A machine or a Robot can never replace the psychological aspect of HR

An HR Leader with over a decade and a half years of experience, Madhuri, reminds us of THREE basic rules of success in life – A) you are your own competition. Today, perform better than what did yesterday. B)   Learning is a lifelong process. C) Plan well. Prepare well. Madhuri started her career as a Computer Faculty and when she was offered an opportunity to move into HR Function, she grabbed it with both hands. Over the period of time, Madhuri, worked for some leading names in the IT industry before moving in with her current assignment. She has extensive experience in high-volume hiring, developing robust HR systems, developing and implementing HR interventions to ensure business sustainability, and growth. Thank you, Madhuri, for agreeing to do this interview with us. Your journey has been very inspiring and we are certain that your insight will be very helpful in motivating budding HR Professionals. Thanks, again.

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

This is a wonderful memory to recollect. I started my career as a “Computer Faculty“with one of the best schools in Hyderabad, way back in 1998, post my graduation. I was keen to get a job to start off and landed up at “St. Andrews“to face an Interview through some common acquaintance. Frankly, I was a bit startled when I saw my interviewer in the principal’s office, sitting behind her huge desk on a Wheelchair who could only move her head and hands a little. She couldn’t move but had moved careers of hundreds of people perhaps. I would like to take her name with a deep respect, “Mrs. Joseph“. The Interview was focused more on my knowledge of computer science and I sailed through it comfortably, thus, became a computer faculty for the higher- grade students.

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

I vividly recollect my interview for being part of the Management Trainee group with one of the Organizations I was already associated with. We had to go through several rounds of interviews, starting with a Written Assessment, followed by a personal interview, an Assessment Centre, and a Panel round of interview. The best part of all the rounds of interviews was that we were clueless about the interviewers whether they were from within the Organization or an external intervention of Assessment Centre. It was only the written assessment that I could prepare for and for the rest of them, I just had to be myself. My performance was hugely depended on my understanding of the questions or the scenario or the role play and answer accordingly.  There was no right or wrong answer, our attitude towards each question was the parameter.

Being loyal to your work and organization will evolve you as a better leader.

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 MNC exposure was with GE Capital Services, one of the leading organizations. I completely second that the first job is a major milestone. I was hired for a voice process and I failed in the pre-training assessment, citing my voice did not suite collections and I was put on the bench. Then came a new process and I got into a pilot batch of it and then there was no looking back. I was the top performer throughout and got promoted to the next level into an important role of WFM for the project within the span of a year. Every experience was new and I kept learning. This is how I moved into my first stint of Human Resources with mid-level management hiring.

I would like to add that there is no place without politics or gossips or people who envy you. It all depends on the choice you make; either you want to address them and waste your valuable time or just ignore and be more productive.

I strongly believe that being loyal to your work and organization will evolve you as a better leader. I was fortunate to have good bosses throughout my career who allowed me my space to work that brought the best out of me.

If you want to learn, you will always find a teacher or a mentor.

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? 

YES, Workplace mentors and coaches play a very important role in our careers; there is a saying, “If you want to learn, you will always find a teacher or a mentor“. In every job and role you play, there is always something you get to learn. In the initial stages of my career, we had mentors assigned to us to help us understand the work and the industry. They guided and suggested us on ways to do our job well, how to deal with scenarios, the importance of being responsible towards our job, how to take ownership, and how to communicate rightly. And soon enough I could get into the shoes of a Mentor. I did come across a lot of challenges at the workplace but learned to be patient and transparent in my approach which always helps in finding solutions.

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?

I was inspired by the person who took my first interview and I wanted to be on the other side of the table, to trust and help right people build their careers and help the organization work efficiently. When Organisations grow people grow; perhaps that’s what made me choose HR as a profession.

 Human Resource is the one department that every employee in the organization looks up to when they face any issue.  Someone whom they trust will guide them right and stand for them. It’s a huge responsibility to live up to.

 If not Human Resources I really can’t think of any other profession which would have given me the kind of learning or bought the best of me.

Expectations of a CEO from HR: “Create an organization which people would like to be associated with”

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?

Every CEO or the HR Head would want their leadership to be the face of the Organization. Being into a leadership role makes us more responsible not only to lead the organization matrix and vision but also create new milestones and Targets along with the strategy to achieve it.

Identify the best talent, groom and mentor them to take up new challenges and roles. Create a transparent and healthy work atmosphere. In short, create an organization which people would like to be associated with.

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

For employees,

  1. HR is a one shop stop of Solutions.
  2. An unbiased set of people, who must demonstrate Integrity and transparency at their best and at any given situation.
  3. Should be Trained and knowledgeable on different policies and procedure within and outside the organization, someone who can guide people in the right direction.
  4. A function that plays a bridge between employees and Management.
  5. A function that takes the ownership to build and implement policies across the organization to make it a better place to work.

 HR is a very vast function. What aspects of HR do you like the most and which one do you find challenging?

As I worked with all the different functionalities of HR, I think one of the most challenging is Recruitment or Hiring, where we play the face of the organization to outsiders such as candidates, Vendors, Colleges etc. The more there is external intervention the more is the scope of compromising on integrity.

Thus, it’s very important to build a strong team into this Function, who are responsible and understand the importance of their role, who can take the ownership of every person they recruit to be an asset to the organization and not a liability, who set a right example of the organization to the external world. 

An unbiased thinking always helps in finding a Win-Win situation.

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. 

It’s a very challenging role to play. There are several scenarios where we need to push the management as well as situations where we need to stand by the Management. In both the scenarios it is important to have your facts and data in place. It is vital for an HR to do the homework before getting into any kind of discussion with either party.

An unbiased thinking always helps in finding a Win-Win situation. Any request put to the management for the benefit of employees, or any decision of the management being drilled down to employees should always be backed by data and facts. Being a numbers person and an eye for detail helps in handling the situation in a more composed manner

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? 

Luckily, there are not too many scenarios.

Though I am a ‘No alcoholic’ person out and out, sometimes I give in during the official parties when a junior group of employees is a part of it as this practice has been followed for long.

I had to withdraw serious action against an employee as important feedbacks were ignored due to that employee’s personal connects with the higher management. 

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

Integrity, Ownership, eye for Details, Non-Bias, Data and Facts Driven approach, Critical thinking, right communication skills, be a good Leader rather than a Manager.

According to you, what are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback with candidates?

This should never be a challenge for a right HR person; you need to understand that giving someone a feedback is helping them. Every HR need to expertise in giving constructive Feedback. We need to understand that we are not here to please people, but we are here to guide and Mentor them.

A machine or a Robot can never replace the psychological aspect of HR

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? 

Artificial intelligence can only replace the informative part of HR, which I partially agree too, where automation can make our lives more peaceful and we can have a practical approach.

However, a machine or a Robot can never replace the psychological aspect of HR. They cannot tune themselves to situations, and they cannot build a trust, cannot counsel or provide a human aspect and approach to things. A machine will always have its limitations, unlike a human.

Human Resources somewhere have lost its importance in many of the organization; people only get to see their HR on the day of joining and exit. They have started playing a role of an admin more than an HR.

It is Important for us to redefine Human Resources and how we can help in building a healthy organization. HR needs to understand we are not to pay a tick in the function box, but add value to the organization.

In the current scenario, where organizations are focused on the Production, Growth, and Revenue, it’s important for the Companies to understand that strengthening the function of Human Resources is a good investment and is required to understand the ground reality of the organization and help resolve issues at the grass root level. 

HR plays an important role in building up the organization...not necessarily from a revenue perspective but definitely people’s perspective.

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?     

Human Resources is for sure an interesting profession and following makes it interesting and challenging

  1. It’s a thankless job
  2. People do not understand your role or job, so most of the time they feel you have no work to do or a role to play
  3. You are assumed to be a communication medium for Management

To prove all the above incorrect is indeed an exciting profession to take up. HR is the function that is approached by employees when all the other departments have no solutions to offer. We play an important role in building up the organization; may not be from a revenue perspective but definitely people’s perspective.

To be a successful HR you need to be a person with…

  • Strong Integrity, An ethical approach
  • Constant Learner
  • Composed and focused
  • Critical thinking Or Out-of-Box thinking
  • Completely nonbiased, irrespective of any situation or people involved
  • Self-motivated
  • Must take the ownership
  • Lead by example – a Coach & a Mentor
  • Right communication Skills
  • Numbers and Facts driven approach 
  • No scope for perceptions
  • Decision-making ability
  • Ability to speak facts and truth at any giving circumstance or scenarios

Thank you very much.

*This interview was originally published on www.sanjeevhimachali.org. [Date: 19th November 2018]

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