HR leaders can influence the future of the company based on the employment decisions they make

She began her career in Human Resource Management when it was still called “Personnel Management”. It was the time when “Diversity & Inclusion (D&I)” had not become such a huge management fad. In that era, HR had many interesting synonyms, such as, “Employee Record Keeper”, “Management Police”, “High Salaried Clerks”, etc. She is, Archana Randive, an HR Leader with over two decades of experience in managing people aspirations across industries. She is a successful change leader. She has played a critical role as a Strategic Business Partner to several leadership teams.  Thank you, Archana, for your time. I am certain that many young and aspiring HR Professionals will take inspiration from your journey. You are a perfect role model.

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. 

It was a fairy tale job option. I was still completing MSW and there was this huge PSU which came for campus placements- IPCL, a Navratna Public sector company. It was a dream job for anyone then in 1989. There was a lot of speculation, excitement, and anxiety amongst the students. The day the interviews were scheduled, we came to know that the experts from IPCL and some external interviewers are the part of the interview panel. It was my first and last interview in the campus. .The interviewers made me feel comfortable and tried to know what I knew, not what I didn’t. The fieldwork exposure which was given to us as students during our MSW course made a lot of difference. It helped me to relate the theory to application in the field. We were 3 of us from our batch who were shortlisted by them as “Trainee- Personnel” and we joined IPCL. Oh, what a feeling it was!!!  

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? 

As I mentioned earlier, my first job was a dream job. It felt on cloud nine to be a part of a PSU which had around 15000 employees. The best part was, my batch was the first batch of HR / Personnel trainees in IPCL. The employees who were working in Corporate / manufacturing plants in HR / Personnel department were not sure who the trainees were and how they would adapt to the organization. Till then, HR function was managed as Personnel and the majority of employees at the working level were promotees within the organization who had no professional exposure to HR / IR.  Yes, we had our share of difficulties initially to be accepted in the organization. Questions were raised as to why this hiring when the profile can be handled by anybody in the organization. But eventually we were friends with our colleagues, and share that bond even today.

The first year of my joining IPCL was absolute value addition, learning, exposure and absorbing. I tell people even today that the training which we were imparted during the first year is unmatched. In today’s organization structure, such training/induction is not contemplated. Rotation in each and every aspect of HR / Personnel gave a very different perspective. We were groomed for talent acquisition, PMS, training, Plant personnel functions, T&D, Corporate policies, IR, legal aspects of HR and lots more. I have to say that it all exceeded my expectations. I always like to share this example that we were also taught how to file papers and maintain documents, how to write a note to seek approvals and forward the file in the hierarchy.

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

Workplace mentors and coaches are like God to freshers. They bridge the gap between expectations and reality. All freshers join the organization with lots of hopes and expectations. They have a feeling that they have been selected after so much grilling and so they are special. Yes, it’s true that they are special. But as we all know in the organization fresh-graduates are the youngest. Seniors also have many expectations of them. Young professionals start feeling lost. At times are directionless. This is the time when their mentors are their saviours. It is an invisible hand around your shoulder which gives you the support you require. Coaches also play an important role and many times the roles are overlapping. In my experience, my Mentors, right from my college life have a very strong impact on me. I always fall back on them, even today, if I feel lost.

“The top management expects HR to be transparent, flexible, dependable, approachable, competent, and technically upgraded”.

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 any organization, HR is a support system for employees and management. When I say management, it includes the line managers and also the CEO. I have been in a leadership role now for at least 15 + years. In my opinion and experience, the top management expects HR to be transparent, flexible, dependable, approachable, competent, technically upgraded.

Role of Human Resources today requires the HR leader to wear multiple hats and demonstrate that they have the competencies that are relevant to supporting business goals and objectives, CEOs are under huge pressure in what is often a lonely role. They need someone they can trust, whom they can turn to for confidential advice or just to be a sounding board.

But for HR to fulfil all the expectations, integrity is the key.

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. 

HR profile as a representative of employees and management is like a see-saw and Tug of war. There has to be a perfect balance in your approach. You are being constantly evaluated by both the stakeholders. You are being closely observed and monitored.

I have also faced situations wherein it’s a catch 22, but your experience and capabilities come to your rescue.

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

  1. Empathy
  2. Ability to Multitask
  3. Ethical approach
  4. Discrete but transparent
  5. Business acumen

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

Human Resources as a function and Profession has evolved over the years. It has seen many gradual and drastic changes. HR industry has undergone a significant transformation and gone are the days when it was considered as only an administrative function within a business organization. A career in HR brings with it multiple opportunities for growth and career progression. However, even today, it is a common myth that HR as a function can be handled by anyone any time. This undermines the criticalities in the HR function. So I think that HR as a function or Profession still needs to be redefined.

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

Job eliminations are an unfortunate part of the HR professional’s life. These are such actions which no HR professional enjoys to take. Job elimination at any level is very hurting for the employee and is equally disturbing for HR. It creates a feeling of detachment between employee & HR. It needs to be handled properly. No organization attempts Job elimination without a solid reason. So, all acts are to be justifiable and legally viable.

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?

The talent shortage is a phenomenon which affects each and every organization at some point and time. It depends on the industry you work in. However, I strongly believe that you have to build a pool of talent. Recruit young professionals from Universities / Institutes every year. Groom them and train them in all the skills required for your industry. They grow with the organization.

Trained/experienced resources are always a concern area for any organization. So multi-skilling and on the job training are good options to manage your core requirements.

Millennials, who make up the major talent workforce, know that their skills are in high demand and go to the company which is willing to pay them what they deserve and demand. However, money isn’t the only parameter. Talent also gets attracted by companies that offer perks which matter to them, like autonomy, freedom, flexible work from home options and time to work on projects they are passionate about. The type of work has to add value to their CV.

“AI eliminates bias and enables an objective and well informed consistent hiring process”.

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? 

HR, as a business function, is in the race today, catching up with innovative technologies such as data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. With the changing market trends, there is a need to bring in the digital methods that are changing the way organizations function. Without using new technological developments, HR will not be able to adapt to these changes/challenges effectively. Though HR is all about ‘human aspects’, AI and analytics provide an opportunity to analyze competencies, traits, culture, capabilities and more.

AI eliminates bias and enables an objective and well informed consistent hiring process. It also helps the organization decide areas where they need to focus their developmental efforts.

Social media is a widely used medium for all major HR activities like hiring, development, networking, references. Any information is available easily. Hiring has become much easier with professional networks.

“HR leaders can influence the future of the company based on the employment decisions they make”.

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?

Young Professionals should take time and “GROW” in their role and profession. Hopping, jumping and skipping may be short term gains but in the process, learning suffers. We all are ambitious and we ought to be but not at the cost of consistency and credibility.    

HR professionals should develop a different perspective on the businesses of the organization they work for. Not only do they require a strong understanding of the organization’s priorities and challenges, but also the ability to influence the future of the company based on the employment decisions they make.

In my opinion key competencies for an HR professional are:

Critical and analytical thinking, Commitment, Ethical approach, and Leadership

Thank you.

*This interview was originally published on [Date: 9th April 2019]

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