letter.
Planning is critical for success.
Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail?
My best interview ever was with a start-up IT organization, Qualsoft Services. Post four rounds of the interview process that encompassed psychometric test, I was under impression that maybe they were looking for a Senior HR person; however, I adored the entire interview and hiring techniques. The initial round of interview was telephonic to get insight and brief about individuals. Then I was asked questionnaire as Senior HR such as what initiatives would I take for the start-up organization and what would be my strategic plan of action? Post this assignment; I was interviewed by three project managers who were actually people/ talent manager to drive change in this start-up organization. After a week, I was asked to appear for psychometric assessment and final round of Interview with the Managing Director. Since, planning is the foundation of any activity, this time I had prepared a lot by understanding the IT industry trends and my academic knowledge helped me to cite various initiatives and ideas for a start-up organization. The MD was impressed with my answers.
“Two things will define you; your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything “
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?
My first job burst the balloon of my misconception that academic knowledge is sufficient to climb the ladder of success in the corporate world. I was fortunate to have a good people manager during my first job assignment that supported and guided me from the very basic level work in HR. I learned a lot from my line manager who was very strict and punctual regarding on-time deliverables. Under his mentorship, I became an efficient multitasker, approachable and decision-maker. I imbibed from him to own responsibilities and understood the difference between being aggressive and assertive as an HR.
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 experience, Mentorship is an ongoing relationship and the coaching has a specific duration in our professional career. Coaches and Mentors play a very vital role in settling down a fresh graduate during their early stage in any job. When you are treated well, it translates into the skills and capabilities at work. I still remember, in my second job my MD was my Mentor. He taught me many things starting from a daily plan of action to long-term goal plan that made me more structured and organized my way of working. He taught me Self Follow Up techniques, Business etiquettes, email etiquettes, and negotiation techniques. In my opinion, Mentors give a push towards personal transformation, whereas Coach helps in the behavioural transformation that completes the personality.
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 like ‘H’ in HR that means I believe in being human rather than a resource. My inborn talent of being people-oriented encouraged me to shift my career from MCA to MMS in HR.
I believe I can influence and add value in others’ lives and can make a place happening with my presence in society and the corporate world.
“Employees engage with employers and brands when they're treated as humans”
HR Head is responsible for creating new leaders within the organization.
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?
CEO expects HR leaders to maintain and drive a productive workforce culture. HR Head should be able to act as a strong bridge between the CEO and the Executive Management Body.
While recruiting, an HR leader needs to keep in mind the outcome expected from that specific role and must hire the ‘right fit’. Hiring and retaining quality workforce is another key expectation from HR leaders. HR must be able to satisfy key employees and make sure they have sound reasons to stay. An HR leader is also responsible for creating new leaders within the organization. An HR is an expert at “managing and developing existing skills” and is therefore responsible for training employees and onboarding the right talent.
In the same breath, can you also highlight about expectations of employees from the HR Function of an Organization?
Employees expect HRs to create and sustain a culture of employee engagement and help in maintaining work-life balance.
HR must strive to bring the best out of each employee by creating the right HR processes right from employee engagement, learning and development, performance management, hiring and retention, compensation and benefits and so on and act as an employee advocate. Empowering and enabling the employee and aligning the employees’ goals with the organizational goals is the most important part of the HR job. HR has become broader and more business oriented and that’s how the expectation of employees has gone up in terms of feedback and immediate solution against any decision.
HR is a very vast function. What aspects of HR do you like the most and which one do you find challenging?
During my 11+ years of career in Manufacturing, Telecommunication and IT industries, I have gained extensive exposures in Policy and strategy formation, employee relations, leadership development, OD interventions, Employee engagement, Statutory compliance, laws and regulations, retention drivers, learning and development, and ensuring the right set of documentation in place. Thus, I trust each and every aspect of HR is challenging and must be maintained with high decorum.
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.
The management and employees are two sides of organization which are equally important to achieve short-term and long-term goals. I do acknowledge the fact that there could be a lot of differences. It takes a lot of time, energy and patience to build overall trust and consistency level in the organization. Hence, it may create a lot of stress for an HR facilitator.
I still recollect the situation when I was working with one of the telecommunications MNC. During the acquisition, there were different expectations of employees and of the Management in terms of fair Benefits. Initially, we struggled to make management agree for any employee benefit but, gradually we transformed the culture.
On a couple of occasions, I have dealt with employee concerns with respect to managerial effectiveness. These concerns ranged across bias, inappropriate behavior, inability to mentor and coach. My approach has been to:
- Greet and treat equally for employees and employers too
- Seek the fact, real data and observe behaviors rather than judgment
- Bring both the parties to face to face for resolution rather than in isolation
- Clearly outline the importance of maintaining respect throughout the conversation
- Let the discussions flow, mediate wherever required and come to a conclusion
- Ensure both the parties create, own and adhere to the solutions arrived at, also develop “Win-Win“ culture for any scenario and situation
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?
Building confidence in Management is a major skill of an HR. In case of disagreement on implementing a hard decision, I have kept my stand of “agreeing to disagree” clear. In one of the organizations, I had closed one of the new policy implementations; ‘work from home’. Considering employees need and business scenario, I convinced the higher management how this particular policy could be effective and add value to work and reduce the organization overhead cost and how we could invest in creating a performance-driven culture rather than focusing on micro-management. My efforts helped in implementing the “Work from Home Policy” which helped to reduce the organizational attrition level & built a strong transparent work culture.
Based on your experience, what are the FIVE essential traits every HR Professional must have?
Powerful organizational skills: fundamentally HR plays a major role in employee’s day to day life (documentation, laws and regulations, records, conflict), and create awareness of each and every policy and procedures.
Very high IQ & EQ: To promote internal talents, the balanced ratio of IQ & EQ plays a vital role in HR functions.
Technology: HR must adapt to the latest technologies for the sustenance.
Data & Cyber Security: Grip on the confidentiality of any data in any form and maintain standard cybersecurity conducts in the organization.
Transparency & Ethics: HR is responsible for creating an ethical environment with various transparent communication channels.
According to you, what are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback with candidates?
In fact, post-interview feedback is the key to provide a better candidate experience.
- It is challenging to provide the interview feedback to each candidate.
- Lack of system originated mechanism.
- Candidates may consider their feedback personally rather than the professional way.
- In the urgency of the requirement may result in a delay in sharing feedback to each interviewed candidate.
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 future of various HR functions would demand more collaborative and consulting roles, negotiation, brand building, talent management which will happen with or without social media help.
HR must have the ability to infuse credibility and trust between the originations and its employees.
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?
“Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans.” Have a mentality of a Startup Owner and a strong desire to create a job for others. Work hard, aim high, deliver on time and enjoy your work. HR must have the ability to launch credibility and trust between the originations and its employees. If you have chosen the HR profession you should ask yourself these four questions
- Are you people-oriented?
- Are you capable to shape and develop the future of your employees?
- Do you take the responsibility of filling the gap between employers and employee?
- Do you accept and develop any change and act as a change agent?
*This interview was originally published on www.sanjeevhimachali.org. [Date: 26th November 2018]