Q. What has been your journey like as an HR professional?
A. I started my career with Hewitt Associates as a consultant and then moved into an Internal HR function with an IT company. Having worked both as a consultant as well as in internal HR in various stints has helped me tremendously in my journey, where today, I lead the People Function for Dr. Oetker India. My consulting experiences across industries has equipped me with a strong business perspective which has been invaluable in ensuring HR is truly a business partner and proactively responsive rather than reactive. My stints in internal HR and my background in psychology have helped me develop an empathy for people and a feeling for the nuances of what impacts them, allowing us to ensure we draw a balance between business and people needs at the workplace.
What were the biggest challenges you faced?
My role is more of a change catalyst and that of a cultural bridge aligned to moving us towards a global company from a local brand. This has been one of the biggest challenges faced since we took over Fun Foods in 2008. Not only did we work at changing mindsets of the team across India but also focused on creating a behavioural framework that needed to be driven and role modelled even at the senior levels of the company. Accepting the need to change and creating a feedback driven culture has been painstakingly slow but an immensely rewarding process.
Q. What are the challenges HR faces in the new era of the ‘digital age’?
A. The digital age is here to stay and HR as a function needs to devise a holistic digital strategy .There needs to be a clear road map that converts all onerous HR processes to a digital mode that is easy, interactive and easily accessible by all. Convincing leadership teams to move towards and adopt newer ways of engaging with people across levels and at different points in an employee cycle is a big challenge. Being in the manufacturing space, we find that across the board, skill levels and willingness to use digital media are widely different and here, it is up to HR and business managers to firmly yet patiently, commit to the newer ways of engagement and compliance.
Q. Any advice you would like to give on how to manage people/teams as the workforce becomes more diverse, and the ways of working change?
A. This is an area where we have done a lot of work at Dr. Oetker India. The approach for many managers has been the use of a single leadership style to manage teams. This has been a big challenge. Having varied leadership styles to meet the needs of a diverse internationally mobile and a demanding workforce is a key differentiator for us and we have invested heavily in coaching our managers in this area.
At Dr. Oetker, we have created many opportunities for people to work with intercultural international teams on various projects, offered a series of internship opportunities to expat interns and increased the ratio of women in our leadership team. Creating an environment that challenges stereotypes and encourages diversity, whilst also simultaneously coaching people on the Green Behaviours (what we want people to do more of) has helped even the most reluctant managers to become more open and accepting.
Q. How effective and how important are rewards and recognitions in strengthening employee engagement and retention?
A. Having a rewards and recognition program is important in ensuring that employees feel motivated but a program has to be designed so that its authentic. There is a fine balance to maintain between too much and too little. Recognition and justified credible recognition is the key here, balanced with a fair and transparent reward system.
Q. How can a company attract the best people?
A. Creating an employer brand is an often ignored or underutilized tool. We ensure all our business partners know who we are and what we stand for. How we create an employee experience is another key area we focus on starting from when a candidate first comes in right up to the time an employee leaves us. Being fair, transparent and humane, through the entire process is what we believe makes the difference.
Q. What is the secret to hiring the right candidate?
A. Passion and the right behavior are the two things we focus on. If we get these right, the rest usually falls in place. We have designed various assessments to help us measure the desired behaviors we seek for each role.
“Create an environment that challenges stereotypes and encourages diversity”
Q. What advice would you give young candidates if they want to stand out and get noticed during an interview?
A. We expect candidates to have done enough research on a company that is beyond what’s on a website. We also want them to be authentic and have ample behavioral examples.