HR Leaders need to provide a significant competitive advantage to their organization

In the professional journey of the last 18+ years as a Talent Acquisition Professional, Vivek has worked in diverse business environments. During this period, he has been part of various business challenges and worked with many interesting & inspiring people. In his current role, Vivek is associated with Samsung R&D Delhi as a Sr. Professional - Head Talent Acquisition.

Before taking a long Samsung tenure (12 Years so far), he had frequent changes in a noticeably short period, which taught him about the world, what to look for in work, and the people one works with. "He is passionate about Photography, Hindustani Classical Music & Exploring Places. He continues to be a Nature Enthusiast, Nature & Wildlife Photographer, and a seasonal Bike Rider. Most often he loves enjoying quality time with his spouse, Son (11) & other family members. Thank you, Vivek, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

Here are a couple of snippets of wisdom he gained during that period -
"Be clear on what drives you and don’t compromise your values"
"Don’t be afraid to say No"
"Maintain your interests outside of work, Follow your passion"
"It’s ok if you don’t want a traditional ‘career”
"Traditional Career path and Leaders with confined approach/thoughts will not work in the New Age”

"He is passionate about Photography, Hindustani Classical Music & Exploring Places. He continues to be a Nature Enthusiast, Nature & Wildlife Photographer, and a seasonal Bike Rider. Most often he loves enjoying quality time with his spouse, Son (11) & other family members.

Thank you, Vivek, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.
Let’s Start!!!
COVID-19 has changed workplace dynamics in many ways. What has been your learnings during this phase? What changes do you see happening at the workplace and in HR’s role post-COVID-19?

Certainly, this phase is a big challenge for the whole world, but there is always a bright side to every situation. This is the time when all of us need to deeply think about the purpose of life and coexistence. These days I have observed that almost everyone is talking about Humanity, Nature, Lifestyle, Health, and many more human aspects.

Leaders need to be more sensitive and aligned.

I strongly feel that a humble-connect with individuals is particularly important. I believe that as an HR I need to set some examples myself to encourage positive change in the organization and foster a healthy work culture. HR is no exception.

Being a vital function within Organizations, HR need to transform their approach to wellness considering the dynamic process of change and growth.
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?

Various situations may necessitate layoffs like nationwide recession, Natural Disaster, Decline in a particular business, etc. Definitely, a layoff is not a healthy sign for an organization or any business. It affects individuals to a large extent and disturbs the entire culture.

I have observed that layoff situations are temporary in most of the cases

No company likes to lay off its employees, and a permanent layoff sends the public the message that the company is in deep financial trouble and may not be able to recover from the setback.

Hence, organizations must have a backup plan to handle such situations. Otherwise why organizations hire aggressively post-layoff periods, what is the point. It may have many implications for the brand.

It takes a lot of effort to hire potential people through very stringent processes, it cost a lot.

Organizations need to work constantly on skill development to achieve business objectives.

Leaders need to have a strong business vision and need to keep a close eye on Workforce count to avoid excess hiring. According to my experience, only a strong business acumen in leaders can help an organization to reduce layoff and stay relevant. In the last decade, I haven’t seen a Layoff situation in my current or previous Organizations.

Since current time is unprecedented and almost every business is getting affected, hence this would be the time to observe how an organization can build a strong culture to make itself future-ready.

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?

I personally don’t give much emphasis on career gaps, ideally shouldn’t be. We can always assess an individual’s potential and mettle to shoulder Job responsibility. Having a gap in employment is quite common these days and people may have various personal or genuine reasons.

Continuity in Career shouldn’t be a criterion for shortlisting.

“Career break or Sabbatical”, where an individual takes a break from the work-life and tries to focus more on personal life, there is nothing wrong with it.

When we speak of the role of HR changing, can you share with us based on your experience, what are the primary expectations of a CEO from the HR Function, in general, and HR Head, in particular?

In recent years, HR has undergone dynamic shifts in its roles, functions, and overall impact in shaping organizations. Operating in a traditional way is no longer an option. Dynamic HR leaders are utilizing the resources and more inclined to redefine obsolete approaches and implement technologies such as AI etc.

HR Leaders must assist businesses in laying the strong foundation for strategic growth across decisions relating to various HR functions.

They also need to constantly develop themselves, inspire others, and use their knowledge to keep their organizations in the game.

HR Leaders need a deep understanding to engage people, foster a culture drives the most productive workplaces.

There are a lot of employee engagement solutions available and coming up, Leaders will have to make intelligent choices and need a holistic approach to employee wellbeing.

What are some of the ways in which HR is driving business growth and success? Please share some insights and examples from your journey of how really HR can make a direct impact on the business?
In today’s dynamic world, no business can sustain without a powerful vision and the right set of people.

A vision needs to be something that people can see in a way that makes them want to move towards it.

The crucial role of HR today is to give employees an excellent company narrative to drive ethics, innovation, and inclusive leadership culture at the workplace to ensure that each employee lives this culture every single day.

This is how HR plays a vital role to drive a business. Since I was actively involved in hiring the right talent and creating a potential talent pool for the business. It is their expertise, knowledge, and capabilities that can either take the organization to new heights or obstruct the growth of the company. Understanding and relationship with GenZ (generation succeeding the millennials) are particularly important. It’s essential that the workplace is prepared to ensure that their relationship and engagement with GenZ Talent is meaningful.

Please share your experience of becoming a Team Leader (or a Manager) for the very first time. What challenges you came across and how you overcame those challenges?

As you know most of the Managers don’t receive any training when they take a new Leadership role. It was just a sudden movement for me holding a new title otherwise the rest of my responsibilities were like what I was doing earlier. As a person there was no change in my behavior after taking the managerial role, I continued to be as good and cordial as I was earlier, because I am not the one driven by titles.

Creating genuine connections with the people around you is most important.

That’s why I never feel disconnected or alienated from my Team or other colleagues. This helped me to develop trust with my colleagues.

I have faced a lot of challenges during the growth period of the organizations I have worked with so far. In the last decade, I have worked with different leadership teams of corporates and experienced a lot of changes, and witness aggressive business dynamics.

Integrity, Empathy, Hard work, Self-motivation, Persistence & being real are certain traits that helped me to overcome the challenges in this journey so far.
In the course of our life, at one point or another, we all make mistakes and fail. How do you handle your failures?

I Failure is merely a temporary situation for me, I don’t give up on failures. Many people around you are quick to judge you when you fail to deliver something. That’s the irony of life.

We need to understand that failure is an important part of the development process.

I always believe in taking an attempt to irrespective of Success or Failure. Yes, there are a couple of instances where I was unable to meet expectations. In such situations I believe in deep analysis, considering different views from others, and taking another approach until I succeed. So, there is no such situation or example where I was permanently failing.

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

Sharing feedback, especially negative, could be a challenge, especially if there is some disconnect, or you do it unprofessionally. While giving negative feedback, you need to be direct, ask questions, listen before you speak.

Focus on the deliverable rather than the person and offer concrete ways in which they can improve.

Remember you need to be open to negative feedback, too.

Feedback that is negative but specific can also be effective. The feedback that is vague (positive or negative) is meaningless.

The best feedback is that is given in-the-moment

This ensures team members have an opportunity to act on what they learn. It also ensures that the organization is meeting its team member's natural desire to learn and grow.

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

What makes me content is not just my academic or professional achievements. Somehow, I managed to respect my own space “able to continue my passion” without affecting my work.

I am into Wildlife Photography for almost 12 Years by now “Published my click in Better Photography Coffee Table Book, Editor Choice at NatGeoYourShot, ViewBug, 35Awards”.

I practice Tabla ”Instrument” and I do Bike Riding and traveled to Leh from Noida multiple times. I feel so great connecting people and motivating others to continue their passion. The outcome can be amazing when you bring people together and give them space and time to be creative. I strongly feel that it is the Leader's responsibility to shape that future with care and intention and ensure our work is contributing to the Good Life for all. We need to stop being eccentric.It is heartening when people accept me for who I am and motivate me to lead a positive and blessed life.

The landscape of HR is changing with COVID, GIG, HR Tech, AI. What disruptions do you foresee in HR over the next 5 years?

HR needs to embrace the new HR environment with this massive transformation taking place in the workforce landscape. Workforce and HR are completely connected. New Technology and Tools required to add to your HR Toolbox i.e. AI, Workforce Analytics, etc. This is more than just automating processes. HR Leaders need to proactively embrace the enormous power of New Age Tools and provide a significant competitive advantage to the organization.

I think fast-changing dynamics will impact every business differently in the next couple of years.

To build a culture of effective employee engagement, leaders themselves need to be enthusiastic, charismatic, and accessible.

Not only do we need tools to improve productivity and reduce cognitive overload, but we also need to stay mindful, and learn how to live better. I think the concept “Energy at Work” may best encompass the new world of "engagement, productivity, and wellbeing".

People and Society is changing with the advancement of technology; therefore, we can’t afford to stay behind.

Lastly, what is your message for young aspiring HR professionals & Graduates?

It is particularly important to keep your spirits up so that you can take-up and overcome any challenge at the Work & Personal front and enjoy whatever you do. There are endless ways to make a difference and having a valuable impact on people around you. There are several key things you should remember, and Human Element is above all. What I have experienced in my HR journey so far is like “no two paths will ever be the same”. Hence discovering your ignorance is the best way to learn and forge ahead.

Remember integrity and ethics are merely not obligations, should be Life principles.

Self-respect is another important quality required and shows how mindful you are and how you move in the world.

Never forget your passion; it will always help you to think broader and will give a new perspective in any phase of your Life. Take care of yourself, only a happier and healthier person can contribute quality.

Make sure you inspire people with your presence, actions, and personality!!

Thank you very much, Vivek, for sharing the wonderful insight. We appreciate it.
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