Collaboration leads to trust

Mona Poonja is a Talent Acquisition professional with 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting, Diversity & Inclusion and Coaching.

She is a leader, trusted advisor, and constructive coach with broad and diverse human resources experience. She has proven success in attracting, developing, and retaining top talent, advancing leaders. She is a metrics-driven executive with expertise in building, enhancing, and maximizing TA systems, processes.

She is passionate about Talent Acquisition, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, and Coaching with the ability to devise and execute innovative solutions to attract, retain, and develop top talent, high-potential staff, and future leaders.

In her current role, Mona is working as a Manager Talent Acquisition for APAC | Middle East | EMEA regions, where she is accountable for the entire recruitment lifecycle including manager launch sessions, posting positions to job boards, sourcing, pre-screening, scheduling interviews, and selecting candidates for a variety of open professional positions.  She has successfully supported recruitment marketing initiatives to improve employment branding through social channels, lead generation, and referrals campaigns

She is a key member of the Engagement and Inclusion Council leading diversity recruitment initiatives and driving partnership with ERG’s. 

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

Why did you choose HR as a profession? What makes you a successful and inspirational HR leader?

HR is the most influential profession in itself. It’s the backbone of any organization. “A lot of people usually think that they know what they want but then realize it doesn't go with their life goals,” says Janice Chaka, author, and HR consultant. As a mentor and a leader, I get to help people find what works for them and that is where I choose to be Talent Acquisition as a profession, where I can be an advisor, mentor, career counsellor and can make difference or add value in someone’s life.

What are your thoughts about layoffs? What is the role of HR in layoffs? According to you, what is the appropriate way of managing layoffs?

Layoffs can be depressing to the employees who will be let go, and they instil fear in the employees who remain at the company. Despite the fact that layoffs are so negative, they're usually just business decisions that have to be made in order to survive and thrive as an organization. When the worst happens and layoffs are unavoidable, employees who respond appropriately will find ways to learn and grow during the tough times.

It could also have a Silver Lining as employees being laid off are often given a number of opportunities for personal growth and development.

Be very mindful while managing layoffs have a well-thought-out plan. We need to ensure resilience. Treat employees with respect and offer as much support as you can. (example: Connect them with Outplacement)

I do not have much to share about my experience in managing layoffs, however, through my brief experience, I understood that during the layoff, most important thing is to conduct townhall or meetings jointly with the leadership team thereby ensuring that trust is built and that the employees do not succumb to a negative mindset.

What is your take on “Career Gaps”? We come across many people who are forced to hide certain aspects of their employment history because organizations do not shortlist their profiles because of career gaps. How do you address such cases? 

Career gap is the new norm. I do not understand why it’s been labelled as negative or stigmatized. When we think of Career gap, “MOTHERHOOD” is something that first strikes our minds, however, that’s not the only reason, let’s not be biased here, career gap could be for personal development, leisure travel, rediscover your own self, health reasons, (family or self), starting a family, etc.

We should stop and avoid Bias Hiring, where recruiters, hiring managers, and leadership need to be educated. Let’s not reject profiles on Career breaks, probing understanding the candidate’s aspiration, passion, attitude could make a huge difference than an experienced and a consistent career resume.

Giving negative feedback about job performance to an employee is exceedingly difficult. What methods of giving negative feedback have you used which seem successful?

This is what I learned over the past couple of years, Constructive Feedback and not negative feedback. Every individual is different as one technique that works great with some of your employees may be completely wrong for other employees. Generally, you should always keep in mind your employees’ expert level. I would rather go for smaller teams as “I would like to offer you regular feedback that will help you learn and grow. Can you teach me how to give you feedback that will motivate you?”

What do you think about Talent Shortage? What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEO’s and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

  • Be proactive in hiring
  • Maintain a viable Employee Referral Program
  • Make your Brand and Culture more visible
  • Focus on Diverse Hiring, fostering greater diversity in the workplace will help the company keep pace with changes affecting your market. Recruiting from a mix of talent pools is also a good method for managing salary inflation. In many cases, candidates looking for the chance to step up are more likely to prioritize a fresh challenge over a large pay rise.
  • Look for Talent in-house. Most employees will appreciate development opportunities.
  • Look for Interim professionals.

How would you describe your leadership style? What values are most important to you as a leader?

I think my strengths as a leader are collaborating, coaching and communication. So, my leadership style takes advantage of those strengths.

A Collaborative approach to leadership is important because it naturally creates transparency and if you’re connected to your team and genuinely interested in collaborating with them, they will know what you’re thinking and vice versa. Collaboration leads to trust, and your team will be more likely to support your goals and vision.

Share about a time you have had to deal with people who have different mindsets, backgrounds, and attitudes. How did you handle it and what lesson did you learn?

Every workgroup is a smorgasbord of different personalities. Of course, every person has individual goals, needs, and approaches. Besides individual attitudes, there are other general differences that need to be considered, such as background, culture, education, and gender. Some combinations of these interact better together than others.

Giving more detailed actionable constructive feedback and having 1:1 with them to find out what the actual problem is will help you know the best way to coach them and understand each other’s working style and reach a common goal.

What I have learnt here is it’s just your approach and everything works wonders.

What’s something you’ve achieved that you’re most proud of and why?

In last 14 years, I have achieved the most influential network in my life. Connected with ‘n’ of people, from different industries, different functions at various levels, gave me opportunities to learn more. I could turn my candidates into Brand Ambassadors. I could coach as Career Counsellor and have helped them to choose better career. Most satisfying achievement is when you make a difference and add value in someone’s life.

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

HR plays a pivotal role because people are truly the only thing that differentiates one business from another. And to be successful HR Professional you have to be:

  • Resourceful
  • A good communicator
  • A multitasker?
  • Approachable
  • Analytical
  • Strategic ?

Thank you so much, Mona, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.  

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