Learn to negotiate and provide solution for every situation
Embarking his professional career with Accenture Solutions Pvt. Ltd. from March 2007 to May 2019 as Specialist - Employee Relation & Policies, Hemant Soni is currently associated with Barclays India to expand his horizon of learning HR Dynamics in Financial Institutions. still associated with the company. A diligent and dedicated Human Resource professional, Hemant demonstrated accomplishments in operational and strategic guidance, Participative leadership style and has excelled in managing sensitive employee situations. A highly self-motivated individual, Hemant holds the ability to work autonomously and to manage multiple caseload within a demanding environment. He is an effective communicator with strong leadership, relationship management, engagement, coordination & analytical skills.
For his indelible performance, Hemant has bagged Annual Award for the Best Employee with Zenta Pvt. Ltd., “Good Samaritan” Quarterly Award for an outstanding performance in HR department with Accenture, and “Rising Star” Quarterly Award for an outstanding performance in HR department with Accenture.
Hemant’s Academic Credentials Include Certification on Field Human Resources tracks from Cornell University’s ILR School, Diploma in Human Resources Development from Prin. L.N Welingkar Institute of Management Development and Research; Bachelor of commerce from Annamalai University; H.S.C from K. J. Somaiya Collage, Mumbai University; S.S.C from Mumbai University.
Thank you, Hemant, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid response.
We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning. So, please share with us about your first job interview.
I come from a family who strongly believes that every member of the family should take over or join the family business, regardless of the interest, qualification, life goals, etc. Post completing my higher studies, I was asked to follow the tradition, however, I convinced them to give me 5 years’ time after which I would join them. In an eagerness to explore the corporate world, I joined Zenta Pvt Ltd (a BPO) as an executive involved in sales, customer services, recovery of bad debts for our US clients. However, I realized, my graduation degree wouldn’t suffice for a bright future there, hence enrolled for a PG in HR. While I was in 2nd term, I learnt about an opening in the HR team of the same organisation. I spoke with my Operations Manager, Carl Carvalho, about my interest and he motivated me to apply for the open position. My application was accepted and the enrolment for PG in HR was an added advantage to me over the other 12 candidates. As I was already in 2nd term of my PG, I got a sound understanding of HR process and was able to answer most of the questions about labour laws, Compliance, HR engagement plans, Rewards & Recognitions, HR process, etc. I was selected and moved to the HR department as an Employee Relations Executive.
Which, according to you was the most intriguing interview? Can you share your experience in detail?
My most intriguing interview was for the HR role in Zenta; it was a lifetime opportunity for me, and I wanted to give my best for it. As I am a strong believer of strategic planning and execution, I read the Job Description of the role and started making scripts for my interview. I recall, few days before the interview rounds, I gave the assessment on Labour Laws as per the PG course schedule. Thus, all the regulatory requirement as per the Shops & Establishment Act were fresh in my mind.
The first round was with the HR Manager Jason Dsouza, an LLB who asked many questions on the regulatory requirement and compliance. Bit nervous but I was able to answer most of his question with confidence. The next round was with another HR Manager Shilpa Marla who gauged my knowledge on engagement thoughts, rewards & Recognition, etc. I was almost clear to move and there was a final round with our FVP HR – Rajendra Chaher who was keen to check my ability to handle difficult conversation/situation, execution strategy, budgeting, etc.
I could convince all 3 of them!
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?
I was with the best HR professional around and it helped me a lot to learn the larger HR functions. My focus in first year was on to read all our policies, understand the process and fill my knowledge gap. The expectation from me was
to ensure a conducive work environment for all our employees and resolve any issues to make it a great place to work. Believe me, you will sometime find it in contradiction of what you have learnt in many HR concepts.
Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience?
Yes, mentors and coaches play a very important role in settling new joiners and
infuse the culture transition in them. It’s a never-ending role that they play to mentor/coach people. I had an amazing opportunity to work with Sandhya Nair, the best mentor of my life. I have learnt so much from her that helped me to be better in my profession every day. Such mentorship does not get limited with that organisation/role. We both are in different organisations, but I still reach out to Sandhya for guidance and this is only because of her excellent mentorship.
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?
While I started working, I knew deep down that mere a graduate degree may not take me long in my career. One day, one of my friends came with a newspaper pamphlet offering a PG course in HR by a renowned institute. I liked the subjects and skills it would add to my profile. I shared my interest of enrolling for the course with my father, and he agreed as I still had 4 years to prove myself before joining his business. Unfortunately, it’s been 12 years and I haven’t joined his business so far! If not HR, I would have done some course on jewellery designing and joined the family business.
When we talk to fresh graduates and junior level employees as well as non-HRs, they understand Employee Engagement as – Birthday Celebrations, Picnics, Diwali Rangoli, Christmas Celebrations, Cultural Day Celebrations, etc. Please help us understand what employee engagement is and how it helps in increasing employee retention.
While employee engagement is a part of HR functions, it also plays other critical roles of hiring, compensation & benefits, business partnership, upskilling of employees, resolving grievances, etc. which may have limited visibility. With new businesses and many competitors around, we need to outstand compared to others. Hence, to maintain the talent, HR should do everything possible to retain every single employee. To enable this,
the HR professional has to be updated with the industry trends/practices and ensure best of the benefits are offered to the employee like, learn while you work, form communities of interest/communities of excellence, other non-monetary benefits, along with the above quoted engagement plans.
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?
Out of the 12 years of experience, I have been into Employee Relations role for ~8 years. Here, I am looking after employee grievances, sexual harassment complaints, unethical practices followed by employee/management, hostile work environment for employees, whistle blowing, etc. While I am representative of the company management, I also shoulder the responsibility of ensuring every employee lives up the core values of the organisation. I have come across situations wherein business management fails to consult HR in critical decisions and then those decision backfire, creating damages to the brands reputation in the market. Thus,
it is very important for the business to consult and partner with the HR in every aspect of business planning, it will definitely help them achieve the outcome in a right way.
There is a generalized statement, “employers are rude, unethical and play favourites in terminating jobs”. You are working as an “Employee Relations Specialist”. Please help us understand the due diligence usually followed during lay-offs and job terminations. What are incidents that warrant immediate termination?
As an HR Professional, we not only give employment, we have to also take away employment, if situation arises. You will have to be really careful while dealing with lay-offs/redundancies,
ensure proper due diligence is done to understand the reason and arrive at a conclusion if lay-offs is necessary. You also need to plan and identify the scope of employee who are surplus and needs to be terminated due to redundancies. Sometimes, we do have a line-up of new business OR vacancy in the other functions, do leverage these surplus resources by cross training them. However, if you still have a situation to terminate someone, please ensure proper procedures/benefits as per the Shops & Establishment Act is followed such as – reason of termination, identify in scope employees, eligibility of notice pay, rehiring, etc. Please consult with the legal department for their guidance as well. Failure to follow the procedure can lead to litigations/complaint with labour department.
Based on your experience, what are the FIVE essential traits every HR Professional must-have?
- HR Knowledge – A HR professional should have a sound knowledge of HR functions
- Communication – An effective communication can turn the task doable
- Solution Oriented – Learn to negotiate and provide solution for every situation
- Integrity – While you partner with the business to ensure smooth delivery, don’t go with the flow, do what is right!
- HR Networking - Getting involved in HR networks is a great way to keep up with a fast-changing sector, share best practice and learn from other HR professionals around.
Last question, what is your message for young and aspiring HR practitioners? What kind of growth opportunities should they look forward to? And, what are the key competencies one must possess to be successful in this profession?
As an HR professional, we play very critical role in the organisation, employee experience, seamless operation, making a great place to work for everyone, and the listing can go on. It is very important to build a strong trust/relationship and ensure it is maintained throughout.
Be a good observer and whenever you observe anything unethical, unfair, incorrect practices followed, look at a course correction. Please keep the “cat with curiosity” alive in you forever.