Expert Speak: Human Resources as a Career Option
Global HR leader, Influencer and TED Speaker, Dr Deepak Sharma, in conversation with JagranJosh.
Extracts from the interview:
Journey as an HR professional and motivations for choosing HRD as the career path:
Mr. Deepaq Sharma started his career in the year 1990 after completing his MBA from UPTU. Thereafter, Corning Inc Corporation was his first organisation from where he entered the field of Human Resources as a management trainee. He worked there for about 6 years and in that short period, he progressed from the position of a management trainee to the HR head for the entire South and East Asia operations of the organisation, which he feels is one of his biggest achievements for Corning Inc. At that time, it was the 6th largest organisations in the world. After that, he worked at numerous organisations like Pepsi Co Holdings, Birla's, Bhilwara Group, Bharat Tissues, MGI, and GNG group. He is currently working with DSG Ag in Singapore.
He chose the field of Human Resources as at his time it was a trending course. And the second reason for opting this course was due to the fact that Human Resource is one of the best departments to connect with other people. HR is the only department that gives you a chance to connect with everyone, be it a ground level employee or the owner of the company. It acts as a bridge between the management and the employees and is one of the most challenging functions in any organisation. There are four basic pillars of every organisation - Finance, Operations, Sales and Marketing and Human Resource without which it cannot function. And this is true irrespective of the organisation's field of work.
Most significant observation and learning as an HR leader:
He once asked the HR president at one of the organisations he was working at, 'Sir, if I want to reach the same heights as you then, what are the ways for that.' The advice he got was that when he comes to the office every morning he should interact with the employees, listen to them, and understand their grievances. He must first learn to feel the pain of his employees. He should visit different departments and ask the employees if they need any help and if could he do for them. Wherever he feels that they need his help, he must try and find solutions for their problems. Human Resource is all about connecting with the people and understanding their problems and to plan how the employees can grow further.
Roles that an HR plays in the organisation's overall growth and become key decision makers in the future with P&L responsibilities:
The role of an HR starts right from the first day when they interview a prospective employee for the company. They try and find the right fit for the organisation based on various parameters such as the candidate's subject knowledge, his suitability to the company, culture, etc. In short, the HR's role and responsibility start from shortlisting the right candidates to bringing them onboard in the company. Their work also involves looking after the internal and the external customers of the organisation. Apart from this, HR professionals are also responsible for handling the day to day lifecycle management of the employees. And if you are to talk about the advanced level HR then they can also contribute to the organisational design, organisational restructuring, business process engineering, business process improvement, etc.
Mr. Deepaq believes that for someone who contributes to both the bottom line and the top line of an organisation they are surely worthy of a chair in the boardroom. Also, he says that while there are HR professionals who handle the boardroom chair as CEO's today, his perspective so far has been a little different. He has worked as Group Chief Human Resource Officer and his organisation had about 30 to 35 companies each with its own CEO. He too has been a part of the boardroom functioning while working with those CEO's. Hence, his contributions were to the P&L of the entire conglomerate and not just one company. So, it's not necessary that to contribute to an organisation's P&L, you need to be a CEO or a CFO, you can contribute in other ways also.
Strategies that employees can adopt to accept each other's ideas:
When you work as a team with a good team leader than the decisions are mostly made on a collective basis. Suppose, you are a sales manager and you wish to appoint a new dealer. You must analyse the pros and cons of it, the market scene etc with your team. Hence all the feedback must come from every member of your team be it the area sales manager, junior sales manager, sales executives or others. It doesn't matter as to what level of employee you are, you could be the top-level employee or the ground level employee but you must know how to voice your feedback and whom to voice it too. It's very important that when you give a feedback you must know whom, where and when are you giving it. For example, if a salesperson goes and gives the direct feedback of the market in the operations department then it might not work efficiently. He probably could talk about demand over there. Operations professional, on the other hand, can talk about the operations feedback. The cross-functional teams in an organisation, however, create a different platform where there various layers and levels of feedback. These levels differ on various basis such as that of departmental, functional, individual etc but they are always discussed in a team framework.
Key Leadership Traits that employees need to develop:
Mr. Deepaq believes that the biggest problem is that the word 'leadership' has been taken in the wrong sense. He says that if you look at any organisation in the world, they have been divided into 4 layers: Executors, planners, strategic and leadership. He says that the current scenario is such that everyone in an organisation is trying to be a leader which is not possible. Like there can only be a single captain on a ship and if there are ten different captains wanting to go in ten different directions it will end up nowhere. He says that the heads of the four different pillars of the organisation they are the leader for their functions. Then, start the strategic, planners, executors they all have to work in their own respective areas. The team always narrow down from the large ones to smaller ones. So every leader here is a leader of his own team. There are six different types of leadership like for example spontaneous leadership, situational leadership, etc. It depends on the level the person wants to become a leader but before that, you must first be clear about your role. You must have role clarity i.e. whether you are in the role of leadership, strategic, planner or executer. The leadership role is quite different. It cannot be like that everyone start's rushing for the leadership role because if that happens then who will play the other roles. Hence role clarity is very important.
Tips & strategies to adapt to change at the workplace
As working professionals, we are not comfortable accepting change. Anything/any factor that pushes us out of our comfort zone is not accepted by us. Giving us the example of the Metro train projects, Dr. Sharma notes that, during the development of any infrastructural project, which is a form of change, people do face inconvenience and complaint about it. However, at times change has to be forced upon us for our own good, which we do not realize at the time. Similarly, even in the corporate offices and in professional life, at times, change has to be forced upon people or employees for their own good. They might not realize the importance or the impact of this change at that very moment, but in the long run, it is for their own benefit.
Further elaborating upon the concept of change, he notes that ‘Change’ has three key dimensions i.e. Change with Time, Change with Demand and Change for self. And anyone who is not ready to accept change under any of these dimensions will face their fall. Quoting an example, he says that Nokia and Blackberry which were synonymous with a mobile phone a few years back have disappeared today due to the company’s inability to adapt to change in time and change in demand. On the other hand, new-age mobile phone companies, who accepted and adapted to change, have managed to succeed in the market today. The same is the case with corporate life and professional culture. Organizations and employees that are able to accept and adapt to the change will succeed in their professional life.
Exploring the topic of change, Dr. Sharma says that, change follows a waterfall model and always flows from top to bottom. While in corporate organizations, the management or the leadership tries to inculcate change from bottom to top, which is completely wrong. Therefore, in any organization, the change should always be driven from the top and then the rest of the organization will easily accept and adapt to the change.
Advice on making difficult decisions at the office
Dr. Sharma says that, as working professionals, we have to make decisions every day of our professional lives. However, as far as decisions are concerned, they cannot be simply tagged as popular or unpopular. A decision that might be popular for one may turn out to be unpopular for another. But when it comes to making decisions in corporate life, one must have their priorities clear i.e. they must check if their decision is good for, firstly for the organization, secondly for the team and thirdly for them personally. If any decision passes through this screening process, in all likelihood, it would be a good decision.
One of the most unpopular decisions in professional life, especially for an HR manager, would be to let someone go or manage layoffs. However, it may seem unjust and unpopular at times, when we look at the bigger picture related to the health of the company and sustainability of the organization, it would be the right thing to do. It is better to lay off a few employees through VRS schemes and other programmes, rather than sustain an unhealthy organization that may eventually fail leading to the loss of employment for all the employees.
On Innovation for Organizational Change
As per Dr. Sharma, innovation and creativity are part of one’s professional life. The on-going process of innovation is the lifeline of a professional organization. Innovation is the process of value-addition to the business process of an organization and it can happen at any level and stage. Ideas form the core of innovation and they are the factor which leads the process of organization growth through innovation. Be it launching of new production, drafting of new policies or making simpler and effective process for improved organizational output; all of these are driven by Innovation.
Giving the example, he says, during his stint with a Textile firm, the organization was facing a serious challenge regarding the processing of silk fibre without the use of chemicals. At that time, he hired a specialist holding a Doctorate in Textile Engineering. The specialist was able to design a new process that would help them process the silk fibre without the use of chemicals, only using natural processes. At that time, this was the creativity and innovation which helped the organization overcome the challenge without losing the quality of the product.
He also elaborates upon the implementation of Individual Balance Score Card (BSC) system in several organizations, which has helped enhance organizational output while also ensuring higher employee satisfaction levels.
Emphasising upon the process and importance of innovation in an organization; he says Innovation holds the key to the success of an organization. However, he also warns that forced creativity and innovation can also prove to be disastrous in certain cases.
Mr. Deepaq Sharma will soon be sharing more insights on his career as a Human Resource Professioanal along with great tips for young professioanls and future HR leaders. So, stay tuned for more updates on how to make a career as an HR professional.
About the Expert: