4P's for success in HR - Patience, Perseverance, Persuasion & Passion.

A versatile, vibrant and high energy HR Practitioner with over two decades of experience across the wide spectrum of Talent Management & Development, Manpreet Kaur, holds PG Diploma in HR Management from Symbiosis Institute and various other certifications, like Thomas Profiling, Situational Leadership (SL-II). She has worked with some of the big brand names and has been the most trusted business partner to Leadership Teams. She is skilled in conceptualizing and driving strategic initiatives and re-engineering process and policies to drive operational excellence. Thank you, Manpreet, for doing this interview with us and sharing your insights and experiences.

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

The first job interview was very formal.  Generally, MNCs fancy hiring B-School candidates, but fortunately, the giant MNC Gillette Head Sales HR decided differently. He announced to offer an HR position to a fresh graduate at the Sales Branch Office. That’s how I got through with worldwide known giant FMCG Gillette, a Great Place to Work”.

  1. HR Head was looking for HRBP role and asked me if I was ready to take this challenge. To that my answer was, “I am equally comfortable in understanding the nuances of Human Dynamics as much as Business dynamics because of my Commerce background.”
  2. The next question was to test my energy levels & attitude - To that, I replied, “I am genuinely interested in bringing happiness and joy to the workplace as it's by choice am opting HR not accidentally.”
  3. Overall Experience - HR Head and Sales Branch Head were the panellists. They made me so comfortable that in the year 1998 I was the first female HR employee to join at Branch Sales office.

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

The most intriguing interview was with HEINZ when I joined after a sabbatical of close to 2 years. It was not common in India 15 years back for a woman with a young child to be in a job that demands excessive traveling that too in the hard-core Sales office.

Questions were towards my work-life balance and future family plans. My one answer put all those questions to an end, “When I wear my professional hat, then I don’t like to be discriminated against as a woman. Treat me with respect as a professional who is known for her knowledge, skills, and abilities.” And after that there was no looking back, I worked for a good 8 years and got my recognition as an HR Professional.

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 was the stepping stone. I was blessed to launch my career with a company like Gillette. It was indeed an Institute for me. With the support of all my seniors, Peers & Juniors I met my part of learning curves.  Not only I became more confident, but always got best appraisal ratings towards my KRAs. In the initial days of my joining at the time of M&A, I was involved in Restructuring and part of a core team of Change Management.  Addressed people issues and was able to contribute significantly to streamlining the business which is the rarest of rare for any Executive to get “Hands on experience”.

Hand-holding to fresh graduates is the key to their success in their long-lasting innings.

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

My First Boss who was Head of HR is my Mentor and Coach.  I consider him to be my God Father as being from a Business class family with no corporate experience, I could still manage to win and meet business expectations under his constant guidance and leadership.  His encouraging words and trust in my credentials were so strong that I outperformed on all parameters. That’s the essence of an ideal Coach. He often says to the group that “Manpreet is equal to FIVE men” and that was the biggest motivation for me to be in FMCG, a fast-paced industry, but I could manage to spend 16 years of my career out of a total of 18 years so far.

As I mentioned hand-holding to fresh graduates is the key to their success in their long-lasting innings. But this has become an ongoing challenge these days as Attrition has been too high with young people switching jobs quite often.

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?

Am meant to be with People as I keep saying it’s only People who make Products & Processes, it can’t be vice-versa.

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?

Management & CEO only expect their Team to be aligned with the Vision & Mission of the company then only they could be productive and as an HR Head, we are the custodian of culture, Value system and responsible for the career of entire team members with their Engagement levels all-time high.

In the same breath, can you also highlight about expectations of employees from the HR Function of an Organization?

Employees want Stability & Success in their career and that HR does with timely interventions through Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, and Talent Development.

The primary role of Head HR is to leverage and optimize the resources available.

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. 

Management vs. Employees, they both want the maximum out of each other.  As a Head HR, my job is to leverage and optimize the resources available.

At Gillette- We had multiple subsidiaries where Job parity and Pay package was the biggest concern and that’s been addressed to get job satisfaction.

At Heinz – To raise the productivity per person was the task. HR introduced “Pay for Performance”. 

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?

During my stint with one of the manufacturing companies, I had to take a decision to ask a Graduate Engineer Trainee (GET) to resign.  According to me, he was not at any fault and inquiry was also not able to prove any facts, but, still, on the grounds of behavior, he was terminated. It was shocking and very disturbing for me. I realized my value system doesn’t match with the value system of the company, hence, I quit.

4P’s for success in HR - Patience, Perseverance, Persuasion & Passion.

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

  1. Happy people learn and earn more so HR person should bring Happiness & Joy to the team through Work-life balance.
  2. Must be a good listener as they say “Listen to people and they will listen to you”
  3. HR Head is responsible for the entire team’s Career and has to be disciplined, determined, dedicated & devoted to the job.
  4. Last but not the least, must have traits viz. Patience, Perseverance, Persuasion & Passion. Also, must have the ability to use them, how & when like a skilled driver who changes the gears of a car as per the Roadmap.

HR stands for “Harmony in Relations” be it Industrial, Business, Professional or personal. Hence, it can never ever be replaced by Robots or AI.

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? 

Well, the answer is already out. Today, more than IQ we need EQ.  Hence, we have seen the impact of AI, Robots, Social Media, etc. contributing nothing but cluttered a lot with useless data and misinterpretation on the other hand. HR stands for “Harmony in Relations” be it Industrial, Business, Professional or personal. Hence, it can never ever be replaced. 

Still, today when we cry, Tears roll down our cheeks and when we are happy Smile brightens our face. Until this logic holds true “HUMAN TOUCH” synonyms to HR remains there. Without this, no organization could ever survive, sustain or succeed.

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?      

My message to all who aspire to be a part of this wonderful profession called HR is very simple- Be happy and make each and everyone around you Happy by all means and efforts.  There is no one formula which can be applied except regular HR interventions via co-working with the team to bridge the gaps, learning their day to day challenges, getting closer to the team and bringing the culture of togetherness, active participation, transparency.

HR has to be one of them can’t be one of it.

Thank you very much, yet again, for sharing wonderful insight. We appreciate it.

*This interview was originally published on www.sanjeevhimachali.org. [Date: 22nd August 2018]

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