Talent wars are here to stay

He is an MBA (HR) from the University of Queensland. He is Partha Patnaik, Global Head, HR, in a multinational, IT Solutions organization. In a recently concluded event by the HRD Congress (15th to 17th February 2019), Partha and his HR team were bestowed with several awards of excellence under various categories. 

His journey from a Plastic Manufacturing organization to being the Global HR Head in an IT solutions Organization is an inspiration for many young aspiring HR professionals. Thank you, Partha, for sharing your journey with us and giving us an insight about traits and competencies one must possess in becoming a successful HR Professional. Thank you, Thank you, Partha, for giving your valuable time to this interview.

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

I had a relatively easy start to my career. Having worked hard to earn a distinction in Commerce and Accounts, which was my primary area of study during graduation, I had my name referred to a big plastic manufacturing company by one of my family friends. They were looking for a fresh college graduate for their Finance & Accounts division. On the D-day, I arrived an hour before the scheduled interview and saw at least five other nervous looking candidates. We ended up exchanging interview tips with each other, as all of us were from the same batch though from different Colleges/University.

When it was my turn, I went in feeling nervous though I had been preparing a lot for this interview. As there were hardly any finishing/grooming schools around, I had no idea about how to prepare for interviews. Hence, it was a completely new experience for me. Though the questions felt tough at that point in time, I answered them to the best of my ability, however, the questions where I struggled a bit in articulating were mostly behavioural than the ones that were related to my subject, including:

  1. Why did you choose this stream and what motivates you to be on top of your subject?
  2. Who is your inspiration and what are the 3-4 habits you want to adopt from them?
  3. What are your professional goals and where do you see yourself growing as a professional over the next 3 years?

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

The first year of my tenure was a big foundational step in evolving me into the professional I am today. My primary responsibilities in the first six months were to learn about the organization’s business and operations, its value and culture to apply it to my core area of Accounts Payable. Gradually I was pushed into some operational areas like labour relations – where we used to pay wages to our casual and part-time staff through labour contractors and process management through ISO 9000 quality standards. It opened up my mind and made me realize how vast each business functions was and how different people influenced the sub-culture and efficiency of each department. I realized that the key differentiator for departments and overall organizational performance was how the people were engaged and managed. Unfortunately, I had very limited knowledge of how to manage people, except what I learned from my supervisors. Though I excelled in my function, I struggled quite a bit with people management. It was a major trigger for me to pursue a full-time MBA with a specific focus on people management.

“As long as you are disciplined, open-minded and focused on your tasks, you can achieve a lot in life”.

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

Workplace coaches and mentors are extremely important for proper assimilation of a trainee into the workplace. I was fortunate to get a senior functional expert as my coach and mentor. His subject matter expertise was well-balanced with his extremely affable nature and complete lack of ego. He made me adopt the belief that all new work challenges either gives you the opportunity of applying what you have learned or propels you to acquire new skills to overcome them. As long as you are disciplined, open-minded and focused on your tasks, you can achieve a lot in life.

“An effective recruiter is valued the most in any organization, as talent acquisition is the key to any organization’s current and future success.”

4. Often the Fresh HR Graduates tell me that they would like to work in the core-HR and show less interest in the recruitment domain. What do you think could be the reason to disfavour recruitments?

Recruitment is one of the few functions in HR which can be clearly measured quantitatively. Just like sales you get instant recognition for the numbers you achieve or fail to achieve – there is hardly any qualitative measure. This requires a completely different personality than the back-ended (core) functions of HR. One needs to be: - 1) prepared for the unknown, 2) have excellent communication and negotiation skills, 3) selling skills of the company, role and position, and 4) accept success and rejection the same way. People who are not ready to face such challenges or lack the required personality prefer to work in other areas. However, an effective recruiter is valued the most in any organization, as talent acquisition is the key to any organization’s current and future success.

5. Do you find any change in the recruitment process since you first started? What is the latest recruitment trend you have adopted?

The major difference I have seen in my tenure as an HR professional pertaining to recruitments is, today apart from skill assessment, many organizations have started doing psychometric assessments and behavioural interviews. Previously, Hiring Managers and Sr. Management was sceptical about such assessments, but with better evolution of tools and techniques which are now well established (if not well understood), this has now been accepted as a standard practice especially for hiring people for leadership positions or critical roles. I myself have witnessed the increase in hiring effectiveness by implementing these processes, as one is able to bring in the best talent and not just best qualification.  

“Sell a career to a job aspirant and not just the remuneration”

6. 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?

When the talent pool is limited, most companies end up vying for the same available talent in the marketplace. This is inevitable, and the “talent wars” are here to stay! Hence just trying to attract talent with higher compensation and perks, might sometimes work but is not a predictor of long-term success. Hence, there are other things a hiring manager or Sr. Management should do to attract and retain talent:

  1. Sell a career to a job aspirant and not just the remuneration. This way you are not only positively branding your company and job offer, but you are also showing the candidate a long-term future.
  2. Anticipate manpower requirements, through quarterly business forecasts, and make fulfilment plans to fill gaps through internal movement or external hiring. This gives enough time to the recruitment team to concentrate their hiring efforts in the right direction.
  3. Cross train internal talent and give them a career path so that they see the value of acquiring new skills and getting promoted in the process. It also minimizes the need for lateral hires which can be expensive and disruptive for internal job parity.
  4. Create a high-performance organization culture based on elements like a meritocracy, innovation, teamwork, etc. that rewards the right person for the right reason so that people trust the process and systems and talent leakage (attrition) is minimized. 
  5. Have a strong campus hiring strategy where the organization can have a tie-up with colleges that provide them the best possible and relatively cheap workforce for the future. Having an innovation/incubation center or having some courses aligned to their business and industry can make the process of making these people work-ready within a relatively short time. 

7. 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 signs are positive that AI will help in improving the HR processes in a much more efficient way. This would increase how HR is directly impacting the productivity and revenue of an organization.

Many areas of HR are already benefiting from AI and machine learning, particularly administrative or transactional tasks such as data processing and payroll. Employee self-service has increased, as AI (Chat bots) is helping with handling more simple and routine HR queries. It would also help the recruitment function in reducing the time and cost incurred in doing regular work and free up more time for the recruiter to screen a qualified prospect. Personalized employee experiences and the data insights which AI provides, will provide more scope in predicting the employee engagement levels.

Whether it’s to screen new talent or using data analytics to offer more insightful workplace initiatives, AI is providing scope to HR professionals to move away from manual, repetitive tasks towards work that truly adds value to the organization and build a happy workplace.

Acquire knowledge of all HR functional areas and constantly keep learning about the new trends

8. Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?

Organizations today realize that the only sources of competitive advantage for them are the talented individuals they have. However, to make them effective, they need to be engaged and aligned with the company’s business objectives. HR becomes the bridge between the business and individuals by blending business and individual needs to create a win-win situation for all. Hence to be an effective HR professional one needs to:

  1. Acquire knowledge of all HR functional areas and constantly keep learning about the new trends.
  2. Be well aware of the business and industry in which they operate. They should be aware of how industry dynamics affect the recruitment and retention of people.
  3. Develop the right skill, ability, and attitude to come across as a confident and reliable person that the regular workforce can trust.
  4. Have high levels of integrity, as they handle very sensitive data like workforce salaries and other sensitive data.
  5. Develop or join a strong network of HR professionals which they can tap into for immediate advice on specific HR issues and topics.

Thank you very much.

*This interview was originally published on www.sanjeevhimachali.org. [Date: 26th February 2019]

Previous Post
Next PostMentoring is an effective tool for shaping organizational culture and closing generational gaps
Leave a Comment