Strategize “Care and Career” for your employees

Shikha Verma is an Organisation Development Specialist with 17 years of rich expereince across IT & Manufacturing Industry and diverse culture. Other than being a passionate trainer, Shikha has been instrumental in defining & designing turn-key HR processes and practices. Her expertise lies in Change Management, Competency Development, Succession Planning, Internal Branding and driving employee engagement and enablement so as to foster Happy Workforce-Workplace. Recognized for driving continuous improvement initiatives, integration & standardization of Trainingprocess and practices across businesses and geographies. Expertise in identifying process gaps as opportunies for innovative initiatives, automation and cost saving interventions. Merit of working as an ISO Auditor & Lead HR Auditee, HR Disciplinary Officer & Presiding Officer ICC (POSH Committee).

Tips for a budding HR professional?

Lets consider both-Business and People Context before we delve into this.

On one hand , there is a significant shift in how businesses function , there is an increased need for organizations to prepare themselves for economic, social amd technological forces impacting the business. At the same time, if we look at the social front, we are posed with much larger concerns – environment & health emergency. 46% of the workforce across organisations in India are suffering from stress. Hence one of the primary responsibilities on L & D / HR Professionals is to be able to prepare the Human Talent to drive the business imperatives in these challenging times.

The HR Policies and practices need major disruption to match up to the enhanced pressure , so as to empower and energize the workforce. Hence ‘Child Care Leave‘ & ‘Dog’s Day at work‘ or Environment Friendly Day being observed once every week (like a work-from-home) need’nt be seen as some fancy practice that can be deployed only by GAFA.

We need to ’embrace transformation’ as a mantra & operate out of an ‘Agile’ & ‘Organisation Development Mindset’. More often than not, we end up following the trends mindlessly or in haste. Its critical we base our People decisions on data analytics -engagement survey, overall wellness survey , attrition data etc. This will ensure a personalized experience (provided we communicate well) & ensures maximum impact of interventions /solutions/policies/practices too.

To what extent an employee’s performance is dependent on the manager?

My daughter’s studies has always been a matter of concern since I would rarely see her excited to go to school. I remember how during  my school days we were disciplined however this increased fear of making mistakes or not completing their work or not having a voice of their own is resulting in them losing interest in studies or becoming fiercely competitive , either of which does not lead to joy of learning for sure. The situation is no different in organizations, if managers allow their team members to speak without the fear of being judged, try new ideas & have an appetite for failures, the engaged employees are bound to deliver better results. Both Sadhguru or Dr. Gaur Gopaldas say that we as parents are responsible for our children’s behaviour and personality. A child emulates us and also responds to how he/she is being treated. This phenomenon is called the Pygmalion Theory or the ‘Power of expectations‘. It’s hard to give it a number , managerial skills & superior-subordinate relation surely has the maximum impact on an individuals performance/output. 

How can an HR contribute strategically to the organization?

While strategies define the direction for an organization, culture acts as the mode of transport that gets you there. If HR & Organisation Development is able to identify culture theme relevant to the business & draw a structured integrated roadmap to achieve the business results it surely would be creating a strategic impact. Unfortunately we dont have many companies where OD is seen as a value creating function. Often there are a lot of fragmented efforts -policy, reward & engagement which may or may not necessarily increase employee’s committment level. Drawing from my own experience,  there is a lot that has happened in positioning HR as the business partner however a lot more needs to be done considering the changing times. One of the strategic turn key projects that I have handled was that of ‘Establishing safe and secured environment‘. This involved several turn key projects for HR like

  1. Establishing Grievance Redressal Mechanism
  2. POSH practices & awareness
  3. Reinforcing Ethics & values across the organisation. There is an increased need to work in an integrated manner (with top themes) across HR functions so as to establish strategic relevance and impact the bottom line too.

One HR practice that has always worked for you as an HR.

If I understand this question, if we are referring to the approach or technique adopted to identify right -relevant HR Practices what has worked for me includes:-

  1. Go to Business Approach (Get a buy-in)
  2. Involve the beneficiary-endorser-stakeholder (Make them accountable)
  3. Emphasized on accomplishment being possible only if there is consistent & unified efforts (Messaging by the top management)
  4. Structured and constant communication on purpose.
  5. Make data driven decisions on people imperatives.

Example – In one of my previous organisations, When we were given the target to revise our policies (drafted 7-8 years back), we commenced by understanding the leadership mindset, what the employees needed the most and what was feasible from the business/budget perspective. The revision in benefits extended to employees was made basis analysis and once finalized, it was communicated to the masses. The same approach worked when we conducted Employee engagement survey as well.

Do you think robots can replace HR professionals in the coming decade?

A lot of tasks which we thought were unique to humans including the creative tasks like writing a report, conducting interviews-analysing and matching skill-set are already being performed seamlessly by bots. Its not just capable to perform the task but is also out-performing humans by throwing instant results / data. Broadly speaking the routine transactional tasks performed by HR would be running this risk for sure. Robots/Bots will act as an aid though and help improvise any process and practise. Subsequently value propositions like HR Analytics, Organisation Development, Learning & Succession Planning will gather more importance in coming decades.In coming decades, there is an increased need to step up the Talent strategy so as to cater to ‘Care’ and ‘Career’ needs of our employees.

How do you create a buy-in for trainings at workplace?

As L&D professionals we understand that a focussed discussion with stakeholders is crucial. Diagnostic study makes them feel involved & important so they co-own the trainings. I’ve personally seen communication post this exercise matters the most in getting thier buy-in in terms of the learning & impact of the session. Driving customized interventions alongside the Management or Operation Head ensures not just the buy-in but also establishes more credibility. Repeat the process each year with end-to-end image of the Training Journey and business metrics impacted. 

Example – One interesting Leadership Development intervention that I had a chance to work on was a little tricky for me to design and deploy since it needed to be aligned with the Headquarters, Participants & Top Management’s expectations in India. Moreover I was new to the industry and the learners were oblivious to the managerial /leadership programs, since they had’nt attended one for almost a decade back then. I diligently worked on all the above aspects and ensured new ideas (formed a whatsapp group, ensured touch time to allow them to share their success journey post the session) and young trainer to envigorate the leaders. Though I faced some resistance during the design phase,later on this mechanism & newness was deeply appreciated by learners and the management both.

Getting budget for L&D is like the DDLJ dialogue feeling – “Ja Simran Ja , Jee le apnee Zindagi”

Your personal achievement as an HR professional?

With 17 years of my expereince, when I look back I certainly take a lot of pride in my ability to act as a change agent & for having an opportunity to work on some strategic turn key-projects. Also my strength lies in taking the concept from storyboard to streamlined & quality execution. My journey has taught me to understand the audience and business relevance before plunging into designing or proposing an ‘off-the-shelf‘ kind of solution.   

My recent expereince in fostering Happiness at Workplace has made me learn and reflect on how we can make this a more structured-systemmatic approach leading to tangible business results. As an L&D professional, I’ve delivered despite ambiguity, complexities & limited resources.

Example – Establishing POSH practices and education PAN India, Code of Ethics Revamp and Value Alignment Assignment to name a few.

Disclaimer: The responses to the questions are solely the views of the interviewee as a professional and do not reflect that of the Organisation he/she works for.

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