HR is a business partner that ensures that the organization’s most critical resource, its “people”, is working towards achieving its goals.
From an excellent student in academics, someone who has scored first-class throughout her schooling and colleges, to an outstanding practitioner of Talent Management and Development, Purva has seen everything and done most of the things that fall under the wide spectrum of HR. Being an artist at heart, Purva, bring creativity and innovation to people management. Thank you, Purva, for agreeing to do this interview with us. We are certain that our readers will get to learn many things from your insight and experiences. Thank you.
We would be pleased to learn about your journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview.
For every individual, their first job holds a special place in their life and I am no different. I still vividly remember my first job interview with Hero Mindmine. They had opened up a new centre in Delhi/NCR and I got an interview call from their Centre Head, for the role of IELTS Trainer. He was a young person, relatively new in the business, and the best thing he did was made me feel at ease the moment I walked through his cabin door. The rest of the meeting proved to be a really interesting experience for me - someone who was an absolute fresher and scared of going for her first interview. It felt more of a two-way discussion rather than a grilling session, especially the part where he walked me through his vision and set my expectations right. The best part about the interview was that I didn’t have to do any follow-up or wait for the result, as I was offered the job right away as the discussion ended. The only question that I remember being asked was, “how early you can join”? And I believe that there can never be a better question to be asked in your first interview.
Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail?
Amongst all the interviews that I have given till now, I have to say that the most intriguing interview was the one that I gave for my current position. It started with a LinkedIn message from the CEO of the organization, followed by an interview that I never got a chance to really prepare for. Now that I look back on it, I believe it was the way that my CEO channelled the discussion that it seemed like I was already a part of the organization. His vision about the role and his expectations for the candidate to be hired was shared with me in such a way that I really aspired to get the job. What followed were some more rounds of interviews, lined up with the EVP and the Founder of the company, with the entire experience being more of an inspiring journey than the traditional interview rounds that all of us are so used to. The entire discussion went for about a month and then I finally received a call from the CEO to finalize my date of joining.
The first job is a major milestone for many people. Let’s discuss your first year at the job. How was your experience? What were your expectations for your job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectation?
My first year on the job, with Hero Mindmine as I have already mentioned, was a wonderful journey with a lot of learning’s. I was supposed to train a batch of 7 doctors and 5 Nurses for IELTS. Though I was given a formal training, followed by an exam that led to my certification, I was very nervous on my first day as an actual trainer. Here I was...a fresh graduate from college, about to train people who were far more experienced than me, both personally and professionally. However, as I moved ahead with the training, I realized that they were very humble people, who were eager to learn and follow every single instruction I gave them. Training professionals like Doctors and Nurses was a great learning and humbling experience for me as well. And the best part was that all of them cleared the IELTS exam, which was a great motivation for me.
Within the first year of my joining, I was also trained to be a recruiter as Hero Mindmine had done a collaboration with IBM Daksh (now Concentrix), where the former was supposed to take the first round of interviews for IBM Daksh and route only the shortlisted resumes to them. I received a formal training in taking interviews by the team of IBM, leading to my first experience of handling mass recruitments and laying down the foundation of my journey as an HR professional.
To sum up I would say that my first job indeed had a very positive impact on my self-confidence and helped me believe in myself and my ability to become an HR Professional.
A coach or mentor can help a new employee not only adjust in the culture of an organization but also set up the base for their professional journey ahead.
According to you, do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience?
I strongly believe that workplace mentors and coaches play a very crucial role throughout the life of a professional, but they can especially help fresh graduates get accustomed to their “new life” and bring out their passion and talent. A coach or mentor can help a new employee not only adjust in the culture of an organization but also set up the base for their professional journey ahead. Young professionals may not be accustomed to the practices and acceptable behaviors of a corporate set-up. A right mentor can make an employee feel secure in their job and supported by the organization. Assigning a mentor to a new hire sends the message that the company cares about their career and are ready to invest in them to help them succeed.
My first coach and mentor was my CEO in Geo Call Connect, who continues to be an inspiration till date. He was the epitome of perfection, who guided me at each and every step of my journey in Geo Call Connect and enabled me to do justice to my role. I am still in touch with him and reach out to him for his valuable guidance in my career.
HR is a business partner that ensures that the organization’s most critical resource, its “people”, is working towards achieving its goals.
You are an HR Practitioner for so many years. Could you please tell us why did you choose this profession? If not in HR, what another profession you would have chosen for yourself?
The reason why I choose this profession is that in the service industry, “people” are the biggest and most valuable asset for an organization and I strongly believe that as HR leaders, we have a great role to play in shaping up their journey as a professional. Right from ensuring that the basic hygiene factors are in place to leading change management efforts for the organization, HR is a business partner that ensures that the organization’s most critical resource, its “people”, are working towards achieving its goals. On the other hand, by getting and motivating “the right person, for the right job”, we also get a chance to shape their future. You have to play a role of a physiologist, providing constant support to employees, facilitating open communication and always keeping an eye out for what’s best for them.
If not in HR, I would have loved to become an artist. I always had a strong inclination towards art but unfortunately, due to some personal constraints, I was unable to get the desired resources to pursue that career. But, I haven’t still given up on that dream. If not now, probably a few years from now, you may just find me working on people, this time bringing their face to life on a piece of paper.
Expectation of Management and CEO is more in terms of how you will support the business in making decisions and managing people. They want you to be their eyes and ears, spending time in the organization judging feelings and the climate.
Having worked in a leadership role, what do you think are the expectations of a CEO or the Management Team from its HR Function in general and HR Head in particular?
HR, as a function itself, has seen a lot of changes over the years, from being a support function to an enabler and now a strategic business partner. We are in a world where HR is an advocate for both the company and its employees. The CEO/Management team expect HR to be spot-on when it comes to basic hygiene (i.e. core HR processes like hiring, engagement, etc.), wherein they don’t want to be bothered by unnecessary detail. The only time they’ll care is if there is noise in the system if they are hearing from the business that the basics aren’t being done right or doing them is getting in the way of people fulfilling their core roles.
Their expectation is more in terms of how you will support the business in making decisions and managing people. They want you to be their eyes and ears, spending time in the organization judging feelings and the climate. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, the bigger picture comes in terms of delivering results that are relevant and contribute to the bottom line. Right from devising their talent and reward strategies to managing the constant variable of change, HR is expected to wear multiple hats and demonstrate competencies that are relevant to supporting business goals and objectives.
In the same breath, can you also highlight about expectations of employees from the HR Function of an Organization?
The employees of today look up to HR as a function as their “enabler” in every step of their journey in an organization. Right from ensuring that they have a smooth onboarding experience to providing them with development opportunities through learning and development programs to handling their queries and grievances to managing their exit, they expect HR to touch every aspect of their journey in an organization. For employees, HR is their voice, their advocate, and their counsellor, who will support their growth and development at all times.
What HR needs to do is ensure that the employees are always aware of the larger picture and the management is always aware of the ground realities.
According to you, what are the key challenges of being a representative of employees as well as a representative of company management? What kind of conflicts you have faced and how did you manage to overcome them.
I believe that there is never a real clash between the objectives of employees and the management and this is where HR steps in. The conflict only occurs because of the limited vision of employees and the broad vision of the management. Any organization cannot exist without its employees and vice versa. What HR needs to do is ensure that the employees are always aware of the larger picture and the management is always aware of the ground realities. Creating the alignment between the two is what the real challenge of HR is and if you are able to find a way to do that, you will always be successful.
Please share an experience when you did something by coming under pressure from your management or reporting manager though you felt it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done?
As an individual, I believe that when different people work together, there is bound to be a difference of opinion one time or the other. The only way to resolve is to listen to the other side of the story and put yourself in their shoes. At the same time, you should never do something that doesn’t seem right to you ethically. By following these two things, I don’t think I have ever been in a situation where I was forced to do something that I felt really wrong about. There has been a difference of opinion and at all those times, I did look at the big picture and went ahead with what was in the larger interest.
Based on your experience, what are the FIVE essential traits every HR Professional must have?
HR is always caught up in a balancing act, between employees and the business. In order to do justice to this role, it is very important for you to have excellent communication skills because you are a spokesperson for the leaders to the employees and vice versa. At the same time, you need to have good listening skills and strong conflict management skills, the former being a pre-requisite for the later. At the same time, it is important for you to be able to always look at the big picture and think strategically. Last, but not the least, I believe that strong ethics is something that not just an HR professional, but every individual should have. It serves as the foundation of a strong professional as well as personal life.
With AI, Robotics, Advanced Automation, etc. is the reality of today, the talent landscape is going to change drastically and with it all the paradigms of HR – right from talent strategy to reward strategy and even work arrangements.
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?
The Fourth Digital Revolution is on its way, with “digital disruption” being the single-most truth for every organization. With AI, Robotics, Advanced Automation, etc. is the reality of today, the talent landscape is going to change drastically and with it all the paradigms of HR – right from talent strategy to reward strategy and even work arrangements. Digital is going to enter HR processes and redefine the way we work. HR also has to be ready not just imbibing this change, but also be a champion of this change. On one hand, we will have to rethink our strategy and processes and on the other, help employees get on the digital wave, up-skill themselves and change the way they think and work.
Social media is impacting key areas of HR, such as recruitment, branding, and communication. HR professionals need to be out there and use this platform for ensuring the right cultural fit between the candidate and the organization, reinforce the brand of the company and communicate with not just the current/ potential employee, but also the public at larger. Internal company networks are being built as engagement and communication platforms to keep track of the pulse of the organization and also to ensure that the employees always feel aligned with the vision, mission, and values of the organization.
Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? Why should anyone join this profession? And, what are the key competencies one must have to be successful in this profession?
The only message that I want to share is, “be ready for change”. This is the world of digital disruption and the kind of job/ talents that we have been seeing till now may stop existing in the future. Read, research and be aware, if you want to become a “business partner”. At the same time, never compromise on the basics.
Thank you very much, yet again, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.
*This interview was originally published on www.sanjeevhimachali.org. [Date: 20th August 2018]