Job eliminations are mostly construed as terminations due to favouritism and bias

Whether we talk about Recruitments, Employee Engagement, Employee Communication, Managing Career Aspirations of Employees, etc. a major portion of the role of HR Leaders is to work with the HUMAN element of “HUMAN Capital”. Hence, a person with primary education in “Human Psychology” is likely to have higher chances of being an impactful HR Leader. Additionally, CREATIVITY has been listed as one of the most critical competencies for the success of HR Leaders. Maneesha Pradhan, our guest of today, is Masters in Psychology and a Diploma holder in Film and TV Direction. She has over two decades of experience in multiple industries across the wide spectrum of HR Function. In her professional journey, she has worked on crafting effective Talent Acquisition Strategies, Employee Retention Strategies, Implementing Change, and Designing a robust Performance Management System, to list a few. Thank you, Maneesha, for agreeing to take us through your professional journey and giving us an insight into your learning’s. We appreciate your time.

Let’s start.  

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

No matter how old one gets and how much of memory loss one may have, but an interview like the one I had can never be forgotten. I feel extremely blessed to have faced my very first interview with such an exhaustive nature. The shortlisting to undergo this selection process was done at our campus and was based on merit. It cannot be called an interview; it was an extensive selection process. We had a written test which comprised of – An Aptitude test, Logical reasoning test, and written ability test. This was followed by 3 rounds of Group Discussion and 2 rounds of personal interview.

One can seldom be completely prepared for such a process; however your knowledge on the subject matter brings in some confidence.

The entire experience was a wonderful learning and has been carved in my memory. It gave a feeling of achievement when the offer letter came in my hands and that’s the reason probably why it was designed so.

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?

Like I mentioned earlier, my first job and the first year was a whole new world and a whole new experience.  When you start your career with a brand and one of the biggest name in Automobile manufacturing Industry, it doesn’t remain just experience, it becomes another whole year of Academics with the best of Professors & Analyst and Strategist giving you hands-on training. 

My first organization, which I take great pride in sharing the name, was Telco (Tata Motors), a name that needs no introduction.  I started my carer amongst a sea of Professionals, Engineers, Finance experts, Software Engineers, and skilled workmen. Being in HR, balancing interaction with each of these cadres of employees itself was a huge learning.

During our college days, we are taught the syllabus and we appear for exams and we earn marks, in an organization the syllabus is defined but you have to learn on your own, you will have exams every day with many out of the syllabus questions and you will not get marks, perceptions will get formed, by your colleagues, depending on how you answer.

But I must mention, that the designation ‘Trainee” has a lot of advantages.  Being a Trainee, I could ask as many questions as I wanted, I was told by my boss that in the first year you have the liberty to ask irrelevant questions,  falter on deadlines and so on, but not after one year completion.  

I was a part of a wonderful team, knowledgeable inspiring seniors and motivating colleagues.  Since I joined the recruitment team, in a few months from this side of the table I had moved to the other side of the table. I was an interviewee a few months back and then I became an interviewer and I learned that the task on this side of the table is much more difficult than on that side of the table. That was my first lesson learned, it was never limited to ‘Human Resource’ it had changed to “Human Relations’.

I had not fathomed the depth of this entire function, but I had surely learned that every moment is going to be more challenging than the previous one because we were dealing with people. 

My expectations were simple, constant learning & growth and I am glad that today I can say my expectations very truly met. What honestly didn’t coincide with my expectations was that there is a difference between professional rivalry and personal jealous and many a time the later takes control and turns a healthy competition into a cold war and hinders the path of growth.

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

Certainly, workplace mentors and coaches are highly responsible for shaping your foundation and way ahead in your professional life.  Right coaching and right mentoring during the initial stages of one’s career facilitate the enhancement of the right competencies and soft skills required to exhibit leadership qualities at the later stage.

I did not get an opportunity to have a coach or mentor in my first job, but I choose my own mentor by observing the work styles of my seniors, reporting Manager and Divisional Heads. I learned to learn what was acceptable and recognized and rewarded and I learned to not learn the unacceptable and the unfavourable attributes and work styles.

Working in a very organized manufacturing set-up is a challenge from day one because you just can’t go wrong, the systems are so set and so strong that they do not allow you to go wrong and that’s what makes your processes so strong.

The stronger the policies, processes, and systems the easier it is to cope with any workplace,

CEOs want their HR Leaders to understand where the company wants to go and what talent resources are required to get there quickly.

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? 

In today’s time, what is considered of paramount importance and is expected of HR is generating business value? HR Managers are expected to relook at their people management practices and device innovative processes to align with Business.  HR needs to create an environment which facilitates and encourages people to become more innovative in their approach to business.  It’s the need of the hour for HR to re-instill cultural values, loyalty and infuses qualities like team spirits, ethics, and bonding at the workplace. In other words, there has to be a paradigm shift, given the current & evolving scenario in the business context, in HR’s approach from crisis-driven to forecast driven. HR function & leaders are expected to align with Business leaders to come on the same platform and unite their goals, objectives, and plans, to deliver as per the organization target.

The expectations are that the HR Head should have the ability to counsel the CEO in strategic planning and resource allocation in modern business. CEOs want an HR Leader who understands where the company wants to go and what talent resources are required to get there quickly.  CEOs expect HR leaders to market the company in a way that attracts the best talent in the industry. 

CEOs expect the HR professionals to sit in their offices not to discharge routine/ monotonous functions but come out with exemplary ideas to make the enterprise more productive and innovative. They do not want a trendy fad or catchy training session. The CEO also wants to know who the upcoming stars are and how they are being developed and retained. They want innovative recognition practices from HR.

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.  

Employees and Management are two sides of the same coin and it is a tight-rope walk for HR who acts as the mediator to bring both to a consensus.  Whichever language the HR representative may speak, the other still feels that HR is not putting things in the right perspective.

HR should train managers on effective conflict – resolution, so that every conflict is not brought to HR. The initial resolution should be done at the Divisional Head level so that employee understands the organization perspective.

Organization restructuring and salary reduction is two areas that are extremely critical to any organization. The management is always at cross-roads while making decisions in these areas. 

HR introduces strategies and tools to ensure that just and reasonable decisions are made, but the impacted employee will always feel otherwise. HR is expected to drive and execute the entire exercise and deliver results on the scheduled deadline. Management seldom realizes that we deal with human beings. Any deviations, if suggested, HR needs to orient the management about the various procedures, strategies that will lead the management and organization to its goal.

From my experience, I have learned –The best way to overcome conflict is to support the right and ethical. Follow the policy and rest everything will fall in place.

HR leaders should have insight into the operations of each department, thus, avoids bad hiring decisions.

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

  1. Practices with Integrity - Great HR leaders have to set for themselves high standards of integrity. They understand the strength of honesty and dignity at the workplace. They follow a high code of ethics in everything they do and build an environment of fairness for win-win collaboration across the organization.
  2. Functional Knowledge and expertise - Not every leader can become a good HR leader. HR leaders should be domain experts.  Effective HR leaders always know the best practices as well as the latest news in the industry.
  3. Have great insight about their Business-  A good HR leader must understand clearly about the company from its vision-mission, corporate culture to the products, services, customers, suppliers and how it generates revenue. Moreover, HR leaders, in particular, should have insight into the operations of each department, in turn, avoiding bad hiring decisions and increase in overheads.
  4. Possess excellent people skills – I always believe that HR is all about people and relationships. An HR leader must be a great communicator, listener, mediator, and negotiator and should exhibit all these qualities. Great people skills mirror through daily practices, for example, an effective speech can boost employee morale, listening to employee feedback can help you keep the best talent, showing empathy to employees in personal crisis can create a bonding with the organization. 
  5. Be Tech-savvy - Nowadays, HR operations are changing day by day along with the continuing development of technology. The HRIS of any organization is the backbone of the business – manpower projections, establishing trends,  ROI’s, analysis and budgets are all finalized and monitored through a strong Information system with an equally strong HR team with technical know-how.

Social media and concepts as an online seminar, conference calls, online job portal, social recruiting, mobile recruiting, internal communication network, remote working, and employee engagement tools are shaping today workplace. Effective HR leaders have to keep up with the ever-changing technology world and utilize these tools to make HR practices easier and easier.

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

Though the HR profile is one of the best amongst the available job profiles in the corporate world, according to me, there are a number of occasions when HR feels frustrated and may hate the things in their job profile.

While regular employees might feel like the Human Resources Teams are on the side of the management, they actually don’t realize that HR doesn’t have much control over the behavior and subsequent decisions of the leadership teams and the Management.

It is difficult for an HR professional to walk hand in hand with the management. They may not see the things as per the Indian labour law and do things which may go against them. Being a HR Practitioner, you understand the need to adhere to all the rules, policies, and laws defined. For example, you just can’t fire anyone without going through a proper termination process. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to handle the managers or team leaders or even the top management to get them to the level of mutual understanding.

When a situation like this arises, then the HR professional is termed as ‘not aligned to Business’ which is the most unfortunate thing to happen with a highly ethical HR professional.

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

If we go as per the definition of "Job Elimination", it means that it is the Company's determination that an Employee's position has been or will be eliminated due to the Company’s staffing adjustment or other organizational changes, cost reduction considerations, office closings or relocations etc., in which the Employee will not be replaced by another person in the same position.

Even though at-will employers may terminate employees for any reason—or for no reason at all—terminations are easier to defend when they are justified by a legitimate business reason. Legitimate business reasons could include problems with the employee's contribution, misconduct, organizational restructuring resulting in the elimination of the employee’s position, or financial considerations of the employer.

In today’s time, Job eliminations are mostly construed as terminations due to favouritism and bias. In the majority of the cases, the employers fail to make eliminations legal and ethical, thus giving a perception of unfair practice of the management.

UPSKILLING is critical to ensure organizations have the skills they need to accelerate performance and ensure business continuity.

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?

As skills need a constant upgrade, employers are looking inside their organizations for solutions, with more than half choosing to develop and train their own people. This represents a significant change in the approach of talent acquisition by prioritizing training and development to fill existing roles or find new skills.  

UPSKILLING our workforce is critical to ensure organizations have the skills they need to accelerate performance and everyone has access to the opportunities on offer.

Organizations should look at Training & Development as an investment than just a formality to complete man days.

Organic growth by hiring Freshers from premier institutes and creating leaders for tomorrow should be the focus of training and development. At the same time retaining the good talent by means of Rewards & Recognition is another way to bridge the gap of talent shortage.

And, the 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?     

HR is a thankless profession and at some point or the other every professional in this field is bound to feel frustrated, hence we need to have an above average Emotional Intelligence to handle trying situations.

To be counted as a successful HR professional, you need to understand and know your business thoroughly, your competitors, emerging trends and so on as they will impact business and in turn will demand a change in hiring and other HR strategies.

You need to be constantly updated on the latest software and social media to enhance the function for better servicing.

Ethics and Integrity should be at the top in any situation and any circumstance.

Thank you.  

*This interview was originally published on [Date: 16th April 2019]

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