The jobs involving creativity and emotional intelligence are the least likely to be replaced by automation

Bharati Sharma is a competent professional with 15+ years of experience in the area of Business HR/ HR Partner. As a People function person, she played a pivotal role in developing and executing organizational strategies around Employee Engagement & Retention, Identifying Training Needs, Manpower planning/ Resourcing, Performance Management and Employee Satisfaction. Bharati is a result-oriented & an effective communicator with excellent interpersonal skills.

In her last assignment, Bharati was associated with Okaya Infocom Pvt. Ltd as AVP-HR (until March 2019), where she contributed to creating a culture of high performance in Development & Retention and developed and managed the annual HR plan and budget. She also ensured the effective recruitment, selection & onboarding processes.

Embarking her professional stint by working on Contract roles on Adecco payroll in Recruitment, Bharati moved to GENPACT, Gurgaon as HR Lead- Senior Manager. Her perspicacity led her to receive “Best Support Employee of the Quarter” Award thrice for successfully driving key employee engagement initiatives in 2011, 2013 & 2015. Bharati has also been awarded for being the ‘Coolest’ ERM at the Global Retention Contest in 2013 at Genpact level with 90% retention. Bharati also holds following Professional Certifications

  • Genpact HR and Training Certification
  • Green Belt Certificate (1-0-1 feedback tool)

Bharati is a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Administration (Specialization in Human Resources) from Symbiosis University – Pune and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from M.D.U. Haryana.

Thank you, Bharati, for giving your valuable time to this interview. We look forward to your candid responses.

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

I was pursuing my master’s in computer science when I got a letter from my previous college from where I completed my Bachelor’s in commerce about this campus hiring that was happening for Wipro BPO. My parents wanted me to complete masters before I start my career. Thus, I cleared the first round of it in the campus itself without telling my family. The second and third (final) round was supposed to happen in the consultancy office in Delhi which was quite far from my place and I could not have travelled alone. I spoke to my parents and as expected they rejected my request. It took me a week’s time to convince my family to let me take this forward. The next challenge was to convince them to allow me to work in a BPO as 15 years ago, BPO was not considered a very impressive place to work. Finally, my dad took a promise from me to complete my master’s along with the job in the next two to three years.

I went for the second round in which they assessed my communication and interaction level. I waited there anxiously for an hour before they could inform me that I had cleared the second round and the third round was about to happen. In that one hour, my heart sank twice as two of my college mates were rejected in the second round. The only question that I remember from the third round was, “What is the salary you expect?”. “Anything above 10k”, was my answer. The HR person laughed and said don’t worry it will be much more than that and he told me that I was selected for this job. Within an hour I got the appointment letter too with a joining within the next 15 days. I was on top of the world that I would now be an independent girl and at the same time, there were mixed feelings as I would be away from my home for the first time.

The graduates feel that the pressure in the core HR role is lesser as compared to the recruitment due to the quantitative measurement of targets.

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 the job and your role? Were they all fulfilled? What didn’t coincide with your expectations? 

I joined in a US inbound calling profile where we had to retain members for an ISP. I was very excited about the fact that I would get to interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Since I was always very interested in observing people's behaviour and interaction, I was convinced that this was an apt role for me. It was only after the training and OJT was over in the first month, I came to realize that there was much more in the role than just interaction. There were targets to be met on retention and quality every day. Quality I was comfortable with as I have always been an organized and process-oriented, however, the retention target would mean that I had to push people to keep the service in spite of them not needing it. It was a little challenging for me as I am a person of high EQ and could not keep the retention targets above any members' emotions. If they insisted to stop the service after my two pitches of retention, I would do help them cancel their membership; however, that impacted my targets on retention. My team lead was cordial and after having a heart to heart conversation with him, I was moved to the Quality team as I was doing 100% there. It was a very pleasant experience working in my first job. I got my best of friends from there who are still very close.

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

In my first job, I did not do very well in the retention target, however, I was doing well on the quality side. It was immense pressure for me, considering it was my first job, no old friends and my family was away. I feel blessed to have a good and understanding team leader, who did not choose to write me off as retention was the key in that process. He was able to understand my potential and tap it by moving me to a quality team where I performed very well. This small understanding of my Team lead who was my mentor helped me shape up my career with his coaching and mentoring.

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?

In the past, core-HR has been an area where the performance has been measured on qualitative factors rather than quantitative parameters. Whereas in recruitment, the performance parameters have been primarily quantitative, and quality has been secondary. In my experience, the graduates feel that the pressure in the core-HR role is lesser as compared to the recruitment due to the quantitative measurement of targets. Also, the core-HR is considered cooler as it involves interaction and is more of a limelight role in their view.

From profile sourcing to the issuance of the final offer letter, organizations put candidates through multiple filtration processes. What is your take on using “relevant industry experience” and “excellent academic record (first-class and above)” as filtration tools?

In my view, nothing is more important than work experience, it could be in any domain or industry. If the candidate was able to perform in one industry, he/she will be able to learn and perform in the other industry considering the candidate has a will to change his/her industry.

Academic record is just an indicator of the potential to perform better. It does not guarantee the candidate will be a good performer.

In fact, some of the other important factors to be considered in the hiring process should be the managerial skills, functional expertise & human relations; whereas while deciding the compensation, key parameters will be strategic relevance of the profile and level of responsibility in the role.

Rejected candidates can also challenge the recruitment decisions and threatens companies with discrimination claims.

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?

Meaning of Coaching differs in corporate world and in generic, Life Coaching. Coaching is professional partnership between two individuals to achieve a goal. Coaching is a formal process which follows a structured approach. In the corporate world, it is to achieve a specific goal related to corporate success and is for a specific period, however, in Life Coaching, coaching means to focus on the discovery of one’s life direction. It is based on holistic and action-based approach that helps and promotes the process of understanding one’s life purpose better. Coach does not necessarily belong to the same domain or industry in the corporate world.

Mentoring is a continuous process based on mutual trust and respect. A mentor must be someone who can guide you in a specific situation or achieve a specific goal basis their experience. A mentor is a person who is from the same domain and helps build and develop the skills not just for current jobs but for a future career as well.

According to you, what are the FIVE critical traits of a successful HR Practitioner?

As per my experience below are the traits of a successful HR Practitioner:

  1. Passion: I would rate passion above all to be a successful HR. Successful HR’s are passionate about what they do or develop
  2. Integrity: It is one of the most important traits, an HR Leader can demonstrate. An executive’s integrity can determine their success
  3. Innovation: Successful HR person understands the importance of staying ahead of the rest. They keep thinking and strategizing the creative approached to attract, hire, manage and develop the talent
  4. Communication: Being effective and influencing communicator is another mandate for being a successful HR. This trait becomes very critical in facilitating any change in any organization
  5. Problem solving: HR person must deal with numerous unplanned managements, employee, legal issues. This trait will help HR Person to prevent, deal with and mitigate the adverse effects of the above-mentioned issues

As the saying goes,” You have 8.8 seconds to impress with your CV”. You might have come across tens of thousands of resumes in your career. What, in your view, does a recruiter evaluate in a resume in those 8.8 seconds and decides to accept or reject it? Please elaborate.

First thing that I ever checked or noticed in any resume was the candidate’s current role. What are the roles and responsibilities in the current role, and do they match the position for which I was screening?

Secondly, what are the brand names or organizations that they have worked for? If they have worked for some small organizations, it is mostly understood that they want to change, however, if they are employees with some of the big organizations, what could be the reason that they are looking for a change? Could it be the performance or the role?

Thirdly, how much and quality of experience that the candidate has got. Is there a career progression? Has the level of responsibilities increased? Is the change in titles sequential?

With the experience, we can analyse the patterns and trends of candidates, and we formulate assumptions as a result. Our assumptions can be wrong; however, this all happens within 8.8 seconds.

Post this I go deeper to assess the resume in detail if it passes this 8.8-second screening criteria.

What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback to candidates?

Mostly HR people are very nervous about how to give feedback to the candidates. This is mostly applicable in cases where the candidate has been rejected. You don’t want to upset the candidates by telling them they are not right for this job. So instead of upsetting them, they choose not to contact them and save them from this guilt, which damages your employer brand in this process. However, if they choose to share the feedback, regardless of how constructive it is, at times candidates are so disgruntled that they do not take NO for an answer. Rejected candidates can also challenge the recruitment decisions and threatens companies with discrimination claims.

However, if the situation is handled correctly, unsuccessful candidates have no reason to complain about your company. Giving feedback is an essential part of interviewing.

What do you do if a candidate unexpectedly rejects your job offer?

If this happens, we are in a better situation; because at least he/she is communicating about the same to us. At times we get to know that candidate is not joining on the day of joining.

Whenever I have been in this situation, I followed the below process which has always worked well for me:

  1. No matter how stressed or frustrated I was in such situations, I always responded respectfully. It is a decision that any individual takes basis their circumstances.
  2. Secondly, I drilled down the reason why exactly the candidate has rejected the offer. Candidates usually give some fake reason to reject the offer, drilling down helps know the real one.
  3. I never sent the candidate on a guilt trip for rejecting the offer.
  4. Move on to the backup that I had shortlisted and take them forward to the clients.

Competitiveness has always been proved the best way to bring out the talents and capacity.

“Candidates not reaching the interview venue” (making numerous stories) and “Candidate not showing up on the day of joining” are two most painful experiences for a recruitment team. What is your take on this? How do recruiters differentiate between a “real reason” and “a fake story”?

This has happened with me twice in beginning of my career when I was doing hands-on Talent Acquisition. It is a very stressful experience, much more than it seems because the management expects the person today to join and then be productive or at least up and running in a couple of days. With the given situation, every plan takes a backseat and we need to start from scratch. In very rare circumstances will it happen that the candidate will tell you the correct or real reason because they very well understand what they are doing.

Most of the times they will cite reasons like they met with an accident or family emergency. If the candidate is genuine and the reason they are citing is real, they will not tell you that they cannot join; they will only tell you to move the onboarding/joining date by a day or two or if something is very severe maybe a week or so.

If the candidate says that he/she cannot join at all whatever the reason may be, it is a fake reason mostly.

In my couple of experiences, in one case the candidate mentioned that he had met with an accident on the way to onboarding and requested to move the date by a week; however the second the candidate mentioned that my dad is very unwell and I will need to relocate to my hometown to take care of my dad and will not be able to join at all. I offered him some time, that he can come back and join, however, he was sure that he didn’t want to join. It was obvious that in the second case the candidate was lying as these decisions to relocate, etc. do not happen on the spot.

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

The ability to meet or exceed performance goals is great, but performance does not necessarily determine a great leader. If an employee is performing well in one of the roles does not mean the employee will always do well in any other role or prove to be a successful leader.

Below are the traits of High potential employees:

  1. Leadership Role: High potential employees express it aloud or subtly; however, it is imperative that they desire to move up the corporate ladder.
  2. Entrepreneurial Mindset: If you notice employees are recognizing possible opportunities that will benefit the organization, shows that they have mindset of an entrepreneur.
  3. Decision Making: High potential employees can look at all the alternatives, pick the right solution and make good on it. They are good at assessing the situation and making a sound decision and then follow through on them
  4. Work Efficiency: Employees who simply work more hours are not necessarily equipped with the organizational skills needed to efficiently manage work. This is another thing that separates high potential employees with other employees. They have the ability to work more efficiently than others to get more done with fewer resources and in less time
  5. Sense of ownership: When the employee is given an assignment, do they simply fulfil the minimum objectives on time, or do they go the extra mile to make sure the tasks are completed quickly and to high standard of quality? HIPO will always take complete ownership of the work and go that extra mile with higher level of accountability

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?

There are multiple reasons for Talent shortage. Some of them are so obvious than the others. In today’s time, the world has moved forward with advanced technologies like big data, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and machine learning, etc.; however, the quality of technology/engineering education wasn’t adjusted accordingly. Result of which is, one, there are a number of graduates left to fend for themselves in the changing landscape and second, the shortage of talent in these domains.

In today’s time, recruiters are tasked with the key business objectives of sourcing the right talent that’s necessary to help businesses with changing business environment. It would mean the Talent Acquisition teams would need to proactively identify the gaps.

Hiring Managers should now start looking for talent outside the traditional talent pools. They should work keeping geographical boundaries aside. So, it is clear that they need to look for talent where it is available. Another thing that hiring managers should focus on is that the candidate’s experience is of supreme importance. With the competition for talent across niche skills, treating candidates well is vitally important. They must understand where the talent will be available and diversify your recruitment approach to ensure that you will be able to attract the required talent.

CEO’s should also, focus on in-house talent and develop them rather than hiring from outside. More effort should be to groom the talent that already exists in the organization. CEO’s need to percolate the advice of upskilling and developing the in-house talent. The best thing organizations can do is train and retain in the given scenario.

Talent pools are changing more rapidly in the coming years than in the past. Organizations need to adjust the requirements and organizational changes to fit the landscape, only then they can plan for the right skills and capabilities required.

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 workplace is changing profoundly. AI in the HR Function is currently in an interesting phase. On one hand the hype about AI and robotics is far ahead of reality and on the other hand, the upside could be much bigger than we think.

AI is a wide range of algorithms and machine learning tools rapidly push data, identify and learn patterns and optimize and predict trends. Since this AI system can predict and learn by plotting curves of possible outcomes and then optimizing decisions based on multiple criteria.

In the HR function, below are some of the areas where we will see the major impact of AI:

  1. Recruitment: Algorithms based on AI can screen through resumes, find good internal candidates, profile high performers and even decode video interviews and give us predictions about who is likely to succeed. AI in recruitment will be huge.
  2. The jobs involving creativity and emotional intelligence is the least likely to be replaced by automation
  3. Onboarding: AI can make the joining and onboarding process smoother with world-class employee experience
  4. Performance evaluation: Performance evaluation has been an integral part of organizations gauge employee’s performance time and again. This will also be taken over by AI to get a real-time comparison among multiple employees. The system will be able to absorb information from different sources and in a variety of formats, including text, number, etc and will instinctually be able to combine these sources to give more accurate and meaningful results
  5. Employee experience: When employee queries are addressed in real-time that gives a great employee experience. With AI coming in effect, Chatbots are the most common platform that has emerged and acts as the first layer of real-time engagement with candidates while saving time for HR person on the transactional queries. 

Employee relations are the first step to the success of any organization. People connect with people, there are no better people to use as the face of the company than those who work with you. It is your employees who give you the edge over the competition.

If you have a specific vision and mission, show how your employees are also passionate about that. The more real people that you use who work for you, the more genuine and passionate your company will be seen to the users online. Areas for HR to take advance of having real personas are customer service, sales, and marketing, especially through social media and email.

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

Freshers or millennials have redefined the role of employees from a mere task doer to a brand advocate of the organization for clients, users and customers. HR graduates should not just think that having talent and skill is enough to do the job; it is now equally important to upskill themselves through training programs, interactive sessions, and workshops, etc. This will not only fine-tune them to meet their job requirement but also will empower them to face challenges in the future.

Competitiveness has always been proved the best way to bring out the talents and capacity.

Thank you. 

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