Article (April-2021)


HR Leaders need to come out of Boxed Thinking

Rajorshi Ganguli

Designation : -   President and Global HR Head

Organization : -  Alkem Laboratories Ltd., Mumbai


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How do you define the Leadership in HR in the present environment?

RG Leaders in HR always have a challenging role to play. Post pandemic the business environment has been more than just volatile. During and post pandemic the role of HR leaders has become further challenging. On the one hand they need to partner closely with management and CEO to ensure business continuity and on the other hand they need to address people safety, anxieties, stress, up-skilling, re-skilling, re-shaping of jobs depending on the sector and the industry. The pandemic has also resulted in shrinkage of several business and sectors. Along with that come the issues related to job losses, stress and other factors. HR leaders on one hand need to take care of the interest of the organisation and on the other hand ensure they play the role of employee advocacy. Constantly balancing both the role expectation plus delivering operational support to business creates a dynamic expectation from the role.

Also in the present environment we see a lot of change in the definition of jobs, huge influx of technology in all spheres and in our day to day working. Thus how one equips an employee base to easily adapt to these will be the key to success. Amidst this volatility I see leadership in HR has a both strategic, enabling and execution role to play. They have to be harbinger of hope and the kingpin to ensure talent and people challenges are well addressed in the organisation not only for now but for emerging new normal as well.

According to you, what should be the competencies of a good HR Leader?

RG HR function has a very challenging role to play in any organisation. The HR leaders in any organisation is highly visible and he/she represents such a unique function that it needs to keep in mind the interest of one and all. While there may be numerous competencies of a good leader but I would like to call out the few as non-negotiable.

Needs to display commercial understanding - All good HR leaders must definitely exhibit a good commercial acumen and must have a pulse of their business and industry to understand the people process dynamics and implications to make it competitive.

Problem solvers and bias for action - This is one of the necessary competency of a leader in human resources. They need to solve people problems related to business, solve issues of employees, create new policies, and by doing so, they set an example for everyone else. They need to constantly pick up the pulse and work with one and all to serve as the catalyst.

Act as a moral compass - Doing what's right is an important part of being an HR leader. They are the moral compass for ethical dilemmas. They often face tough situations of moral dilemmas and need to speak up their mind and view which is right and recommended for the situation even if it doesn't sound welcoming.

Ability to deal with grey areas - Very often HR leaders needs to deal with issues which neither have a right or wrong answer or cannot have a canned or boxed approach to solve them. They need to deal with these issues with their own judgment and navigate them with poise. Unfortunately, many HR leaders, when faced with these inevitable grey areas, run to the employee handbook or compliance formula as per company policy.

Good listener and communicator - A good HR leader displays strong emotional quotient and they must show willingness to listen to every single employee and stakeholder. They need to be empathetic and understanding, eager to understand issues from the stakeholder point of view and provide apt solution. He or she needs to communicate well with the employees and management and encourage sound communication throughout the organisation. It's essential that an HR leader needs to effectively work with people from all different areas and levels thus requiring the ability to accurately and empathetically communicate with employees at each level and deliver the support, advice and guidance they need to be tailored to the situation.

Functional depth - HR leaders just cannot be coordinators, mediators, generalists and brokers of solution. They must possess in-depth functional skills in several areas to advise and coach leaders and the organisation to deploy best solutions in areas like talent acquisition and management, employee experience, compensation, HR tech solutions for smooth operations, rewards, learning and development, performance, productivity to name a few.

Coach and advisor - A great HR leader must be able to coach talent and organisation leaders and advise them the right course of action.

Lastly good HR leaders must display innate curiosity in solutions that they provide and creatively plans for the future of their organisation. Also they need to be bold and take tough decisions when necessary.

How you visualize the HR leadership role different from than it did before 2020?

RG I feel HR leadership role won't be fundamentally different now compared to pre Covid times. However, post pandemic HR leaders need to be more agile, understand business and make sure that the organisation's ability to manage change is self-initiated. HR leaders would need to make managers more sensitive towards work place changes and make them realise that classical definition of talent, work habits and organisational processes need not be the only way to ensure results. HR leaders also need to ensure that employees are re-skilled and up-skilled to stay relevant and make learning available on the go. They also need to work with leaders to create a more communicative organisation and at the same time run business with empathy and care.

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