SUCCESS of hire is not in the joining but the VALUE they bring to the table

Prasaanth Subbiah is a Seasoned People Practitioner with a focus on People and Leadership, Proficient in a wide variety of professional disciplines with hands-on in designing and implementing programs to achieve People and Business objectives of the Organization.

He is currently associated with Ivy Mobility as Senior Manager, Human Resources and Heads the People Function. Previously, he was associated with FIS Payment Solutions and Services India Pvt Ltd as Senior Manager, Human Resources; Zylog Systems Ltd as Lead – HR; and Uni-Solutions (Bangalore) Pvt Ltd as Associate Consultant.

Prasaanth is a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), Human Resources Management/Personnel Administration, General and Master of Computer Applications (MCA), Computer Programming, Specific Applications.

Prasanth’s Certifications include:

  • Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance Through Timely Feedback
  • Human Resources: Strategic Workforce Planning
  • 360-Degree Feedback

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

Let’s start!!!

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

My interview with the Ivy Mobility was a very different experience, the first few discussions with my current colleagues helped me get a perspective of the PEOPLE challenges in the Organization. The discussion with Yogesh Patgaonkar who was an advisor to Ivy, it was ninety minutes of grilling as I call it. The depth of the discussion gave me an idea of the areas I had to focus and when I thought this opportunity was lost, Yogesh gave me candid feedback on the discussion and wanted to proceed with the candidature. My followup discussion was with Rajiv Prabhakar who is the Founder of Ivy, the discussion was anything but conventional. Rajiv was transparent about the challenges at Ivy, what I would face and the primary requirement was to unlearn and adjust myself to a mid-size organization. There was one final discussion with the CEO before an offer was made. The opportunity was interesting since the Organization’s principles on People aligned with that of mine and here I am.

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

My inclination is towards having a coach rather than a mentor. Mentors could possibly work for junior professionals who are trying to settle down in the job, understand the company, team dynamics, etc. Coaching, on the other hand, has proven to be more effective from personal experience; I had the opportunity to be coached by one of the leading coaches in India and it has been a rewarding experience. Coaching helps to find out our own solutions which we are more likely to try with conviction and it stays with us forever unlike any solicited advice/guidance from a mentor. I would recommend all Managers be trained on how to coach which would make the team more effective and focus on the common objective while helping them on personal development.

Often the Fresh HR Graduates tell that they would like to work in the core-HR and show less interest in the recruitment domain. What do you think could be the reason to disfavour recruitments? Why did you choose recruitment as a career?

As HR practitioners, we need to have a very good understanding of all the stages of Talent life-cycle starting with recruitment. Recruitment is often seen as a very transactional or menial job by fresh graduates and are often more interested in other HR activities. I wouldn’t differentiate recruitment from core-HR as recruitment is beginning of core-HR. It starts from the point of giving the right candidate experience, maintaining a positive relationship to set the stage for the right employee experience. It was not exactly my choice to start with recruitment but that opened the doors for me, I would vouch that recruitment should be the starting point for any HR Practitioner. The primary reason why Fresh graduates might disfavour is how recruitment is treated in large corporates when compared to small and mid-sized companies. We meet candidates from larger Organizations with about six or seven year’s experience, the fundamental problem is the boundaries within which they operate and lack of business visibility. Recruitment is not a number game, I believe that a recruiter is successful not when a position is closed rather a candidate is identified who could deliver value for the Organization. My career started with recruitment and then to all facets of HR, but recruitment is still dear to me and I keep doing it time to time in my current role as well.

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?

An employee will be considered as engaged if we can tick most of the items below:

  • Good Onboarding Experience
  • Manager and Leadership are compassionate to People issues
  • Presented with Challenging Tasks
  • The timely reward for Good Performance
  • Recognized for Value Creation
  • Clear Career Path
  • Provided with Learning Opportunities
  • Flexibility to Move between Roles
  • Allowed to work with Integrity 

None of the above is a one-day activity or a one-time activity, all these will have to happen consistently throughout the lifecycle of an associate and that I believe is Employee Engagement.

As the saying goes,” You have 8.8 seconds to impress with your CV”. You might have come across tens of thousands of resumes in your career. What, in your view, does a recruiter evaluate in a resume in those 8.8 seconds and decides to accept or reject it? Please elaborate.

In my experience, we have found some really good talents who did not have a great CV at the first look by design or content. It might be very difficult for someone to write an appealing CV but would be very talented in their area of specialization. It doesn’t really hurt to spend a few minutes looking into the details if your search criteria are good enough to dish out the right results. By the time I joined FIS, I wasn’t spending as little as 8.8 secs but at the same time wouldn’t go line by line too. Tushar Desai who now heads India hiring for all FIS businesses was also my manager, he goes through every single line of the profile before getting into a discussion. Few times when he discussed some of the details which I did not pay attention to was a learning, now I would ensure to read through the last line before getting into the discussion with a prospect. Recruiters must be willing to spend more than few seconds if they are to be successful in identifying good talents.

What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback to candidates?

Feedback, in general, is difficult and that is the primary reason Managers are oriented on how to effectively give feedback to team members. If giving feedback to known team members is difficult, we can only imagine how difficult it would be to give feedback to a stranger or to someone we had met only a few times. We generally do not deep dive into the technical reasons for rejection and end up in a positive note. There are few situations wherein candidates would request for detailed feedback and we request the interview panel to get on a fifteen-minute call to share their feedback, such situations come up when candidates would like to know the gaps and work on them. We happily oblige such requests.

Please share an experience when you acted under pressure from your management or reporting manager even though you knew it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done? 

I had been in one such situation which defined the relationship with a business leader in that Organization. There was pressure from the leader to hire an individual who was rejected by the technical team and I refused to give my approval for the hiring, this was in just one month into the Organization. Contrary to the question, I refused to act in favour and requested my Manager to override my decision to hire the individual. My coach said this to me and that is my mantra now, the worst that could happen by not acting in favour of wrongdoing is losing the job. There are hundreds of jobs in the market and there is no need to do something that is wrong for the sake of saving the job. Having said that there had been such situations in the early stages of my career which I wouldn’t want to discuss.

What do you think 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?

Whenever there is a discussion on “Hiring” Ivy’s Founder Rajiv Prabhakar always tells us that India is a country of abundant talent and I subscribe to that thought, there is no shortage of talent in this country but there is certainly market dynamics which probably gives a perception there is a Talent shortage. As a CEO it is important to understand those market dynamics while taking any business decision which involves People. Some of the tips from own experience is -

  • Plan ahead for any hiring.
  • Spend enough time to identify the right talent.
  • Do not compromise on quality due to timeline issues, we will end up spending more time fixing the damages caused by the individual.
  • The success of hire is not in the joining but the value they bring to the table after a few months.
  • Be flexible on location, should be ready for remote working as well. Now that companies have tasted success in Remote working, we should be willing to look beyond traditional markets to more Tier II/III markets for good talents.

If you need to draw a landscape of the future workplace, how will it look like? What disruptions do you foresee in HR over the next FIVE years?

There is a lot of buzz about AI replacing HR in Organizations and there are some Organizations like Declathon adopting a totally disruptive approach to HR. We need to remember that there is always a human element as long as people are involved in executing jobs. As a fraternity, we should look at embracing technology and see how it can be better used to service People. HR as a function should be more towards addressing the business challenges through people, one has to understand their business to be effective as an HR practitioner. Like many fear, if you are one to do an administrative or transactional job; it is more likely that his/her role will be replaced by technology in the near future.

Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?

There is an ocean of difference between what is being taught at college and what happens in the real world.  I would suggest taking a few internships during their course to get a flavour of what exactly happens in Organizations. Out of college, they must be willing to pick up any function of HR and each function will give a different perspective. An all-round understanding of the function is required if they are to grow as an HR leader in the future. Having said that, recruitment is a very good place to start which unfortunately does not find much favour with fresh graduates.

Thank you, Prasaanth, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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