Named among the top 100 HR minds in India, Saswati Sinha, the Head Human Resources at Evalueserve, couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of understanding the business model of the organization that employs you. In a chat with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar, she shared some bits of her journey as an HR professional for over two decades.
You did your Bachelors in law. How was it useful in your stint in Human Resources?
I started out in HR back in 1996 in a manufacturing company in Delhi called Kothari Fermentation. It had close to 3,000 factory workers. And everything I had studied in law during my graduation – labor law, regulations, gratuity, bonus act etc. – came of use there.
I am not a lawyer by profession, but by education. So recently, I was working at a huge firm, where I was handling the legal department alongside the HR department.
Your advice for students aspiring for a career in HR?
I like the HR profession so much that I am almost possessive about it. And often, I see students talking about getting into HR because they think it’s an easy desk job. It disheartens me.
First things first, if you aren’t good with numbers and data, you should not be in the HR profession. HR analytics is huge now.
Besides, there are several sub-domains of this profession that one can opt for – analytics, talent acquisition, transformation and many more. So, I would suggest that while anyone is studying human resources, explore all the subdomains and specialize in at least one.
In a recent workshop held at Manipur Technical University in Imphal, you said that you would recruit someone more for their values than skills. What values are important to you?
I would say loyalty, or the patience to stick it out in one company for a while, would be important. It doesn’t bode well with anyone when an employee leaves a company within a few months. But that’s exactly what youngsters are doing now – changing company after company.
Team spirit is a value I admire. Someone who is collaborative. Because let’s face it, no one can do everything on their own. And even though the pandemic has forced us to work from home, but it is still important to work as a team.
And last but not the least, it’s the constant pursuit of innovation. Let me make myself clear. I am not saying ignore excellence in the pursuit of innovation. But the hunger for innovation will propel not only the employee but the entire organization to growth.
In your 25-yearcareer, you have worked for several diverse organizations. Please take us through your journey.
I started my career in manufacturing, and then joined cyber media which is into IT publishing, technology, computer information publication, software tools etc. After that, I joined the HR wing of J. Walter Thomson, a hardcore advertising agency. My job was to hire writers, campaign writers, script writers, copywriters. I joined Cheil after working in the JWT and now at Evalueserve.
In my experience, it’s about the business and its business model. The first two months after joining a new firm, I completely immerse myself in understanding the business and the model of the organization. I spend time understanding projects that the firm is currently managing or will take on.
Only after I have completely understood my organization and its goals, do I start my actual work in talent management and all other HR work.
During the two years of COVID19 pandemic, how did you engage employees in virtual and online work mode without letting them feel disconnected?
Honestly, it was seriously difficult because it came upon the world very suddenly. If you remember, people started getting stressed, restless. Many were losing friends and family to the pandemic. It was harrowing.
But even then, one thing that really helped us was rigorous communication. We literally communicated a lot, created task forces and forums.
At that time, I was working with Cheil India, so the CEO of the company gave a brilliant example of King Arthur of Round Table of Knights. He said now we need to become “title agnostic”, everybody should come together, create a roadmap, work in total collaboration. So, each day, we communicated in the morning and the evening without caring about our designations. We came up with some solutions in a collaborative manner. In fact, I would say that Covid made us fully understand the term “teamwork”.
Several countries have adopted the four-day week system. What’s your take on it, keeping in mind India?
Before answering this question directly, I will give you an example. We’ve been hearing about Artificial Intelligence (AI) for about eight years. But how many Indian companies are using it?
To answer your question, there’s no point running after something just because it’s a trend. Assess how it would work for you first.
If you see your organization experiencing growth working just four days a week, then go for it by all means. Clearly, all businesses and sectors can’t opt for the four-day work week model.
But if giving an employee off for three days instead of two is a way to say that the company cares for you, there are several other ways to show care to an employee – better work environment, better facilities, paying for their children’s education etc. Perks can motivate an employee as much as three days off a week.
What are the possible transformations that an HR Management student and a talent recruiter should look for in the future?
Getting used to the hybrid model of work without compromising on the productivity, is the first one.
Technology is another factor that perhaps every student in all courses, not only in HR, must keep in mind because it’s really changing fast and changing many businesses around the world.
And the future generation of workforce will be equipped with their terminologies of technologies, so paying attention to those is another important aspect for HR students and managers. In majority, Generation X doesn’t speak the same language of Gen-Z.
Technology and AI is going to scale it up, so keep a check on that.