HR must take ownership

Nilofur Khandwawala is a Senior Human Resources Business Partner, who has shaped high performing cultures with progressive resources, prolific communications and robust development programs. She is currently heading the HR function & practice for ESSEL group (ZEE Group) for 100 odd companies where she has bagged several reputable awards which includes Award for Excellence for result based training by Asia Pacific HR Congress.2018, Award for development and welfare of women and children by Asia Pacific HR Congress 2018, etc. Nilofur holds two decades of experience in all aspects of HR including Organizational Transformation, Conflict Management, Training, Performance Appraisal, and Policy Formation Talent Acquisition & Employee Relations with Payroll Generation &Compliance. She has worked with MNC and Indian conglomerates like the ESSEL Group, Mahindra, Roamware, TCG, and IBM and so on.

Nilofur is a double Post-graduate and a Certified Harvard Mentor Professional along with International Certification for Compensation & Benchmarking.

Thank you, Nilofur, for giving your valuable time to this interview. 

 We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview. 

My first job interview was with CMC ATC for Asst. Manager Level, this was a place where I had done a course to develop my computer skills. Being the first training centre for CMC, they were particular that they set the precedence correct by hiring the right person. They checked me on influential skills and ability to handle difficult situations. My experience was quite stressful with 5 rounds of interview for an entry-level position. But overall a good learning experience.

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

After my first job, I was hired by Bristlecone, a Mahindra group company, through my friend’s reference. The experiences here were much different; they hired me not based on my past performance alone but tested me on my capability to manage the ever-changing environment and my leadership competencies. I had to convince them that I was flexible and adaptable to manage situation through alternative thinking. They were happy to know that I was an intuitive learner which convinced them that I could grow within the company and the group.

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 job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectation? 

My first year at CMC was one of my best experiences. We achieved all our targets and were rewarded as the best centre in the country. The entire team worked together as a family to achieve success of the centre. It was more like a start-up where everyone was doing multiple roles with a single objective of making the centre a success. It was an immensely learning experience, and I was rewarded with 100% hike for my performance & of course my colleagues are my best friends till date.

Be optimistic and concentrate on your strengths during difficult times

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

Yes, of course. I share all my success with seniors and colleagues at work. Even when we come across some strict bosses, there is always something to learn from them. We need to be optimistic and concentrate on our strengths during difficult times.

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?

Most of my colleagues and seniors have told me that I am very persuasive and convincing and go getter, hence if it was not HR, it would have been Sales or Marketing.

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?

The expectation of all the leadership from their HR is that they build a bridge between the Management and employees. They should have ownership towards the organisation and work closely with the business & HOD as a true business partner.

Speak with data points rather than perceptions

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. 

The challenge is mainly of favouritism of a good performer. The best way to deal with a situation is to speak with data points rather than perceptions.

Based on your experience, what are the FIVE essential traits every HR Professional must have?

  1. Effective Communicator,
  2. Good listener,
  3. Influential,
  4. Collaborative, and
  5. Empathetic

What do you like the least about the world of Human Resources?

It is a thankless job.

As a HR Leader with over a decade of work experience, what is your view on job eliminations?

Job elimination is an unavoidable fact which cannot be ignored in this ever-changing       environment. However, the nuisances of this can be avoided by continuous skill development and job rotations.

After a certain hierarchical level focus must be on building talent rather than buying it

What are your thoughts 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?

I think the best way to overcome this situation is by building Talent rather than buying Talent.

As per your experience, what are the key hurdles on the way of making a succession plan successful?  

There are 2 major challenges, one is that the employees fear failure on change and second is that the Managers are reluctant to part away from performing employees.

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? 

AI & Robotics would make HR better contributors as HRBP. In the current situation, HR is ending up doing more of support & administrative jobs/ reporting to business and sectorial jobs rather than giving impactful insights of the human development and true human partnership to business by owning the talent pool. Even our HR folks would have to change the way we think they would need to be proactive in approach to the fast changing business environment

Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? And, what is the key competencies one must possess to be successful in this profession? 

I would just say that HR is an Attitude more than a Qualification. If you take full ownership of your function, you will have no reason to look back.

Key competencies:

  1. Strategic Human Resources Planning
  2. High Performing Talent Acquisition & Talent Management
  3. Change Management & Reengineering
  4. Field & Corporate office Collaboration
  5. National Employment Law
  6. Employee Relations, Diversity & Inclusion
  7. Global Mindset with very good Business acumen.
  8. Effective and clear written and verbal communication.
  9. Ability to lead & work in teams.
  10. Innovation and Creativity.
  11. Sound Interpersonal skills.

Thank you very much for sharing a wonderful insight. We appreciate it.

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