Learning has to be aligned with the business needs

Hetal Dandia has more than 16 years of overall experience with 11+ years of experience as Learning and Development and an HR professional. Honing her capabilities as a trainer, capability analyst, internal performance consultant, curriculum creator and instructional designer for various sales and customer service roles, Hetal adorned herself with skills such as Performance Gap Analysis, Instructional Design, Behavioral Training, Vendor Management, Team Management, etc. 

Hetal is currently leading the Learning and Development team at Jardine Lloyd and Thompson, prior to which she was with HDFC Life as Sr. Manager –Learning and Development where her responsibility includes curriculum design and content creation for Source-Train –Hire model with partners like Manipal and Amity. Prior to this, Hetal worked with Vira International as Senior Recruitment Executive, Intelenet Global Services as Customer Service Executive, and Hyatt Regency Mumbai as Guest Service Associate.

Hetal holds Masters in PM & IR, B.COM –Jai Hind College, and has Completed Facilitator Skill Workshop by DDI, Passed the CPLP Assessment by ASTD on Design and Development, Completed Instructional Design Course.

Thank you, Hetal, for giving your valuable time to this interview. Your kindness is much appreciated. We look forward to your candid response.

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

My first job was with the Oberoi Group of Hotels. Back in 2002, they used to approach campuses to recruit for their Management Trainee program (OCLD). Even though I was studying Commerce they shortlisted me and I went through the further rounds. They had a very thorough selection process which included group discussion, multiple rounds of one on one interviews and panel interviews. As I did not have any prior experience so the only way, I could prepare was to be confident and truthful.

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

I am with JLT India since July 2019; I was contacted by the company HR about the opening. I went through multiple rounds of discussion starting with my reporting manager, to the CEO of the company. During the preparation, I read up about the company, the line of business they are in, understood the job description for the position I was applying for. Before the interview, I went through my own work experience and checked how my existing knowledge and skills align with the job requirements.

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 about your job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectation? 

As mentioned, my 1st job was in the Hotel industry and I being from commerce background had no clue what to expect. My first month was a roller coaster, I had moved from Mumbai to Jaipur, I was doing a job which was very different from the education I had. The first few months were full of learning at the same time physically and emotionally taxing as the number of hours and work were both much more than anyone with the non-hotel background can imagine.

I had to work extra hard to prove I was as capable as my other colleagues who had a hotel management background. Initially, it was difficult but slowly with my dedication and ability to learn I was able to earn the respect of my peers and manager.

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

I have been blessed with very good managers in my career who have been both coaches and mentors. Having good colleagues and managers is not just essential when you are settling in a new role but also essential for your overall success and growth. I spent 11 plus years in my last organisation (HDFC Life) and it was majorly because of the people I worked with.

You have a very inspirational journey. You started your career as Front Office Assistant and then moved to Guest Relations, Customer Service, Recruitment and finally, into Learning and Development. While you were going through transitions...trying to find your passion, what hurdles and challenges did you face? What kept you moving?

My first job happened more by chance, however, soon I realised that even though I had become very good at my job, this was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. The challenge, as well as opportunity with being a commerce graduate, is that it does not specialise in one discipline. So, I was not sure of what path to pursue. Finally, I decided to complete my MBA, however, that was not as easy as it may seem as it would not help my career unless it was done from a good institute. 

What kind of soft skills does a fresh graduate need to get a career break and to be successful at the beginning of their career?

Communication skills are extremely essential at every stage of your career, but they play a pivotal role especially at the beginning of one’s career. The ability to articulate your thoughts clearly and confidently can help create positive first impressions.

In the corporate world, people have been using “Coaching” and “Mentoring” interchangeably. It is creating confusion. Please help us understand the similarities and differences between Coaching and Mentoring. When do we coach an individual and when do we mentor an individual?

Mentoring and Coaching both are ways of developing an individual for achieving their potential. Mentoring is useful when the individual needs guidance and advice and Coaching is useful when the individual needs to realise and bring changes in himself. For example, Mentoring helps when a person takes on a new role and needs help in learning the knowledge and skills for that role. Coaching whereas helps the person realise what are some of the behaviours that are becoming a roadblock in him achieving his goals.

The role of an L&D Leader can be very demanding, what you do to have a good work-life balance?

Every role that you play has its own limitations; you have to accept that you may not be able to excel in every role you play. Sometimes, the home front may have to take a backseat and sometime career may have to. As woman, it’s difficult to manage all responsibilities, so creating strong support systems becomes essential and realising that it is OK to not be perfect all the time.

What are the critical traits of a successful L&D Expert?

The ability to understand business needs and map the learning interventions to meet those needs. L&D has to play the role of a business partner instead of being a support function.

We hear this statement, “Participants leave their training learning’s in the training room and return to their routine after resuming their work (particularly in cases of behavioural or soft-skill training). What is your take on this? How do you ensure that the training is effective for the employee?

When training is not related to their day to day realities then the learning is not implemented no matter how good the training content or delivery may be. Hence reiterating my earlier statement that learning has to be aligned with the business needs.

Can you pick a training session that you consider is the most successful? Please share in detail the noticeable improvements in the person’s/team knowledge or skill post-training session.

  1. Customer Centricity/Retention Program which gave the measurable business outcome
  2. Selling Skills Program
  3. PG Diploma in Insurance with Manipal

People often assume “Training = Conducting a Training Session or a Workshop”. Training is also considered as a career option for an “extrovert and outspoken people”. Please share with us various career options within the preamble of “Learning & Development”.

There are roles with specialised skills of content development and instructional design, even program management roles, training coordination or logistics to name a few that do not require training for delivery skills.

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? 

I feel AI can help automate many mundane and repetitive tasks, which means that HR professionals would have the opportunity for more meaningful and impactful roles to play in the coming future.

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

Understand the business and learn to talk the business language, the future of HR is being a strategic partner and not a mere payroll or support function.

Thank you.   

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