Outgrow your own competencies in a structured manner and make continuous development a regular phenomenon.

Sahadeo Chaudhary is an HR Professional from a Premier B-School and has under his belt a distinguished career of ~14 years with an insightful exposure, across geographies, in aligning HR strategy & process to build high performing team, shape value-based culture and build organizational capability to lead change. Sahadeo’s core competencies include Strategic Planning & Policy Formulation, Leadership & Capability Development, People Analytics & Change Management, etc.

Embarking his professional stint with Reliance Capital Limited as Zonal Manager/West Zone Regional Manager, Maharashtra, Sahadeo acquired relevant experience then joined ICICI Bank Ltd as Manager – HR, from there moved to Indus Towers Ltd as Senior Manager – HR and then joined TATA Consultancy Services Ltd as Senior Manager – HR before assuming his current role of Deputy General Manager – HR at Mahindra Finance Limited.

While discharging his responsibilities shrewdly, Sahadeo also earned some certifications on the go, such as Certified in Programming with Python for Data Sciences, Certified in HR Analytics from Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, Certified on Workshops on Behavioral Event Interviewing (BEI) method and SHL (OPQ) the psychometric tool, Certified on Assessment Centers ( Cocoon Consulting ) and Leadership Development Planning, etc.

Thank you, Sahadeo, 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. 

This dates back to May ’06, when I was invited for an assessment at a regional office in Mumbai of a recently acquired Financial services company and the gentleman who was assessing me was a Zonal Head – HR.

As it was a growing organization and they were short of meeting rooms, the interviewer asked if I was ok to walk down the stairs as we talk until, we manage to get a room.

So post the usual probes, like what’s your family background, etc., a question popped up, what’s your understanding of a Competency … to which I replied …” it’s an underlying characteristic of an individual which is casually related to the criteria referenced effective at a job or a situation” and the interviewer was in awe and that was it, he asked me when can I join !!!

I believe this was something which rarely an HR manager ever expected from a fresh MBA grad and till now no one has ever replied to me with this elaborate and specific definition and the rest is history … I went on to join the organization and grew from an MT to Deputy Manager in a span of 4.4 years.

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

The most intriguing experience was with a Zonal Head of future group in Aug ’10. I can say it was a stress interview in which as we progressed, specific cases were discussed and my perspective as a neutral HR was sought. Basis of my perspective and experience and by invoking the basic tenets of natural justice, I was able to put forth my perspective.

However, a new realization in the form of interviewer’s response accrued, which was, “the perspective of the powerful and senior supersedes all the logic and rationale in an organization”.

And eventually, this has been the new mantra as evident from today’s trend in HR wherein most of the time the business calls the shots and the HR manages the scenario.

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 expectations? 

I managed the whole of the west zone in my role as a Regional HR in 2006/07. The first 2 years, I would say, were the years of learnings in terms of competencies, protocols, practices and implicit ways of doing things in a corporate world. I’d set a goal of learning new skills or competency every week (i.e. Be it an Advanced excel, Macros, etc.), anything specific to competencies required for effective and agile execution of tasks.

I’d an expectation to be entrusted with more responsibility and learn new processes, practices and incidentally it happened.

In the first 2 years, I was instrumental in an ISO certification assessment for the HR team, SAP implementation and facilitating an assessment center.

The experience I’d say was the foundation in the creation of my self-concepts, traits and perspectives towards my career ahead.

The aspect of ethical conduct, fairness, and transparency was embedded in traits that culminated in a character of mine as an HR professional.

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

Certainly, it does, and it is the pivot around which one grows as a professional. It’s most likely that the first few organizations shape your ability to face ambiguity, be open to ideas, face challenges, orient and calibrate you towards new dimensions in a role or an area of expertise.

My experience has been fabulous and although I was with my first boss for only over 2 years, it shaped the core fundamentals of mine.

Adding, the organization culture has a huge influence on how one perceives, predicts and reacts in a professional setup.

Alike, in an organization like ICICI bank which imbibes elements of aggression, foresightedness, being critical and achievement-oriented. These dimensions shape a professional on how one builds its own competencies as well as gauges a scenario in the macro-environment.

In the corporate world, people have been using “Coaching” and “Mentoring” interchangeably. It is creating confusion. Please help us understand the similarities and differences between Coaching and Mentoring. When do we coach an individual and when do we mentor an individual?

Coaching, I would say is deed with responsibility whereas mentoring doesn’t owe the mentor a significant responsibility. The common aspect in both cases is, success is envisaged.

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 other professions you would have chosen?

I would have been a sales professional if not in HR. I’ve always was inclined to do better to the society at large by contributing to their success by virtue of social work, assisting and enabling their development and growth. Also, the fact that I am able to change lives by a nudge of an influence satisfies me as a professional.

I feel at the end of the day, one’s success is beyond monetary achievement, it’s more about how fulfilling one has been and whether your personal goals are achieved.

 I believe in raising the bar of my expectations every time I meet an expectation and that’s the way of my challenging myself.

I set a specific and short-term goal, achieve it and raise a furthermore fulfilling goal. I believe that’s what makes you ahead of the curve and upbeat.

Life is all about being dynamic, being agile and being ahead of the curve.

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?

Being visionary and progressive. The expectation has skewed to a business perspective with the high amount of agility, customer centricity and value addition to the processes managed.

The HR Head ought to be well versed with industry and macro environment, be knowledgeable, well networked and at the same time well versed with Current HR trends and be able to change very dynamically.

I believe culture development plays a very vital role in creating a highly productive workforce.

To start with, to determine what’s the culture prevalent is a bigger challenge than what the expected culture should be.

One needs to quickly determine the best and ideal ways to create that wow factor in all the processes and initiatives which are prevalent or being initiated.

According to you, what are the key challenges of being the 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? 

I believe it’s more of an opportunity rather than a challenge. It’s how one propagates a common goal or objective of the organization by leveraging on the key know-hows of the resources and also how the manager can influence growth and development of the people.

Basically, one is a people officer, in the ambit of scope, an HR plays by the rule book, invoking compliance and productivity and engaging and motivating people to excel and exert and do better to oneself and the organization.

In this journey, one has to create a culture of transparency, feel good and positivity and that would make a difference.

In a conflict situation, I, as an HR, maintain an unbiased approach and always engage in practices which are the codes of the book for an organization.

One gets into an avatar depending on the situation one is in and it's frugal, on  one perspective you can be on the management side since you believe it’s the expectations and process and which has been put across earlier and on the other perspective one may have to vouch for the employee.

It’s a balance of releasing and concealing of the necessary info.   

What are the key traits of “High Potential Employees”? How do they differ from “High Performing Employees”?

High energy, motivated, progressive and achievement-oriented. Many times high performing individuals miss upon key differentiators which set them apart, for example, one can be the best of the some with high subject-specific competencies however his boss or peers dislike him due to his high hardness approach and attitude. Now that would make him lose points on the critical indicators when a hi-pot is being determined for a team.

According to you, what are the FIVE critical skills and competencies every manager in an organization must have to be effective in their role?

Analytical skills, foresightedness, impact and influence, achievement orienteers, team building, and teamwork.  

In addition, hiring’s can be for intrinsic rather than for specific experience or knowledge.

E.g. Hire/Promote for Integrity as, without it, motivation is futile and Capability without motivation would be imprudent, Understanding and aptitude without capability shall be limited and Knowledge is meaningless without cognition or understanding and without knowledge experience is blind!!!

As an HR leader with over a decade of work experience, what is your view on job eliminations? Please share a couple of your experiences, when you had to lay-off people because of business and market demand.  

This dates back to the 2009 recession and in early 2009 (to be precise Jan ’09) when Indian companies had started feeling the heat of recession and were moving towards right-sizing.

The key to this kind of phase is being confident, calm and positive. As an HR, one needs to invoke sensitivity to the highest level and start by engaging and communicating with the person who may or is affected.

It’s how one communicates is the key differentiator, handholding the affected lot and also assisting them. So, I was entrusted with creating phases 1 and 2 lists for downsizing which was based on productivity, scope and future role requirements.

Please share an experience when you acted under pressure from your management or reporting manager even though you knew it was wrong and shouldn’t have been done? 

I personally have never come under pressure for any wrongdoing or management always believed that integrity of mine can’t be compromised.

What are your thoughts about Talent Shortage? What are a few practical tips you want to give to CEOs and Hiring Managers to manage the challenge of Talent Shortage?

The key is to have a customer-centric approach by HR to all employees. the overall experience being meted out creates a great pitch for employee engagement.

The elements of care, skill development, and vibrant culture are the key levers.

The ideology needs to be more towards engaging all the human capital, reduce attrition and increase retention. Create a positive and vibrant culture which itself forms a brand so as to attract more talent.

Organizational Culture is a key differentiator between successful and not so successful organizations? What determines the organizational culture? What is the role of HR in creating organizational culture?

I believe culture should be reviewed from a perspective of Hofstede’s 6 Dimensions and segregated in a swot analysis wherein what’s perceived, what prevails and does there exist the potential to change the culture!!!

Many times, leadership are aware of culture however very less is done due to several variables and constraints.

First is one finds it hard to even acknowledge the gap between what prevails and what’s been propagated.

Second is nonavailability of intent or desire to administer specific assessments to do a scientific study.

The third is even if one sees the gap in how a change can be triggered.

Since these are strategic initiatives the will to execute depends on the management.

Adding culture by nature comprises of two layers of tacit dimensions of the three which makes it even more difficult to review and revamp.

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?     

  1. HR is for the people who are driven by the passion to be in this profession. It’s a selfless profession wherein your patience, compassion, values, and wit are tested.
  2. HR has transformed a lot over the last 6/7 years with concepts of HRBP, HR analytics flowing in.
  3. The key to success shall be to outgrow your own competences in a structured manner and make continuous development a regular phenomenon.  
  4. Dynamism and agility would be the most sought-after virtues going further coupled with analytics.
  5. Core competence in HR concepts, Advanced analytical skills (i.e. Data Science), Understanding of Macro environment, Business-centric customer service, and Networking Skills are the key competencies for the present and near future.

Thank you. 

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