Employee engagement is about creating a connect with the organization
A learner and a seeker at heart, Neeti Kumar is an engineer by qualification and a Gold Medallist from XLRI Jamshedpur. She worked in a technical role with Computer Sciences Corporation for 3 years. Since human behaviour always intrigued her, she decided to pursue MBA in HR and that was how XLRI Jamshedpur happened.
She started her career in HR with Mercer consulting where she got a chance to work across different domains in HR. As a consultant, she missed the opportunities of seeing end to end implementation of the recommendation she gave and therefore decided to join corporate HR. At Baxter, she was a part of the APAC rewards team.
A very beautiful transition came in her life with her daughter Aariya coming in her life. She decided to pursue freelancing for a brief period to take care of her. It was then that she explored her passion for writing with People Matters.
Soon after, she joined Xceedance Consulting in 2016. This was just the opportunity she was looking for. Being a part of a growing organization, she is in a position to create an impact.
Neeti has also been a Guest Lecturer where she shared practitioner view on HR topics at IMI, IILM.
Her hobbies include learning piano and Indian classical music.
She considers herself as a student of life and looks forward to be a better person each day of life.
Neeti, for giving your valuable time to this interview. Your kindness is much appreciated. We look forward to your candid responses.
We would be pleased to learn about your professional journey from the beginning.
As the first job holds a special memory, let’s discuss your first year at your first job.
My first year at Mercer was a mixed bag of emotions. After passing out from XLRI, we all thought that we would do a lot of strategic work. To my disappointment, we focused more on learning presentation and excel and supported our seniors in delivering projects. Today, when I look back, I realize the importance of these skills in communicating our thought process. I also understood the
significance of building relationship with stakeholders to get the right opportunities. We were a part of a rotation program that helped me understand different domains in HR. We cannot underestimate the importance of a supporting manager at the beginning of our career.
Do you think workplace mentors and coaches play an important role in settling fresh graduates in their first job? How was your experience?
I was assigned a mentor when I joined Mercer. I feel it is very important to assign the right mentor to each mentee. It is a useful process, but a lot depends upon the interest which the mentor takes and the kind of bonding they have. Some of the tips which my mentor gave me are the guiding principles for me even today.
You are an Engineer (BE – Information Technology). You have also worked as an Engineer for close to 3 years. What elements triggered your decision to choose HR as a Career?
I was very strong at academics as a student. Therefore, engineering came as a natural option at that point to my parents and me. Only after settling in a job, I realized I need to do something which motivates me more. Doing an MBA to hone my skills came as the next natural option and that’s how XLRI happened. Human behaviour always intrigued me as a kid, so HR looked like a good option. Though I must admit that
HR is much more powerful and diverse as a domain that what I initially thought it is. I absolutely loved the course at XLRI and am very happy to be in this function.
Please share the experience of your first interview for a role in HR Function and how it was different for the one you gave after your engineering?
During engineering, we focused more on technical skills while preparing for interviews. We also focused on clearing written tests while for HR interview we focused a lot on analysing case studies, participating in group discussions and responding to behavioural questions. At XLRI, we had a dedicated committee that helped us to prepare for interviews. I was keen to join consulting after MBA and that is how I applied for Mercer, the first company which came to XLRI. I was very well prepared and confident during the entire evaluation.
How your engineering qualification is helping you become a successful HR Leader?
Clearing a competitive exam to get into engineering is quite an experience on its own. It makes you work hard and gives you the confidence of a winner. Engineering certainly helps us hone our analytical skills which are required in many areas such as HR analytics, grievance resolution, etc. HR is very technology-focused these days.
Understanding both technology and HR certainly gives you an edge.
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?
Excellent academic record indicates success as an individual contributor and willingness of a person to work hard. At the entry-level, these act as good filtration criteria. However, we can look at some alternate criteria also such as demonstration of success in some other fields for e.g. sports, music, etc. In addition, we should also
test the ability to collaborate with others. Today, our education system does not focus a lot on creating team players however, this is an essential requirement in organizations. We should emphasize either on building this or looking for it while hiring being very well aware that our students have not been developed in this virtue.
Relevant industry experience is a useful filtration criterion at mid to senior management levels for some roles. Some other roles such as HR, IT Infra are industry agnostic. Industry experience should be preferable for these roles.
Social media is a powerful way we recruit and reach out to candidates.
Based on your experience, what are the things Managers should START doing and STOP doing at the workplace?
- Being positive: People management role is a very important role because others are also impacted by your energy.
Maintaining a positive energy cheers up others as well and reassures them that things are fine.
- Being patient: People managers have the role of nurturing. They need to understand that their subordinates will have a learning journey and should be ready to support them and invest their time in that journey.
Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because others do wrong you do not get the license to misuse your authority.
What are the key competencies a Fresh Graduate must demonstrate in a job interview to increase his chances of getting selected?
These days even fresh graduates have a lot of resources/information available with them to get prepared for interviews and leave an impeccable impression on recruiters.
Good understanding of your area of graduation, participation in extracurricular activities is of course not going anywhere. Apart from that your
confidence in communicating your thought process is also important. This includes both verbal and non-verbal communication. There are a lot of online forums where you can participate in some projects related to your area or do some certification. Being creative with your CV, creating a digital CV is also something which we see these days.
What are the primary challenges of sharing interview feedback with candidates?
Paucity of time, lack of maturity in accepting the feedback and demonstrating trust in the interview process, the skill of a recruiter in sharing feedback are a few challenges. However, it is recommended that we share at least a brief feedback. This can also be shared digitally. Overall, it would increase the transparency of the process.
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. Based on your experience, please help us understand what employee engagement is and why (if at all), it is necessary?
Employee engagement is about creating a connection with the organization. It is about creating a desire to be with the organization in its good and bad times. Celebrations are one of the ways of sustaining it, but it is much deep-rooted than this. Wouldn’t you want your partner to be there with you through the test of times? That is the need for having it.
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?
It is quite ironical that in spite of all the resources and information we have in the world today, we still have a talent shortage. I think it is a lot about the commitment which any individual has towards his career and profession. If that is missing, we start noticing the talent shortage. A lot of that also depends upon the kind of environment we provide. That is where leaders should focus on.
Relevant industry experience is a useful filtration criterion at mid to senior management levels for some roles.
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?
AI, Robots, etc. can help in performing repetitive tasks. I personally do not think we can use it a lot for predictive modelling because we do not have that much of data with us at the organization level in most of the organizations to build that kind of model.
Consulting organizations can make far more use of predictive modelling.
Social media has changed a lot of things for HR practitioners. It has changed the way we recruit and reach out to candidates. It has also impacted the way we brand and position ourselves. It has given a lot of power to the employees to voice their opinion. It has helped in the branding of HR professionals as well.
The role of HR Professionals has witnessed a major evolution in the last 25 years. What do you do to stay relevant, and competitive in the talent market?
Continuous learning and working in a variety of roles within HR have helped me understand my profession better.
Lastly, what is your message for fresh HR Graduates? How should they prepare themselves for a career in HR?
HR is a very exciting function to be in. It is much more than hiring and celebrations. We are the kingmakers, people who always stay in power and are revered for the value we create. Of course, to get that kind of respect and position, you need to understand your profession very well and be ready to serve one and all with enthusiasm each day of your life. This would only come with continuous learning. I personally believe that all HR professionals should meditate. This gives them a clear vision and keeps the organization going in the right direction.