The culture of an organization plays a very crucial role to attract and retain talent.

A performance-driven, versatile professional with nearly two decades of experience in the field of Human Resources, Anjana Parmar Singhal is currently associated with India’s largest and leading news agency, The Press Trust of India as an HR Head. She leads HR programs and builds the HR department to fully support the organization's operations. With PTI she is working for the last three years and building HR processes and systems, bringing efficiencies, and implementing change in phases.

She had started her career with the leading telecom company- Bharti Airtel. Winning top performer for 3 years consecutively gave her the motivation to work harder. She won accolades like the Diamond Award by the Network Service Group President for driving the Organisation Transformation of Technology Team. She even received Gold Award by Director HR, Airtel for successful and timely completion of Outsourcing of Tele Media Network Team. She was even awarded for exceptional contribution in Design and planning of insourcing from NSN and Ericsson. Space would be less to fill in the achievements. She has delivered favourable results throughout her career across industries- Telecom, Retail, Healthcare, and Media. 

She has gained experience across the various facets of HR and her key competencies are in the domain of Talent Management, Team Building & Leadership, Transformation Management, Organization Effectiveness, Change Management, Talent Development & HR Business Partnering, Talent Acquisition, HR Systems Processes and Policies, Budgeting & Costing. She has also successfully managed direct & cross-functional teams in corporate & business roles. 

Anjana is an MBA (Specialised in Human Resources) from the National Institute of Management, Bachelors of Arts in Economics Hons. from Punjab University in 1997. 

Thank you, Anjana, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

Let’s start!!!

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

First, thank you for asking me to share my HR Tale. Let's go back in time nearly two decades ago, I was a mother of a four-year-old daughter - a fresher into the working environment being just a graduate and having completed my diploma and actively looking for a job. I came into the knowledge of an opening in Marketing with Bharti Airtel from an acquaintance. He shared my resume with a professional in the marketing field; I met him, and he asked me if I would like to join HR.

It took me an entire day to prepare myself for this. I went in all excited and full of the pre-interview jitters. Sitting right across the table was my interviewer asking me my first question- “Tell me about yourself in one minute.” Beginning to speak in a soft tone I answered it and all the following questions of how the role is exciting to me and how I think I can add value to the role, with no hesitation, and with confidence. Then came in the HR Head with a smiling face and an extremely welcoming tone. She explained to me the job role and guided me on the front on how to take things ahead as they offered me to be an intern there. Being an intern for 6 months, they then gave me my appointment letter, which literally just makes me remember my entire internship period and how it shaped and made me learn a lot of things. I am forever grateful for it.

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

The most intriguing experience was way back in 2013. They interviewed me for the role of the North Region HR Head and Transformation Lead. As the role was both National and Regional, I had an entire day of interviews to give. Three rounds for the regional role and three rounds for the national role. As exhausted as I was after the entire day, I was even happier at the end to get through all of them. However, while having spent the entire day giving interviews, I learned about the importance of stakeholder management in the company before even joining them.

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 from your first job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

Surely, it is a special memory. Having a thousand thoughts running through this impatient mind, I was always eager to learn and grow each day passing by. Working the entire first year with all the hard work turned into a fruitful year for me when I was promoted to the next phase at my job. Yes, I was on cloud nine and ready to start the next phase with learning to not expect. Let life surprise you in its own way. One just has to work hard and be consistent in approach.

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

Mentoring is a trusted relationship and a commitment between the two individuals. It surely plays a vital role in not only settling a fresh graduate but also any individual at any stage of life. Fortunately for me, my first mentor in the corporate environment helped in understanding the organisation culture to achieve the goals. From hearing out my mind to channelizing those thoughts. He nurtured my strengths. All this was possible because he believed in me. After all these years, we still share the same relationship and bond.

Organizational Culture is a key differentiator between successful and not so successful organizations? What determines the organizational culture? What is the role of HR in creating organizational culture?

Well, you must have found friends asking you this question about how the organizational culture is. The culture of an organization plays a very crucial role to attract and retain talent. Management / Leadership plays a crucial role in inculcating people practices and policies which help develop an organization culture. I believe HR plays a big role in facilitating the culture of an organization.

There are few people practices which help organizations become great places to work, basic like conducting open houses, two-way communications, fair and unbiased performance management process, reverse mentoring, succession planning, training employees for the next roles are a few of them. I once watched a talk by Prof. Sumanta Ghoshal on Culture- that “the smell of the place matters”. I would suggest everyone listen to the same. 

What are your thoughts about Talent Shortage? What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEOs and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

While many organizations have a structured talent management approach, yet there is a vast gap between open positions and unemployment. The concern is two-fold. Firstly, the gap between the demand and supply in the market. With an increasing technology-driven and innovative world, I believe (as experienced) there is a gap between the education system and the demand from the organizations. The education system has to be real-time. There is an investment of time required to train freshers and make ready for work, which is a huge cost for employers. As a result, organizations lookout for experienced professionals rather than freshers. Secondly, there is a huge shift in the preferences of Gen Z w.r.t Gen X. Better pay along with flexible work schedules and skill development is what they want. Many organizations are not ready to change their lookout on people's practices and hence the shortage. Now with the changing scenarios, hopefully many organizations would start a new way of working.

When we talk to fresh graduates and junior level employees as well as non-HRs, they understand Employee Engagement as – Birthday Celebrations, Picnics, Diwali Rangoli, Christmas Celebrations, Cultural Day Celebrations, etc. Please help us understand what employee engagement is and why it is necessary?  

Employee Engagement is an emotional commitment that an employee has with the goals of the organization. It's a blend of both work and fun. Birthday Celebrations, Picnics, Diwali Rangoli, Christmas Celebrations, Cultural Day Celebrations, etc are fun at work activities which undoubtedly helps to build teams and encourage teamwork and also keep the motivation levels and happiness quotient high while at work. All these activities are a part of team building and motivation acts which aren’t enough.

Employee engagement begins when a candidate gets interviewed and after that every touchpoint from the recruitment process, continuing through onboarding, career planning, learning and development, leadership and succession, and retirement or exit from the organization. The quality of the journey for an employee within an organization makes an employee engaged or disengaged.

The millennials now engage the best when they find value in the systems. They respect, value, and look forward to the freedom of work, appreciation, and growth with the least restrictions and monitoring. They are produced with the best quality of the workplace and creative environment. Everything needs and requires balance is what I believe and swear by.

According to you, what are FIVE things managers should STOP doing and what are FIVE things managers should START doing to be more impactful in managing teams?

To make teams successful and shift from individual contributor to team contributor, one should focus on a few things that I believe would help and make impactful teams. Managers should start doing the following to be more impactful:

  • have the listening ear
  • communicate clearer expectations
  • let the team share their inputs and involve them in decision making
  • appreciate and motivate the team
  • trust your partner and team
  • coach the team

And, managers should stop doing the following:

  • shifting priorities and expectations
  • being biased and underutilisation of your team
  • majoring in minor things or micromanaging
  • having mood swings and unpredictable behaviour
  • not being available

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?   

AI will make the future HR processes more exciting to work with alike any other industry segment. Again, it will be at its best with the amalgamation of both technology and human touch. Imagine someone talks to a chat box during their appraisals. Weird! Thus, there would and should be a significant blend of both ends.

I believe social media has its own pros and cons in the HR universe. It surely is twofold. One side is to increase the bandwidth of networking and another is a responsibility to do what is right. Again, it redefines employee engagement and communication of the organization. The need is to set yourself apart from others through a valuable and meaningful presence.

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

Millennials have to have the passion to connect with people. One has to be open to learning and growing with time. With the world evolving at such a fast pace, one needs to be open to opportunities and have the ability to adapt fast.

They should explore different platforms of learning and e-learning. Acquiring new skills and building relationships while attending events and know about the current happening around.

And lastly, I believe an essential competency one must possess is to be able to evolve knowledge and thoughts with time and be able to take risks for fast and better learning and growth.

Thank you, Anjana, for sharing wonderful insight. 

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