Effective managers know how to provide frequent positive and constructive feedback

SRIKANTH SIMHADRI is a Senior Strategy architect in motivating & mentoring future professionals in the field of Learning & Development Function; holds expertise in designing and delivering technical, behavioural and leadership trainings; has a proven track record of significant improvements in training efficiency, processes, productivity and quality while reducing costs, lowering turnover & maintaining a positive work environment.

Srikanth is currently associated with Freyr Solutions, Hyderabad as Global Head, Learning and Development. Srikanth has over 16 years of rich experience in defining learning & Organizational development strategies & framework; mapping new trainings roadmaps to keep employees on courses across various industries such as Healthcare, Telecom, Banking, Manufacturing, and Insurance. Srikanth previously worked with Prolifics Corp Ltd, Hyderabad, EPAM Systems, Hyderabad; ValueLabs, Hyderabad; HCL Technologies Ltd., Hyderabad; Wipro Technologies, Hyderabad, SISTAM Engineering College, Srikakulam; and Srimatha Cyber Services, Hyderabad.

Srikanth’s achievements hitherto include:

“Excellence in Training” award from WHRD in 2018, “Best Leadership program” award from WHRD in 2019, Establishing a Centre of Excellence process team while working with HCL Technologies, Introducing a Management Program called Executive Diploma in Management for Project Managers in collaboration with Symbiosis in Wipro Technologies, and formed a placement office in SISTAM Engg. College.

Thank you, Srikanth, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We are looking 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. 

I vividly remember the summer of 2007.  During my Summer vacation, I visited my sister and her family in Bangalore. I accidently noticed that most of my friends were working in the IT Sector. These were the years where there was a complete boom in the sector and there was high demand for IT professionals. I also observed that there were multiple ways to get into an IT company. My friends encouraged me to try my luck, but I was quite reluctant. With some pursuance, I found an Internet café and spruced up my resume and shared in the Naukri portal with my experience as an Assistant Professor.

To my surprise, I received a call from Wipro Technologies in September 2007 and took forward my candidature. It was my first corporate interview. I travelled to Hyderabad from Srikakulam and my interview was with the Global Head of learning and Development.

Before I entered the interview hall, the only point I had in mind was, I have a job in hand, just be confident about whatever you answer.  Even if you don’t know anything, be open and accept that you are not aware of and show that you are willing to learn.

The interview went on for almost an hour involving range of questions about my previous experience and the passion and ability in handling multiple tasks.

After a month, I received a call that I was through and how soon I could join.

There was no looking back after that.  Opportunity opened up in HCL, later moved to head the L&D of Value labs, EPAM and currently creating and impacting the employees of Prolifics through various Learning and Development initiatives.

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

My every interview was different and had different experience. However, I would like to highlight my interview with HCL technologies, I remember very well that I was in a session and I received a call asking if I would be interested in this opening. I asked what the role would be and how different was it from my current role. I realised that it was going to give me Global exposure as I was only focusing on INDIA so far. While the technical discussion was going on, I realised that I didn’t know Linux. That’s a huge gap for me, and I thought I lost the opportunity. However, looking at my other experiences the Manager gave me an option saying that “would you be able to learn before you on-board?” I said of course I would surely work on it before I join, then I joined a institute and learned Linux for the next three months before I joined HCL. And that learning was of great use for me after Onboarding. This is a clear example that there may not be people in the market who are 100% fit, all that one should have is passion and culture to fit the Organization.

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 employer and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

I completed my MTech and was thinking what to do next and my BTech. college management asked me if I could join there as Asst Prof.? initially I was not sure but then took the opportunity and joined. I had lot of expectations and looked up for my first role of my life. I realised that many students in my college were still living in dark not knowing anything about what’s happening outside the colleges, jobs, etc. I took my first step and spoke to the management and established a placement cell, got our final year students trained in Soft skills. Placed more than 100 students into corporates in 2 to 3 years span. It’s very important that one should have that confidence talking to superiors, they may come across hurdles, but the expectations will be set, and you will have the freedom to work.

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 in everybody’s life while we start a career it’s very important for us to have a mentor. We should learn from the experience and expertise. I have learnt a lot from my first manager, her passion and commitment towards work taught me discipline. We learnt how to handle stakeholders, setup goals and reach the expectations. This is the place where I learnt to see beyond my role, each one of you should understand WHY is this My Goal and what is the effectiveness of this to the Organisation and you. The day we look at these two options we are in the direction of growing.

Please tell us more about your job interview with Wipro. How did you prepare for the interview?

One of my uncles used to work for Wipro technologies while I was studying, I always had a dream to work for that company. However, I did not choose to move into IT industry and started my career as Asst Professor. One day I received a call from Wipro Technologies for Job Opening and I travelled to HYDERABAD for the interview. While I went for the interview, I had strong desire to get this Job, throughout my journey to Hyderabad I was planning what to answer and how to face the interview. Just before entering into the interview hall, I remined myself how important this job was for me and if I became nervous, I would fail. So, I started looking at the interview from a different angel. Rather than looking as I need this Job, I started looking why did they choose my profile for this role from lakhs of profiles available on Naukri. That gave me confidence and I felt special. This is particularly important to an individual to talk high about you and your success stories. The interviewer will look at what you have done differently rather than what different things you did. And I am happy that I cleared the interview and successfully started my journey with Wipro Technologies.

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?

The most important soft skills to be possessed by any fresh graduate is an optimistic attitude and a willingness to learn. The rest could be listed as business communication skills which comprise of corporate etiquette, E-mail business Communication, strong work ethics, self-awareness of their Goals, basic knowledge as a team-player, strong personal motivation skills, power of expression.

For being successful in landing their first career break, resume writing, interview handling skills, power of positive thinking creativity and innovation could be a few essential soft skills.

Confidence in terms of corporate dressing and self-projection through right communication can create great first impression.   

What are the critical traits of a successful L&D Expert? What kind of education do they need?

L&D is one of the crucial functions in HR, it plays a significant role in an employee career progression and employee engagement. To be successful in Learning and Development, one should understand the Business dynamics, they should regularly and actively work with the business stakeholders to understand the direction of business and align the learning engagement of the employees in that direction. One needs to invest in learning emerging trends of employee engagement with a training need perspective. As the current generation is progressive expectations also change hence innovative methods of training delivery should be ascertained. L&D personnel has to be more adaptive in creating and providing challenging and interactive engagement to the employees. Employees should get into a pull mode to training rather than Push mode. They need to look at value addition to them personally and professionally, that’s when they would be interested in joining the trainings. Similarly, it’s important that trainings should be effective to the business that’s when the stakeholder see value in L&D. Critical traits would be excellent communication skills, ability to adapt, an optimistic approach and empathy. Educational background could be any Post graduation with L&D certification should help them to be part of L&D. A Train the Trainer certification on Adult learning techniques helps and provides hands-on experience. This will give them knowledge on Analysing the requirement, Designing the training, Developing the required content, Implementing the right training delivery method for different requirements, and evaluating the effectiveness. In the light of emerging technology, such as AI, Design thinking, it is always important for an L&D professional to be updating and creating their own niche to stay relevant and successful in the market.

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?

It’s quite a common mistake that the trainers can avoid if they do their homework before the training. The reason participants are disconnected with the workshops is we dump them with knowledge/concepts/activities without bridging their need for such trainings. Adult learning principles have to begin with creating the need for the training and work with the participants to understand “what’s in it for me” and finally showing the relevance of workplace applicability.

Also creating a sense of accountability and responsibility to learn and apply with participants before the workshops and reinforcing the same post that can be the deal-breaker.

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? 

Yes. I am sure we all go through these testing moments which make us stronger. Unfortunately, when I was in my peak turning point of my career, I had a reporting Manager who apparently had no experience in HR.  Unaware of this, and always keen on learning, I set expectations from him and agreed to align myself and my team of 10 under him. Eventually, his inexperience in handling the function was evident and created major damage to the whole function. As a leader, it was important for me to act as a shield for my direct reporting team.  Though I was directly impacted, I did not want my team to go through the same trauma. Hence, I had to do the balancing act of absorbing the negativity from the top but ensuring that my team did not get impacted due to his immature behaviour along with his ignorance about the L&D function. The lesson learnt from this incident is that sometimes as a leader it is imperative to take a stand with your seniors/management for the right cause because you cannot let your reporting team down as they are looking up to you as a role model. Here, Emotional intelligence is a skill which every leader must possess and execute. 

What, according to you, is the role of HR is career planning? Does HR really have a role to play in mapping the career expectations of employees?

Yes, definitely! HR plays a significant role in an employees’ lifecycle and their career planning not just when they are in the said organization but also have the power to create a lasting impact. HR can be proactive in guiding the employees to make the right career choice based on their skill set and their passion. Often, employees choose his/her career based on the opportunities available and the monetary benefits associated rather according to their passion. This can adversely affect their job satisfaction and we end up observing the employee being disengaged. Mostly ending up in attrition. In these cases, with keen observation, the HR can intervene at the right time and guide the employees to have regular connects with their managers to ensure that their skill-set and the passion is optimized in the role given so that they maximize their output and are engaged productively. Now, HR is not mere a support system.  Amazing initiatives with the help of AI and other HR Tools, HR ensures that the employee career is carefully planned and charted by providing the right learning interventions which helps enhancing their competency and skills as and when required.

What are your thoughts about Psychometric Assessment? What is the role of assessment tools in L&D Strategy?

Psychometric assessments could be said as one of those evaluation types where we can measure the personality, cognitive and emotional abilities.

It has been playing a major part in IT sector.

These assessments can be used at the very beginning of recruiting a candidate as it gives a clear comparison between personality and the role defined.

L&D is a part of HR, thus all the variables discussed as attrition, emotional quotient, employee satisfaction, appraisal cycle, employee stress, absenteeism, bases of power all could be studied and evaluated in a reliable and valid process.

In development perspective – reinforcement, behavioural management, effectiveness of training, need of training and need to understand to develop an individual with carious competencies.

In today’s time, we could use Myers Briggs test, Occupational interest inventories, DISC behaviour, emotional intelligence, etc.

And, the last questions, according to you, what are the key skills and competencies of successful and effective MANAGERS?

Key Skills and competencies of successful and effective managers

Managers are made, not born; Organizations need to develop them. Below are the key competencies of successful and effective managers:

  1. Visionary: Takes a long-term view and build a vision with others and convert it to action, acts as a catalyst for change.
  2. Communication: A manager needs to establish a trusting relationship with team, so they feel comfortable sharing information with, and vice versa. To ensure that lines of communication remain open, managers need to make themselves available and accessible to their employees to discuss any issues or concerns that arise.
  3. Task Management: As a manager you will be unable to achieve anything by your own. The delegation should be effective to utilise the right resources for right tasks. Effective delegation will help the managers to avoid wastage of time and productivity and will help to expedite the end results.
  4. Ethics and integrity: To create respect, trust, and even admiration among other team members, managers must be a person who works from a foundation of strong moral principles and values.
  5. Team Building: Every person in team plays the vital role in delivering the results. Praise the good work which will give an employee the job satisfaction.
  6. Feedback: To help employees to develop to their full potential, effective managers know how to provide frequent positive and constructive feedback in a way that motivates employees.

Thank you very much, Srikanth, for your time.

Previous PostThere is a scarcity of incredibly talented HR leaders in India
Next PostBeing myself with authenticity
Leave a Comment